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Hi everyone!
Hope you are all enjoying the World cup. Great isn't it- well, except England of course!
Also it has been quite a good month for the Dragon. Yes, Black was doing quite well in all these games and two of the Black losses were against significantly higher rated opponents who asked questions that weren't quite answered correctly, sadly, just when the best solutions were most required.
Anyway, see for yourself!

Download PGN of June '14 Dragon Sicilian games

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Classical Dragon 9 Qd2 [B73]

The game Kovchan - Jones doesn't exactly kick us off with a thriller to start with but I am sure our subscribers like to keep tabs on Gawain's games and to be fair this encounter retains some theoretical importance. We are of course talking the Classical variation and following 6 Be2 Bg7 7 0-0 Nc6 8 Be3 0-0, White deploys 9 Qd2. Although I believe there are more interesting options than 9...d5, it looks to me like it is a total equaliser (assuming Black was behind beforehand!):

The position above has been featured before but this is the first time that White has deployed the arguably critical 10 Rfd1 with Gawain whipping out an accurate continuation to neutralise its effects.

Dragadorf with an early ...h5 [B75]

Previously regarding 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 cxd4 5.Nxd4 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 a6 8.Qd2 h5 9.Be2 Nbd7, we had seen White get all positional and hinder his opponent's queenside expansion with 10 a4. In Sebag, M - Hamdouchi, H, however, White almost encourages that with 10.h3, a flexible continuation that would fit in with both g2-g4 or f3-f4. Perhaps Black didn't fancy being challenged by a2-a4 and so settles for 10...b6 when 11.0-0-0 Bb7 12.g4 (illustrated below):

12...Rc8 13.g5 Nh7 14.f4 Nc5 15.Bf3 e5 soon got very complicated. A good scalp for White, but some sympathy for Black, who played ambitiously, and overlooked a fairly straightforward win.

Yugoslav Attack 9 g4 Nxd4 [B76]

And so we move on to the Yugoslav Attack where Black doesn't fiddle around the edges- i.e. no more of that Najdorf hybrid stuff! That said, Ziaziulkina, N - Yezhel, V wasn't exactly main line stuff. In the 9 g4 Yugoslav Attack, the early trade of knights 9....Nxd4 has been criticised over the years because after 10.Bxd4 Be6, White isn't obliged to castle and transpose into the old main line. Indeed, 11.h4 (given that 11...d5 is not on as a reply) has brought White good results in practice with 11...Qa5 12 h5 and after a black rook comes to c8 (both are possible), the sort of prophylactic 13 a3 which offers up long castles but also brings the advance b2-b4 into play.

However scratch all that, as in this game White came up with 12.Rh2 instead:

From here this rook facilitates a future doubling on the h-file and over-protects the c2-point should long castles appear, but in the game its main use appeared to be to enable Rxd2 when the queen trade appeared following Nd5. Ultimately it would appear that White was counting on an endgame niggle, but I don't believe he gets one and his full point is somewhat aided by his opponent's over-ambitious play.

Yugoslav Attack 9 g4 Be6 10 0-0-0 Nxd4 Main Line [B76]

I have always considered 9.g4 Be6 10.0-0-0 Nxd4 11.Bxd4 Qa5 to be fine for Black whether White plays 12 a3 or 12 Kb1, and the game Vovk, A - Koepke, C certainly contains nothing to change my opinion. Indeed, 12.Kb1 Rfc8 13.a3 Rab8 14.Be2 was all very tame given that there is no realistic chance of White putting this bishop to good use by getting in g4-g5 and f3-f4. However some may be surprised to hear that after 14...b5:

15.Bxf6?! Bxf6 16.Nd5, in fact Black can keep the queens on with 16...Qa4!? and retain a strong initiative. That is mentioned in the notes, but the main game continued 16...Qxd2 17.Nxf6+ Kg7 18.Rxd2 Kxf6 and this is also fine for him. The black monarch is poised to have an early impact and after 19.f4 g5, White felt that he needed to mix things up a bit with 20.e5+. To his credit, White asked questions of his opponent whenever he could, and sadly, although they were most certainly there, when it got critical, Black didn't have all the right answers.

Yugoslav Attack 9 Bc4 Nxd4 [B77]

And so on to 9 Bc4 but still the relative side variation of 9...Nxd4 10 Bxd4 Be6. Throughout the years (including of course more recent annotations here on ChessPublishing), White has been advised to withdraw his challenged bishop to b3, but in Murtuzov - Christensen he instead decides that following 11.Bxe6 fxe6 12.0-0-0 Qa5 13.Kb1 Rac8 he can (as illustrated below) exploit the fragility of the area around g6 through 14.h4:

With h4-h5 in the air, this certainly dissuades Black from trying to manoeuvre his knight to c4 (typically first via d7), but the Danish IM comes up with the interesting 14...Nh5!? to challenge White's dominant d4-bishop and seek a potential invasion on f4. Objectively it's about equal with the pawn on e6 being a bit weak but also controlling the so often key d5-square. The game outcome though shows that there is plenty of play in the position.

Yugoslav Attack 9 Bc4 Chinese Variation [B77]

Following 9.Bc4 Bd7 10.0-0-0 Rb8 11.Bb3 Na5 12.h4 b5, White opts for 13.h5 over the obvious alternatives 13 Bh6 or 13 g4 in Draganic, V - Sebenik, M, and after 13...Nc4 14.Bxc4 bxc4 15.Bh6 Qb6 16.b3, the game annotation throws up much debate as to who should be the one trading dark squared bishops and when might be the best time for White to take on g6 to open up the h-file (but possibly allow the handy defence ...Rf7), or Black to take on b3 (thus eliminating a future ...c3 option):

The game actually continued 16...Bxh6 17.Qxh6 Qa5 18.Kb2 Rfc8 19.Qe3 Qe5, with a balanced middlegame that moved to a slightly favourable endgame for Black, which the higher rated player duly converted.

Right, I'll be back real soon!

Best Wishes, Chris

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To get in touch with me subscribers can email me at Chris