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Dear subscribers,
I hope you are keeping well in this horrendous and crazy time. It’s definitely going to affect my chess; I know I’ll never be able to look at an isolated pawn in the same way again!
It almost seems inconceivable that this update is a little late but whilst getting ahead of the curve might be a bit of a sore point right now, I feel with extra time on my hands I should be able to get my updates back on track (or on the track for the first time!). Now, whether there will be any games to look at is a different matter!
Anyway, for now there is...

Download PGN of March ’20 Dragon Sicilian games

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Accelerated Dragon, Maroczy Bind 7.Be2 Nxd4 8.Qxd4 Bg7 9.Be3 0-0 10.Qd2 a5 11.f3 a4 12.Rc1 Qa5 13.Kf2!? [B36]

Yes in the trendy variation 5.c4 Nf6 6.Nc3 d6 7.Be2 Nxd4 8.Qxd4 Bg7 9.Be3 0-0 10.Qd2 a5 11.f3 a4 12.Rc1 Qa5, I can report that in Antal, Ge - Degraeve, R we finally have something challenging to consider in the form of 13.Kf2!?:

Upon first sight, one might think this is no big deal as all White is hoping for is a quick Nd5 when his king will be a tad nearer the centre than if he had castled. However the truth is that there is a clever point to this move because after 13...Be6 14.Nd5 Black can no longer enter the variation 14...Qxd2? As after 15 Nxe7+! Kh8 15 Bxd2 Rfe8 16 Nd5, Black can’t take twice on d5 because the white bishop on e2 is protected by a king that wouldn’t be fulfilling that task if it had castled!

Hence 14...Bxd5 15.Qxa5 Rxa5 16.cxd5 when we maybe have something critical. Black doesn’t appear to have the time for the standard 16...Nd7 because of 17 Rc7 and hence he tried to create some counterplay with 16...e6!? In the annotation I took a look at White taking on e6 but actually 17.Bf4!? exd5 18.Bxd6 Re8 19.Bc7 also proved a bit problematic. Black was unable to find an accurate defence and even if he had, I’m not certain he’s still not losing!

Accelerated Dragon, Maroczy Bind 8.Be2 0-0 9.0-0 Bd7 10.h3 Nxd4 11.Bxd4 Bc6 12.Qc2 Qa5 [B38]

Following 1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.Nc3 Bg7 6.e4 Nc6 7.Be3 d6 8.Be2 0-0 9.0-0 Bd7 continuing our investigation into 10.h3 I bring you Badelka, O - Puranik, A which after 10...Nxd4 11.Bxd4 Bc6 12.Qc2 saw Black eschew an a-pawn advance (one of those is up next!) in favour of 12...Qa5:

I’m not really a big fan as White chased her majesty back through 13.a3! Rfc8 14.b4 and after 14...Qc7 15.Qd3 b6 16.Rac1 it simply seemed as if it was ‘cramped business as usual’! Nevertheless things soon livened up and upon 16...a5 17.Qe3 axb4 White inexplicably eschewed the simple recapture in favour of 18.Nd5?! One intriguing option for Black then was 18...Bxd5! 19 cxd5 Nxd5!? leading to potentially fascinating variations of imbalance. However 18... Rxa3 19.Nxc7 Rxe3 20.Bxe3 Rxc7 21.Rb1 Nxe4 22.Rxb4 Nc3 23.Bd3 Be4 24.Bxe4 Nxe4 25.Bxb6 Rc6 occurred after which Black was able to hold this exchange for one pawn endgame.

Maroczy Bind 7.Be2 Bg7 8.Be3 0-0 9.0-0 Bd7 10.h3 Nxd4 11.Bxd4 Bc6 12.Qc2 a5 13.Rad1 Nd7 14.Bxg7 Kxg7 15.Bg4 b6 [B38]

Of course, regular subscribers will know that it’s not that long ago that I started a requested investigation into 1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 c5 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 g6 6.e4 d6 7.Be2 Bg7 8.Be3 0-0 9.0-0 Bd7 10.h3 but the bemusing game Sgircea, S - Lie, E offered up the chance to revisit the variation 10...Nxd4 11.Bxd4 Bc6 12.Qc2 a5 13.Rad1 Nd7 14.Bxg7 Kxg7 15.Bg4 One of the main advantages of opting for h2-h3 over f2-f3 is that this move is available to White and previously it seemed that a simple White plan is to trade minor pieces on d7 and then challenge Black with either c4-c5 or e4-e5. However after 15...b6 it could be time to reconsider that strategy:

The point is that White stuck to his script with 16.Bxd7 Qxd7 17.e5?! but after 17...Qe6! 18.exd6 Qxc4 19.dxe7 Rfe8 20.Rfe1 Ra7 it was clear that Black was going to regain his pawn for total equality. Mind you as you’ll see, the way that happened certainly wasn’t as should have been!

Dragadorf 6.Be3 a6 7.Qd2 b5 8.f3 Bb7 9.g4 Bg7 10.h4 h5 11.g5 Nfd7 [B75]

Certainly from a black perspective the game Espinosa Veloz, E - Hernandez Gonzalez, W is a nice and rather impressive one.

Although through 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 a6 we see a ‘Accelerated Dragadorf’ move order, upon 7.Qd2 after a short discussion on the possibility of 7...Ng4, we return to a standard Dragadorf through 7...b5 8.f3 Bb7 9.g4 Bg7. I’m not going to be so dramatic as to suggest that this is a critical moment, but a good question is maybe what move Black intends to play next? My point is that following 10.h4, that question is pretty much answered for Black as to prevent h4-h5, the natural continuation is 10...h5 when I believe 11.g5 Nfd7 leaves him sitting quite comfortably:

His king’s knight never got inconvenienced whilst the h- and g-files being closed render kingside castling fairly safe. Here 12.a3 Nc6 13.Nxc6 Bxc6 14.0-0-0 0-0 15.Bd4 Bxd4 16.Qxd4 ensued when 16...Rb8 17.f4 a5 18.b4 axb4 19.axb4 Qc7 20.Kb2?! Nb6 21.Rb1 Rfc8 saw all the focus on the white king which was in big trouble after 22.Rh3? Bd7! 23.f5 Na4+ 24.Kb3 gxf5 25.Rc1 e5 26.Qd2 Nxc3 27.Rxc3 Qa7 28.Kb2 Ra8.

Yugoslav Attack 9.g4 Be6 10.Nxe6 fxe6 11.0-0-0 Ne5 12.Be2 Qc8 13.h4 Nfd7 14.f4 Nc4 15.Bxc4 Qxc4 [B76]

After 5...g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 0-0 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.g4 Be6 the sequence 10.Nxe6 fxe6 11.0-0-0 Ne5 12.Be2 Qc8 13.h4 Nfd7 should be very familiar to the regular subscriber by now. This annotation gives me the opportunity to revisit the comparison between 14 h5 and the played 14.f4 as I lay out my opinion that possibly White got his theory a little muddled in this game. My logic is that after 14...Nc4 15.Bxc4 Qxc4 instead of 16 e5 (blunting the Dragon bishop and taking advantage of the pin along the d-file) White erred with 16.h5?!:

Well, whether or not there was any confusion, certainly after 16...Bxc3 White would have noticed that compared to the 14 h5 option, he can’t really recapture on c3 with his pawn because after 17...Qxa2, White doesn’t have time to flick in 18 hxg6 due to the mate on a1, whilst 18 Qh2 is superbly met by 18...g5!!. Anyway that’s all discussed in the annotation to Nomin-Erdene, D - Vitak, J where instead White had to settle for 17.Qxc3 Qxc3 18.bxc3 Nf6 19.hxg6 hxg6 20.Bd4 Nxe4 21.Rde1 d5 and an inferior endgame that was generally played pretty well by the lower rated player on route to a notable scalp.

Yugoslav Attack 9.0-0-0 d5 10.Nxc6 bxc6 11.Bh6 Bxh6 12.Qxh6 Rb8 [B76]

In the main line Yugoslav Attack variation of 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 Nc6 8.Qd2 0-0 9.0-0-0 d5 regular subscribers will know how popular the line 10.Nxc6 bxc6 11.Bh6 has become. In truth we’ve looked at a variety of moves for Black here both with or without trading bishops and in McDonald, N - Findlay, I it was time to revisit 11...Bxh6 12.Qxh6 Rb8 13.e5 Nd7 Here 14 h4 has been played most as White looks to crack open that h-file but coincidentally back in an update last year (featuring the same player as Black!) I suggested White might want to give 14.Rd4 Re8 15.e6!? a whirl!

Specifically I said that that it 'looks worth a try and could be a subject of future investigation.' Well, guess what, try it ex-ChessPub host Neil certainly did and a subject of future investigation it has indeed become!

So play continued 15...fxe6 16.Bd3 Nf8 17.h4 when I believe this is a critical moment. Yes, discover why 17...Qd6?! 18.h5 Qe5 19.Rg4 Qg7 20.hxg6 Qxh6+ 21.Rxh6 hxg6 22.Bxg6 didn’t really cut it and hence read why 17...e5! should keep Black in business.

Take care everyone. Chris

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