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Dear subscribers,
Well I’d say welcome to ‘Mad March’ but it seems life is mad all the time these days and actually that holds true for the Dragon too! ‘Nine castles aitch five’- need I say more!!!

Download PGN of March ’22 Dragon Sicilian games

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Classical Dragon long castles 6.Be3 Bg7 7.Be2 Nc6 8.Qd2 0-0 9.0-0-0 Ng4 10.Bxg4 Bxg4 11.f3 Bd7 [B72]

So after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 cxd4 5.Nxd4 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.Be2 Nc6 8.Qd2 0-0 it certainly appears that the concept of ‘going long’ rather than short is very much alive as practical play continues to throw up plenty of 9. 0-0-0 encounters which is of course a 9 0-0-0 Yugoslav Attack but with Be2 replacing f2-f3.

Reflecting that there are two games in this month’s update, both in which Black takes advantage of access to the g4-square with 9...Ng4 White has to prioritise saving his dark-squared bishop with 10.Bxg4 Bxg4 11.f3 following and first up in Nestorovic, N - Soham, D we see the attacked bishop fully retreat i.e. 11...Bd7:

Black has obviously then conceded his defensive king’s knight but with White having no control over the c4-square, the other knight has a handy ...Ne5-c4 manoeuvre at its disposal. Given White can’t challenge the Dragon bishop until the situation in the centre is resolved, 12.Nxc6 bxc6 13.Bh6 isn’t illogical when 13...Qa5 14.Bxg7 Kxg7 15.h4 leaves Black having to make a decision about how to prevent White opening the h-file. There is discussion in the annotation but the blocker 15...h5 is what is opted for when 16.Kb1 Be6 17.b3 Rab8 18.Rhe1 f6 19.Re3 Rfc8 20.f4 Bg4 21.Rde1 heralds an interesting middlegame battle with White trying to break though in the centre with e4-e5 and Black addressing the b3 situation.

Classical Dragon long castles 6.Be3 Bg7 7.Be2 0-0 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.0-0-0 Ng4 10.Bxg4 Bxg4 11.f3 Be6 [B72]

The same long castles Classical variation but in the game Soham, D - Petrov, M the Indian IM finds himself with the white pieces against an equally young Bulgarian GM. This time after 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.0-0-0 Ng4 10.Bxg4 Bxg4 11.f3 the attacked bishop doesn’t retreat all the way back and instead 11...Be6 is deployed:

Here rather than just keeping it out of harm’s way then, the approach is for the bishop to be more of an active participant in the short run although in the notes amongst other things I do revisit the concept of 12 Nxe6. Instead it is 12.Kb1 that is deployed although here that move doesn’t prevent 12...Qa5 as the game continuation of 13.Nd5 Bxd5 14.Qxa5 Nxa5 15.exd5 shows. The offside knight is immediately able to spring into life through 15...Nc4 with 16.Bg5 Rfe8 17.Rhe1 Kf8 being an equal endgame that nevertheless Black was instructively able to grind out to victory.

Accelerated Dragadorf 5...g6 6.Be3 a6 7.Qd2 Nbd7 8.0-0-0 b5 9.a3 Bb7 10. f3 [B75]

The game Ozsoy, A- Yilmazyerli, M was sort of a model Dragadorf encounter from a Black perspective although 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 a6 7.Qd2 Nbd7 8.0-0-0 b5 9.a3 had seen White apparently trying to delete f2-f3:

The problem is that ...Ng4 always looms whilst 9...Bb7 highlighted how White also requires that support for his e4-pawn. Indeed with any notions of a swift f2-f4 and e4-e5 plan out the window, he settled for 10.f3 anyway with 10...h5 the characteristic move that thwarts White’s kingside expansion whilst eliminating Bh6 as an option.

Simple chess followed in the form of 11.Kb1 Bg7 12.Be2 Rc8 13.Nb3 Qc7 14.h4 Ne5 when stuck for a plan white tried 15.Qd4 presumably aiming for the b6-square. Alas it never made it there and after 15...Nc4! 16.Bxc4 bxc4 17.Nc1 Rb8 18.N1e2 0-0! (perfect timing!) her majesty had to withdraw from the firing line. Unfortunately 19.Qd2?! walked into 19...Bxe4! 20.fxe4 Nxe4 21.Nxe4 Rxb2 and oh what an impact the ‘Dragon’ bishop had. Minimal effort to aid in victory!

Yugoslav Attack 9 0-0-0 h5 [B76]

Well, well well, guess what everyone, I had wondered whether after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 Nc6 8.Qd2 0-0 9.0-0-0 anyone might follow the example of the 3852 rated super computer Komodo Dragon and essentially deploy the outrageous looking 9...h5 here and in Dutch IM Arthur Pijpers we have a taker!

The early ...h5 remains in the public eye but to do here after castling is rather radical. So the aim you’d imagine is to hinder White’s kingside expansion and of course after 10.Bc4 Bd7 11.Bb3 it would have been totally illogical for White to try to transpose to a Soltis System. Yes not just because h2-h4 looks a bit odd but because he did select the 9 0-0-0 rather than 9 Bc4 variant in the first place! Besides we were destined for something a little different anyway with 11...Na5 and 12.Bh6 Nxb3+ 13.axb3 a5 14.Bxg7 Kxg7 15.Qg5 suggesting White had dispensed with the idea of crashing down the h-file and in 15...Qc7 16.f4 was clearly looking to break through in the centre instead. I’m not going to rule out Black’s system completely but certainly 16...Bg4?! 17.Rd3 left the bishop vulnerable to being trapped after an f4-f5 and 17...a4 18.bxa4 Ra5 19.Ndb5 Qc6 20.Re1 Rc8 21.b3 left Black with less than nothing for the pawn in Rakotomaharo, Fy - Pijpers, A.

Yugoslav 9.0-0-0 Nxd4 10.Bxd4 Be6 11.Kb1 Qc7 12.h4 Rfc8 13.h5 Qa5 14.hxg6 hxg6 15.a3 Rab8 [B76]

Regards 9.0-0-0 Nxd4 10.Bxd4 Be6 regular subscribers may recall that I had a period of summing this system up and wasn't intending to revisit it unless something new and possibly assessment changing cropped up. However seeing the game Golubev, M - Horak, M left me a little incensed but at the same time offered a new perspective. Although with the World opening up, I'm generally looking to move away from blitz games, whilst I've often said that the World's elite would play better quickly than the rest with lots of time to ponder things, something has occurred to me regards this. Yes subscribers know Mr Golubev to be an experienced Dragon player who frequently tackles the opening from both sides. Regards this game though, I doubt he would have changed any moves if he'd been playing old slow play style 40 moves in 2 hours!

The point is that I believe 11.Kb1 Qc7 12.h4 Rfc8 13.h5 Qa5 14.hxg6 hxg6 15.a3 Rab8 16.Bd3 to be pretty much best play by White and Black’s whole system falls down because after 16...b5 White has the ultra-impressive 17.Qg5!!:

This crucial inclusion means that White can now move his knight without allowing an endgame and whilst the queen itself is brought closer to the black king, the absolute key is that on this square it pins Black's b-pawn. In the past studying at home, I have tried so hard to make this position work for Black but alas without any joy and the sad thing is that 17...Qc7 18.e5! dxe5 19.Bxe5 (A handy skewer although it's not necessarily the rook White is after.) 19...Qc5 is about as good as Black can muster but it gets and indeed here did get flattened by 20.f4 Rb7 21.Bxg6 fxg6 22.Qxg6 Bf7 23.Rh8+ Kxh8 24.Qxf7 with White not even having broken sweat! I have no doubt White was familiar with all those themes but please, please, please Dragon players out there, don’t let this be you!

Yugoslav 9.g4 Be6 10.Nxe6 fxe6 11.0-0-0 Ne5 12.Be2 Qc8 13.h4 Nc4?! 14.Bxc4 Qxc4 15.Bh6! [B76]

And we finish this month’s update with the good old 9.g4 Be6 10.Nxe6 fxe6 11.0-0-0 Ne5 12.Be2 Qc8 13.h4 variation that continues to tick over with practical outings.

Yes Srijit, P - Swapnil, SD looked like being a good example of why 13...Nc4?! is inferior to 13...Nfd7 but in fact after 14.Bxc4 Qxc4 15.Bh6! b5 16.Bxg7 Kxg7 17.h5 b4 18.hxg6 hxg6 19.e5!! dxe5 20.Qh6+ Kf7 21.Ne4 Rg8 22.Kb1 Rac8 23.Rd2 a5 things started going downhill through 24.Qh2? Rh8 25.Qg1 Nxe4 26.fxe4 Qxe4 and ultimately it was White who spent most of the game suffering!

Best wishes, Chris

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