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Wow so many (sort of) novelties this month guys with offbeat lines, Yugoslav Attacks galore and almost a Gawain hat-trick! The question on everyone’s mind will no doubt be... ‘Is this the new normal’?

Download PGN of May ’21 Dragon Sicilian games

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Offbeat Dragon 6.Qe2?! [B70]

I’m not going to lie; you get the chance to play the World Champion and after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 you eschew the other TWELVE 6th move alternatives that we have considered on this site (admittedly a few of them pretty duff!) in favour of 6 Qe2?!:

And for what purpose I may ask; ‘to take arguably the greatest player that has ever lived’ out of theory? You’ll read my thoughts on that in the notes to Yoo, C W- Carlsen, M but on to the move itself and the plus side is that White is now ready to castle long and a potential e4-e5 break is supported. The obvious downside is that the f1-bishop is obstructed and it looks ridiculous!

Anyway, it never really seemed as though number 13 was going to prove unlucky for Magnus who was arguably already better after 6...Bg7 7.Bg5 Nc6 8.0-0-0 although following 8...Qa5?! 9.Qb5 Qxb5 White missed the chance to recapture with his d-knight and have an easy plan of Nc7-d5. Instead 10.Bxb5?! Bd7 11.Bxc6 bxc6 12.Rhe1 h6 occurred when trading minor pieces on f6 followed by an f2-f4 planning e4-e5 was the best chance but 13.Bh4 g5 14.Bg3 Nh5 left Black well in the driving seat and forcing White into the highly speculative 15.e5? Nxg3 16.exd6 Bxd4 17.Rxd4 Nf5 from where Black easily converted.

Offbeat Dragon 6.Be3 Bg7 7.Qd2 Nc6 [B72]

Okay, so just what is it about the suddenly trendy 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.Qd2 variation? Yes, even Magnus opted to omit both f2-f3 and Be2 from his set-up against Gawain recently, but I can’t see how that can continue!

As it happened the World Champion turned the system in to more of a Classical type one after 7...Ng4 8 Bg5 h6 9 Bh4 Nc6 10 Nb3 but has everyone forgotten my 2006 7...0-0 8 0-0-0 Ng4 9 Bg5 h6 10 Bh4 Bxd4! 11 Qxd4 e5 game featuring a trap conceived of years before? Well, apparently so as despite plenty of opportunities it seems nobody as has yet followed in my footsteps!

Anyway 7...Nc6 also turned out very well in Gadimbayli, A - Golubev, M with White stubbornly refusing to deploy f2-f3 or Be2 and suffering the consequences after 8.0-0-0?! Ng4! 9.Nxc6 bxc6 10.Bd4 Bh6! Yes 11.Be3 Nxe3 12.fxe3 Qb6 13.Re1 Rb8 14.b3 Qb4 15.e5 Bg7 16.Nd1 Qa3+ 17.Kb1 Bxe5 definitely shouldn’t be what White is after!

Yugoslav 9.0-0-0 d5 10.Nxc6 bxc6 11.Bh6 Bxh6 12.Qxh6 Qb6 13.e5 Nd7 14.h4 Rb8? [B76]

Even though it involves two fantastic players, given it is a fast-paced game, perhaps I was expecting more from Grandelius, N - Shirov, A or perhaps they know something that I haven’t yet figured out. Nevertheless I’m sticking to my guns in saying that after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 0-0 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.0-0-0 d5 10.Nxc6 bxc6 11.Bh6 Bxh6 12.Qxh6 Qb6 13.e5 Nd7 14.h4 Black should take on e5 (with our well-known 14...Nxe5 15 h5 Bf5 16 g4 f6! trap in mind) and after 14...Rb8? very strong is 15 Na4! for reasons revisited and checked in the notes. Nevertheless it was 15.b3?! that hit the board.

Of course, I’d still say take that e5-pawn now but instead 15...Qc5? 16.h5! g5 17.Bd3! f5 18.Qxg5+ Kh8 occurred when a Ne2-f4-g6 plan would have been crushing but 19.h6?! appeared instead in a game full of inaccuracies.

To be fair, these are clearly complicated positions and whilst the reader can certainly learn from these mistakes (unless I’m wrong about everything!), if it’s a line you are likely to be involved in (bearing in mind it’s rather popular right now), I’d definitely advise being prepared rather than winging it!

Yugoslav Attack 9.0-0-0 d5 10.exd5 Nxd5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Bd4 Bxd4 13.Qxd4 Qa5 [B76]

It might have been a clever bit of home prep or it may have been a mouse slip but either way in Tari, A - Jones, G 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 d5 10.exd5 Nxd5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Bd4 Bxd4 13.Qxd4 certainly 13...Qa5 brought something new to the party:

Of course, we’re very used to 13...Qb6 and the also covered on the site 13...Qc7 has also had a fair few outings too but this is sort of a novelty. After 14.Nxd5 cxd5 15.Qxd5 Qc7 16.Qxa8 Bf5 17.Qxf8+ Kxf8 we are able to make a clear comparison with the old main line immediate pawn grab line which is identical bar missing dark-squared bishops! Personally I feel this situation is inferior to the other for Black because he would rather there were more pieces on the board. Sure, his bishop not being on g7 means that he won't have to expend a tempo dealing with back-rank mate issues but on the other hand there is no white bishop on e3 that he may have been able to take advantage of (e.g. through a ...Qe5 attacking both it and the b2-pawn, very effective with the Dragon bishop involved.). That said things weren’t totally easy for White and after 18.Bd3 Be6 19.Kb1 h5 20.Be4 Qb6 21.Rhf1 Qa5 22.b3 Qe5 23.h3 Kg7 24.Rfe1 Qc3 25.Re2 a5 26.Rd3 Qc5 27.a4 h4 28.Red2 Qb6 29.Kb2 Bc4 30.Rc3 Bf1 31.f4 Qf6 32.Rf2 Ba6 White hadn’t found a way to make progress. My notes suggest improvements but whether or not uncovered by accident, it is an interesting new addition!

Yugoslav 9.0-0-0 d5 10.exd5 Nxd5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Bd4 Bxd4 13.Qxd4 Qb6 14.Na4 Qc7 15.c4 [B76]

It’s definitely a big month for innovations on the site as 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 d5 10.exd5 Nxd5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Bd4 Bxd4 13.Qxd4 Qb6 14.Na4 Qc7 in Nakamura, Hi - Jones, G White decides that he can’t be pfaffing around with the 15 Bc4, 15 Nc5 and 15 h4 moves that we’ve studied in the past and instead decides to immediately budge Black’s centrally posted knight through 15.c4:

A tad impatient, the problem is that after 15...Nf4 16.g3 the black steed could swiftly find another good home for it on d4 courtesy of ...Ne6 and ...c5. Instead he went about achieving that through 16...e5?! but that unnecessarily conceded a big hole which White was quick to exploit. Yes 17.Qd6 followed when I was very surprised that Black eschewed the dynamic 17...Qa5 option in favour of the grovelly 17...Qxd6?! 18.Rxd6 Ne6 with 19.Bd3 Rd8 20.Rxd8+ Nxd8 21.Re1 f6 22.f4 Nf7 23.Be4 Bd7 24.Nc5 which clearly left him suffering and sadly destined to be ground into defeat.

Yugoslav Attack 9.Bc4 Bd7 10.Bb3 Ne5 11.h4 h5 12.0-0-0 b5 [B77]

Incredibly enough even more new material for the site as after the slightly different move order 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 Nc6 8.Qd2 Bd7 9.Bc4 0-0 10.Bb3 Ne5 11.h4 h5 12.0-0-0 in Gabrielian, A - Williams, S the Ginger GM treats us to 12...b5:

Perhaps a little early for me to definitively pass judgement on whether this move is more ‘!?’ or ‘?!’ but what’s clear is only having featured 3 times prior (and with all due respect not games involving top players!) in my opinion it most certainly offers an option for Black against the Anti-Chinese 10 h4 variation.

Of course 12...Rc8 would have transposed to a main line Soltis with 12...Rb8 a kind of Soltis/Chinese hybrid but there is no hanging around from Mr Williams who immediately offers up his b-pawn as a sacrifice. Hopefully some games will appear where White grabs the on offer pawn but in this encounter White prioritised his own attack through 13.g4 Compared to analogous Soltis lines Black hasn’t got a rook on c8 to sac on c3 but through 13...a5 White’s queenside minor pieces are destined to be hassled with his light-squared bishop rightly nervous about being trapped. Eager to open up lines towards the black king White played 14.gxh5 when actually 14...a4!? looks promising. Naturally it’s all pretty complicated with 14...Nxh5 15.Bh6 e6 16.Bxg7 Kxg7 17.f4 a4 equally inducing mayhem in a topsy turvy and certainly entertaining game.

Take care everyone, Chris

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