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Well we have a very strong EX World Champion for starters and Magnus features prominently with both colours this month. Yes, that’s quite a new concept as is for us the early Nxc6. Read on!

Download PGN of May ’23 Dragon Sicilian games

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Dragon 6 Bc4 Bg7 7 0-0 0-0 8 Re1 Nc6 9 Nxc6 [B70]

In the game Bacrot, E - Carlsen, M a Dragon (or indeed Sicilian) is reached via the odd move order of 1.e4 d6 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3 c5 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 g6 after which White deployed the 6.Bc4 ‘Modern Classical’ system.

Although this was a blitz game, I am so pleased that it appeared and I could feature it as the ex-World Champion’s play is so instructive. Specifically though after 6...Bg7 7.0-0 0-0 8.Re1 Nc6 I had noticed the move 9.Nxc6 creeping into some games and who better than the Norwegian superstar to demonstrate how to correctly handle Black’s situation after 9...bxc6:

I have generally implied that such a knight trade on c6 should only really be good if White can get in a swift e4-e5 which he can’t here. Instead, the French Super GM continued with 10.Bb3 when 10...Nd7 11.Be3 Nb6 12.a4 a5 13.Qd2 Rb8 14.Rad1 Nd7! 15.Bh6 Nc5! was such simple but effective play. After 16.Bxg7 Kxg7 17.Bc4 Rxb2 White tried to generate action through 18.e5 but d5 19.e6 f6 20.Qe3 Nxe6 21.Nxd5 cxd5 22.Bxd5 Rb6! suggested that Magnus always had everything under control!

Yugoslav 6.f3 Nc6 7.Be3 h5 8.Qd2 Nxd4 9.Bxd4 Bh6 10.Bb5+ [B72]

Okay so truth be told, you’re probably not going to need to fasten your seat belts for the game Stearman, J - Avila Pavas, S but I felt it was worthwhile including it for completion in a still fashionable variation.

We are talking 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.f3 Nc6 7.Be3 h5 8.Qd2 Nxd4 9.Bxd4 Bh6 where after 10.Bb5+ we had never previously covered the not unnatural looking 10...Bd7 followed by 11.Bxd7+:

Yes, previously we have featured games where White supports his bishop by moving his attacked queen (correctly met by 12...Bc6!) or doesn’t give the check on b5 so early.

In this encounter though Black has a decision to make over which way to recapture with 11...Nxd7 being most sensible. White of course doesn’t get the opportunity to take the h8-rook as he still needs to deal with the threat to his queen and it’s obvious that the simple plan of trading minor pieces on f6 and parking the knight on the d5-outpost is no longer available. Here the game continued 12.Be3 Bxe3 13.Qxe3 Qb6 14.Qxb6 Nxb6 15.Nd5 Nxd5 16.exd5 with total equality. There are deviations available for both sides but I’m fairly confident that White won’t be proving an edge this way.

Yugoslav Attack 9 Nb3 [B75]

Carlsen, M- Shevchenko, K started off as an Accelerated variation via 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 g6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Bg7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Nb3 but after 7...d6 8.f3 0-0 9.Qd2 we had transposed to the 9 Nb3 (i.e. as opposed to the more usual 9 0-0-0, 9 g4 and 9 Bc4) Yugoslav Attack that was fashionable two or three years ago.

Play continued with 9...Be6 10.0-0-0 Ne5 11.Kb1 Rc8 12.h4 h5 when White protected the f3-pawn in preparation for the g2-g4 thrust with 13.Be2 reaching a new position:

Clearly very Soltis like, things quickly livened up after 13...a6 14.Bd4 Qc7 15.g4 hxg4 16.f4 when an important decision has to be made. Black has options but alas 16...Nc6? isn’t to be advised and was duly punished through 17.Bxf6! Bxf6 18.Nd5 Bxd5 19.exd5 Nd4 20.Bxg4 Nxb3 21.axb3 a5 22.h5, mate not actually that far away.

Yugoslav Attack 9.0-0-0 d5 10.Nxc6 bxc6 11.Bh6 Bxh6 12.Qxh6 e5 [B76]

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 in Sjugirov, S - Timofeev, A, in the still fashionable line 10.Nxc6 bxc6 11.Bh6 Bxh6 12.Qxh6 e5 we see 13.Qg5 repeated as |White tries to scrape some sort of edge. Specifically following 13... Qd6 14.exd5 cxd5 the challenge is 15.f4 pressurising Black’s centre but it certainly doesn’t look like a big problem:

My notes to the game suggest that Black might be able to sacrifice a pawn through 15...e4 but it doesn’t seem necessary when objectively (and as deployed) 15...exf4 16.Nxd5 Nxd5 17.Qxd5 Qb6 18.Qd4 Bg4 19.Rd2 Rfd8 20.Qxf4 Rxd2 21.Qxd2 Rd8 has little problem equalizing.

Yugoslav 9.0-0-0 d5 10.exd5 Nxd5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Bd4 e5 13.Bc5 Be6 14.Ne4 Re8 15.Bc4 [B76]

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.exd5 Nxd5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Bd4 e5 13.Bc5 Be6 14.Ne4 old Dragon textbooks recommend that 14...Rb8 should be met by 15 Bc4! but that critical against 14...Re8 is 15 h4. Nevertheless it was 15.Bc4 that the French superstar opted for in Vachier Lagrave, M - Shevchenko, K.

Although after 15...Qc7 16.Bb3 I was surprised not to see Black put his a8-rook to good use by launching his a-pawn, nevertheless 16...Red8 17.Qf2 Nf4 18.Kb1 Bxb3 19.axb3 h6 20.g4 Ne6 21.Be3 a5 felt like a case of better late than never and after 22.Rxd8+ Qxd8 23.Nc3 Nd4 he was definitely holding his own before making a couple of inaccuracies and seeing things go horribly wrong! Nevertheless an interesting game and one we can all learn from!

Yugoslav Attack 9 Bc4 Bd7 10 0-0-0 Rc8 11 Nxc6 [B78]

The game Vidit, S - Erigaisi, A was always likely to make the seeing as it featured two top quality players and involved a new to the site variation.

To be fair of course, I am often discussing White trading knights on c6 early (including elsewhere in this update!) but in 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.Bc4 Bd7 10.0-0-0 Rc8 11.Nxc6 that’s the first time we’ve featured it played here:

Black has three plausible ways to recapture but whereas ...bxc6 might be automatic in other scenarios where White can't then flick in e4-e5, the whole bringing the rook to the (once) half-open c-file is basically time wasted and arguably detrimental. In addition of course, White's light-squared bishop would not require a withdrawal either. As the pawn would control the d5-square, I still wouldn't rule that out but with the rook recapture immediately hitting the bishop, the talented Indian's choice of 11... Bxc6 feels like a reasonable middle ground!

Logical play continued through 12.Bb3 a5 (though you’ll see in the notes how I make a comparison with this and the Topalov System with 12...b5!? instead) 13.a4 Qe8 14.Qe2 Nd7 15.h4 Nc5 16.Bxc5 dxc5 when 17.e5! e6 18.f4 Qe7 19.Nb5 had seen a different type of middlegame reached. Black has a couple of more active options here but 19...Rcd8?! 20.Nd6! Bh6 21.Qg4 Kh8 22.Kb1 f6 23.h5 f5 24.Qg3 was all rather uncomfortable in a game that didn’t make for pleasant viewing from a Black perspective!

Take care everyone. Back soon! Chris

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