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Hello everyone!
Wow, a brilliant month for the Dragon as it seemed that White was definitely getting into the Xmas spirit; on one hand generously offering gifts and on the other being excessively greedy-and I’m not talking mince pies!
A game of my own and another involving one of my favourite players, whilst I also persevere into my promised re-investigation into 9 0-0-0 Nxd4.
The continuing evolution of the currently trendy 9 0-0-0 d5 10 Qe1 and lastly another victory for Black in the Soltis. Ho ho ho!

Download PGN of November ’16 Dragon Sicilian games

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Hyper Accelerated Dragon 5 Nc3 Nc6 6 Qa4 [B27]

Being an English weekend congress (rather than the first 14 games of the World Championship!) in Anderson, J - Ward, C it was really necessary to try to win with the Black pieces!

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Qxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Qa4 d6 7.e5 dxe5 8.Nxe5 is a tough nut to crack though and after 8...Bd7 9.Nxd7 Qxd7 10.Be3 Bg7 11.Rd1 I tried to be creative with 11...Qg4.:

To be honest this was prompted by the fact that my opponent was moving so quickly and confidently, whereas I was trying to remember the last time we had covered this line on the site. I doubted that I had ever mentioned this move and it seemed worth a whirl! After 12.Qb3 0-0 13.h3 Qb4 14.Be2 frankly it was impossible to figure exactly the best way to continue and it was only after 14...Rfc8 15.0-0 Qxb3 16.cxb3 Rd8 17.Rxd8+?! Rxd8 18.Rd1 Rxd1+ 19.Bxd1 Nd7 20.Bf3 a6 21.Bxc6 bxc6 22.Kf1 f5 that I felt very happy. Clearly White had made unnecessary concessions, though, and the annotations to the alternatives to the game may be more appealing than the game itself!

Classical Dragon 8 Re1 [B70]

Regular subscribers will know that as far as challenging the Dragon goes, I’m never particularly enamoured by anything outside of the Yugoslav Attack. However, Vladimir Kramnik is one of my favourite ever players and I couldn’t overlook him doing battle with another super GM.

So then we have Kramnik, V - Mamedov, R and the 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 cxd4 5.Nxd4 g6 6.Be2 Bg7 7.0-0 0-0 8.Re1 Nc6 9.Nb3 a6 10.Bf1 system, where after 10...b5 White forced the insertion of 11.a4 b4 before 12.Nd5:

However, then I like Rauf’s 12...Nd7!? as although Vlad obtains his aim of disjointing Black’s queenside pawns through 13.a5, all the same in my opinion after 13...Rb8 14.Ra2 e6 15.Ne3 Nf6 16.Nc4 d5 17.exd5 Nxd5 Black had already taken over White’s operation!

Yugoslav Attack 9 0-0-0 Nxd4 11.Kb1 Qc7 12.h4 Rfc8 13.h5 Qa5 14.hxg6 fxg6 [B76]

I have used the game Agdelen, H C - Mladenovic, S to continue my subscriber-requested re-investigation into 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 Nxd4 10.Bxd4 Be6 and specifically 11.Kb1 Qc7 12.h4 Rfc8 13.h5 Qa5 14.hxg6, this month delving into the recapture 14...fxg6 which, after 15.a3 preventing tactics around c3 and a2, leads to the position below:

Obviously the difference between this and the more common 14...hxg6 is pawn structure and now Black has the generally less desirable feature of having more pawn islands. However this is a tactical situation and I would say that there are pros and cons.

Cons: Should White get in e4-e5 then Black may end up with an isolated e-pawn. With no pawn on f7, the e6 square is weaker and there is potential for future vulnerability along the c4-g8 diagonal.

Pros: The pawn on h7 acts as a defence to getting mated along the h-file. Without it we have seen scenarios under which White can treble major pieces in order to create a massive threat on h8 but with this additional barrier, Black at least has some extra time to work his own magic on the queenside. The f7-square is available for Black to use, conceivably for the king to utilise as a flight square but also as a retreat for the light-squared bishop. In the case of the latter, the bishop acts as an extra support to g6 and specifically h5 should g4-g5 and ...Nh5 ever occur but also the option of the advance ...e5 comes into play. Of course that thrust in itself has its downsides (conceding a backward pawn on d6, an outpost on d5 and obstructing the Dragon bishop) but as notes to the game demonstrate, could be critical in reducing the impact of White's standard Qg5 pin.

The game continuation of 15...Rab8 16.Bd3 Bf7 17.Qe3 b5 18.e5? b4 demonstrates how Black clearly has practical chances in this line despite computer evaluations not liking it. I’ve done quite a lot of fresh work in the annotations and so I hope you’ll like it!

Yugoslav Attack 9 0-0-0 d5 10 Qe1e5 11 Nxc6 bxc6 12 Bc4 [B76]

After 9.0-0-0 d5 10.Qe1 e5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 we have always accepted 12 exd5 as standard but in Brankovic, De - Polzin, R suddenly we get a novelty for the site in the form of 12.Bc4:

However, although there may be some logic in the concept of not wishing to trade the e4-pawn for the c6-pawn, obviously a key element to White’s play in this system is the pressure to Black’s centre and after 12...d4! that is pretty much gone. Indeed after 13.Bg5 h6 14.Bh4 Rb8 15.Na4 Qd6 16.Qa5 White’s plan of exploiting Black’s disjointed pawn structure and invading on the queenside soon backfired after 16...Nd7 17.c3 c5 18.Qxa7? when his queen inevitably wound up in trouble.

Yugoslav Attack 9 0-0-0 d5 10 Qe1e5 11 Nxc6 bxc6 12 exd5 cxd5 [B76]

So, of course we are again talking the more standard 9.0-0-0 d5 10.Qe1 e5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.exd5 but where, rather than recapturing on d5 with the knight (as we have also seen a lot of recently on the site), the game Martinez de Negri, G - Sica, M features 12...cxd5 13.Bg5 Be6 14.Bc4 Qc7:

Now it’s fair to say that over the years I have generally tended to suggest here that 15 Bxf6 dxc4 16 Bxg7 Kxg7 offers White a slight edge but with engines implying it is only very marginal, possibly White players are starting to feel that they need to turn elsewhere if they are serious about winning. Of course there will always be those happy to grind, but nevertheless we have had a spate of 15.Bxd5 Nxd5 16.Nxd5 Bxd5 17.Rxd5 encounters recently where White has somewhat greedily bagged a pawn, creating a serious queenside pawn majority. We have already seen on the site how this can be a risky policy for White although the rewards are plain to see. Unfortunately here, after 17...Qb7?! 18.Qd2 e4! 19.b3 exf3 20.gxf3 Rac8 21.c4 h6 22.Be3 Rfe8 Black’s pieces were gaining in momentum with 23.Rd1 Rxc4+! 24.bxc4 Rxe3 effectively leaving White begging for the draw. However, he failed to find the right defence and effectively his greed was punished. All interesting stuff, but important to note is the improvement 18 Qe4!.

Yugoslav Attack 9 Bc4 Soltis with 12 Kb1 a6 [B78]

Following 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 0-0 8.Bc4 Nc6 9.Qd2 Bd7 10.0-0-0 Rc8 11.Bb3 Ne5 recently Black has been faring quite well after 12.Kb1 and Hirneise, J - Mueer, S is just one example of that. Rather than rushing in with 12...Nc4, we know that Black has two popular waiting moves and this month it is 12...a6 that hits our screens. Frankly given that ...b5 usually occurs without any preparation, the actual benefit of this move is far from obvious but after 13.h4 h5 14.Bg5 Rc5 15.Rhe1 b5 16.f4 Nc4 and ensuing variations, it doesn’t actually appear that the inclusion of Kb1 is that useful for White either.

Actually in the notes I make a comparison with the analogous old mainline position but what is clear is that 17.Bxc4 Rxc4 18.Bxf6 (18 e5 is the analysed principled alternative) 18...Bxf6 19.Qf2?! (And again 19 e5 is critical) 19...Bg4!, White was on the back foot and it was all Black from there on in.

Merry Xmas everybody! Chris

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