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Hi peeps!
Sorry I might seem a little out of synch with my November and December updates but I was doing a spot of commentating and pleasantly surprised by what I saw, I wanted to bring you hot off the press encounters from the London Classic and I’m hoping that they will be like an early Christmas treat. Yes, the Dragon is most certainly back... but did you really think that it had ever left?!
Okay let’s get cracking:

Download PGN of November ’17 Dragon Sicilian games

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Accelerated Dragon Maroczy Bind 6...Nxd4 7.Qxd4 d6 8.Be2 Bg7 9.Be3 0-0 10.Qd2 Be6 11.Rc1 Qa5 12.0-0 Rfc8 13.b3 a6 [B36]

Although it is far from a thriller, the game Kantor, G - Bakhmatsky, V is a pretty good example of why White can’t just simply play on autopilot against the Accelerated Dragon and still expect an advantage. After the standard 6.Nc3 Nxd4 7.Qxd4 d6 8.Be2 Bg7 9.Be3 0-0 10.Qd2 Be6 11.Rc1 Qa5 I could easily see club players unfamiliar with this main line plodding on with 12.0-0 Rfc8 13.b3 a6 14.f3 and indeed White here is a 2514 rated IM.

Indeed, I was surprised to see that this position has been reached in practice a few hundred times to date where it is clear that 14...b5 simply equalises. The talented young Hungarian tried 15.Nd5 but after 15...Qxd2 16.Bxd2 Nxd5 17.cxd5 Bd4+ 18.Kh1 Bd7 19.Rxc8+ Rxc8 20.Rc1 Rxc1+ 21.Bxc1 had obviously achieved nothing. The notes remind and update the situation on how White must show more guile if he is to try to eke any edge out of this solid Black system.

Levenfish Dragon 6.f4 Nc6 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.e5 Nd7 9.Qf3 [B71]

It’s nice to know that the old club player’s favourite; the ‘Levenfish’ still crops up from time to time in normal play and in Zaibi, A - Adnani, M after 6.f4 Nc6 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.e5 Nd7 we even had a new to the site move in the form of 9.Qf3:

Here we touch on the fact that Gawain, in his Dragon volume 2 book, recommends the tricky complications of 9...Bg7 and 9...dxe5 but it is perhaps no great surprise that the unprepared reaction was 9...d5 completely changing the nature of the position. Following 10.Be3 e6 11.Be2 Rb8 12.Nd1 c5 13.0-0 Bg7 14.c4 d4 chances were about equal before 15.Bd2 0-0 16.Qa3 Bb7 17.Qxa7?! g5! saw White looking as though he might get punished for greed before 18.Qa3 gxf4 19.Bxf4 Qc7 20.Qg3 Kh8 21.Bd3 had seen Black go astray and make an error in 21...Bxe5? that arguably should have been fatal... but wasn’t!

Classical Dragon 5.Nc3 a6 6.a4 g6 7.Be2 Bg7 8.0-0 0-0 9.Be3 Nc6 10.Qd2 [B73]

Adams, M - Nepomniachtchi, I is the first of three games from this year’s London Chess Classic and given the start 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.a4 g6 7.Be2 Bg7 8.0-0 0-0 9.Be3 Nc6 10.Qd2 , this was probably destined to be the least interesting of them!

Some previous occurrences of this have been classified as 'B90' but it is clearly more of a Dragon with ...a6 (and a2-a4) thrown in than a Najdorf with every other move being of the Dragon variety!

Leaving aside the advanced a-pawn inclusions, basically we have a standard Classical variation where of the three main lines White has favoured nudging his queen up over the retreat of the knight to b3 or the premature f-pawn thrust.

Black could consider 10...Bd7 or 10...Ng4 here but the talented young Russian opted for the solid 10...Nxd4 and after 11.Bxd4 Be6 12.a5 Rc8 13.Rfd1 Qc7 14.h3 Rfe8 15.Ra3 Nd7 16.Bxg7 Kxg7 17.Qd4+ Kg8 18.Rd2 Qc5 19.Qxc5 Rxc5 20.Nd5 Bxd5 21.exd5 b5 later explained that he would have offered a draw had the tournament rules not prohibited such occurrences in under 30 moves. So the game carried on with 22.axb6 Nxb6 23.Rxa6 Nxd5 24.c3 Nc7 25.Rb6 d5 26.Rb7 e6 27.Rd3 Na8 28.Rd4 Rc7 29.Rdb4 Kg7 30.f4 Ree7 31.Rxc7 Rxc7 32.Rb8 Ra7 33.b4 Nc7 34.b5 Ra8 35.Rb7 Ne8 36.c4? and no doubt the eventual joint tournament winner was pleased it had as after 36...Nd6 37.Rc7 dxc4 38.Bxc4 Ra1+ 39.Kf2 Rc1 40.b6 Nxc4 41.b7 Rb1 42.Rxc4 Rxb7 England’s top player had an awkward rook and pawn endgame to defend and his unfamiliarity with the ‘delay’ time limit helped contribute to his eventual downfall.

Accelerated Dragadorf 6.Be3 a6 7.f3 h5 8.Qd2 e5 [B75]

I do love the fact that the Dragon these days is so rich in different ideas with so many playable sidelines available as alternatives to the main line. However whilst we have previously seen the position after 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 a6 7.f3 including 7...Bg7 8 Qd2 h5, I have to admit that the 7... h5 8.Qd2 e5 of Larrea, M - Delgado Ramirez, N is in terms of definition somewhat pushing the boundaries of ‘the Dragon’. Indeed Black doesn’t even play ...b5 early doors and so even calling it a ‘Dragadorf’ is somewhat loose!

However, after 9.Nb3 Be6 10.0-0-0 Nbd7 11.Kb1 Rc8 12.Nd5 Bxd5 13.exd5 Bg7 14.c4 Qc7 15.Rc1 b6 16.Be2 Nc5 17.h4 Qd7 18.Na1 e4 19.Nc2 0-0 Black had completed his kingside fianchetto and castled and following 20.Nd4 finally 20...b5!? featured and a very Yugoslav Attack type middlegame had been reached.

Although it’s no great surprise that the engine favours White in the opening, there seemed to be little wrong with Black’s position throughout and the higher rated player emerged on top from the tactics. All in all a very interesting mishmash of variations.

Yugoslav Attack 9.0-0-0 d5 10.exd5 Nxd5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Bd4 Bxd4 13.Qxd4 Qb6 14.Na4 Qc7 15.Nc5 Rd8 16.Bc4 Bf5 17.Bb3 Nb6 18.Qc3 h5 19.g3 Nd5 [B76]

It really was great seeing the Dragon make an appearance at this year’s London Classic and not just once but three times and with a plus one score! Many Worldwide will be delighted to hear Hikaru Nakamura give the Dragon his seal of approval and I must admit watching Adams, M - Nakamura, H left me with split loyalties. My fellow countryman and friend or my favourite opening!

So theoretical is this line now that it was only after 9.0-0-0 d5 10.exd5 Nxd5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Bd4 Bxd4 13.Qxd4 Qb6 14.Na4 Qc7 15.Nc5 Rd8 16.Bc4 Bf5 17.Bb3 Nb6 18.Qc3 h5 19.g3 Nd5 that strictly speaking we see a new move on ChessPublishing in the form of 20.Qc4:

Not exactly a World beater changing previous assessments and the ensuing 20...e6 21.Rhe1 Qe7 22.Nd3 Nb6 23.Qc5 Rd6 24.Rd2 Nd7 25.Qc3 Bxd3 26.Rxd3 Rxd3 27.Qxd3 Nc5 28.Qc3 Rd8 29.a3 merely confirmed Mickey’s difficulty in challenging Black’s system. Where he toiled though Hikaru was himself looking at ways to get on top but despite making some useful observations later about the position, was unable to and a draw was the correct result.

Yugoslav Attack Soltis Variation 9.Bc4 Bd7 10.h4 h5 11.Bb3 Rc8 12.0-0-0 Ne5 13.Bg5 Rc5 14.Kb1 Re8 15.g4 hxg4 16.f4 Nc4 17.Qd3 Na5 [B78]

And last, but not least, this month we have the entertaining Vachier-Lagrave, M - Nakamura, H signalling the return of the Dragon to absolute top level chess. The London Classic audience were thrilled to see 9.Bc4 Bd7 10.h4 h5 11.Bb3 Rc8 12.0-0-0 Ne5 13.Bg5 Rc5 14.Kb1and the razor sharp Soltis Variation where Nakamura plumped for the high class prophylactic move 14...Re8 rather than the standard 14...b5. We have seen this position more commonly reached when White tries to avoid the Soltis with the early Kb1 and now after 15.g4 hxg4 16.f4 Nc4, 17.Qd3 hit the board. The highly rated American then took around 50 minutes to come up with 17...Na5 and finally a new position to ChessPublishing!

The intention being to remove White’s troublesome light-squared bishop, after 18.Bxf6 he surprised most again with 18...exf6 when in a critical part of the game the skilled Frenchman missed a couple of opportunities and 19.Bd5 Nc6 20.Nxc6 bxc6 21.Bxf7+ Kxf7 22.Qxd6 Rxc3 23.Qxd7+ Qxd7 24.Rxd7+ Ke6 25.Rxg7 merely led to an exciting but ultimately drawn endgame.

Back real soon! Chris

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