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Bah Humbug!
Strictly business in this update as for the first time ever as a little experiment I simply investigate the top six ELO average rating Dragon encounters to get a feel of where theory really is at amongst the elite these days.
Don’t worry though I’ll be back shortly filling in the gaps with real Xmas spirit!

Download PGN of November ’18 Dragon Sicilian games

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Dragon Fianchetto 6.g3 Nc6 7.Nde2 Bg7 8.Bg2 Bd7 9.h3 Qc8 [B70]

Yes, evidently White still tries to challenge the Dragon at top level chess through 6.g3 as this month’s L'Ami, E - Williams, S demonstrates, although 6...Nc6 7.Nde2 Bg7 8.Bg2 Bd7 9.h3 Qc8 10.Nf4 h5 is a variation that Gawain has recommended in the past and I agree is quite satisfactory for Black:

Indeed, I am quite attracted to systems in which Black scrutinises h3 and expands on the kingside although 11.Ncd5 b5 12.Nxf6+ Bxf6 13.0-0 g5 14.Nd5 Be5?! 15.Bxg5 f6?! was a little over-ambitious. Still after 16.Bh4 Bxh3 I believe Black erred in 17.Nc7+? and after 17...Qxc7 18.Bxh3 Bxb2 19.Rb1, in fact 19...Bd4! 20 Rxb5 Ne5 could have been interesting. Alas ,instead 19...Be5?! 20.Rxb5 Nd4 21.Rd5 Qc3 22.f4! e6 23.fxe5 exd5 24.exd6 was all one way traffic there on out.

Dragon Modern Classical 6.Bc4 Bg7 7.0-0 0-0 8.h3 Nc6 9.Be3 Nxe4 10 Nxe4 [B72]

Remaining consistent with this month’s high rated encounter theme, my apologies that Andriasian, Z - Mikhalevski, V isn’t exactly what you would call a thriller. Again I was shocked that White would try to ‘challenge’ Black through 6.Bc4 Bg7 7.0-0 0-0 8.h3 Nc6 9.Be3:

I felt that surely by now it’s common knowledge that 9...Nxe4 is simply an equaliser. Typically the more modern way of playing the ‘Modern’ Classical (6 Bc4) is to delay deploying the dark-squared bishop with a view to eventually parking it on g5 and at least to side-step Black’s fork trick through Bb3. Seemingly not as far as this Super GM was concerned though but then after 10.Nxe4 there was time for a bigger surprise. Standard is 10...d5 11 Nxc6 bxc6 12 Bd3 dxe4 13 Bxe4 when it’s generally considered that Black’s pressure against White’s queenside compensates him for his isolated a- and c-pawns. However, suddenly Black came in with the novelty 10...Bxd4 with 11.Bxd4 d5 12.Nf6+ exf6 13.Bb3 Be6 14.Qd2 Kg7 15.Be3 Re8 leaving Black comfortable and after 16.Rad1 d4! 17.Bxd4 Bxb3 18.axb3?! Nxd4 19.Qxd4 Qxd4 20.Rxd4 Re2 21.Rc4 Rd8 White having to work hard to hold the endgame.

Classical Dragon 6.Be3 Bg7 7.Be2 Nc6 8.Qd2 Ng4 [B72]

I suspect many might have thought that the tussles between the higher rated players in the Dragon would take place in the battlegrounds of the Yugoslav Attack but clearly that is not the case with Ragger, M - Georgiadis, N being another relatively innocuous Classical Variation.

Regards the position below reached after 6.Be3 Bg7 7.Be2 Nc6 8.Qd2 Ng4 the last time we had this in a main game on ChessPublishing was some 15 years ago, although throw in castles for Black and we’ve seen the ...Ng4 frequently whether White castles kingside or queenside!

This position is however independent from both of those scenarios especially after 9.Bxg4 Bxg4 10.f3 Be6 11.Nxe6 fxe6 12.Bh6 Bf6 when of course it was pretty clear that Black wouldn’t be castling for a while. Black’s position is absolutely fine, though, and facing the prospect of ...Rc8, ...Ne5 and ...Qa5, White felt the need to deploy 13.Ne2. The game annotations propose snatching that b2-pawn but Black played it safe with 13...Qa5 when 14.Qxa5 Nxa5 15.0-0-0 g5 16.f4 gxf4 17.Bxf4 Rg8 18.g3 Nc6 19.Rhf1 Be5 20.Bxe5 Nxe5 saw an endgame in which both sides had their opportunities but Black on the better side of a draw seemed about right.

Classical Dragon 6.Be3 Bg7 7.Be2 Nc6 8.Qd2 0-0 9.0-0-0 d5 [B72]

In contrast to the last game 6.Be3 Bg7 7.Be2 Nc6 8.Qd2 0-0 9.0-0-0 is a trendy Classical variation where 9...Ng4 is one of the main moves. Instead though 9...d5 occurs in Vocaturo, D - Pijpers, A in what turns out to be a very instructive game.

The comparisons are there to be made with the analogous Yugoslav Attack 9 0-0-0 d5 variation in which the bishop is on f1 and the pawn on f3. Logic would dictate that with the rooks connected 10.exd5 Nxd5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Nxd5 cxd5 13.Qxd5 Qc7 14.Qxa8 Bf5 15.Qxf8+ Kxf8 would be an improved variant for White but this game highlights how difficult it is coordinating rooks when there are bishops floating around. I loved the way Black tackled the game particularly when after 16.Bd3 Be6 17.Kb1 Bd5 18.Rhg1 f5 19.g3 Qb7 20.Bc1 Bf3 21.Rde1 Bd4 22.Re6 Bd5 23.Re2 Bf3 24.Re6 he eschewed the draw by repetition and went for it with 24...Bxf2. Only pain was to follow after 25.Rf1 Bd5 26.Re2 Bd4 27.g4 Bf3 28.gxf5 Bxe2 29.Bxe2 g5 with White still struggling to coordinate his army. Not so easy this chess lark!

Yugoslav Attack 9.0-0-0 d5 10.Qe1 e6 11.h4 Qc7 12.Ndb5 Qe7 [B76]

Bearing in mind the experimental parameters I set in this update, a surprise perhaps then that we only got two pure Yugoslav Attacks, although the 7.f3 Nc6 8.Qd2 0-0 9.0-0-0 d5 10.Qe1 of Papp, G - Wessendorf, T is a rather topical line. Nevertheless, it is 10...e5 that we have tended to focus on in recent times whereas this encounter saw 10...e6 11.h4 Qc7 12.Ndb5 when Black deployed what I now believe is the inferior 12...Qe7?!:

Yes, I would prefer either 12...Qb8 or 12...Qa5 as there is no denying that 13.Qf2 (13 Bf4!? Eyeing up the c7 and d6 squares may be stronger still) 13...b6 14.exd5 Nxd5 15.Nxd5 exd5 16.Nd4 leaves White with a small but comfortable edge. After 16...Ne5 17.h5 Bd7 18.Kb1 a5 19.Ne2 Rfc8 20.Bd4 some may be stunned by 20...Rxc2 but I’m not going to ruin the end!

Yugoslav Attack, Soltis Variation 9.Bc4 Bd7 10.h4 Rc8 11.Bb3 h5 12.0-0-0 Ne5 13.Bh6 Nc4 14.Bxc4 Rxc4 15.Bxg7 Kxg7 16.g4 [B78]

‘Is this the end of chess as we know it?’ I couldn’t help but ask myself whilst annotating Hilby, C - Beradze, I.

Well, at the very least it is simply opening theory gone crazy as after the opening ‘choice’ of 9.Bc4 Bd7 10.h4 Rc8 11.Bb3 h5 12.0-0-0 Ne5 13.Bh6 Nc4 14.Bxc4 Rxc4 15.Bxg7 Kxg7 it is almost as though all of 16.g4 hxg4 17.h5 Rh8 18.hxg6 fxg6 19.f4 e5 20.Nde2 Rxh1 21.Rxh1 Nxe4 22.Nxe4 Rxe4 23.fxe5 Rxe2 24.Qxe2 Qg5+ 25.Qd2 Qxd2+ 26.Kxd2 dxe5 is forced:

Yes, the worst thing is that I’m not even kidding (check the annotation for yourself) with references only actually stopping and the position becoming unique after 27.Ke3 Kf6 28.b4 Bc6. Endgames can be very interesting but just three letters...OMG!!!

Okay hopefully I’ll never have to get that deep again and I’ll be back real soon with some Xmas crackers!

Best wishes, Chris

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