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So, fellow Dragoneers (and interested parties!),
F3 or not f3, that is the question... this month but we see the Anti-Chinese against the Chinese, a rare visit from the WC MC and yes shock, horror, real live in the flesh over the board chess!
Anyway, back to lockdown... enjoy!

Download PGN of October ’20 Dragon Sicilian games

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Maroczy 6...Nxd4 7.Qxd4 d6 8.Be3 Bg7 9.f3 0-0 10.Qd2 Be6 11.Rc1 Qa5 12.b3 Rfc8 13.Be2 a6 14.Na4 [B36]

A feature of last month’s update was the comparison of f2-f3 versus Be2 in the Maroczy Bind and specifically highlighted was why the prioritising of the former effectively prevented the ...a5-a4 and ...Qa5 set-up.

Although it’s far from an edge of your seat thriller, the slow-play, in person encounter Aronian, L - Duda, JK is in my opinion pretty theoretically important in specifically after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6 3.c4 Nc6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Nf6 6.Nc3 Nxd4 7.Qxd4 d6 8.Be3 Bg7 9.f3 0-0 10.Qd2 Be6 11.Rc1 Qa5 12.b3 Rfc8 13.Be2 a6 14.Na4 Qxd2+ 15.Kxd2 Nd7 16.g4 highlighting the strength of the move 16...Rcb8!?:

In practice 16...f5 and 16...Rc8 are far more popular in practice although it has been clear that White maintains at least a nibble. The text though dynamically seeks to force through the break ...b5 and indeed 17.Nc3 b5 occurred after which taking on b5 would favour Black. Instead 18.Nd5 Bxd5 19.cxd5 Nc5! occurred with key being the importance of the Dragon bishop should White try to grab the on-offer pawn. He didn’t but in a game where it’s far from clear how White should improve, 20.g5 Bb2 21.Rc2 Ba3 22.Rb1 a5 was absolutely fine for Black.

Classical Dragon 6.Be3 a6 7.Be2 Bg7 8.Qd2 [B72]

I was amused to see the game Fedorchuk, S - Vlachos, A as after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 a6 7.Be2 Bg7 8.Qd2 it featured just the move I had warned against in a 2015 annotation. Yes, faced with this position myself I deployed 8...Nbd7 but discussed 8...h5 (very topical this month!) and 8...Nc6 too. However I had a bad feeling about 8...b5? 9.Bf3! as occurred here:

No, I’m not going to say that had Black been a ChessPublishing subscriber then he would have been aware of that (oops I just did!) but certainly the temporarily exposed nature of Black’s queenside leaves him vulnerable and facing the prospect of e4-e5, suddenly in some trouble.

Behind somewhat in development, there are no good ways to try to sac the exchange and tactical attempts are in White’s favour as 9...e5 10.Nf5! Bf8 11.0-0-0! soon demonstrates. Yes, 11...d5 12.Nxd5 Nxd5 13.Qxd5 Qxd5 14.Rxd5 gxf5 15.Rxe5+ Kd7 16.Rxf5 Nc6 17.e5! was all pretty grim!

Yugoslav Attack 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 a6 8.Qd2 h5 [B75]

Needless to say I couldn’t pass up a Dragon game of the World Champion and in Grischuk, A - Carlsen, M after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 it was nice to see Magnus deploying one of our favourite little side-lines in 7...a6 8.Qd2 h5:

Deviating from a standard Dragadorf here, we’ve seen this move (8...h5) on a few occasions before and there are several ideas behind it:

  1. The bishop trade Bh6 is prevented.
  2. White is prevented from launching his standard kingside initiative of g2-g4.
  3. Black doesn't commit himself to the ...b5 that offers White the chance to get positional with the queenside challenging a2-a4.

The obvious downside is that now Black is a little tender around f7 and g6 which could prove awkward if White arranges the breaks f3-f4-f5 or e4-e5-e6.

Now after 9.Bc4 Nbd7 White sneakily deployed the prophylactic 10.Bb3!? that would enable 10...b5 to be met by 11 a4!? and consequently 10...Nc5 11.0-0-0 b5 12.Kb1 Bb7 featured when White passed up the option of 13 Nf5!? in favour 13.a3. Then 13...Nxb3 14.cxb3 Rc8 15.Nc2 Qc7 16.Bd4 could have got interesting had Black dabbled immediately in ...e5 followed by ...d5 but instead the game continuation of 16...0-0 17.Qf2 e5?! 18.Bb6 Qd7 19.Nb4 Rxc3 20.bxc3 Qe6 21.Kb2 Rc8 22.Ba5! ultimately saw White consolidate his material advantage.

Yugoslav 2...Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.Nc3 Bg7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Bc4 d6 8.f3 Qb6 9.Bb5 Qc7 [B75]

The game ScorpioNN - AllieStein v0.8-120f959_net-1 involves two super computers but I wouldn’t pay any heed to the given move order 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.f3 Bg7 7.Be3 Nc6 8.Bb5 Qc7 (which I explain makes no sense!) reaching a theoretical position most commonly achieved via either an Accelerated Dragon or an 8 Bc4 Qb6 Yugoslav Attack. In these computer events, engines are randomly assigned openings to play against each other with both colours and it’s only really after 9.Qd2 a6 10.Be2 Bd7 that we see them knuckle down:

Interestingly we witness the two giants disagree here as in the reverse fixture AllieStein opts for the timid 11 Nd5 in a relative (118 move!) bore draw! Here though White prefers the aggressive 11.g4 although after 11...b5 12.0-0-0 Rc8 13.Nxc6 Bxc6 14.g5 Nd7 15.h4 b4 16.Nd5 Bxd5 17.exd5 0-0 18.Kb1 Nb6 19.Bxb6 Qxb6 20.h5 a5 actually it is Black destined to do the most attacking. Indeed I personally was very pleased viewing 21.hxg6 hxg6 22.Bd3 Qd4 23.Qc1 Qa7 24.Qd2 a4 and what followed, as despite my ability to calculate the millions of variations these 3500 rated engines can, it cemented my views and judgement on the dominance of the Dragon bishop with a nice (if long-winded!) practical example.

Yugoslav Attack 9.0-0-0 d5 10.exd5 Nxd5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Bd4 e5 13.Bc5 Be6 14.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 although a fast paced game involving two strong players I can’t understand why we see 16 Bc4 in Motylev, A - Sevian, S and I’ve been so bold as to affix it with a ‘?!’.

My annotations remind and update us as to why Black can at least equalise through 14...Nxc3!? and possibly more although the American chess prodigy treads a different path through the also interesting 14...Re8. There is no transposing back to a theoretically favourable main line for White now (after 15 Ne4 he’s rather have h2-h4 included rather than Bc4) who therefore entered the challenge of 15.Bxd5 cxd5 16.Nxd5 . Then followed 16...Bxd5 17.Qxd5 Qg5+ 18.Qd2 Qf5 when inaccuracies meant 19.Kb1 Rac8 20.Be3?! e4! 21.f4 Qb5 22.b3 Bc3 23.Qd7?! Qe2! 24.Bc1 e3 25.Qd3 Qxd3 26.Rxd3 e2 27.Rxc3 Rxc3 had left Black in a winning endgame.

Soltis 9.Bc4 Bd7 10.h4 h5 11.0-0-0 Rc8 12.Bb3 Ne5 13.Bg5 Rc5 14.Kb1 b5 15.g4 hxg4 [B78]

So Amonatov, F - Lu Shanglei is about as theoretical as it gets and provided a good opportunity to recap and update main line Soltis theory. The only thing not making the encounter super main main line is that 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.Bc4 Bd7 10.h4 h5 11.0-0-0 Rc8 12.Bb3 Ne5 13.Bg5 Rc5 14.Kb1 b5 15.g4 in fact Black’s most popular move wasn’t played.

Yes the better scoring 15...a5!? has now overtaken 15...hxg4 in practice but nevertheless here we travel down the well-trodden path of 16.h5 Nxh5 17.Nd5 Re8 18.Rxh5 gxh5 19.Qh2 Rxd5 20.Bxd5 Qb6!? 21.Qxh5 e6 22.Bb3 gxf3 23.Nxf3 Qf2 24.Nxe5 Bxe5 25.Bh6 where 25...Qg2! should be fine for Black but instead 25...Qg3 26.Rf1 Qg6 27.Qh1 Bd4 28.c3 Bb6 29.Qh4 Bd8 30.Qh2 Bb6 31.Bc2 e5 32.Rh1 Re6 33.Qh4 Qh7 saw Black having to suffer a bit and work harder for the eventually achieved draw.

Stay safe everyone! Chris

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