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Hello dear subscribers!
I try to answer another couple of submitted questions this month in a mixed bag of (hopefully) entertainment in a range of variations:

Download PGN of September ’16 Dragon Sicilian games

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Classical Dragon; Karpov System 8.Bg5 [B70]

Following 6.Be2 Bg7 7.0-0 0-0 8.Bg5 Nc6 9.Nb3 my personal favourite over the years has tended to be 9...a6 but one can't help but be interested in 9...Be6 10.f4 (certainly not forced as the side-notes remind) 10...b5!:

Indeed when selecting this month's games, the 11.Bf3 Nd7!? 12.Rb1 a5 13.Nd5 Rc8 14.c3 Re8 15.Qe2 a4 16.Nc1 b4 17.Nd3 a3! of Chiaretti, R - Dijkhuis, T really appealed through the simplicity of Black's queenside play. Already it appeared that White was in trouble and it was soon game over!

Dragon Levenfish Variation 6.f4 Nc6 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.e5 [B70]

Whenever I see a strong player deploy the likes of the Levenfish variation, I feel obliged to take a look at it and when such a game involved an experienced GM representing his country in the Olympiad, I hoped that we were about to see some special preparation that might question previous assessments. Alas, I was left somewhat bemused as Sulskis, S - Gonzalez, B seemed to bring nothing new to the table whatsoever.

So, after 6.f4 Nc6 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.e5 Nd7 9.exd6 exd6 10.Be3:

regulars will know that 10...Nf6 followed by ...Bg7 is an option for Black but this game featured the also common sequence 10...Be7 11.Be2 0-0 12.0-0 d5 13.Kh1 Re8, when after 14.Bf3?! Bf6 15.Bd4 Ba6 16.Rg1 Rb8 17.Na4 Rb4! it was clear that Black was already on top.

It is worth playing over the game for its tactical content, but in terms of theoretical development, disappointing from a neutral observer's point of view, but comforting for a Dragon player!

Yugoslav Attack 9 g4 Be6 10 Nxe6 [B76]

The game Havasi, G - Gara, A offered me the opportunity to revisit what has become a very trendy line and to see if we were getting closer to 'the truth'!

We know that after 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 0-0 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.g4 Be6 10.Nxe6 fxe6 11.0-0-0 Ne5 12.Be2 Black does have options, but the variation 12...Qc8 13.h4 Nfd7 14.h5 Nc4 15.Bxc4 Qxc4 16.hxg6 hxg6 17.f4 has been particularly common with it being decided that after 17...Bxc3, in order to try for advantage at this moment, White must preserve queens. Hence 18.bxc3 Qxa2 when both kings are a tad exposed:

Following 19.Qh2 (simultaneously avoiding and threatening mate) the black king heads for the hills through 19...Kf7 20.Qh7+ Ke8 when 21.e5 has proven most testing. This game is the latest development in this variation and in the notes I revisit previous conclusions adding where applicable any updates.

Yugoslav Attack 9 0-0-0 Nxd4 10 Bxd4 Be6 [B76]

Okay, so I received the following question:

«Mr. Ward,
Thanks for all your continued chess work in the UK. Your influence (as I hope you're aware) is certainly felt in the development of the dragon.
In that vein, I had a question after reviewing your PDF notes in the Dragon... I noticed your roadmap in the 9...Be6/Nxd4 line and it seems to suggest Black DOES have a decent game?
Am I missing a line somewhere in there?
Thanks, Abraham»

REPLY: Thanks very much for your kind words Abraham and let's say that my answer to you is a work in progress! I will be referring to your e-mail over the next couple of months. Certainly you will be aware that after 9 0-0-0 it is 9...d5 that gets top billing these days and as time passes, even I have a tendency forget why a line is no longer in vogue or has become theoretically suspicious. I can see a fair criticism of this particular PDF is that rather than it being full of assessments 'at a glance', you really need to check out the games referenced to get to the true state of play. I will check over the other lines in the PDF but what is left of my memory(!) tells me that whilst most lines are fine for Black, critical is the variation in which White goes with his h-pawn and then after 15 a3, Black has a decision to make. Coincidentally although games in this variation are few and far between these days, actually one occurred this month and so I will use that to demonstrate some key issues. One obvious observation is that had Mr Milenkovic been a ChessPublishing subscriber then he most certainly wouldn't have lost the following game, in this manner at least!

So, it is my recollection that after 9.0-0-0 Nxd4 10.Bxd4 Be6, the correct move order for White is 11.Kb1 Qc7 12.h4 Rfc8 13.h5 Qa5 14.hxg6 hxg6 15.a3:

Black doesn't have any structural weaknesses but obviously the open h-file is a concern. If White could arrange Be3-h6 or treble his major pieces on the h-file, then mate might come swiftly but although that isn't easy to achieve quickly, the problem for Black is what he can do in the meantime to give his opponent something to think about.

By far the most common move here is 15...Rab8 when Black would just love to successfully roll his b-pawn down to b4 to blast open the b-file but unfortunately 16.Bd3 b5 17.Qg5! has proven to be really annoying for Black, and not for the first time on this site Black feels the force of 17...Qc7 18.e5! in Ravic, N - Milenkovic, M.

Re further updated thoughts on this line, watch this space!

Yugoslav Attack 9 0-0-0 d5 Old Main Line [B76]

Regarding 9.0-0-0 d5 10.exd5 Nxd5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Bd4 e5 13.Bc5 Be6 14.Ne4, is it fair for me to refer to it as the 'old main line'? I don't know, although what is clear is that generally reflecting modern practical encounters, we do seem to be dedicating more time to 12...Bxd4. Not this month though(!) as instead we get a throwback to the old days through 14...Re8 15.h4 h6 16.g4:

Here 16...Qc7, preparing to bring a rook to the d-file is the most common move followed by 16...Nf4, 16...a5 and then 16...Rab8, but in fact it is the 5th most seen in practice continuation 16...f5(?!) that features in the recent Olympiad match Piorun, K - Cubas, J.

6 years ago on this site Gawain wrote about this that 'An unusual move and only the second game I can find with this move. On the positive side it dislodges the knight from e4 and thus opens up the bishop's long diagonal. However, opening up the open g file is decidedly dangerous.' Well, I can now say that there has in fact now been 6 practical games with it, but I am more intrigued by how much home preparation the Paraguayan may have put in to ruffle the feathers of his Polish Super GM opponent.

Play continued 17.gxf5 gxf5 18.Nd6 Rf8 19.Ba6 Qf6 20.Rdg1 Kh7 21.h5 Nf4 22.Nc4 Rfd8 when my feeling is that White got his rooks wrong and after 23.Qe1 Bh8 24.Bb4?! Rd4 25.Ne3 Rb8 26.a3 Bf7 27.Bc3 c5! had clearly lost his way.

My gut feeling is that 16...f5 should probably still be worthy of a '?!' but this is definitely food for thought!

Yugoslav Attack 9 Bc4 with ...Qa5 [B79]

Yes, you are reading this correctly, but don't get too excited as specifically regards this throwback variation, as I am responding to another e-mailed request:

«I have seen your video of Yugoslav attack of dragon I played that game to many opponents but after Rxc3, bxc3 ,Qxc3 ,Qd2 I can't win the game I have lost many games after this move... So I request you to please send me the continuation of the moves...»

Well dear subscribers, the things I do for you! You see, I didn't even have a copy of that video/dvd and having never received any royalties for it (or my ones on the Anti Sicilians, Nimzo-Indian or Modern Benoni- but I'm sure they'll be forthcoming!), I even went out and purchased it in order to answer this question!

I am sorry to hear that so many games have been lost essentially following my recommendation, but I am sticking to my guns that those resulting endgames are better for Black. Of course, covering a whole Dragon repertoire in one video didn't allow for the time for me to go into too much detail about handling such scenarios, but whilst I do give a little more guidance in my Winning With The Dragon books, don't worry because I'm rectifying that situation now!

The game being referred to is Holmes, D - Ward, C at the good old Lloyds Bank Masters of 1991, and specifically the question seems to be about the endgame reached after 9.Bc4 Bd7 10.h4 Qa5 11.h5 Ne5 12.Bb3 Nxh5 13.0-0-0 Rfc8 14.g4 Nf6 15.Bh6 Bxh6 16.Rxh6 Rxc3 17.Qxc3 Qxc3 18.bxc3 Rc8:

Yes, of course, this is supposed to be an openings website but in certain instances such as this, it is necessary to know how to handle particular endgames.

The first comments I make on this situation in the annotation is...

"Pausing then for a moment, Black is minimally material down in so far as he (in this particular case, me!) already has one pawn for the exchange and if he does acquire another pawn, then that equalises things in the material department. However this situation is far from all about whether Black can make the most of White's compromised queenside pawn structure and put all his eggs into the basket of trying to pick off one of those doubled isolated c-pawns.

Indeed, a priority is ensuring that the white rooks don't get any serious action. Being the exchange down is not such a big deal with so many things on the board (as a piece is a piece!) but if the pieces were traded off and then the position was to simplify down to a white rook against a black knight, then Black could be in big trouble. I would then recommend avoiding fair piece swaps unless to your clear benefit and in particular do NOT trade off your remaining rook unless you are confident that victory is in sight."

From there onwards I tender some, hopefully handy, black plans and I can only help that our friend has better luck in future!

That's it for this month, but I would like to end by mentioning the sad passing of a dedicated servant to English chess. Many in my country would know him as the National grading officer who could rub people up the wrong way by being a bit of a stickler for the rules!

Those that knew him well though would have befriended a kind hearted and very funny man.

A qualified arbiter, in organising tournaments and managing the young county teams he gave so much to Kent Junior Chess. On a personal level he first recognised my talent as a youngster and then encouraged me throughout my career (including at Grammar school where he was my French teacher- Sorry I didn't do better there!).

Actually he first introduced to me the possibility of the Yugoslav Attack and I spent many a school lunch break homing my Dragon skills against him! There is no doubt that without his influence I would never have achieved what I have and wouldn't be here writing for you guys now. Richard Haddrell R.I.P.

Take care everybody; I'll be back soon. Chris

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To get in touch with me subscribers can email me at Chris