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Okay guys here’s the thing, is this Dragon site all about finding out the absolute best line(s) for White and Black? Is it about pure accuracy or do sacrificial themes (likely transferable to other situations), new ideas (sound or otherwise) and entertaining encounters come into play?
Should games be featured in variations which have good practical value in over-the board encounters against under 2600 opponents but deep down are probably a bit suspicious?
Chess has changed so much and whilst the thoughts of so many are influenced by engine assessments, actually the reality could well be that the Pircs, Alekhines, King’s Indians, probably all Sicilian variations and so much more could be done away with and all efforts focused on the Opening Repertoire of Alpha Zero! Yes, quite possibly it should be full steam ahead Berlin Defences and QGDs but you have to ask yourself, does the Artificial Intelligence Monster really enjoy its chess?
On the other hand, I know many people that love playing over Dragon games even though they wouldn’t dare play the opening themselves and that could even be the case with someone reading this right now!
When selecting and annotating games for the site, I do check out the previous month or so of games and whilst it’s natural that I do scrutinise encounters involving the highest rated players, I won’t necessarily include them simply based on the fact that theoretically their games should contain less errors. An uneventful but accurate 20 move Super GM draw for example might not bring sufficient to the party to warrant inclusion in an update.
Admittedly it was unusual but in the July 2019 update, actually there were 3 games in the 9 0-0-0 Nxd4 10 Bxd4 Be6 Yugoslav Attack. Regular subscribers will know I’ve explained how this has suffered for some time but only in (what at least I believe to be) the crunch line of 11 Kb1 Qc7 12 h4 Rfc8 13 h5. It would then have been easy to say forget it, let’s crack on with 9...d5 but I responded to a couple of requests to revisit the system. It took me a while but in addressing that over time, whilst nothing new in 13...Qa5 14 hxg6 hxg6 had altered my opinions, I suddenly had an idea in the lesser seen 14...fxg6 variation that limited theory had simply written off. Amazingly coincidentally it seems a Chilean IM had similar ideas with evidently both of us deeming it warranting giving it an outing. In fact, he deployed it on more than one occasion and it just so happens that they all appeared around the same time. I apologise if I offended anyone by allocating 50% of an update to that but I thought it might be a good opportunity to close the book on that having given I thought, satisfactory answers.
Just though to answer a few specifics queries about the July 2019 Ulloa-Abarca Gonzalez game:
1) Regards the possibility of the move 17 g5, in fact that was the subject of (i.e. played in) the game Hunt-Pixton that I annotated here back in 2009! I then referenced that in an update in 2016 repeating my assertion that ‘Due to the holes on e6 and f7 and the lingering pressure on h7 (all of which aren't present in the ...hxg6 lines!-although then as mentioned the h8 mating threats come into play!), it's fair to say that White is always likely to have an edge’.
Following 17...Nh5 18 Bxg7, I think White has actually only won once in practice suggesting that Black does have reasonable drawing chances and of course could end on top were White to err as indeed English IM Adam Hunt did!
Enthusiasts may notice that many engines have an initial assessment of around +0.92 to +1.16 on this position but as it happens, actually that’s not much different from the view it holds after 11 Kb1!
2) In retrospect I regret not adding in that 17 g5 reference again. I know it’s easy for readers to use search functions on games in the archives but usually I do repeat or update relevant references. However on this occasion at the time it didn’t seem relevant as the specific 15...Bf7 move order (rather than 15...Rab8) I had in mind combined with the Abarca-Gonzalez plan rendered that specific position redundant. I had hoped those following the updates on that particular system might read into my intimations but I didn’t want to spell it out so blatantly as I wanted to get to use it at this year’s British Championships.
3) Okay so if I could once more clarify my position that I feel I have fulfilled the request to reinvestigate the system 9...Nxd4 against 9 0-0-0 although should anything occur that changes my view on anything there then I will surely keep you posted. Once upon a time it was the main line but for a long while on ChessPublishing I have highlighted its shortcomings. Engines don’t like it and they are probably right! However no doubt just like many openings, if you believe your opponent might not be capable of finding all the optimal moves and you have one or two trickies up your sleeve, then it might just be worth a go. In fact with no offence meant to my very friendly 2300 rated opponent down in Torquay in July, that was essentially the case and I was victorious. I might not be pushing my luck there too much though!

Download PGN of September ’19 Dragon Sicilian games

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Classical Dragon Levenfish 6.f4 Nbd7 7.Nf3 [B71]

On entertainment value and lessons to be learned, I couldn’t resist including Bernadskiy, V - Grebeniuk, S in this month’s update.

The starting sequence of 5...g6 6.f4 Nbd7 7.Nf3 brought back old memories from the site of White trying for a swift e4-e5 that was even played with some success after the ‘preventative’ 7...Qc7.

Two very reasonably rated players involved here, Black decided that he wouldn’t be a party to any of those tactics and instead stopped White’s e-pawn in its tracks with 7...e5? Unfortunately though that opened up a whole new can of worms as White responded with 8.Bc4 and a clear aim of targeting the f7-pawn. After 8...Qc7 9.Qe2 a6 10.Ng5! it was obvious that Black wasn’t going to get his Dragadorf style development in and an attempt to trap a white knight on f7 didn’t transpire as 10...h6 was met with 11.Bxf7+! Ke7 12.Bb3 Nc5 13.fxe5 dxe5 14.0-0 and well, a day to forget. Not for us though with a warning here not to take liberties!

Finally moving on and yippee I have another request that I fully intend to deliver on:

«Dear Chris,
I'm a subscriber in the dragon section and I have some questions:
1.) I recognised that after 9. 0-0-0 d5 10. Qe1 e5 11. Nxc6 bxc6 12. exd5 Nxd5 13. Bc4 Be6 14. Ne4 the option 14... Qb8 is not discussed in the files at all.
I was wondering, which location for the queen is more precise, c7 or b8?
2.) The second question is strongly connected to the first one, because although I'm playing the dragon for my entire life and I really love this opening, I feel struggling a lot in that line with 14... Qc7, especially in the lines like in Mannion-Vocaturo. Still I feel that black would have struggled to enjoy the game after 23. Rd6 instead of 23. Ba7.
This, and the fact that I always feel whites plan is rather simple (fixing the kingside with g5, going back with the queen, playing h4 and keeping the dark squared bishop on the board) and still leaves black more or less in a paralysed situation. Would it be possible to discuss a game in one of the upcoming updates, which discusses how black can organise some counterplay or at least what the important defensive ideas are?
Thank you so much for your answers!
Best wishes, Christoph»


Welcome Christoph and you are right, the extent of commentary on ChessPublishing is Gawain’s ’14...Qb8 is an interesting alternative’ but evidently not sufficiently interesting to usurp 14...Qc7 as his preference in his ‘Sicilian Dragon Volume 2’ book!

Coincidentally I think I was giving live commentary on that Mannion-Vocaturo Hastings encounter and did have one or two thoughts on it.

Okay I will start addressing your issues in the October update which barring further disasters will be with you within a fortnight.

Meanwhile everyone, some games for this month...

Dragadorf 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 a6 8.Qd2 Nbd7 9.g4 b5 10.h4 h5 11.g5 Nh7 12.f4 [B75]

I have to say that Petrov, M - Nikolovski, N is a pretty impressive demonstration of how to handle the Dragadorf. After 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 a6 8.Qd2 Nbd7 certainly an argument is made for 9.g4!? being more accurate than 9 0-0-0 with 9...b5 10.h4 h5 11.g5 Nh7 12.f4 Bb7 13.f5! proving especially testing:

Refraining from long castles has bought White the time to get all this in with a simple trade on g6 and invasion on e6 threatened. Black wanted to reactivate his offside knight and although 13...Nhf8 plugged some gaps, White was relentless and 14.0-0-0 Nb6?! 15.f6! exf6 16.Ndxb5! axb5 17.Bxb5+ Ke7 18.Bf4 fxg5 19.Bxd6+ Ke6 ultimately saw Black crushed.

I have tendered some possible places for Black to improve but exponents of this particular line have a little work to do!

Yugoslav Attack 9.Nb3 [B75]

Amazingly this is the second Tomczak, J - Mista, A encounter that is being featured on the site in the 5...g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 Nc6 8.Qd2 0-0 9.Nb3 line that appears to be gathering in momentum. Previously we’ve looked into ...Be6 with ...a5 or ...Na5 ideas but on this occasion Black opted for 9...Bd7:

Should this ever take off then no doubt we would be looking into whether 10 h4, 10 g4 or 10 Bh6 are more accurate than 10.0-0-0 or indeed whether 10...Rc8 is more relevant than the 10...Rb8 (possibly ‘?!’) that was played in more of a Chinese Dragon style. This seems reasonable in theory but the problem is that after the quiet but useful 11.Kb1, could Black bring himself to basically sac a pawn through 11...b5. Actually he couldn’t but although White hasn’t yet set the ball rolling on his own attack, 11...a6 looks a bit odd/slow and after 12.h4 h5 (now the debate is whether Black should play in this Soltis style manner) 13.Bh6 Ne5 14.Bxg7 Kxg7 15.Nd5 Nxd5 16.exd5 Qb6 17.Be2 Rbc8 18.g4 hxg4 19.fxg4 Nxg4 20.Bxg4 Bxg4 21.Rdf1 clearly White’s offensive had progressed swiftly! Yes 21...Rh8 22.Nd4 Rh5 23.Rhg1 Bd7 24.Qe3 Qd8 25.Qf3! Kh8 26.Qxf7 Qe8 was all a bit of a grovel in which Black was rather lucky to escape with a draw.

Yugoslav Attack 9.0-0-0 d5 10.Qe1 e5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.exd5 Nxd5 13.Bc4 Be6 14.Kb1 [B76]

Following 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 Nc6 8.Qd2 0-0 9.0-0-0 d5 10.Qe1 e5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.exd5 Nxd5 13.Bc4 Be6, the move 14 Ne4 outweighs 14.Kb1 more than 3 to 1 in practical outings but in recent times it’s definitely the latter that is being deployed more by stronger players. This handy quiet move keeps the black queen honest regards protection on d5 and with that in mind White challenges Black to make an equally useful insertion before Ne4 appears next.

As it happens though in Moiseenko, V - Lekic, D that can’t be the case as Black deviates from the standard 14...Rb8 and 14...Re8 continuations with 14...f5:

Unfortunately this falls foul of the simple 15.Qd2! with the basic assumption being that the more minor pieces that get traded without the structure being altered, the weaker Black’s queenside isolanis will appear. I’m not sure whether or not this was preparation but following the attempt to mix things up through 15...Qh4, White resisted the temptation to take on d5 immediately, instead rightly favouring the calm 16.Bb3! The point is that White is now threatening Nxd5 and that Bg5 is in the air should Black try to park a rook on d8.

Hence 16...Nxc3+ 17.Qxc3 Bxb3 18.axb3 occurred when 18...a5 19.Qxc6 a4 was futile with 20.g3 Qh3 21.bxa4 Rfc8 22.Qe6+ Kh8 23.Rd7 confirming White’s dominance.

Yugoslav Attack 9.Bc4 Bd7 10.g4 [B77]

The game Zherebukh, Y - Smith, B finally offered me the chance to cover a relatively offbeat move order and introduce some new ideas. Even the opening sequence was whacky as 1.Nf3 g6 2.e4 c5 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 0-0 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.Bc4 Bd7 10.g4 led us to:

A very sneaky move which:

  1. Prevents the ...h5 of the Soltis.
  2. Doesn't prematurely retreat the bishop to b3 allowing the ...Nxd4 and ...b5 with ...a5 idea.
  3. Doesn't yet commit the king to queenside castling thus taking the sting out of a 'Chinese' approach.

So here in the notes discussed are some novel approaches after 10...Rc8 11 Be2 and 11 Bb3 but the main game continuation of 10...Ne5 11.Be2 is tricky.

On b3 the bishop would usefully pin the f7-pawn but whereas 9 Bc4 also prevented the ...d5 break, with Black's bishop on d7, that isn't such an issue any more here (though check out the annotation!). Of course 11 Be2 and 11 Bb3 could ultimately transpose should Black utilise say a ...Rc8 and ...Nc4 pairing provoking B(wherever it is coming from!)xc4 but before that transpires, there were other differences to be considered.

Actually the encounter itself wasn’t as theoretically interesting as the variations with 11...Rc8 12.0-0-0 Qa5 13.Nb3 Qd8 14.Kb1 b5 15.h4 a5 16.h5 a4 17.Nd4 b4 18.Nd5 Nxd5 19.exd5 Qa5 20.Bh6! all being a bit grim for Black. However there is some fascinating stuff here.

Soltis 9.Bc4 Bd7 10.h4 h5 11.0-0-0 Ne5 12.Bb3 Rc8 13.Kb1 Nc4 14.Bxc4 Rxc4 15.g4 hxg4 16.h5 Nxh5 17.Rdg1 [B78]

This month’s Huschenbeth, N - Mista, A forces us to get deep into Soltis variation theory where actually 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 Ne5 12.Bb3 Rc8 13.Kb1 Nc4 14.Bxc4 Rxc4 15.g4 hxg4 16.h5 Nxh5 17.Rdg1!?, surprise, surprise I’ve come up with the idea 17...Rxc3!? (detailed in the notes). Instead though 17...Qc8 18.Nd5 Re8 occurred, enabling White to deploy the seemingly strong finesse (and improvement over 19 fxg4) 19.b3!:

The point is that after 19...Rc5 20.fxg4 Bxg4 21.Rh4 e6 22.Rhxg4 exd5 23.Nf5 this is much stronger than the analogous position where the black rook is safely entrenched on c4.

Here for the price of a pawn or two, White has a strong kingside initiative and a superbly placed knight with Black's rook attacked just for good measure!

Not game over immediately but 23...Rxe4 24.Rxe4 Qxf5 25.Re8+ Kh7 26.Bxc5 dxc5 27.Rh1 c4 28.Qe2 Bf6 29.Rf1 Qh3 30.Re3 Qh4 31.Re7!? Qd4 32.Rxf7+ Kh6 33.R7xf6 Nxf6 was essentially a winning endgame.

Back real soon! Chris

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