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Accelerated Dragons, Hungarian Dragons and normal Dragons, Classicals and Yugoslav Attacks, balanced and imbalanced, the World’s best living and the World’s best not (inanimate!). It’s all here this month; enjoy!

Download PGN of February ’24 Dragon Sicilian games

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Maroczy Bind 6.Nc3 Nxd4 7.Qxd4 d6 8.Be2 Bg7 9.0-0 0-0 10.Qd3 [B76]

The game Kadric, D - Djukic, Ni was quite reasonable all round. Following 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.c4 Nf6 6.Nc3 in order to side-step the lines where White retreats his central knight to c2 or indeed supports it with his bishop, Black continued with the still fashionable Nxd4 7.Qxd4 d6 line when through 8.Be2 Bg7 9.0-0 0-0 10.Qd3 we were investigating a slightly different white queen deployment.

Still Black followed up with the popular 10...a5 11.Be3 a4 when through 12.Bd4 Bd7 13.f4 Bc6 14.b4 axb3 15.axb3 Rxa1 16.Rxa1 Nd7 17.b4 White was creeping up on both sides. Black fought back in the space department though with 17...e5! when 18.fxe5 Nxe5 19.Qd2 Qh4 20.Bf2 Qf6 21.Ra3 Qe6 22.b5 Bd7 23.Nd5 Kh8 24.Qg5 f6 25.Qh4 g5 26.Qg3 f5 was lively but ultimately heading for a draw.

Accelerated Dragon, Maroczy Bind 6.Be3 Qb6 7.Nb5 Qa5+ 8.N5c3 Qb4 [B38]

After 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.c4 Bg7 6.Be3 we continue to see games in what I often refer to as the ‘Staircase variation’ that kicks off with 6...Qb6 hitting both the knight in the centre and the b2-pawn. Most common in practice is White then responding with 7 Nb3 (you’ll find plenty on that in the archives) but the recent Faizrakhmanov, R - Nikitenko, M witnessed 7.Nb5 Qa5+ and then rather than blocking with the currently undeveloped knight, instead deploying 8.N5c3 Nothing too much to write home about there but that’s not the case regards the response 8...Qb4!? mixing things up a little:

Yes usually Black automatically plays 8...Nf6 but here a spanner is thrown in the works as Black is unconcerned about getting his queen trapped and immediately sets about pressurising b2 and c4. Ultimately in this battle between two talented young IMs, the concept works with 9.Qd2 Nf6 10.f3 d6 11.Be2 Be6 12.Na3 Nd7 13.Rc1 0-0 14.0-0 Nb6 15.Nd1 Rfc8 16.Rc2 f5!? continuing to pile on the pressure and 17.Nf2 Qxd2 18.Rxd2 Nb4 19.exf5 gxf5 20.b3 Bc3 21.Rdd1 Nxa2 22.Nb5 Bg7 23.Nh3 Bd7 24.Nxa7 Rxa7 25.Bxb6 Ra3 26.c5 Nc3 27.Bc4+ Kf8 28.Rd2 Bh6 29.Rd3 Ne2+ 30.Kh1 Nc1 31.Rc3 dxc5 32.Bd5 Na2 33.Rxc5 Rxc5 34.Bxc5 Ra5 35.b4 Nxb4 36.Bxb4 Rxd5 37.Re1 Kg8 38.Bxe7 Bd2 39.Rb1 b5 40.Kg1 Rd4 41.Bc5 Rc4 42.Rd1 Rc2 43.Nf2 certainly an endgame that Black could have won.

Karpov System 6.Be2 Bg7 7.0-0 0-0 8.Bg5 Nc6 9.Nb3 Be6 10.Kh1 a5 11.a4 Rc8 12.f4 [B70]

In Jeet, J - Gochelashvili, D after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 cxd4 5.Nxd4 g6 White deployed the Karpov System via 6.Be2 Bg7 7.0-0 0-0 8.Bg5 Nc6 9.Nb3 with 9...Be6 10.Kh1 a5 11.a4 Rc8 12.f4 Nb4 reigniting the debate surrounding the pros and cons of advancing the a-pawns. However from a Black perspective I enjoyed the flow of the game from 13.f5 Bc4 onwards.

Okay so 14.Nc1?! was a little puzzling but the game continuation of 14...Qb6 15.Qd2 Rfd8 16.Bd3 d5! 17.Bxc4 Rxc4 18.e5 Ne4! couldn’t have gone much better with 19.Nxe4 dxe4 20.Qf4 f6 seeing things totally collapse for White.

Hungarian Dragon 6.f3 Nc6 7.Be3 h5 8.Bc4 Bd7 9.Qd2 Nxd4 10.Bxd4 Bh6 11.Be3 [B72]

Well it would have been difficult for me to ignore a Hungarian Dragon Firouzja, A - Carlsen, M encounter that wasn’t a blitz game although in truth the start of 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.f3 Nc6 7.Be3 h5 8.Bc4 Bd7 didn’t really live up to its billing! Rather anti-climatically 9.Qd2 Nxd4 10.Bxd4 Bh6 11.Be3 Bxe3 12.Qxe3 Rc8 13.Bb3 Qa5 14.0-0-0 Qc5 15.Rhe1 is where we’ve seen the queens come off early in the past and in 15...b5?! 16.e5! Qxe3+ 17.Rxe3 dxe5 18.Rxe5 a6 that was the case here too but thanks to Black’s inaccurate 15th move, to his detriment.

A mystery for me surrounding this game is why White didn’t deploy the simple (taking advantage of a pin!) fork 19 Rd6! and indeed it’s like there was a blindspot around that move in this game in general. Instead 19.a4 Rb8 20.axb5 axb5 21.Nd5 Nxd5 22.Rexd5 Rb7! occurred when for Black the danger had been averted.

Yugoslav 9.Bc4 Bd7 10.h4 Rc8 11.Bb3 Ne5 12.0-0-0 Nc4 13.Bxc4 Rxc4 14.h5 Nxh5 15.g4 Nf6 16.Nde2 [B77]

Wow what an education the game LCZero 0.31-dag-e429eeb-BT3-2 - Stockfish dev-20231010-002636 was! Okay so the computers were forced into playing this (once prominent but rarely seen these days) 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 Rc8 11.Bb3 Ne5 12.0-0-0 Nc4 13.Bxc4 Rxc4 14.h5 Nxh5 15.g4 Nf6 line where White deployed the ‘Karpovian’ retreat 16.Nde2. As I’ve stated before on the site, I’m pretty confident that Black’s best here is the prophylactic 16...Re8!? but I was very interested in this game as way back, I myself once contemplated playing 16...Qa5 17.Bh6 Bh8 18.Bxf8 Kxf8:

I recall on a few occasions at my stints commentating on the Hastings Chess congress discussing the alleged assertion of Tarrasch that 'the bishop pair is as good as a rook and a knight'. Since those days I notice that in recent times people have been trialling various flat positions (pitting engine against engine!) with those scenarios and also with the bishops (as here) having an extra pawn to boot. Interestingly the computer generally does well with the 'extra material' compared to the practical play edge that humans might have with the diagonal dominance.

This position provides another excellent example. My view was always that over the board Black would have reasonable compensation with the bishop pair and a pawn for the rook and the knight. The engine assessment is just as the maths states; you are about (5+3)-(3+3+1)=1pt down!

Educational for sure but even more amusing is that after 19.Qe3 Bc6 20.Kb1 Qc5 21.Qd3 Kg8 22.Nc1 we see 22...Rxc3 23.Qxc3 Nxe4 24.Qxc5 Nxc5 and another fascinating material imbalance to discuss.

Topalov Variation 9.Qd2 Bd7 10.0-0-0 Rc8 11.Bb3 Nxd4 12.Bxd4 b5 13.Nd5 Nxd5 14.Bxd5 [B78]

By now after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 0-0 8.Bc4 Nc6 9.Qd2 Bd7 10.0-0-0 the enthusiastic subscriber will be familiar with the Topalov variation of 10...Rc8 11.Bb3 Nxd4 12.Bxd4 b5 13.Nd5 Nxd5 only we expect White to recapture with the e-pawn so as to facilitate pressure along the then half-open e-file. However instead in Schneider, J - Fedorovsky, M we see 14.Bxd5?! and although I don’t mean to cast aspersions on White’s character here, it has occurred to me in the past that that might be the more automatic recapture to the less experienced.

After all White’s light-squared bishop doesn’t get obstructed by the pawn and in remaining pinning the f7-pawn, the standard h4-h5 plan looks very dangerous. The problem is that White doesn’t quite get time for that and after 14...Bxd4 15.Qxd4 a5!, the bishop is in serious danger of being hunted down by Black’s pawns. Pawn storms are slower when there are no enemy pawns to make contact with but 16.a3 to help preserve the in danger bishop enables that swift contact through 16...Qc7 17.Rd2 b4. The game continued with 18.axb4 when actually the simple take back on b4 might have been best but the intermezzos 18...e5 19.Qc3 Qb8 20.Qe3 before 20...axb4 were also fine before the white monarch was forced to head for the hills through 21.Kd1. After 21...Qb5 22.h4 Qa4 23.Rf2 Be6 24.Bxe6 fxe6 25.h5 Rc4 26.b3 Qa1+ 27.Qc1 Qxc1+ 28.Kxc1 Rxe4 29.hxg6 hxg6 Black had emerged a pawn to the good in a rook and pawn endgame.

Best wishes, Chris

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