Hello dear friends of the ancient game,
During the next issues of our magazine, we will present the contemporary situation of the Dragon variation. This course is useful for the creation of the opening repertoire. Using the most powerful chess programs, many forgotten and old variations have been improved and turned into games at the high level. The Dragon variation is not an exception. Over the years, the variation has suffered hits, but repeatedly its lovers found resources that allowed it to remain alive until nowadays.
In the beginning of my articles, I will discuss one of the most acute and dangerous variations, where every move is crucial and the knowledge of the smallest details of the position is compulsory for both sides. This is the variation where White makes the long castle. The defining moment in this system occurs on the ninth move when White have to choose between two moves 9.Bс4 and 9.0-0-0. The first article of the series is dedicated to the Dragon variation with 9. Bс4.
The main position arises after the moves: 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.Bc4 Bd7 10.0-0-0 Rc8 11.Bb3 Ne5
We have reached an extremely important crossroad. The ideas of this variation are perfectly illustrated by White's main continuation 12.h2-h4.
This is the main and most dangerous move. White is planing on pushing h4-h5, sacfricing the pawn in order to open the „h“ line. It is necessary to point out that the white attack becomes even more dangerous after the exchange of the dark-squared bishops. Many of you probably know the famous quote of the world champion Robert Fisher (see the photo below ): „In the Dragon variation Black is strategically lost - White openes the „h“ line, exhanges the dark-squared bishops, gives several checks and declares checkmate.“ Despite the joking nature, this statement shows what we have to beware of, when paying this position.
Before proceeding to the analysis of the main lines, we will look at some rare continuations.
The main alternative to 12.h2-h4 is the positional 12.Kb1
Interesting prophylactic move, which shows White’s intention for a positional play. On the other side, Black uses the given opportunity to organize a pawn attack on the white king who castled on queenside.
This move together with 12.g4 and 12.Bh6?! is covered in the game Greet,A - Gawain,J,2009
After the main move 12.h2-h4, Black is forced to stop the advance of h-pawn by means of 12...h7-h5!
This is a very important position. Black is trying to stop White’s attack on kingside using radical measures. The next step is to neutralize white light-squared bishop by Nс4. Note that the position on the diagram can arise via different move orders. You should remember that the move h2-h4 is always met by h7-h5.
From this point White has three main options - 13.Kb1, 13.Bh6 and 13.Bg5
1.White plays 13.Kb1
This move 13.Kb1 seems to be too slow. As a rule, in Dragon, we don't have the right to waste time. Sergey Karjakin played in this way against the Dragon expert P.H.Nielsen (on the photo below ) but was severely punished.
Here is the game:
2. White plays 13.Bh6
This move is much more aggressive and dangerous. After 13.Bh6, we should follow the following line: 13...Nc4 14.Bxc4 Rxc4 15.Bxg7 Kxg7
We have reached an imporant position. White has 4 decent options: 16.Rhe1, 16.Nd5, 16.g4 and 16.Kb1
All these moves are extensively analyzed in my comments to the game Nepomniachtchi,I - Wei,Yi, 2013.
3.White plays 13.Bg5
Very dangerous continuation. By putting the black knight under target, White strengthens is typical threats Nd5 and g4. It is necessary to underline that in many variations, the “e7” pawn remains unprotected.
The right way of handling this position with Black is shown in the game Radjabov - Carlsen, 2008.
On this note, we would like to finish our first part of Dragon variation analysis. By bringing to your attention different options, analyses and games, we can conclude that the reputation of this variation has not changed. Dragon variation is still alive and full of new opportunities!