Wednesday, March 19, 2008

9...d5 in the Sicilian Dragon

The first moves are standard so here we go: 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 g6 6 Be3 Bg7

Black must be careful and not play too fast here. If White plays 6 f4, then Bg7 is a blunder and Black must first play ...Nc6 to meet the threat of 7 e5.

7 f3 0-0 8 Qd2 Nc6 9 0-0-0

This is about as common these days as the old move 9 Bc4. White's idea is that now after the normal maneuver Nc6-e5-c4 by Black, he can take the Knight on c4 with the first move of his Bishop, instead of the 3rd, making that maneuver ineffectual.


For years I exchanged Knights on d4 and played ...Be6, the idea being that if White was not going to take this good diagonal, I would. However, all along I knew...d5 was the preferred move, but I resisted learning it because I knew it involved a Pawn sacrifice, and I felt I should know what I was doing before going into this line. Finally, about 3 years ago, I decided to learn this and have been playing it ever since. It leads to interesting play, to say the least.

10 exd5

An important alternative is 10 Kb1, the idea being that now 10...dxe5 loses to 11 Nxc6. I have faced it twice, vs. banshee and HDA, and was lucky to win both though it was frustrating to play against.

Nxd5 11 Nxc6 bxc6 12 Nxd5

An oft-played alternative here is 12 Bd4. I have faced this 7 times, more than any other single line. I have been playing 12...e5, but I see now from my Dragon book that 12...Nxc3 is an important alternative to be looked at.

12...cxd5 13 Qxd5

White accepts the Pawn sacrifice.


The point of Black's sacrifice now becomes clear. His Bishop will go to f5, and his Rooks to b8 and c8, after which all 5 of Black's pieces will be bearing down on White's vulnerable King position.

14 Qc5

The normal move here, threatening to trade Queens and thereby take the sting out of Black's attack. Player Corniel played 14 c3? against me, and I missed 14...Bxc3!, immediately recovering the gambit Pawn, and the game was eventually drawn.

Another blunder is 14 Qc4, which I have faced 3 times--vs. hwcpc, primate, and stevesoccer. I have responded 14...Qb7, the normal response to 14 Qc5, not appreciating that here Black has the super-strong move 14...Qe5! All 3 games in the online database I consulted have
Black winning from this position.

But we must also consider an important alternative here. You will notice that Black's Queen Rook is hanging, apparently free for the taking. However, after 14 Qxa8 Bf5! White must give up his Queen for the other Rook due to the mate threat on c2. After 15 Qxf8ch Kxf8 16 Rd2 (not 16 Bd3? Qe5!) my book says prevailing opinion is that Black is better, his Queen being better than White's Rooks, but it ends with "but who knows what the future holds?".

I have faced 14 Qxa8 4 times. Against Bivalve the game went 16 Bd3? Qe5! 17 Bxf5 Qxb2ch 18 Kd2 Bc3ch 19 Ke2 Bxf5 and the game was later drawn when I made a mistake in the ending and he took advantage with a nice zwischenzug move. geoid99 lost quickly after 16 c3? Bxc3! 17 Bc4 Qxc4 0-1. Same with pomski after 16 Bd3? Qe5 17 Rhe1 Qxb2ch 18 Kd2 Bc3ch 0-1. senecastar lasted a bit longer: 16 Bd3? Qe5! 17 Bxf5 Qxe3ch 18 Kb1 Qb6! (not 18...PxB 19 Rd8mate) 19 c3 Bxc3 20 b3 gxf5 21 Rc1 Bf6 22 Rhd1 Qb5 23 Rc4 Qe5 24 Rd2 Qa1ch 25 Kc2 Qxa2ch 26 Kd3 Qxb3ch 0-1.


The usual move here. I of course do not want to trade Queens.

15 Qa3

This is the main line, and my book gives the main continuation from here as 15...Bf5 16 Ba6 Qc7 17 Qc5! Qb6! 18Qxb6 axb6 19 Bd3 Bxd3 20 Rxd3 Rxa2 21 Rhd1 Rxb2 22 Rd8 f5!=

If White tries 16 Bd3, then 16...Rab8 17 b3 Rfc8 18 Bxf5 gxf5 19 Bd4 Qc7 20 Qb2 e5 advantage to Black. Same with 16 Bd4 Qc7 17 Bc3 Qf4ch! 18 Bd2 Qd4.

An inferior way of defending the Pawn on b2 is 15 c3. mrollamh played this against me, and the game went 15...Be6 (correct is Bf5) 16 Qa3 Rfc8 17 Bd3 Rab8 18 Rhe1 h5 19 Be4 Qb5 20 Bxa7 Bxc3 21 bxc3 and now I could have won immediately with 21...Rxc3ch!

Another inferior move for White is 15 Bd4, which I have actually faced 4 times, with 2 wins and a draw to show for the 4 games. Play continues 15...Bf5 16 Bxg7 Rfc8! 17 Qxc8 Rxc8 18 Bc3 unclear. Does White have enough for his Queen? Who knows!

And finally we must consider 15 Qb5 QxQ 16 BxQ Rb8 17 Bc4 Bxb2ch 18 Kd2 Bf5 19 Bxa7 Rbc8 20 Bb3 Rc7 21 Be3 Rfc8 with an edge to Black.

Rszteinbaum(1436)-chessart(1501), 4/2/08, 5,0
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be3 Bg7 7. f3 O-O 8. Qd2 Nc6 9. O-O-O d5 10. Nxc6 bxc6 11. exd5 cxd5 12. Nxd5 Nxd5 13. Qxd5 Qc7 14. Qc5 Qb7 15. Qa3 Bf5 16. Bd3 Bxd3 17. Rxd3 Rab8 18. Rb3 Qc6 19. Rd1 Rfc8 20. Rd2 a6 21. Qa5 h5 22. Rb6 Qc4 23. Qxa6 Qxa6 24. Rxa6 Bxb2+ 25. Kd1 Bc3 26. Rd3 Rb1+ 27. Bc1 Bb2 28. Rb6 Rxc1+ 29. Kd2 R8xc2+ 30. Ke3 Re1+ 31. Kf4 e5+ 32. Kg3 Ree2 33. Rb8+ Kg7 {White resigns} 0-1


chessart said...

Here is a game I just played against a higher-rated player, who played the Levenfish variation (6 f4). The Rook sacrifice at move 17 is second-nature to an experienced Dragon player. After all, if it doesn't work I am likely lost anyway! At the end I accidentally mate him while trying to fork his King and Queen!

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. f4 Nc6 7. Be3 Bg7 8. Qf3 O-O 9. O-O-O Ng4 10. Nxc6 bxc6 11. Bg1 Qa5 12. h3 Nf6 13. g4 Rb8 14. Bc4 Ba6 15. Bb3 c5 16. a3 c4 17. Ba2 Rxb2 18. Kxb2 Rb8+ 19. Ka1 Qxa3 20. Rb1 Rxb1+ 21. Kxb1 Nxe4 22. Nd1 Nd2# {White checkmated} 0-1

chessart said...

Just played this miniature, vs. JanusMunck. At the end White has no square to move his Queen to, and still keep his Bishop on d4 guarded.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be3 Bg7 7. f3 O-O 8. Qd2 Nc6 9. O-O-O d5 10. exd5 Nxd5 11. Nxc6 bxc6 12. Nxd5 cxd5 13. Qxd5 Qc7 14. Qc5 Qb7 15. Bd4 Bf5 16. Bd3 Rfc8 {White resigns} 0-1