Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Sicilian Dragon with Bc4: All-Out War

This starts a series in which I will analyze a chess game from my own play. The games themselves will not always be very memorable, but each will illustrate a particular opening which I find interesting and worth of study.

The first is a Sicilian Dragon played 8/15/09. White is che07, rated 1537, I am black, rated 1550. It is a five-minute game played on ICC.

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cd 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 g6

Initiates the Dragon Defense, so called because the Pawn formation Black will have supposedly resembles a Dragon.

6 Bc4

Many White players these days seem to like to develop their King Bishop early in this manner. I really don't see the point, but in this game we end up with the same position as with the normal move order, which is to delay Bc4 till move 10 or so.

6...Bg7 7 f3 0-0 8 Be3 Nc6 9 Qd2 Bd7 10 Bb3 Qa5 11 0-0-0 Rfc8

Now we arrive at the usual starting position for the middle game in the Dragon with Bc4. White will push his h-Pawn, usually sacrificing it, while Black will try for pressure on the Queen-side. Time is critical, as whoever strikes first usually wins. White will sometimes play 12 Kb1 next, but the move order is not significant as the h-Pawn push will follow anyway.

12 h4 Ne5 13 h5 Nxh5

Black accepts White's challenge, as Black hopes to neutralize the King-side attack and strike himself on the Queenside. Regardless of who is successful, an interesting game is in store.

14 g4

After the move 14 Bh6, Black has the interesting possibility of 14...Nd3ch! The idea here is that if White takes the Knight with the c-Pawn, his Knight on d4 hangs, while if he takes with the Queen, his Bishop on h6 hangs! Consequently, White usually plays 15 Kb1, and there follows 15...Nxb2 16 Kxb2 Bxh6 17 Qxh6, and now Black will capture the Knight on c3 with either his Queen or his Rook. The four games in the database to this point split equally with two wins for White and two for Black. The upshot of this is that 14...Nxd3ch is perhaps not an objectively better move than more normal moves, but in a blitz game against sub-Master competition, it will surely have the benefit of surprise and unsettle your opponent, so I play it.

14...Nf6 15 Bh6 Rxc3!

Black must eliminate the Knight on c3 right now. In another game I made the mistake of playing 15...Nc4, and after 16 BxN RxB 17 BxB KxB 18 Qh6ch Kg1 19 g5! Nh5 20 Nd5, I have lost my chance to eliminate his Knight on c3, and for all practical purposes I am already lost.

16 bc Rc8 17 BxB

17 Kb2 is simply never played here. For White to try to hang onto his weak Pawn on c3 would be completely out of the spirit of this position.

17...KxB 18 Qh6ch Kg8 19 g5 Nh5

I doubt if I considered any other move here, but 19...Qxc3 might be playable. The game could continue 20. Nf5 gxf5 21. gxf6 Qa1+ 22. Kd2 Qc3ch 23 Ke2? Bb5ch and Black is in charge, so apparently White must repeat moves with 23 Kc1 Qa1ch drawn. Another line is 20. gxf6 Qa1+ 21. Kd2 Qxd4+ 22. Kc1 Qa1+ 23. Kd2 Qc3+ 24. Kc1 and Black can either take the draw or try the risky-looking 24...exf6 25. Qxh7+ Kf8 26. Rxd6 with unclear consequences.

20 Rxh5

Of the four games in the database, this was played in three of them. In the fourth White tried 20 Nf5, but he had to settle for a draw after 20...BxN 21 PxB Qxc3 22 RxN Qa1ch 23 Kd2 Qc3ch 24 Kc1, as 24 Ke2 leads to disaster after 25...Qxf3ch. 21 Qxh5 Qxc3 22 Rh1

Perhaps here is where White starts to go wrong. The only database game to this point is Cronin-Narayan (Chicago, 2002), which continued 22 Kb1.

22...Qa1ch 23 Kd2 Qxd4ch 24 Ke2 Nc4

The point behind his move is two-fold: blunt the effect of his Bishop on b3, and allow my Queen to guard the mating square h8. However, the computer finds the problem-like move 24...Rxc2ch!!, after which 25 Bxc2 Bb5ch!! and White is lost! Also winning is the more prosaic 24...Bb5ch 25 c4 Bxc4ch 26 Bxc4ch Qxc4ch, though Black still has work to do to convert his huge material advantage to the win.

25 Qxh7ch Kf8 26 g6?

The computer likes 26 Qh8ch, with an even endgame after the trades of Queens and Rooks.


Up a piece, I opt for defense and a (hopefully) easy win. However, mate was to be had with 26...Qd2ch 27 Kf1 Ne3ch 28 Kg1 Qg2 mate.

27 Qh5

White is still trying to avoid the trade of Queens. This is in keeping with the normal White mindset for the Dragon, which is to attack, attack, and attack. As Fischer said, "sac, sac, mate". However, the computer says 27 Qh8ch leads to an ending with White down (only) a point.

27...Qxg6 28 Qh8ch Qg8 29 Qh6ch Qg7 30 Qf4??

White is still trying desperately to avoid trading Queens, but the coming fork settles the result.

30...Qg2ch White resigns 0-1

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