Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Sicilian Dragon without Bc4: A Tricky Pawn Sacrifice

This game illustrates the other main branch of the Dragon, where White castles on his 9th move, omitting Bc4. For years I traded Knights on d4 and then played ...Be6, but I ran into problems playing this line, and I became aware that ...d5 is a better way for Black to proceed. I had resisted playing this line because it involved a Pawn sacrifice, and I was too lazy to learn the ins and outs of it, which one must do if playing a sacrifice. Finally I studied it enough to be able to start playing it, and it has led to some interesting games.

This game is against "NimbleLabs", played on 4/23/08. We are both rated about 1500 in this 5-minute game.

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 g6 6 f3 Bg7 7 Be3 0-0 8 Qd2 Nc6 9 0-0-0

The other main line is 9 Bc4, illustrated by the last game.


This initiates the Pawn sacrifice.

10 ed Nxd5 11 Nxc6 bc 12 Nxd5 cd 13 Qxd5

This completes the "winning" of the Pawn by White.


This is the idea behind Black's Pawn sacrifice. Black doesn't care if White takes the Rook which is hanging on a8, because he plans ...Bf5 next, threatening mate on c2. He also has open lines to the Pawn on b2. All in all, plenty of compensation for the Pawn.

14 Qxa8

In order to blunt Black's attack, the more usual move is 14 Qc5, after which I play 14...Qb7.


The idea here is that White's Queen cannot move to guard against the threatened mate on c2, so he must give up his Queen for the second Rook.

15 Qxf8ch Kxf8 16 Bd3?

Correct is 16 Rd2, but even then Black scores over 50% in the database collection.


This is why 16 Bd3 is bad. My move hits the Bishop on e3 and the Pawn on b2. It is made possible by the fact that his Bishop move blocks his Rook on d1, so that my Queen is relieved of her guard duty against the mate on d8.

17 Rhe1

Usual is the awkward-looking 17 Kd2. Here White decides to guard his Bishop on e3 by bringing his other Rook into play, surely not a bad idea.

17...Qxb2ch 18 Kd2 Bxd3 19 Kxd3 Qc3ch 20 Ke2 Qxc2ch

Now material is even again. I have Queen and Pawn for two Rooks.

21 Rd2 Qc4ch 22 Kf2 Bc3

I have to constantly be mindful of the mate threat on d8. 22...Bc3 not only forks the Rooks, but by vacating g7 it gives my King an escape square. Now if the Rook checks on d8 my King can slide into g7, while if he plays Bh6ch my King goes over to e8 and Rd8 is no longer mate.

23 Rd8ch Kg7 24 Red1

24 Re2 prevents my next, with my advantage then being about a third of a point.

24...Qxa2ch 25 Kg3 Be5ch 26 f4 Bf6 27 Bd4 h5 28 BxBch KxB 29 R1d2

The Queen on an open board like this is awfully strong. Computer analysis says I'm up 1.5 points, more than the one Pawn I'm material up.

29...Qa1 30 Rd1 Qc3ch 31 R8d3 Qc7 32 Rd7 Qc3ch 33 R7d3 Qc4 34 Rd4 Qe2

Finally arriving at the square I've had my eye on.

35 R4d2 Qg4ch 36 Kf2 Qxf4ch 37 Kg1 Qe3ch 38 Kh1 h4 39 Rd3 Qb6 40 Rf1ch Kg7 41 Rfd1 f6 42 Rd7 Kf7 43 R7d3 g5 44 Rd7 g4 45 R7d3 Qc6 46 Kg1

White has only 12 seconds left.

46...f5 47 Kf1 f4 48 Rd4 Qb5ch 49 Kg1 Qc5 50 Kf1 e5 51 Rd7ch Ke6 52 R7d6ch Qxd6 53 Rxd6 Kxd6 54 Ke2 Kc5 White time forfeits 0-1

With the trade of pieces, the King and Pawn ending was hopeless for White.

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