1 Introducing the Dragon 7
2 Important Dragon Concepts 9
3 Early Deviations 23
4 Yugoslav Attack: Introduction 36
5 Yugoslav Attack 9 jk.c4 44
6 Yugoslav Attack 9 g4 86
7 Yugoslav Attack 9 0-0-0 107
8 The Classical Dragon 143
9 6&c4 172
10 The g3 system 188
11 Levenfish Attack 6 f4 202
12 Tips in the Anti-Sicilians 211 Index of Complete Games 219 Index of Variations 221
This is the Sicilian Dragon. Need I say more? Well "yes", I suppose, is the answer because I've got another 220 odd pages to fill! So forget the likes of Star Wars, Terminator, Silence of the Lambs etc, as Winning with the Sicilian Dragon 2 is the sequel that you've really been waiting for?!
On a serious note, I would like to thank all of you readers. I must say that over the years I have been overwhelmed by the positive response to my 1994 book Winning with the Dragon. I was certainly wary about writing a follow-up because I really wanted to provide something that would live up to people's expect ations. The good news is that after much sweat, blood, hard work etc. (donations gratefully accepted!), I do believe that I have succeeded in my aim.
I wanted to be both informative and entertaining and I don't think you'll be disappointed (please note, though, if you are skim-reading this at a bookstall, there is no money back guarantee!).
Well you are now entering a thrill zone. Wherever you are in this world, happy reading!
Beckenham, May 2001
1 Introducing the Dragon
Welcome back to the exciting world of the Sicilian Dragon. There has never been any doubting the entertaining qualities of this fascinating, razor sharp opening, but as regards soundness there had always been a question mark or two hanging over it. However, that issue was finally laid to rest when in the 1995 World Championship the world's greatest ever player Garry Kasparov gave it the ultimate seal of approval. Don't ask me how, but I had a sneaky suspicion that he would whip out 5...g6 and that's exactly what he did on four separate occasions during his title match with Viswanathan Anand. I don't claim to be much of a historian but there can't be many Black openings that have scored 75% at such a high level. Indeed the Indian Grandmaster was shell-shocked by the employment of this opening and, although the encounters were not all totally convincing, the Dragon clearly played a big part in brushing aside Anand's challenge.
Throughout this book I will refer to Winning with the Dragon as WWTD and since that first volume I have also hosted a Dragons site at www.chesspublishing.com. I was always amazed by the popularity of the Dragon at junior and club level but, having received plenty of mail through the website, I have discovered that even players who don't include it in their repertoire enjoy following the games, almost religiously, and even carry out their own home investigations. Yes, while perhaps playing the Petroff or Alekhine by day, in the evenings it's as if Dragon bishops and exchange sacrifices take centre stage in their fantasies!
I'm not sure what you readers were expecting with this book. There has never been any intention on my part to imply that what I provided you with in WWTD was wrong and to chuck all of that out and use this instead. No, nothing could be further from the truth. I am still proud of my first publication and, although the odd specific variation may appear a little dubious now, I warned you of that possibility at the time. You would expect nothing less from the most fiercely debated opening known to chess theory. Sure, evaluations of lines have changed and will continue to do so over time. It was, however, particularly the ideas and principles that I was eager for you to take on board and if I could illustrate those by means of some interesting and thrilling encounters, then all the better. I may have switched systems in some instances here, but my main aim has essentially been to reiterate the concepts of WWTD and, by using different practical examples, provide some additional ideas. If you have a copy of WWTD then so much the better, but the present book is far more than just an update. True, I haven't repeated some of those stories that hopefully kept you amused last time. You know, such as how Kasparov was lucky to draw with me: thought I'd get that one in again! Obviously I couldn't avoid mentioning the occasional old line, but you will find plenty of fresh material.
Although this is not a complete Dragon book in the sense that it is clearly not comprised of billions of variations including A4315b and the likes, I believe that I have provided a more than adequate Black repertoire. If you wish to adopt a different line here and there, then that's fine. I won't take offence—honest!
Of course, it is inevitable that you will come across plenty of analysis where I haven't explained every move. Sicilian Dragon books are addictive but if I have got a criticism of them it's that the same old references are all too often churned out over and over again. I think that I
have broken with that tradition here as I disclose a great deal of my own home preparation and thoughts on standard lines. It's true that since my writing WWTD I have become a GM and I hope a better player. Having retained the Dragon as my main defence, (not that I'm always given the opportunity to play it!) arguably, my assessments have improved in accuracy. And, if I've not been on form, the occasional silicon friend has been known to chip in with his views! I am a little sceptical of those at times as we can't all play like computers, but there's no denying that the likes of Fritz have their uses. Oops, there I go again, assuming the masculine form. I must apologise to any female readers (human or machine!) about my automatic use of 'he' rather than 'she'. If it's of any consolation, I've noticed that I've even referred to 'he' or 'Black' when the player in question is me!
You will note that a new section has appeared, but do not get too excited by the existence of chapter 12. It is a rough guide to the Anti-Sicilians from a Dragon player's perspective and will not show you how to beat all those spoil-sport White Anti-Sicilian exponents. By the way, if you do discover exactly how that is done, please let me know!
Well, that's enough waffling on my part. It's time to improve your fire-breathing skills!
2 Important Dragon Concepts
One of life's little mysteries is why the so-called 'Dragon bishop' nearly always seems to make much more of an impact on a game of chess than any other minor piece. I am of course referring to Black's dark-squared bishop. Effectively born on g7, it has so much to say in your typical Dragon encounter, even if it never actually moves from its home in front of the castled king. When playing the Dragon you will notice how, even with a black knight on f6, the bishop exerts latent pressure on White's d4-knight—and if this moves away the pressure then transfers to the c3-knight. Clearly, if both of White's knights are removed from the diagonal, the b2 pawn will come under scrutiny and plenty of attacking possibilities follow. Yes, our favourite bishop cuts across the board like a laser, as in the following basic example which shows its raw offensive power.
Being the only way to block the check from the black queen, the white knight has had to withdraw to bl. This, however, leaves the b2-pawn ripe for some attention and now both ...£)xf3 and ...4k4 do the trick. Though, in either case, it will be the e5-knight that moves, the key is the unleashing of the sleeping giant on g7. To avoid mate White must suffer heavy material loss.
Throughout this book you will encounter numerous examples of the attacking power of the Dragon bishop, but also its defensive qualities should not be underrated.
Frequently, in the Yugoslav Attack, White sets about aligning his queen and rook on the h-file. This may well be accompanied by a sacrifice of the h-pawn in order to target the h7-square when an important task for White is to eliminate the f6-knight. Attempts to do this by advancing the g-pawn to g5 will only result in the knight blocking the h-file with ...£3h5 (where it will be able to rejoin the game via g3 or f4 when the threats to the king have subsided).
If available (and note that Black tries to ensure it is not!), White's best method of removing this knight is by the simple On the other hand, a common mistake is to concede the dark-squared bishop for it.
In the following diagram I have retained the relevant pieces resulting from a White caveman-style attack down the h-file.
The queen has made it to h7, but the black king has merely been nudged to the side.
With no control over the dark squares around Black's monarch, White cannot make any obvious progress. He would dearly love to 'beam down' a bishop to h6 but of course the inference here is that it was a mistake to concede this piece earlier. Note, though, that even if the bishop were still on the board, it couldn't jump over the g-pawn, thereby highlighting the error of playing g4-g5 prematurely.
With another white rook present, one idea (that will occasionally crop up in the main body of the book) involves the trebling of the major pieces along the h-file. This (imagine the other rook on, say, h4) would herald the threat of the pretty finish, Wh8+ Jlxhg, 2xh8+ <S?g7, Hlh7 mate. However, Black can prevent this by creating an escape square for his king. Yes, ...e6 should do the trick, providing e7 as just that square. Also observe that I have deliberately left the white king in the diagram. With 19 'points' of firepower being thwarted by the Dragon bishop, it is likely that Black will achieve rather more success on the other side of the board!
As implied, the easiest way to neutralize both the attacking and defensive possibilities that the Dragon bishop offers is for White to exchange it for his own dark-squared bishop. This means that White must studiously guard against Black's attempts to swap this piece for a knight, usually by means of either ...£lg4 or ...£ic4. Given the choice, in order to safeguard this key piece, White should instead prefer to concede his light-squared bishop.
Though I am one of the Dragon bishop's biggest fans, I must issue a warning. It can't always be expected to do everything on its own. As a solitary defender, its elimination by a White sacrifice could easily prove fatal.
In the following diagram, the move 22 !fh2 would not be unattractive as White has a later Ah6 to aid the attack. However, in this position from a fairly recent game, there was a more devastating continuation that illustrated a theme which is useful to know.
M.Ardeshi White A.Hayrapetian Black Fajr Open 2001
A crushing blow and a tactic definitely worth remembering. The rook cannot be captured by the black king as then 23 #f7! leaves the terminal 24 Shi next on the agenda.
The exchange is a cheap price to pay for such a valuable piece, particularly when the end is clearly in sight.
White wins the queen, although 24 #h6+ <&f7 25 #h7+ would also lead to mate. When deprived of its favourite companion, the black king is a forlorn figure.
Finally, it should not be assumed that the Dragon bishop is only of use in stormy mating attacks with kings castled on opposite sides. Indeed, it is equally powerful in quieter variations where the enemy kings reside on the same side of the board. There, in contrast to the dark-squared 'King's Indian bishop' which is often hemmed in by pawns on d6, e5 and f4, it may lend longdistance assistance to a queenside minority attack. It goes without saying that a bishop is a bishop, and in an Open Sicilian ending, it's bound to be quite useful anyway!
Frequently referred to in WWTD, one beautifiil aspect of the Sicilian Dragon, especially in comparison to other Sicilian variations, is the lack of weaknesses in Black's pawn structure. The d6-pawn, which often becomes a liability in, for example, the Classical, Najdorf, Pelikan and Scheveningen variations (to name but a few!), is adequately defended in the Dragon by the e7-pawn. This, of course, has not had to move to make way for the development of the king's bishop, which has other ways of getting into the action.
Having, in my time, played over bucket-loads of Dragon games and of course witnessed one or two first hand, I cringe when I see the horrible ...e5 played. As you will discover by the end of this book, there is a place for this move, but not just to create the positional weaknesses as seen here...
There are four blatant problems with the just played ...e5:
(a) The d6-pawn is now backward and therefore extremely weak. There are few pieces available to defend it, especially with the bishop on g7 rather than e7. Meanwhile after his attacked bishop moves, White will easily be able to pressurise d6 with the likes of Sdl (or 0-0-0) and £A>5.
(b) Black has allowed the d5-square to become an outpost for White. Previously White may have wanted to place a knight there, but may have been worried about it being menaced by a timely e6. That is no longer a concern as there is no way back for this e-pawn.
(c) Without doing anything, White's light-squared bishop now finds itself on a nice clear diagonal. It too can maintain its pressure on Black's f7-pawn, and through to the king on g8, without fear of its scope being reduced by ...e6.
weighed up against our list of created concessions. The following are positions (snapshots from the book's main body) in which ...e6 is the recommended move.
squared bishop also has an influence on the queenside. In terms of minor pieces a far from improbable nightmare scenario is that Black will be left with a 'bad' bishop against a 'good' knight occupying the outpost on d5.
Regarding (b) and (c), occasionally ...e5 will be a good idea if it can be followed by a quick ...d5 as well. With so many white pieces usually controlling the centre, this is usually very difficult to achieve. However, if Black can indeed force White's e-pawn to capture on d5, then his bishop may be able to re-enter the game via ...e4.
In playing ...e6, only the first of the above concessions really applies, although the scope of Black's light-squared bishop is of course also reduced—at least temporarily.
With this in mind, I wouldn't blame any readers who now decide that their e7-pawn is not going anywhere and indeed I, too, more or less let it be for the earlier part of my Dragon playing days. However, the truth is that there are some circumstances in which the e-pawn can prove to be of great use, even when
Here, Black naturally wants to remove the troublesome intruder on d5, but knows that capturing it on its present square will only result in undesirable pressure on e7 from both the bishop on g5 and the rook on el. Admittedly, after 13...e6 14 £ixf6+ £bcf6, Black has a weak d-pawn. However White's e-pawn is equally a target and, in addition to play elsewhere for Black, a long-term plan of ...e5 and ...d5 is not such a dream.
With the just played 15 Wh2, White threatens the simple 16 <£kl5, in order to get at the h7-square and obtain a winning attack. As you will soon discover, the typical reflex response would be 15...2xc3, but in order to try and prevent structural damage, White intends to meet that with the sneaky pin: 16 JLd2. I'm not sure he really succeeds after 16...£kl3+ 17 &bl £\xb2 but nevertheless theory still recommends the logical 15...e6!. This removes White's main threat and simultaneously shuts out the b3-bishop. It is extremely difficult for White to make progress with his attack, but even if he does do so, as we saw earlier there is now an escape route available to the black king. White remains a pawn down and unable to exploit properly the main drawback of Black's move: the weakened d-pawn.
The following positions show ...e5! in a good light:
<S}xe4, these rather pale into insignificance. There is no longer an outpost on d5 and there is no white knight available to occupy it anyway. I suppose the d6-pawn is officially a target but there will be no time for White to do anything about it. The Dragon bishop has been blocked out but will make a devastating reappearance after the likely ...£ixc3+ and ...e4.
Was this article helpful?