Sep 132013
 
Dave Shapland's (right) game against Clive Edwards (left) was the last to finish and decided a close match. At the end the kibbitzers hovered to help the players anaylse a complicated struggle and Pete Leonard (centre) demonstrated a forced win that Dave had been unable to compute during the game

Dave Shapland’s (right) game against Clive Edwards (left) was the last to finish and decided a close match. At the end the kibbitzers hovered to help the players anaylse a complicated struggle and Pete Leonard (centre) demonstrated a forced win that Dave had been unable to compute during the game

As the clock to the start of the 2013-14 season ticks down Hebden Bridge players are preparing themselves for a fresh batch of Calderdale Evening Chess  League struggles. Final preparations began for the ‘A’ team as they hosted another pre-season friendly against Burnley chess club last Monday. These two clubs met for a pre-season match last year and managed to reach a truce. This year the match was closely fought once again.

Burnley’s Andrew Clarkson has kindly sent us his version of the evening’s events.

Burnley ‘B’ gained promotion back to the first division of the East Lancs Chess Association having won division 2 at the end of the 2012-2013 season. With the new season fast approaching we needed a tough warm up match to prepare for battle against all the ‘A’ teams in the East Lancs League. So a trip to visit our old friends at Hebden Bridge would be perfect practice.
With a couple of Burnley ‘B’ team players unavailable I slotted myself into our line up for some much needed preparation too. When I learnt that Matthew Parsons was unable to play for Hebden Bridge I really thought we would be in with a chance. Five well fought games were played with Dave Shapland versus Clive Edwards the most entertaining, and match deciding encounter. I really look forward to reading Dave’s account of the game.
On board 1 Andy Jaques was never in danger against Andy Leatherbarrow but neither could he make any headway. My game on board 2 saw Nick Sykes play the correct moves much further than he was aware of until I came up with a novelty on move 13, which gave me a decent position. Of course neither of us played the best moves but I did manage to squeeze a win when the position crystallised. Board 3 saw Rob Tokeley fall victim to time trouble again after he had had a successful summer playing in tournaments with time increments per move. Board 4 will be the game to analyse with Clive Edwards trying to throw the kitchen sink at Dave Shapland. Finally on board 5 I was impressed to find that David Innes had saved a lost game against Martyn Syrett by aiming for drawing chances in a Rook and pawn ending.
Congratulations to Hebden Bridge on your 3-2 victory and we look forward to seeing you again.
Our thanks to Andrew and to the Burnley team for offering to visit Hebden Bridge once again despite our hosting this match last season. A number of the players have offered us annotated versions of their games which are provided in the viewer at the end of this post. Before that though, here is the match card (Burnley won the toss and played White on the odd boards):
Hebden Bridge vs. Burnley
A.Leatherbarrow ½ — ½ A.Jacques (W)
N.Sykes 0 — 1 A. Clarkson
P.Leonard 1 — 0 R.Tokeley
D.Shapland 1 — 0 C.Edwards
M.Syrett ½ — ½ D.Innes
3 — 2
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Apr 232013
 
This lovely image of St. George wrestling his nemesis was taken in Catalonia and is used under Creative Commons licensing from Vanessssa's Flickr photo stream

This lovely image of St. George wrestling his nemesis was taken in Catalonia (where he is also the patron Saint) and is used under Creative Commons licensing from Vanessssa’s Flickr photo stream

It’s St George’s Day and that means only one thing… yes, it’s time for to indulge in our annual delve into my Sicilian Dragon database in order for me to trouble you with another sub-standard, error-strewn affair. At least it ought to be entertaining!

Anyone interested in a more extensive survey of the Sicilian Dragon might be interested in taking a look at these three previous posts from St. George’s Days gone by.

In this year’s effort I’ll be covering a very topical sideline of the Dragon where White avoids playing Bc4 and Black takes the opportunity to break out in the centre.

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Apr 242012
 

Yesterday was an auspiscious day for Dragons - Saint George's day in the Chinese year of the Dragon. This image was sourced from Frank Wuestefeld's Flickr photostream

For the last two years this site has made a point of celebrating the advent of the national day of our patron Saint with a game from my Sicilian Dragon archive. Yesterday was the 23rd of April and so we will once again acclaim Saint George with a dragon!

Of course 2012-13 is the Chinese year of the Dragon and so it seemed appropriate to recognise this with today’s image choice. There is also a line dubbed the “Chinese Dragon” in the opening variation. Indeed it is mentioned in the notes to today’s game.

Readers will find that the game below includes extensive notes and aims to cover some of the strategic ideas behind the opening as well as the tactical themes that recur all too often. It has been my aim to try and provide some basic coverage of the ideas to those who may wish to start playing the mainline of this opening with White or Black. However, if you just want to play through a lively game with plenty of tactical cut and thrust then I don’t think this game will disappoint you. 

It occured to me that, between the two previous articles and this new annotated game, there must now be a fair amount of theoretical ground covered. So, for ease of reference, here are the links to the two previous items should you chose to delve deeper into this complex but rewarding opening variation. I’ve updated both articles with the Chesstempo game viewer so that the games can be downloaded as well as enjoyed on the page. 

 These first two games both featured White wins (well Saint George did kill the Dragon after all!) but in todays effort Black manages to hold a draw in a complicated battle.

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Apr 232011
 

Today is St.George’s Day and so it only seems right that this blog celebrate the occasion by offering up a Dragon to be slain! Of course I’m talking about the chess variation rather than the mythical beast itself. I count myself as something of a Sicilian Dragon aficionado and have played the opening numerous times with both sets of pieces. In the game I’m presenting for examination today I was playing with White in an online correspondence tournament in which all games played had to be Dragons. My opponent chose to play a line called the Soltis Variation (it’s named after the American GM who is credited with introducing it into high level chess) and things got very interesting there after. In fact this game also features the only occurance I think I’ve ever come across in a genuine game where one player has ended up with quadrupled pawns so, to me, it is something of a collectors item.

The Soltis variation (characterised by 11…h5) is reputable and very sound. Recommendations don’t come any higher than that of ex-World Champion Garry Kasparov who, in his title match against Viswanathan Anand in 1995, chose to defend this line of the Dragon after a series of set-backs with his beloved Najdorf variation. I can remember the shock waves this switch caused amongst commentators at the time of the match. It was a huge change in strategy from Kasparov but, as always with him, it was a practical decision and it worked. Anand was caught off guard, lost in the first game that the Soltis was played and the momentum of the match changed decisively.

I hope readers will enjoy this little sojourn into Dragon theory…

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Apr 242010
 

Could there ever be a better excuse for me to post a Sicilian Dragon game than to celebrate yesterday — St George’s day? As patron saint of England, (and also of various other nation including Georgia I believe) St George has a special place in the heart of every Englishman. However, if you mention St George and the Dragon to a chess player their mind will also turn to the well-known variation of the Sicilian Defence. The Dragon is notorious for being a double-edged and tactically complex variation which has been analysed in great depth, sometimes to the point where it was in danger of extinction. However, Dragon enthusiasts are die-hards who love their pet and fight courageously to protect it.

My own history with the opening goes right back to point when I first started to learn the rules and play of the game. I’ve always been a bit of a sucker for myths and legends and so as soon as my tutor told me that there was an opening called the Dragon I knew it would end up in my repertoire. I learned the line, played it over the board when I could and, occasionally, I would cheer from the sidelines when the opening made an appearance at the very top flight of Grand Master chess — most illustriously when Kasparov used it to great effect in his World Championship match with Anand in 1996. (I wonder if Topalov will give it a shot in his match with Anand which starts today?)

My understanding and appreciation of the Dragon stepped up to another level when I started to use it in correspondence chess on the Red Hot Pawn web site. To play this opening in correspondence requires a much deeper familiarity with the myriad variations than playing it over the board. I’ve entered several “Dragon Thematics” online and in the later stages of these competitions the level of play is extremely high, much too high for me, but I’ve learned a lot by playing in them.

This Dragon loving is all very well but yesterday was St George’s day so I can’t possibly publish a win for black. Instead, much as it pains me to do so, I will give you an interesting win for white. Playing in thematic tournaments means playing against each opponent with both colours and so even the most ardent Dragon funs must face, and try to defeat, their own beloved favourite. To begin with this feels a little bit odd but once you have grasped the opportunity to play the lines that you find most uncomfortable facing with the black pieces it becomes a great deal of fun. I hope readers will enjoy today’s excursion into the wonderful and crazy world of the Dragon.

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