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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Dec 122010
 

Colonel Walter Polhill examines a very early edition of ECO

Today I’d like to introduce (or perhaps for some of you who are very well read, reintroduce) Hebden Bridge Chess Club members to a new guest columnist; Colonel Walter Polhill (Retired). The Colonel’s editorial was first published in The Independent on Sunday back in the mid to late ninties and he mainly concerned himself with the moral code associated with the game. In today’s regergitated post he debates whether or not standards of decency at the board may be on the wane.

I was reminded of Colonel Polhill’s articles (and the one below in particular) when I played a fun game (the second one in the viewer below) on the Chess.com website. If you want to see a game with pieces being placed and left enprise in the most outrageous fashion then there is no better opening line to study than this bloodthirsty line of the Classical Sicilian.

Now, over to the Colonel who introduces the first of the two games in the Chess Tempo viewer at the bottom of this post.

“There is an unhealthy mood of bravado laced with machismo running through modern Russian chess. In the old days, captures were met with the politeness of a recapture and any player with pretensions to be considered a gentleman would retreat a piece that his opponent had attacked. Such old formalities, however, are no longer observed, as the following game attests”

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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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