Kavalek in Huffington: Sicilian and Spanish Dragons

5/25/2013 – In 1901 the Russian master Fyodor Duz-Khotimirsky invented the name Dragon Variation for the pawn configuration d6, e7, f7, g6, h7 in the Sicilian, because it looked to him like the Draco constellation in the celestial sky. In his Huffington Post column GM Lubomir Kavalek describes a mirror constellation that he calls the Spanish Dragon. Extensive and instructive analysis.

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The Sicilian and Spanish Dragons

By GM Lubomir Kavalek

Magnus Carlsen, the world's top-rated chess player, is expected to win every tournament he enters. The Norway Chess 2013 Super Tournament was tailored for him as a tribute to his previous successes. For the first time, he would compete in his homeland against some of the finest chess players in the world, including the world champion Vishy Anand. But after Sergey Karjakin of Russia won the first four games, the first place seemed slipping out of Carlsen's reach.

Carlsen beat Karjakin in the fifth round in a see-saw battle (commented below), but in the end lost the war. Karjakin scored his best tournament victory. Carlsen shared second place with the American Hikaru Nakamura.

The spoiler of the tournament was the Chinese grandmaster Wang Hao. He beat Carlsen in the penultimate round and Anand in the last round, forcing the Indian grandmaster to share fourth place with Levon Aronian of Armenia and Peter Svidler of Russia.

Nakamura booked another solid result after finishing second in the FIDE Grand Prix in the Swiss city of Zug in April. He chose Norway over the U.S. championship. In his absence, Gata Kamsky won his fourth U.S. title. This time he was forced into a playoff by the fast-improving Alejandro Ramirez.

The Spanish Dragon

Once upon a time, a chess player looked up to the sky and thought that a certain pawn formation resembled a celestial constellation. In the notes to his game against Abram Rabinovich from Prague 1908, the Russian master Fyodor Duz-Khotimirsky claims that he invented the name Dragon variation in 1901 in Kiev: the pawn configuration d6, e7, f7, g6, h7 in the Sicilian looked to him like the Draco constellation.

We can find the Dragon formation as early as in 1880 in the game Schottlaender-Winawer, played in Wiesbaden, Germany. Others followed. One of them was the creative Moscow grandmaster Vladimir Simagin. He added a special dimension to the Dragon: the exchange sacrifice. He would rather give up his rook than to exchange his dark Dragon bishop.

In 1947, Simagin won the Moscow championship ahead of David Bronstein and Grigory Ravinsky. During the tournament he did something extraordinary: he flipped the Sicilian Dragon formation and moved it to the other side of the board. Since it came from the Spanish opening, I decided to call it the Spanish Dragon. It comes after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3 Na5 10.Bc2 and now instead of Chigorin's 10...c5, he played the modest 10...c6.

It is possible that Simagin didn't know that he mirrored the Sicilian Dragon. In 1957, the American grandmaster William Lombardy began to play the move 10...c6 and employed it in the next four decades.
The Spanish Dragon formation was better suited for the Spanish Breyer variation (9...Nb8), where it started to appear in 1954.

And this brings us to the fascinating Spanish duel Karjakin-Carlsen.

Draco image by Sidney Hall, 1825; Karjakin-Carlsen picture courtesy of Norway Chess

Original column hereCopyright Huffington Post


The Huffington Post is an American news website and aggregated blog founded by Arianna Huffington and others, featuring various news sources and columnists. The site was launched on May 9, 2005, as a commentary outlet and liberal/progressive alternative to conservative news websites. It offers coverage of politics, media, business, entertainment, living, style, the green movement, world news, and comedy. It is a top destination for news, blogs, and original content. The Huffington Post has an active community, with over one million comments made on the site each month. According to Nielsen NetRatings, the site has around 13 million unique visitors per month (number for March 2010); according to Google Analytics the number is 22 million uniques per month.


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