Readers' choice: it's Short vs Topalov in a Dragon

7/19/2007 – Our Playchess trainer Dennis Monokroussos asked his readers to pick a Dragon game for this week's lecture. They decided on Nigel Short vs Veselin Topalov, Linares 1995, in which the 19-year-old Bulgarian showed his penchant for creating ultra-complex positions in which the better fighter will win.

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Dennis Monokroussos writes:

The readers have spoken! (okay, written.) I asked the readers of my blog to pick a Dragon game – any Dragon game – for this week's show, and the game that received the most votes would be chosen. In what turned into a runaway by the end, they chose the heavyweight contest between Nigel Short and Veselin Topalov. On paper, Short was the favorite: higher-rated, just two years removed from a world championship match against Kasparov, and enjoying the advantage of the white pieces. Yet the 19-year-old Topalov, who had burst onto the scene after a series of strong performances in open tournaments, was not content to visit and bow; even in top-level events he already displayed the drive to create ultra-complex positions in which the better fighter would win, and that made the Dragon an ideal choice.

Short played the Yugoslav Attack but eschewed the 12.h4 systems, preferring the rarer 12.g4. Topalov immediately offered a pawn sac with 12...b5, and the battle was on between White's extra pawn vs. Black's bishop pair and open lines on the queenside. Objectively, White's position was quite good, maybe a little better, and even after his questionable decision on move 19 he was at most slightly worse until his 33rd move.

But all this talk of objectivity is one thing, playing the game quite another. It is very difficult to continue, move after move after move, when your opponent has the initiative and consolidation or even a safe equality is nowhere in sight. And so it was in our game: in a complex and still fully playable position, Short blundered on move 33 and went down fast after that. Was this an unforced error, to borrow from tennis parlance? It's not so clear, but I suspect that if it is, such errors are fairly common for White against the Dragon! (Of course, the Dragon has its dangers for Black too, but that's a subject for another show.)

We'll delve into the details tomorrow night (Thursday at 9 pm ET) on the playchess.com server - hope to see you then!

Dennis Monokroussos' Radio ChessBase lectures begin on Thursdays at 9 p.m. EDT, which translates to 01:00h GMT, 02:00 Paris/Berlin, 11:00h Sydney (on Friday). Other time zones can be found at the bottom of this page. You can use Fritz or any Fritz-compatible program (Shredder, Junior, Tiger, Hiarcs) to follow the lectures, or download a free trial client.

You can find the exact times for different locations in the world at World Time and Date. Exact times for most larger cities are here. And you can watch older lectures by Dennis Monokroussos offline in the Chess Media System room of Playchess:

Enter the above archive room and click on "Games" to see the lectures. The lectures, which can go for an hour or more, will cost you between one and two ducats. That is the equivalent of 10-20 Euro cents (14-28 US cents).


Dennis Monokroussos is 40, lives in South Bend, IN, and is an adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame.

He is fairly inactive as a player right now, spending most of his non-philosophy time being a husband and teaching chess. At one time he was one of the strongest juniors in the U.S., but quit for about eight years starting in his early 20s. His highest rating was 2434 USCF, but he has now fallen to the low-mid 2300s – "too much blitz, too little tournament chess", he says.

Dennis has been working as a chess teacher for seven years now, giving lessons to adults and kids both in person and on the internet, worked for a number of years for New York’s Chess In The Schools program, where he was one of the coaches of the 1997-8 US K-8 championship team from the Bronx, and was very active in working with many of CITS’s most talented juniors.

When Dennis Monokroussos presents a game, there are usually two main areas of focus: the opening-to-middlegame transition and the key moments of the middlegame (or endgame, when applicable). With respect to the latter, he attempts to present some serious analysis culled from his best sources (both text and database), which he has checked with his own efforts and then double-checked with his chess software.


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