Dealing with the Dreadful Dragon

by ChessBase
4/11/2005 – Don't you hate Dragon players? Well, most e4 players do. They dig in with a strong fianchettoed bishop and a safely castled king, while the white player has all the fish to fry. If these Dragon specialists are driving you nuts, Aryan Argandewal has some advice for you: play the Yugoslav Attack!

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By Aryan Argandewal

If you tune Dr. Fritz up to maximum power, that is, if you increase the size of the dynamic memory of your computer dedicated for Fritz (the hash table size in the engine settings) from the default level up to 382 Mb and optimize program’s opening book and then invite the silicon monster for a tournament game, you’ll notice a slight difference in its ‘behaviour’. First and foremost are its new parameters including a scary rating of 3352! On a less apparent scale it will suddenly change its opening pattern.

In the normal mode it plays (almost invariably) the Poisoned Pawn against 1.e4, here it suddenly becomes a more cautious opponent. It simply plays the Dreadful Dragon.

Yep, unlike Junior, Deep Fritz keeps attacking chances without risking much. And this is precisely why I don’t particularly admire human Dragon players at club level. Obviously in higher regions it doesn’t make much difference which opening is opted for. Even Morozevich plays the English opening from time to time. But then 15 moves down the line, the game suddenly explodes. He can afford to be cynical. For a Grandmaster the opening merely represents a path to wrong-foot the opponent from his home preparation. Not so for a 'club general’.

At club level, for obvious reasons, players cannot afford to have a wide repertoire (you’d be lucky to have an opponent who knows his own line after move 15!) so if he starts with 1.c4 chances are that you’ll end up having a nap or two during the game before he gently offers you a draw on move 20! When you play against a club-player, believe the stereotypes!

A Dragon player is someone who wants to have the option of counter-attacking. With a strong fianchettoed bishop his castled king is perfectly safe, his queen strongly (and actively) placed on a5, it is the white player who has all the fish to fry. By way of comparison, in the Najdorf the second player wants to fight and win, but in return he’s risking not just the safety of his king. He’s making positional and tactical concessions free of charge! How can you not respect him?! The Dragon player, on the other hand, wants the counterattacking chances of the Sicilian with the safety of the King’s Indian! Logical? Maybe, but is it fair?!

To be perfectly honest I have a lot more respect for players who fight from behind the ‘Berlin Wall’ than a Dragon specialist. With a ‘Berlin Wall’ your opponent is honest about his intentions and makes no excuses for playing defensive chess. And chances are that you’ll get an engaging endgame despite the static, boring middle game. I respect them. They enjoy defending difficult positions. And for the most part they’re good at it.

In contrast, the Dragon player is someone who wants to be everywhere at once! And if you want me to go further I’d say he’s the type of guy who plays the Bird Opening as white! Nothing’s wrong with the opening, except they play it not because of its brilliant positional or tactical possibilities, (which is why it is rarely seen at the highest level) but simply because very few players fancy 1.f4, hence (concludes the Bird player) I’ll know about this line a great deal more than my opponent! The Dragon and Bird player have a lot in common. Both want a free lunch!

It is a cunning mentality.

If you get yourself in that sort of situation it is not you but your opponent who will have the psychological and positional upper hand. Given the complexity and dangerous nature of the Dragon you cannot afford to improvise from move 10! Think about it. Your opponent with the Dreadful Dragon in his repertoire has at least half a dozen complete grandmaster games in his head, not to mention the number of books he’s wasted on learning. Obviously if you follow his trap you’ll die from hyperactivity.

If you get a Dragon specialist, make him work for his protectionism. He’s got his king safe and secure? Fine, I’ll launch an all-out attack on your king! Give him the toughest seven hours he’s ever had. Don’t worry, a true Dragon specialist will die from dehydration when he faces an all-out attack! As opposed to a true ‘Berlin Wall’ builder he hasn’t got the right intellectual defensive resources, for he’s neither an attacker nor can he be described as an all-round Karpov.

Against a Dragon specialist play the Yugoslav Attack. The beauty of this turbo-attack is that there are so many lines of it that no amateur can afford to prepare for (there are at least 17 fully fledged lines).

Assume he does, you know what? Welcome to the desert of open-field warfare!

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 0-0 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.Bc4 Bd7 10. 0-0-0 Qa5 11.Bb3 Rfc8 12.h4 Ne5 h5.

I am prepared for a fight, are you? It turns out that the Yugoslav Attack is virtually the only way for the white player to maintain the initiative. With some theoretical knowledge you’ll get to the middle game in one piece whereby you can improvise. The position is sharp enough that one wrong move will result in a visit to the morgue!

Get yourself a copy of Attila Schneider’s The Dragon for Experts. This CD covers all lines of the Dragon, justifying its title ‘for experts’. So if you are still not convinced by my arguments and do not wish to play The Yugoslav the CD will provide you with all the theory necessary for other main lines.

The CD contains core strategic ideas of The Dragon. The first part of the CD is pure ‘mathematics’ with lines only. There are 15 main lines. And then follows (what we really like!) 17 chapters of the Yugoslav Attack. Don’t worry it is sufficient for an e4 player to learn one line in depth. Most of it is pure logic and common sense. But it is common sense if you feel comfortable with dynamic positions, offering pawns as candy bars, and if you are ready to sustain a counterattack from the Dragon flyer.

Take a look at the following games.

Kasparov,Gary (2775) - Piket,Jeroen (2540) [B78]
Tilburg Tilburg (1), 1989
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 Nc6 8.Qd2 0–0 9.Bc4 Bd7 10.h4 Ne5 11.Bb3 Rc8 12.0–0–0 Nc4 13.Bxc4 Rxc4 14.h5 Nxh5 15.g4 Nf6 16.Bh6 Nxe4 17.Qe3 Rxc3 18.bxc3 Nf6 19.Bxg7 Kxg7 20.Rh2 Rh8 21.Nb3 Bc6 22.g5 Nh5 23.f4 Re8 24.f5 Qb6 25.Nd4 Qc5 26.Re1 Bd7 27.Qf3 Bc6 28.Qe3 Bd7 29.Qf3 Bc6 30.Qf2 Kg8 31.Re3 Bd5 32.Rxh5 gxh5 33.Qh4 Qc4 34.Qxh5 Qf1+ 35.Kb2 e5 36.Qh6 Kh8 37.g6 fxg6 38.fxg6 Re7 39.Rf3 Qc4 40.Qf8+ 1-0

The following games demonstrate what Karpov is capable of when the position requires tactical ingenuity.

Karpov,Anatoly (2700) - Kortschnoj,Viktor (2670) [B78]
Candidats final Moscow (2), 1974
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 Nc6 8.Qd2 0–0 9.Bc4 Bd7 10.h4 Rc8 11.Bb3 Ne5 12.0–0–0 Nc4 13.Bxc4 Rxc4 14.h5 Nxh5 15.g4 Nf6 16.Nde2 Qa5 17.Bh6 Bxh6 18.Qxh6 Rfc8 19.Rd3 R4c5 20.g5 Rxg5 21.Rd5 Rxd5 22.Nxd5 Re8 23.Nef4 Bc6 24.e5 Bxd5 25.exf6 exf6 26.Qxh7+ Kf8 27.Qh8+ 1-0

Karpov,Anatoly (2720) - Miles,Anthony J (2575) [B76]
Phillips&Drew London, 1982
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 0–0 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.g4 Be6 10.0–0–0 Nxd4 11.Bxd4 Qa5 12.a3 Rab8 13.h4 Rfc8 14.Nd5 Qxd2+ 15.Rxd2 Bxd5 16.exd5 a6 17.Be2 Nd7 18.f4 Nc5 19.Rh3 Rc7 20.Re3 b5 21.Bxg7 Kxg7 22.Rd4 a5 23.b4 Na4 24.bxa5 Nc3 25.Bf1 Kf8 26.Kb2 Rbc8 27.Kb3 Rc5 28.a6 Nxd5 29.Rxd5 Rxd5 30.Rc3 Rd8 31.Rc7 Rd1 32.Bxb5 e5 33.a7 exf4 34.Rb7 Rb1+ 35.Ka4 Rxb5 36.Rxb5 f3 37.Rb8 f2 38.Rxd8+ 1-0

In the second part you get respectively 15 and 17 chapters, this time with extensively annotated games. In addition you get a Dragon Base with nine thousand games, some of them fully annotated.

An excellent weapon for shooting down Dragon flyers! Highly recommended.

The Dragon for Experts
The CD covers all variations of the Dragon System of the Sicilian Defense after the starting moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6. Hungary's International Master Attila Schneider has an excellent reputation among the fans of this opening, having excelled with many publications and discoveries in his favourite chess field. His first CD is intended first of all for players who already have some experience with the Dragon.
This CD contains: - a small special database featuring the main piece of the author's work, 34 surveys with clear evaluations of each line in words and variations.
- a database with 9300 selected quality games, 500 of which with annotations.
- a big tree of all Dragon games available from ChessBase.
Includes ChessBase Reader for reading all databases (system requirements: Pentium with 16MB RAM, Windows 95, 98, 2000) Language: English

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