Travail Pursuit #19: The Opening of Champions

Magnus Carlsen played the Dragon as recently as last month against Sergei Karjakin at the World Rapidplay Championships. Photo by Anastasiya Karlovich

Magnus Carlsen played the Dragon as recently as last month against Sergei Karjakin at the World Rapidplay Championships. Photo by Anastasiya Karlovich

When the best chess players in the world adopt a new opening everyone tends to take notice. Disciples of the opening in question nod sagely and say things like:

“I’ve always said that this opening deserves to be played more often by elite Grand Masters”

or

“Of course I’ve been playing that particular system for years.”

After being utilised at the very highest level the opening in question may well pick up some new followers who have been inspired to give it a try by some stunning top flight outing. Meanwhile those who have been playing the opening for years will be busy scrutinising the latest examples to understand the new ideas they contain.

The Dragon variation is no exception to this trend. It was used (unsuccessfully) by Viktor Korchnoi in his 1974 Candidates match matches against Anatoly Karpov. That game is a classic. Garry Kasparov adopted it with great success in his 1995 World Championship match against Vishy Anand. That he was much more successful than Korchnoi was thanks in no small part to the surprise impact it had on the challenger who could never have imagined Kasparov would abandon his pet Najdorf Variation.

More recently the current World Champion (admittedly before he won the title) has utilised the Dragon as part of his repertoire although it must be said that he hasn’t played it a great deal recently at the very highest level. He did play it against Sergei Karjakin at the recent World Rapidplay Championship in Dubai in a game that is worthy of closer inspection.

Today’s offering below was played in an online correspondence game and it marks my first attempt to tackle the 9.0-0-0 line in the most direct fashion with 9…d5. Any Dragon addict will tell you this is the move you should be playing when White castles before developing his king’s bishop. It’s a principled idea to take advantage of White’s move order even though it does cost Black an extra tempo as he’s already played d6. The issue with this line for me was that the play develops in a rather different fashion than it does if White plays 9.Bc4 and I hadn’t spent nearly enough time studying the ideas to be confident adopting it over the board.

Eventually I was inspired to gain some practical experience with it when I picked up an idea from an article in the Chessbase Magazine that I thought looked interesting. The move 10…Rb8 was relatively novel at the time I think and, as the notes in the game below illustrate, it was a concept that Carlsen himself subsequently employed with some success.

For those of you who aren’t switched on by the thought of an in depth exposition of Dragon theory I hope you’ll get far enough through the moves to reach the endgame which in my opinion is also quite interesting and therefore a pretty rare breed in its own right as I don’t play very many interesting endgames!

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5 Responses to “Travail Pursuit #19: The Opening of Champions”

  1. Martin Carpenter

    Jul 11. 2014

    The traditional idea was I believe that black was doing just fine in that R & B vs Q semi ending after 10.. Nd4 11 e5 etc. Maybe the odd recent grind vaguely trying to challenge this.

    Think it’d be an interesting position to play in practice actually as material imbalances like that often are, especially when they’re so close to being full balanced.

    My book on this is buried for the moment so I can’t check it all :) Rb8 seems a sensible idea anyway.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Dave

    Jul 13. 2014

    I agree with that assessment of the minor pieces vs queen ending Martin. The cold theoretical judgement might be considered good for White but it looks damned hard to win i an over the board struggle. I’m not nearly so well versed in this line as I am in the 10.Bc4 lines but as I play it more and more in correspondance I’ll soon put that right.

    Reply to this comment

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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