Slaying the Dragon

Daniel Spohn (Spohn)

As a beginning/intermediate player I have come up against the Dragon Sicilian in many encounters and decided that I needed to find a way to tackle it. At first I looked at the Yugoslav Attack, but realized that against a Dragoneer who knew not to let me open the h-file I was hard pressed to find a devastating attack. About 3 months ago I came across the Levenfish variation and have found that I am able to use it to effect against those same Dragoneers with whom the Yugoslav failed. The Levenfish turns the board into a minefield of tactical traps along with chances to sacrifice material for an overwhelming attack like you will see in my game. If someone is playing the Dragon and is unprepared to meet this attack he should think twice.

01/06/2005

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Slaying the Dragon As a beginning/intermediate player I have come up against the Dragon Sicilian in many encounters and decided that I needed to find a way to tackle it. At first I looked at the Yugoslav Attack, but realized that against a Dragoneer who knew not to let me open the h-file I was hard pressed to find a devastating attack. About 3 months ago I came across the Levenfish variation and have found that I am able to use it to effect against those same Dragoneers with whom the Yugoslav failed. The Levenfish turns the board into a minefield of tactical traps along with chances to sacrifice material for an overwhelming attack like you will see in my game. If someone is playing the Dragon and is unprepared to meet this attack he should think twice.

Sicilian Levenfish Variation

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. f4 This is the Levenfish variation of the Sicilian Dragon. After the exchange of pawns 7...dxe5 8.fxe5 and then 8...Nd7 black can equalize, but white has the pawn sac with 9.e6 (or 9.e6 fxe6 10.Nxe6 recapturing the pawn right away) to make the game board a dangerous place for the Black king that will be trapped in the middle and black needs to play accurately to stop white from building an attack. Playing 6...Nc6 or 6...Nd7 to stop the e5 pawn push is usually played to keep the board in a more familiar position to the Dragon Sicilian. 6... Bg7 7. e5 dxe5 8. fxe5 Nd5? This move causes black to lose his ability to castle. 8...Nd7 is the only good move here, but black needs to be able to deal with 9.e6 (8...Ng4 drops the knight to 9.Bb5+ 8...Nh5 9.g4) 9. Bb5+ Kf8 Any other move loses badly. 9...Bd7 or 9...Nd7 drop the knight to 10.Nxd5 while 9...Nc6 loses to 10.Nxc6 with an attack on the queen, the knight on d5 and indirectly on the rook on a8 which stops black from recapturing with 10...bxc6 11.Bxc6+. 10.Qf3 The book move that I found here is 0-0 but I was really attached to my pawn on e5 because of the pressure that it could possibly put on e6. (I was scared to sacrifice this pawn, because this game was played as part of my high school tournament and I didn’t want to lose for my team, this being said the sacrifices I made later in the game seem very ironic) I wanted to force black to make a move with his knight or to protect his knight while I used the tempo that I gained to show how I could flex my power on the f-file. After playing 10.0-0 white needs to be able to deal with 10...Bxe5 (ex. 10.0-0 Bxe5 11.Nxd5 Qxd5 12.Bh6+ Bg7? 13.Bc4 with a nice attack. Black can not play 13...Qxc4 or else 14.Ne6+ with 15.Qd8#) 10... Nxc3 11. 0-0!? Right here I feel like I lost the tempo if I had recaptured the knight. I felt this built my before mentioned flex on the f-file. This move also hangs my knight on d4 while giving my opponent a check to my king which I was hoping he would see and take. 11... Qxd4+!? 12. Be3 In conversation with my opponent after the game he said "I just figured that my check was faster than checkmate." After he captured my knight as I had hoped he would his only variation to maintain at least equality is 12...Qxe3+ 13.Qxe3 Nxb5 14.Qb3 where black will have 3 minor pieces for a queen. I still feel like my development might help me retain a small advantage, but I was scared of this move during the game. His greed was his downfall by trying to hold on to his two knight advantage. 12... Qd5? This move looks like it protects the mate threat while retaining a large material advantage until I played my next move. 13. Rad1!! This move adds a second mate threat on d8 to the already potent one on f7. Blacks problem after this move is that his lack of development is now being thrown right in his face, while whites development is superb. Whites pieces are all developed to their maximum squares with rooks on the open files, bishops on open, useful diagonals, and his queen has a rook behind it aiming at the black king along with being on the f3-b7 semi-open diagonal which cuts through the black queen. Black on the other hand has an entirely undeveloped queenside and a confused kingside. His one nicely positioned piece, his queen, is so overworked defending mate threats that it cant even move. And even with his two knight advantage his clumsy position makes him utterly lost. 13... Qxd1?? In all desperation he loses instantly to 14.Qxf7# but his other moves weren’t really helpful at all either. I include a lot of annotation next on every playable line, but it is important to see why black must lose here. 13...Be6 puts up much more of a resistance and is really his only move. 13...Be6 14.Bc4 Still hitting home the fact that his awkward but forced move of 9...Kf8 gives his king no protection on the back rank. (Not 14.Rxd5 where he will have a material advantage over me and a way to defend my mate threats) Black has three choices here: 14...Nxd1, 14...Qxd1, and Qa5 so I will show all fully annotated.

14...Nxd1 15.Bxd5 Bxd5 (15...Nxe3 16.Bxe6 Nf5 17.Bxf5 (17.Qxb7 fxe6 with both threats of Qxa8 and g4) 17...Nc6 18.Bxg6 f6 19.Bh5 looking at either 20.Qb3 or 20.Qd5 and mate at f7) 16.Qxd5 f6 17.exf6 Bxf6 (17...exf6 18.Bc5+ Ke8 19.Re1+ with mate; 17...Nxe3 18.fxe7+ Kxe7 19.Rf7+ Ke8 20.Qe6+ with mate) 18.Bh6+ Ke8 19.Qxb7 with a big plus for white.

14...Qxd1 15.Rxd1 Nxd1 16.Bxe6 f6 (16...Ke8 17.Bxf7+ Kd8 (17...Kf8 18.Bxg6+ with mate; 17...Kd7 18.Qxb7+ Kd8 19.Qxa8 with a massive plus for white.) 18.Qxb7 Nxe3 19.Qxa8 Kc8 (19...Kd7 20.Qxa7+ Kc6 21.Qxe3) 20.Be6+ Kc7 21.Qxa7+ Kc6 22.Qxe3) 17.Qxd1 Nc6 18.exf6 exf6 (18...Bxf6 19.Bh6+ Bg7 (19...Ke8 20.Qd7#) 20.Qf3+ Ke8 21.Bxg7) 19.Bc5+ Ne7 20.Qd6 Re8 21.Bd7 with white having an advantage.

Third and finally, the worst of the 3 options 14...Qa5 15.Bxe6 (Either f6 or f5) 16.Qxb7 and mate happens because of the weak back rank.

14. Qxf7# 1-0

The games like the one I played in my High School match are rare now because white gains such a great game that black plays 6...Nc6 or 6...Nd7

as in this Grandmaster game:

Averbahk vs. Lisitsin (1948)

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. f4 Nc6 This is played to prevent an immediate e5 push, but is not foolproof and e5 is still usually played after exchanging a pair of Knights. 7. Nxc6 bxc6 8. e5 Nd7 The d6 pawn is pinned to black's queen. 9. Bc4 Nb6 10. Qd4 Both protecting the Bishop and threatening exd6 which would leave blacks rook attacked. 10... Bg7 11. 0-0 0-0 Right here the opening is over and the game is in play but the end of the game is quite interesting so I will include the whole game for reference. 12. Bb3 Ba6 13. Re1 c5 14. Qe3 c4 15. Ba4 Nxa4 16. Nxa4 Qd7 17. Nc3 Rad8 18. Qf2 Bb7 19. exd6 Qxd6 20. Be3 Qc6 Building a Queen-Bishop battery aimed at g2. 21. Bxa7 Rd4 Which can't be taken (22.Bxd4 Bxd4 and the queen in lost because after 23.Qxd4 Qxg2#) 22. Re2 Rfd8 23. Kh1 Breaking the pin. 23... R4d7 24. Be3 Ba8 25. Rae1 Qb7 26. Bc1 Bxc3 27. bxc3 Qb1 28. Be3 Qxa2 29. Bd4 Don’t underestimate this move it grabs the diagonal that cuts right across the king! 29... Qa3 30. f5 Qd6 31. fxg6 hxg6 32. Qh4 f6 33. Re6 Qd5 34. Qf2 Rb8 35. h3 Qf5 36. Qg3 Rb2 37. Rxe7 Rxe7 38. Rxe7 Bd5 39. Qe3 1-0

In conclusion the Levenfish can help you to slay the dragon who is not prepared to meet it and the plus is that there is not a lot of theory to it, because it is mostly made up of tactics. This allows players to play it with minimum study. If you went through my annotation closely you should be ready to start trying out this fascinating line. Good luck!

Comments

AuthorComment
refutor
01/09/2005 18:55
good article! i am going to take a look because i have trouble using the yugoslav attack as well!
nasmichael
01/17/2005 05:05
Thanks, Spohn, for your contribution. I like to see beginning/intermediate players exploring the many possibilities of the game, and for you to take time to go one step further, and put your thoughts to paper and share them, means you are taking your chess studies seriously. It is an encouraging thing to witness it.
Alopinto01/26/2005 18:03Hmmmm...

I thought that 6...Bg7 was a crass mistake by Black because of 7.e5
ConspTheory06
02/09/2005 23:31
Thanks for the article Spohn. I've had to go up against the dragon alot and I will try this out.
Open Defence02/11/2005 15:37This is an interesting game for the line recommended, the Levenfish can lead to a quite double edged position, the lines with 6Bc4 maybe a choice for players who dislike sharp positions.

Es Ahmed v/s Kolade Onabogun

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. f4 Nc6 7. Nxc6 bxc6
8. e5 Nd7 9. Bc4 dxe5 10. Qf3 Bg7 11. Qxc6 Rb8 12. O-O O-O 13. Qf3 Ba6 14.
Bxa6 Qb6+ 15. Be3 Qxa6 16. Rad1 exf4 17. Bxf4 Rb7 18. b3 Ne5 19. Qe2 Qxe2
20. Nxe2 Nc6 21. Rd2 e5 22. Be3 f5 23. Rfd1 Rc8 24. Bc5 Rcc7 25. c4 Bf8 26.
Bxf8 Kxf8 27. Rd6 Ke7 28. Nc3 e4 29. g4 Ne5 30. gxf5 gxf5 31. Rh6 Kf8 32.
Rd5 Rg7+ 33. Kf1 Ng4 34. Rh3 Rbf7 35. Ke2 e3 36. c5 f4 37. c6 Rc7 38. Rd8+
Ke7 39. Rd4 Rxc6 40. Nd5+ Ke6 41. Nxf4+ Ke5 42. Rc4 Rxc4 43. Nd3+ Kd4 44.
bxc4 Kxc4 45. Rg3 Kc3 46. Ne5 h5 47. h3 Re7 48. Ng6 Re6 49. Nf4 Re4 50.
Nxh5 Nf2 51. Nf6 Re6 52. Nd5+ Kd4 53. Nxe3 Ne4 54. Rg4 Kc3 55. h4 Nd6 56.
Kf3 Kd3 57. Nd5 Re5 58. Nf4+ Kc3 59. h5 Nf5 60. Rg5 Re3+ 61. Kf2 Re5 62.
Ne2+ Kd2 63. Nd4 Nh6 64. Nf3+ 0-1
Spohn02/11/2005 22:25Well yes I never said the Levenfish was indestructable. I just tried to show the major points behind 6.f4.
Open Defence02/13/2005 10:53Hi Spohn,

My post was to shed further light on this variation. Neither the Dragon nor the Levenfish are indestructible :-)

However, most players when they see a monograph on an opening, think aah haa!! that's what I need to become a better player instead of understanding the ideas behind openings.

That's why I thought of posting the game in question so that players may get an idea of Black replies to the Levenfish :-)
Spohn02/14/2005 20:33Very True! I even fall to that trick alot and to anyone who has read my article the Levenfish is not indestructible. It is perhaps the best trap opening i know that black doesnt have to play stupidly to fall for, he just has to fianchetto his bishop which would be his book move in most lines.
Gordon03/03/2005 10:39In the recent book by Edward Dearing 'Play the Dragon Sicilian' he writes (p.238):
'A well prepared Dragon player should blast the Levenfish off the board'!
ConspTheory0603/03/2005 21:50Well in reality the Dragon and Levenfish are equal battles, but if i was writing a book on the dragon i would probably write that too :-)

 
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