Slaying the Dragon
Daniel Spohn 1/6/2005 17 comments
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.
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
Sicilian Levenfish Variation
f4 This is the Levenfish variation of the Sicilian Dragon. After the
exchange of pawns 7...dxe5
and then 8...Nd7
black can equalize, but white has the pawn sac with 9.e6
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
to stop the e5 pawn push is usually played to keep the board in a more familiar
position to the Dragon Sicilian.
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
drops the knight to 9.Bb5+
Kf8 Any other move loses badly. 9...Bd7
drop the knight to 10.Nxd5
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
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
with a nice attack. Black can not play 13...Qxc4
or else 14.Ne6+
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...
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+
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.
Qd5? This move looks like it protects the mate threat while retaining
a large material advantage until I played my next move.
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.
puts up much more of a resistance and is really his only move. 13...Be6
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,
Qa5 so I will show all fully annotated.
fxe6 with both threats of
looking at either 20.Qb3 or 20.Qd5 and mate at f7) 16.Qxd5
with mate; 17...Nxe3
with mate) 18.Bh6+
with a big plus for white.
with mate; 17...Kd7
with a massive plus for white.) 18.Qxb7
with white having an advantage.
Third and finally, the worst of the 3 options 14...Qa5
and mate happens because of the weak back rank.
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
as in this Grandmaster game:
Averbahk vs. Lisitsin (1948)
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.
Nd7 The d6 pawn is pinned to black's queen.
Qd4 Both protecting the Bishop and threatening exd6 which would leave
blacks rook attacked. 10...
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.
Building a Queen-Bishop battery aimed at g2. 21.
Rd4 Which can't be taken (22.Bxd4
Bxd4 and the queen in lost because after 23.Qxd4
Kh1 Breaking the pin. 23...
Don’t underestimate this move it grabs the diagonal that cuts right across
the king! 29...
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!
good article! i am going to take a look because i have trouble using the yugoslav attack as well!
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.
I thought that 6...Bg7 was a crass mistake by Black because of 7.e5
Thanks for the article Spohn. I've had to go up against the dragon alot and I will try this out.
Open Defence 2/11/2005
This 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
Well yes I never said the Levenfish was indestructable. I just tried to show the major points behind 6.f4.
Open Defence 2/13/2005
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 :-)
Very 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.
In 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'!
Well 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 :-)
Thanks a lot for the article. The Dragon Sicilian is one of my favorite openings against 1.e4. I have no major problem against the Yugoslav, but I'll take a better look at this line.
Yes, I knew the line. Black should play very carefully because white has a lot of posibilities of getting advantage in the opening itself. The second game is - as far as I know - the correct way of defense, with about equal chances.
gr8 work spohn
Thanks for the ideas!
I consider the line with 6.... Nc6 as the best practical choice for black. After 7. NxN bxN and 8.e5 Nd7 9.exd6 exd6 Be3 Be7 black is fine, due to his nice controll of the centre squares, and his possibilies of counter attack are not inferior the those in the yugoslav (though you have to play precisely of course). After 9.Bc4 I would consider to play for d5 anyway, restricting this attacking bishop and aiming for centre controll (via e6 and d5 for example).
By the way, I gave up playing the dragon with black, because you have a quite unpleasent choice: You can either learn incredible amounts of theory, or you can work out a suprisingly narrow repertoire, based on transposition and two (!) main lines (exchange on d4 against the Weresov and the Topalov against the yugoslav), but allowing white to get a drawn ending virtually by force. But then the dragon is no attacking weapon any longer, but leaves you with a dull ending, which is very unpleasent against inferior opponents. I am referring to a line like: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 0-0 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.0-0-0 Nxd4 10.Bxd4 Be6 11.h4 Qa5 12.Qg5!? and black is practically forced to trade the queens, with a minimal plus for white and a very likely draw to come. (there are a lot such lines, this is just an example!)You can only avoid this line by learning the complicated pawn sac 9....d5, that includes exchange sacs in some lines, too.
So I decided that I spend too much time on dragon lines and opt for the fairly easy but active and sometimes still suprising Kalashnikov (e4 c5 Nf3 Nc6 d4 cxd Nxd4 e5 Nb5 d6!?). Though this might not be to everyone's taste, you can see, that Dragon players suffer from the promblem, too, how to meet specific variations... :-);
with white I don't have the problem how to meet the dragon, because I prefer the positional closed variations against the sicilian, which is very easy to learn and play, compared with the open sici, and by no means inferior to it. So this seems to be a perfect practical choice for club players (and even some world champs as Karpov, Smyslov Spassky, and some vice champs like Adams or Short :0) ).
Have a nice time
Louis Lima 7/7/2006
I enjoyed this article very much, and agree the Levenfish takes Black off known paths very quickly. I'd had to learn how to deal with as Black. By the way, speaking of sayings, there is a quote by Eduard Gufeld. He says that the serious Sicilian Dragon player studies six exchange sacrifices on c3 before breakfast every morming! : )
Recently played a game as white in which the response was 6....e5 by black. is it still best to exchange the f pawn or let black take it and 1/2 open the e file? What response makes the most sense. I responded with 7 fxe5 but then after a couple blunders unrelated to this move, I lost. But I got to wondering about simply advancing the f pawn. any thoughts?
Play the accelerated dragon - it cuts out the levenfish completely!