Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Legendary Black Beast Of Aargh

Many openings are named invoking animistic spirits: dragon, hippopotamus, elephant, polar bear, rat, etc. My second tournament game back from my six-month break was against ChargingKing. I decided to try to revive parts of my Sicilian repertoire and went for the Dragon despite knowing that his book knowledge might be as great as mine. Because of my opponent's theme of Python's knights, I decided to channel the Legendary Black Beast of Aaargh who shares many features of a dragon.

Unfortunately, my assessment of our book knowledge was about right. Fortunately, I was able to eke out a victory by swindling him out of a favorable middlegame and putting together an ending that wasn't really winning in all lines, but tricky enough to snooker the win.

So the game started off as a Classical Dragon but with White castling queenside. 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.Be2 O-O 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.O-O-O

Here endeth my book and probably his too. I began by considering Ng4 trying to win the two bishops which is in my style and what my opponent expected from some blitz games we had played. But I decided against that here since my Nf6 is one of my best defenders, while Be2 is often a nonparticipatory piece for White. I knew that one of the lines in the 9.O-O-O Dragon with 7.f3 instead of 7.Be2 was 9...d5, but I didn't know and couldn't figure out if Be2 made it worse or better. Finally, I settled on a seemingly innocuous plan to exchange on d4 and put my bishop on e6.

9...Nxd4 The ill-tempered Killer Rabbit takes out the first of Arthur's knights at the entrance to the Cave of Caerbannog. 10.Bxd4 The knights avenge their comrades with the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch. Afterwards, my coach recommended 9...d5 10.exd5 Nxd5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Nxd5 cxd5 13.Qxd5 Qc7, a standard idea in the regular 7.f3 dragon. 10...Be6 11.Kb1.

Here began some major floundering which demonstrates my ignorance of the Way of the Dragon. I came up with the lamo 11...a6. Hardly a pawn storm, more like a drifting fog. Without a weakness in White's king position, I had very little idea how to attack. My coach afterward recommended the plan of Qc7-Rfc8-Qa5. 12.h4 b5 13.f3 A moral victory in that I got my opponent to play this move after all. 13...b4 14.Nd5 Bxd5 15.exd5 a5.

I began to notice that my attack was going to fizzle. My main hope shifted toward confusing my opponent in his kingside attack. 16.g4 Having dispatched the Rabbit, the knights cautiously enter the Cave where they argue over the carved words of Joseph of Arimathea.

16...Nd7? Better was 16...a4 17.h5 b3 18.hxg6 bxa2+ 19.Kxa2 hxg6 +/-. Suddenly, the Legendary Black Beast of Aaargh appears 17.Bxg7 Kxg7 and eats Brother Maynard.

Some confused chasing around ensues.

18.Qd4+?! (Best was direct and effective 18.h5! Rh8 19.hxg6 hxg6 20.Qd4+ f6 21.Qe3!+- with a winning attack.) 18...f6?! 19.f4 Qb6 I sought refuge in the endgame. 20.Qe4

20...Rfe8 (I never considered 20...Nc5!? 21.Qxe7+ Kg8 22.Qe3 Rfe8 23.Qf2 b3! 24.cxb3 a4! 25.bxa4 Rxa4 +=) 21.h5 Nc5 More chasing around.

22.h6+? I told my opponent afterward that you never want to close lines of your attack. Here the Rh1 is now blocked out of the attack. He said he thought he could muster some kind of a checkmate with the pawn on h6. 22...Kf8 23.Qd4 Na5 Finally, I conjured up the transparent threat of Nc3+, so my opponent finally agreed to the trade of queens. 24.Qxb6 Nxb6

25.f5?! I mainly feared a quick Bb5-Bc6 cramping my pieces. Instead, my opponent obliged by making his bishop even worse and isolating his advanced h-pawn, soon to become a tasty snack for the Beast. 25...g5 26.Rhe1 Rec8 27.Rd4?! (last chance for Bb5) 27...Rc5! 28.Bf3= Now White's bishop is simply awful.

My plan was to post my knight on e5 and try to take control of c4 to exchange both rooks and win the good knight versus bad bishop endgame. By no means was my plan as inexorable as I had hoped. 28...Rac8 29.Re2 Nd7 30.Red2 Ne5

31.Bc1?! 31.Be2 stymies Black's plans. 31...Rc4 32.Be2 Rxd4 33.Rxd4 Nf7 White can't protect h6.

34.Rc4? Rxc4 35.Bxc4 Nxh6 36.Be2

I think I'll stop for now and discuss the endgame under a separate post. Stay tuned.


frenez said...

after 15...a5 instead of 16 g4? h5 is crying to be played and i don't think black can survive this opening of the h file. if you're going to play the dragon play like magnus!

ChargingKing said...

hey Ernie,

After you play 11...Qc7 I like the continuation 12Nd5 Bxd5 13exd5 Rfc8 14Bf3! I think this is an interesting position.

Yes I have now been reinforced to force open lines when i have the chance. I posted some research on some interesting possible alternate "futures" GMs have tangled with from our position after 11kb1!

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