Today's Opening Concepts article is on the Sicilian Dragon, beloved choice of juniors everywhere. It is characterized by the moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6, reaching the position shown on the left.
There are many moves white can play here - 6.f4, 6.g3 and 6.Be2 all have their advocates - but the most aggressive and theoretically critical line is the Yugoslav Attack, 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 Nc6 8.Qd2 0-0, after which there is an important theoretical fork. One important line is 9.0-0-0, after which black can make the thematic Sicilian central advance 9...d5!?; sacrificing a pawn for open lines - the sacrifice line runs 10.exd5 Nxd5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Nxd5 cxd5 13.Qxd5 Qc7 (this does not drop a rook because 14.Qxa8 Bf5 forces white to give the queen up with 15.Qxf8+.)
The other main option white has is to prevent the ...d5 advance with 9.Bc4, to which black usually responds with 9...Bd7. White's usual plan from that position is to build up a kingside attack, starting with something like 10.h4, after which many games have been won with some combination of h4-h5 (which, if met with ...Nf6xh5, is followed up with g2-g4 to kick the knight back), Be3-h6 and an exchange of bishops, and 0-0-0 to bring an extra rook into the attack. Black in turn will try attacking on the open c-file with moves like ...Nc6-e5, ...Qd8-a5, and some rook to c8 with the possibility of sacrificing the exchange on c3.
However, there is another way for black to play this position, and that is to forestall white's plan with a move like 10...h5, the Soltis Variation, giving us the diagram on the right. The idea is quite simple: without an h4-h5 advance, it's much harder for white to open a file for his rooks. He now has to work for g2-g4, but even then, it's not so easy: after ...h5xg4, h4-h5 can often be met by ...Nf6xh5, and there's no easy way to kick the knight away.
And so we come to a game I played recently: I had the white side of this position and tried to build up an attack by redirecting my c3 knight over to f4 to support an h4-h5 advance. Unfortunately for me, this allowed black an attacking idea of his own: ...a7-a5-a4 to take advantage of the absence of a defending piece. My king's position ended up smashed to pieces, while my own attack never really got off the ground.
Openings and endings
1 year ago