Thursday, July 05, 2007

Trying to Breathe Fire Leaves you Sucking Smoke

I love the Dragon. Who doesn't? What Chess player in his/her right mind could look you in the eye and say that the Dragon is anything shy of the most incredible rush of a chess opening in the whole game? Yeah, I heard you, the Evan's Gambit is pretty nifty too, but there is something viscerally overwhelming about the firebreathing opening, like Caissa spat it up herself in a fit of rage over a 10 move draw and saw fit to declare that if we were to be privileged enough to play this game, we had better play it for keeps.
The Dragon is all about attacking chess - lines drawn, bloodlust ready, and good, violent fun.
At least, that is what it ought to be. Games like the following have gripped me since I first became aware of the existence of the opening:
Lloyds Bank, 1983
1.e4 c5
2.Nf3 d6
3.d4 cxd4
4.Nxd4 Nf6
5.Nc3 g6
6.Be3 Bg7
7.f3 0-0
8.Qd2 Nc6
9.Bc4 Bd7
10.Bb3 Qa5
11.h4 Rfc8The battle lines are drawn as both sides ready for an epic showdown.
12.h5 Nxh5
13.0-0-0 Ne5
14.Nde2 Be6
15.Kb1 Nc4
16.Bxc4 Rxc4
17.g4 Ng3!Fun all the way! If only all of our games could look like this.
18.Nxg3 Rxc4
19.b3 Rac8
21.cxb3 Rxb3+
Inspired by such games, I have endeavored to employ the Dragon in my own games at several points, always hopeful that my latest rating strength and experience would enable me to produce flights of fancy. Alas, I have discovered, much to my chagrin, that a Dragon battle takes two.
First, there is an endless array of anti-sicilians, as those of us who struggle with the opening know, and then there are lots and lots of positional attempts to steer the game into quiet waters. The g3 lines, the Be2 variations, etc. Then, when you finally get someone who sits down and plays it violently, would you know it but he actually knows the theory and knocks you flat, or, worse still, he suddenly disappoints you by slipping into a quiet sideline. Check out this game from my own praxis for example:
1.e4 c5
2.Nf3 d6
3.d4 cxd4
4.Nxd4 Nf6
5.Nc3 g6
6.Be3 Bg7
7.Bc4 Nc6
8.f3 0-0
9.Qd2 Bd7
10.0-0-0 Qa5
11.h4 Ne5
12.Bb3 Rfc8
All right, time for some Dragon magic, I was thinking.
Uh oh, what's that sound? Excitement deflating I think. How positively wet!
13... Qxd2+
14.Rxd2 Nxd5
15.Bxd5 Nc6
Yecchh! There goes my fun - right out the window. Now it's Capablanca time. Yeah, so I went on to win the game, but it was thoroughly unmemorable, and should have been a short draw.
The point is, sad to say it, as amazing as the Dragon is, it seems somewhat unpractical to have high expectations for its sanguinary character. The unfortunate reality is that, as with almost any opening, the nature of the struggle is definied by the decisions of both players. White can certainly opt to dive into the pyrotechnics, and it'll be a hoot then for sure, but he doesn't have to, and most people don't...


Anonymous Rodrigo said...

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10:02 AM  

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