What Is The Accelerated Dragon?
The Accelerated Dragon is a chess opening for Black against 1.e4, characterized by the moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Bg7.
This system for Black against 1.e4 is basically an improved version of the Dragon variation of the Sicilian Defense.
The Accelerated Dragon represents an easy-to-learn, hypermodern and dynamic chess opening played by chess giants like world champion Magnus Carlsen.
Many chess players struggle to find a decent chess opening for Black against 1.e4. It is tough to find a good chess opening which fulfills the following three criteria:
- A sound and solid opening system which can be played regularly and which does not rely on tricks or cheap traps.
- A chess opening system which does not force you to learn an endless amount of theory in order to survive the first 15 moves.
- An opening which does not allow White to play variations which more or less lead to a forced draw but enables you to go for the full point against weaker players.
The Accelerated Dragon meets all these criteria.
In contrast to the “normal” Sicilian Defense Dragon Variation, Black avoids playing d7–d6, so that he can later play d7–d5 in one move.
The great thing about the Accelerated Dragon is that Black avoids the Yugoslav Attack – one of the sharpest opening systems in the Sicilian. Moreover, by playing 2…g6, Black avoids the famous system for White after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+.
With players like Carlsen, Kasparov, Ivanchuk and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave adopting this opening, you’re in an excellent company and can enjoy being a master of one of the most exciting chess opening options available to Black.
Let’s take a look at the great game featuring plenty of key ideas in this chess opening which GM Damian Lemos presents in the video above.
Elista 1995: Daniliuk, Sergey (2390) – Malakhov, Vladimir (2510)
The game started 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6 3.d4 Bg7 4.Nc3 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Nc6 6.Nb3 (see the diagram on the right).
Bringing the knight back to b3 is a typical move which White plays in various lines against the Sicilian Defense. As there was a lot of pressure on the knight in d4, he retreats it to a safer square.
The downside of this move, however, is that the knight does not eye the e6-square anymore which allows Black to place his light-squared bishop there.
6…Nf6 7.Be2 0-0 8.0-0 d6 – Now, Black plays …d6 anyway and we reach a position which could also arise from the Classical Dragon Variation in the Sicilian Defense.
However, with his move order, Black has avoided some very sharp lines in which White castles queenside and immediately goes for an attack against Black’s king.
This is what makes the Accelerated Dragon so great – White’s attacking setups simply don’t work.
9.Be3 Be6 10.f4 Rc8 (see the diagram on the left).
Both sides have played logical moves so far. It is instructive to see that all of Black’s pieces find harmonious squares in the Accelerated Dragon. Black has various ideas at his disposal now.
He can think about bringing his knight to c4 via a5 – a weak square in White’s camp. Black could also try to go for …a6 and …b5 in order to gain space on the queenside. Once Black’s pawn is on b5, White also has to consider the move …b4 by Black, driving away an important defender of the e4 pawn.
On top of that, it is important to mention that Black has a strong alternative to the move …Rc8.
He can play the strange looking move 10…Qc8! At first glance, the queen seems to be badly placed on c8. However, Black has 3 great ideas in store, which GM Damian Lemos explains in the video.
11.f5 – an aggressive move. White still wants to start an attack against Black’s king. After f5, however, Black gains control over the important e5-square. 11…Bd7 – of course, Black does not take the pawn on f5, weakening his kingside. 12.g4 Ne5 13.Nd2 (see the diagram on the right).
White wants to bring his passive knight on b3 into play. How to counter this move with Black? What would you play in this position?
13…Rxc3! (see the diagram on the left) – a recurring theme in the Dragon Variation of the Sicilian Defense. Black sacrifices an exchange in order to put White under pressure.
Keep in mind – this is not a tactical exchange sacrifice. White can take back on c3 and Black has no immediate tactical blow. It’s a positional sacrifice which includes some very deep strategic ideas.
If you want to know all about the ideas of this exchange sacrifice, you definitely have to watch the video with great explanations by GM Damian Lemos – an expert on the Accelerated Dragon Variation in the Sicilian Defence.
On top of that, GM Lemos shows you the rest of the game which ended after 8 more moves with a crushing victory for Black.
Part 2 – Hyper-Accelerated Dragon: Win with the Sicilian Defense
“It simply isn’t an adventure worth telling if there aren’t any dragons.” – J.R.R. Tolkien
If you love fast development, early attacks, and sharp positions, there’s only one opening to consider vs. 1.e4 – the Accelerated Dragon.
As the name suggests, the Accelerated Dragon improves on the standard Sicilian Defense Dragon variation by leaving out the d7-d6 move. Instead, Black gets to fianchetto his Dragon bishop and castle one move earlier.
Does Black lose anything by not playing …d6? No, Black actually GAINS by later playing d7-d5 in ONE move! That’s what makes the Accelerated Dragon one of the best chess openings for Black: a great position with dynamic possibilities and the luxury of an extra move!
After the moves 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 g6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Bg7 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Be3 Nf6 7. f3 O-O 8. Qd2 (see the diagram on the right), for example, Black can immediately counter White’s attempt to castle queenside and go for a kingside attack – the dangerous Yugoslav Attack – by 8…d5! breaking open the center! It is important to keep in mind that Black was able to play …d5 in one move as he did not play …d6 before.
Tartu 1953: Vohandu, L. – Keres, Paul
1.Nf3 g6 2.e4 c5. The game started with an unusual move order. The standard move order to reach this position is 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6. This early g6 in the Sicilian signifies the Hyper-Accelerated Dragon. 3.d4 cxd4 4.Qxd4 (see the diagram on the left).
It is important to mention that the Hyper-Accelerated Dragon move order with 2…g6 avoids the Rossolimo Variation (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5) which enjoys huge popularity these days at the cost of allowing 4.Qxd4. The Rossolimo was seen a number of times in the 2018 World Championship match between Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana.
After 4.Qxd4, almost all lines lead to dynamic positions and, according to the latest theory, White can’t prove any advantage in this opening line.
4…Nf6 – Black has to play this move in order to not lose his rook on h8. 5.e5 (see the diagram on the right) – White immediately tries to punish Black for not having played …d6.
5…Nc6 – Black does not have to move his knight on f6 immediately. The downside of bringing the queen into play so early is that Black can develop his other knight with tempo.
In this game, White went for 6.Qf4 (see the diagram on the left) which is not the main move and is rarely played. However, it is still very instructive to see how Black continues and easily outplays White who did not find a good square for his queen throughout the whole game.
If you want to know all about the ideas of these lines make sure you watch the video!
Part 3: The Accelerated Dragon – Win Against The Maroczy Bind
The Accelerated Dragon is the only Sicilian where Black does not need to worry about getting mated in 20 moves. In the regular Dragon Variation or the Najdorf Variation, for example, White can quickly launch a mating attack against Black’s king.
Against the Accelerated Dragon, all these quick attacking ideas like the dangerous Yugoslav Attack, an aggressive line for White against the regular Dragon Variation, simply don’t work.
So, if all the common aggressive setups don’t work for White against the Sicilian Defense, why doesn’t every chess player use the Accelerated Dragon as their main weapon against 1.e4?
The Accelerated Dragon Maroczy Bind – Something for Black to Fear?
While playing the Accelerated Dragon (instead of the normal accelerated Dragon) stops White from playing the Yugoslav Attack, it allows White to go for the Maroczy Bind.
The Maroczy Bind is characterized by White pawns on the squares c4 and e4, with White’s d-pawn having been exchanged for Black’s c-pawn (see the diagram on the right).
This opening setup is named after the Hungarian grandmaster Géza Maróczy. Many players still think that Black faces a tough defensive task in Maroczy structures and that Black suffers the whole game without any real chances of counterplay.
However, this is not true. Many Accelerated Dragon experts like Grandmasters Mamedov, Iturrizaga or Tiviakov have demonstrated fantastic counterattacking prospects for Black in the Maroczy Bind.
In the above video, GM Damian Lemos shows you a relatively unknown yet highly effective sideline for Black against the Accelerated Dragon Maroczy Bind which provides you with excellent chances to take over the initiative.
Copenhagen 1963: Mertins, Klaus – Andersen, M
The game we’re looking at started 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.c4 – White establishes a typical Maroczy structure with pawns on c4 and e4. 5…Bg7 6.Be3 Nh6!? (see the diagram on the left).
The main move here for Black is 6…Nf6. At first glance, this knight move to h6 looks weird. There is a common saying that goes: “A knight on the rim is dim.” Here, however, Black has the idea to quickly play the move …f5 and to challenge White’s center. On top of that, the g7-b2 diagonal for Black’s bishop is still open.
If White plays a logical move like 7.Qd2 here, he immediately runs into trouble. 7…Ng4! – Black attacks White’s strong bishop on e3 which can’t move as it would leave the knight on d4 hanging. 8.Nxc6 dxc6! 9.Qxd8 Kxd8 (see the diagram on the right).
White is already a lot worse here. His bishop on e3 is under attack and his pawn on b2 is hanging. After 10.Bc1 Bd4! – attacking the pawn on f2 – 11.f3 Nf2, White loses at least a pawn.
We already see that the move 6…Nh6 can successfully be used as a surprise weapon as it is difficult for White to find the best continuation over the board.
In the game, White played 7.Be2 – stopping …Ng4. White wants to castle kingside and finish his development. Black continued with the thematic 7…f5.
8.Nxc6?! – This is already a mistake. After 8…dxc6! (see the diagram on the left) – offering to exchange queens and – even more important – keeping control of the d4-square, avoiding a move like 9.Bd4.
White wanted to avoid the exchange of queens in the game and went for 9.Qc1. This poor queen move, however, is a clear sign that something went wrong for White in the opening. Black is already slightly better and he can take over the initiative.
If you want to see the rest of the game and know all about the ideas in this setup for Black against the Maroczy Bind, make sure you watch the video!
Conclusion – Destroy White with the Accelerated Dragon
The Accelerated Dragon is an opening which enjoys huge popularity today. Still, however, most White players don’t know what to play against it. Even strong players can get crushed, as you saw in these videos.
Do you want to learn more about the key concepts, the theory and common tactical ideas of the Accelerated Dragon? Also view our other Accelerated Dragon articles. There’s is also video of IM Raja Panjwani demonstrating the accelerated dragon move order step-by-step in a course by our friend’s over at Chessable. We believe this, too, will equip you for future matches.
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