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Chess: Sosonko's dragon meets St George

SOSONKO'S pet dragon is sick. For almost 20 years, the Dutch grandmaster Gena Sosonko has championed the dragon variation of the Sicilian Defence. Popular at club level for its ready-made, easy-to-follow strategy, the dragon has always had troubles surviving the lances of modern grandmasters, but in Sosonko's hands the beast has performed creditably. By keeping one analytic step ahead of the latest refutation, he kept it alive at the highest levels.

Last week, Sosonko's dragon met its St George. With 10. h4, Jeroen Piket adopted the standard anti- dragon formation. White aims for an automatic attack with 0-0-0, g4, h5 and Bh6. Black counters with play along the c-file. In the 1960s, 10 . . . Rc8 was the automatic move, in the 1970s it was 10 . . . Qa5 followed by Rfc8, and in the 1980s 10 . . . h5. Now the dragon faithful have switched back to the old move.

Sosonko's 19 . . . Be5 is the latest wrinkle on the dragon's skin, preventing Qh2 and preparing to meet 20. f4 with 20 . . . Bxd4 21. Bxd4 Rxc2 now that Qh6 is no longer possible. However, 20. Qd3] and 21. Rxh7]] caught Sosonko in a brilliant piece of home preparation. After 23. Rh6 Black cannot defend g6 since 23 . . . Be8 loses to 24. Ne6+ Kg8 25. Rxg6+ Bxg6 26. Qxg6+ Kh8 27. Ng5. After 27. dxe6 White threatens Qh7+ and Qf7 mate, and 27 . . . Qxf3 loses to 28. Rh7+ Kf6 (Kf8 is just as bad after Bh6+) 29. Rf7+. At the end, the threat of Qf7 mate could only be delayed a single move by 29 . . . Rg7 30. Rh8+.

White: Piket Black: Sosonko 1 e4 c5 16 hxg6 fxg6 2 Nf3 d6 17 Kb1 b5 3 d4 cxd4 18 Nd5 Nxd5 4 Nxd4 Nf6 19 exd5 Be5 5 Nc3 g6 20 Qd3 Qb7 6 Be3 Bg7 21 Rxh7 Kxh7 7 f3 Nc6 22 Rh1+ Kg7 8 Qd2 0-0 23 Rh6 Rg8 9 Bc4 Bd7 24 Rxg6+ Kh8 10 h4 Rc8 25 Rh6+ Kg7 11 Bb3 Ne5 26 Ne6+ Bxe6 12 0-0-0 Nc4 27 dxe6 Kf8 13 Bxc4 Rxc4 28 Qf5+ Bf6 14 g4 Qc7 29 Qh5 1-0 15 h5 Rc8