Games: Chess

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The Independent Culture
WORKING IN Budapest last month on the film Luzhin's Defence, I wanted at one moment to find a game to satisfy a newspaper headline I'd concocted: "St George downed by Russian Dragon" - concerning the defeat of "St George" Thomas - the English Master Sir George Thomas (1881-1972) by Luzhin in a Sicilian Dragon.

I don't know whether that headline will appear on screen, but I did want a Dragon and so turned to my database of 2,000 games in 28 tournaments between 1928 and 1932. I found eight games in which the old move order of 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 d6 6 Be2 g6 was employed - a sequence rarely seen today because both the Richter Rauser with 6 Bg5 and the Sozin 6 Bc4 effectively prevent 6 ...g6: But, interestingly, there wasn't a single example of the modern move order: 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 g6.

This is, of course, the standard sequence adopted in the Ukrainian grandmaster Mikhail Golubev's Easy Guide to the Dragon (Everyman, pounds 13.99). Golubev, a Dragon enthusiast for many years, has divided the 144 pages into 23 small chapters, making it his "priority to show the complete range of White's choices against the Dragon in general, and a selection of recommended replies for Black against the main lines of the Yugoslav Attack".

So dense is modern Dragon theory, especially in the Yugoslav Attack that is adopted by White in about half of contemporary games - (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 and either 9 Bc4 or 9 0-0-0 - they lead to totally different variations. So the book's title itself is an oxymoron. But in navigating a labyrinth the most important thing of all is personal recommendation from an expert. When I collected a couple of dozen of Golubev's Dragon games (as Black) from a large database, the score was 10-2 in his favour, plus a number of draws. So he should certainly be listened to.

One of the things I dislike about all such books - though with such a huge amount to cram in it's hardly surprising - is the lack of complete games in the main body. But at least there is one in the introduction, albeit an early inundation of the long-suffering monster.

Black played too passively in the early middlegame - 14 ...b5! would have initiated counterplay and finally got overrun on the kingside. If 22 ...Nxd4 23 Qh6; or 24 ...gxh5 25 Qg5+ Kh7 26 Qxh5+ Kg8 27 Rf3. At the end 25 ...Kxh8 26 Qh6+ Kg8 27 Qg7 is mate.

White: Isidor Gunsberg

Black: Hermann Von Gottschall

Frankfurt, 1987

1 e4 c5

2 Nc3 Nc6

3 Nf3 g6

4 d4 cxd4

5 Nxd4 Bg7

6 Be3 d6

7 Be2 Bd7

8 0-0 Nf6

9 Qd2 0-0

10 Rad1 Rc8

11 f4 Ng4!?

12 Bxg4 Bxg4

13 Rde1 Bd7

14 Nde2 Be8!

15 Rf3 Qd7

16 Ref1 b5

17 b3 Qb7

18 Rh3 b4

19 Nd5! e6

20 f5! exd5

21 f6 Bh8

22 Bd4 Bd7

23 Rh4 h5

24 Rxh5 Bg4

25 Rxh8+!