Chess

The Dragon variation of the Sicilian Defence ought to be put on a protected species list. Popular with children and club players, the Dragon, characterised by the saurian, spiky back of its pawn formation - d6, e7, f7, g6 and h7 - offers an attractive ready-made strategy. The bishop on g7, rook on the c-file and a quick advance of the b-pawn all combine to create an attack against White's Q-side. Black can win in automatic fashion if White doesn't know what he is doing.

The trouble for Dragon-fanciers has been that White players have become increasingly aware of the correct ways to douse its flames. In the early 1960s, the beast was almost driven to extinction when an anti-Dragon plan (sometimes called the St George Attack) was invented with Be3, f3, Qd2, 0-0-0, h4, h5, Bh6 and a quick mate down the h-file.

Dragon players developed counter-measures, but the whole variation was never trusted at the highest levels. Viktor Korchnoi's dramatic loss to Anatoly Karpov with a Dragon in their 1974 match was its sole outing in the final stages of a world championship.

Recently, however, the young Bulgarian Vesselin Topalov has been breathing new fire into the Dragon. Here is how he beat Nigel Short last week in Linares.

Short's 12.g4 was designed to avoid a favourite Topalov line of 12.h4 h5. With 14.Ncxb5 White announced his intention to defend grimly and win with the extra pawn. 14...Bxb5 15.Nxb5 Nxf3 16.Qe2 Ne5 17.Nxa7 might have justified his play, but Topalov's continuation made it look dubious. When 23...d5! came (24.exd5 loses to Bf5), White was struggling. Topalov played the final attack with impressive precision.

White: N. Short

Black: V. Topalov

1 e4 c5 22 Kd2 Qc7

2 Nf3 d6 23 Qd3 d5!

3 d4 cxd4 24 Kc1 dxe4

4 Nxd4 Nf6 25 fxe4 Bc4

5 Nc3 g6 26 Qd2 e5

6 Be3 Bg7 27 Rd6 Nf4

7 f3 Nc6 28 Bxf4 exf4

8 Qd2 0-0 29 Rd1 f3

9 Bc4 Bd7 30 Qf4 Qe7

10 0-0-0 Ne5 31 h4 Be2

11 Bb3 Rc8 32 R1d5 Rbc7

12 g4 b5 33 Nd4 Bc4

13 g5 Nh5 34 Qxf3 Bxd5

14 Ncxb5 Nc4! 35 Rxd5 Rxc3

15 Bxc4 Rxc4 36 Qf6 Qc7

16 Qd3 Rb4 37 Qf2 Qc4

17 Nc3 Qb8 38 Kb2 Qb4+

18 Nb3 Be6 39 Ka1 Rh3

19 Qa6 Bxc3 40 Qf1 Re3

20 bxc3 Rb7 White resigns

21 Rd4 Rc8

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