International Master Andrew Martin from England presents a regular series of articles to answer any questions that Chess.com readers have about the game of chess.
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Now it's over to Andrew for this week's questions and answers...
Anonymous Hello Andrew. I really enjoy your column and have recently been taking chess more seriously. Here is my problem. I have games where I get good positions and I begin to convert my advantages into a fine attack, and when going for a combination I miss an in-between move! Which gives me a worse position and looking for the draw. I have done so much tactical training, cds books etc, but they only really cater to forced variations, threats etc. So I was wondering whether you have any training methods or suggestions to counter this? Thanks for any help.
Messing up good or winning positions on a frequent basis is one of the most frustrating aspects of chess. I would say firstly: persevere! Things will get better. Possibly asking yourself questions after every move such as: Is he threatening anything ? What are my plans, what are his plans, will help too. Ask yourself: am I creating the types of position where mistakes are likely to occur ?
Consider the Torre Attack. The Torre is based on a rock-solid development plan, so even if Black knows exactly how to respond or gets aggressive he can often find himself banging his head against a brick wall. Club players sometimes make small mistakes, so it is nice to be playing the type of position that is almost fireproof. It is very difficult to make a game-losing mistake as White in the Torre. In our coming game, one of the most dangerous attacking players the United States has ever produced, struggles to open the game as Black, but can get nowhere against the Torre formation.
1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.Bg5 c5 4.e3 h6 5.Bxf6 [5.Bh4 keeps a bit more tension in the position. It's a question of taste, but I think Kogan was aiming for clarity against Christiansen. He wanted first and foremost to get to a situation where Black could not display his remarkable attacking skill.]
5...Qxf6 6.Nbd2 cxd4 7.exd4 Nc6 8.c3 d5 9.Bd3 Bd6 10.0–0 0–0 11.Qe2 This is a nice position for White if he wishes to insure himself against losing. His pieces are all working well together, he has a safe King and the Rooks are poised to come into the game. Left alone, White's plan is surely Rae1 and Ne5, followed by f2-f4, so Black takes action. TIP Aim for coherent development in the Torre. This will always stand you in good stead. [11.Re1 e5]
11...Re8 12.Rae1 e5! 13.Nxe5 Nxe5 14.dxe5 Bxe5 At the cost of inheriting a weak pawn on d5, Black has freed his queenside pieces and threatens ...Bxh2+.
15.Qd1! Carefully avoiding both [15.Qh5 Qf4! and; 15.Qf3 Qg5 both of which give Black plenty of activity to compensate him for the isolated pawn.]
15...Bd7 16.Nf3 Bc7 [16...Bg4 17.Be2! is a continuation of the same solid strategy, Black is quite unable to make any headway against the White kingside and still stands a bit worse due to the pawn on d5. 17...Bf4 (17...Bxf3 18.Bxf3 d4 19.c4) 18.Nd4! Bxe2 19.Rxe2]
17.Rxe8+ Rxe8 18.Re1 It's clear that Kogan is happy with a draw and also that Black cannot stop him!
18...Rxe1+ 19.Qxe1 Kf8 20.Nd4 [20.Qe3 Bb6] 20...Qe5 21.Qxe5 Bxe5 22.g3 Bxd4 23.cxd4 g5 24.f4 f6 25.Kf2 Ke7 26.h4 ½–½
White has retained his small edge to the end. Now you may quite rightly ask me : 'who wants to play for a draw with White'? I would say it is very useful to be able to play an opening where you have this option in your locker. The average player quite regularly ends up playing chess when tired, on call of duty. Economy of effort is not at all a bad thing at these moments. The Torre will allow you to set up a promising position, with no development problems, without expending too much energy. It is thus a very practical opening. TIP Busy chessplayers need to find coping solutions when forming an opening repertoire.
Mark Liew Dear Andrew, I have been playing online chess quite actively for more then 3 years now. I had achieved an online rating of around 1600 last year but recently I find it increasingly difficult to improve and consequently feel discouraged. As such, I have not played online since February. I guess the one question that's burning in me is this, is chess simply degrading to a memorizing sequential game of best 'played' moves? I find that chess leaves very little room for creativity nowadays because of huge opening theory and databases. Sometimes I feel kinda pointless playing out the same moves again and again in the opening.
Also, what does it take to improve in chess? Is there a tried and tested method? Even for players like me who have very limited time on their hands? My lifelong goal would have been to break 2000 ELO online, is that possible for a guy of my age (26 years old)? I usually play rapid games of 10+5 mins or 15–0 minutes. Should I play longer games? Thank you for your time in this matter. A discouraged chess player.
Dear Mark, One of the most important aspects of chess is the social element. I think you must simply play more offine! It sounds as though you are a little bit negative about chess, but of course that is easy to do if you are playing most of your games alone at a computer screen against opposition that can at best be described as 'abstract'. Online chess is OK, but it is absolutely no substitute for over the board play with a flesh and blood opponent sitting opposite you. My strong advice is to join a club or play tournaments.
Chess.com member JAFAREBELLASBOE Hi Andrew,Not been on chess.com for long and bit of a novice, must admit. My question is this... If a player is prepared to exchange queens early on in a chess match, could this then lead to a good insight as to how good a chess player is regarding intelligent use of other pieces/tactics or is it wise to keep your own queen on board as far as is possible? Thank you
Dear Sir, Queenless positions are just as much a part of chess as any other aspect of the game. To play them successfully you need good technique and as you say, intelligence. In 2000 Kramnik frustrated Kasparov by repeatedly using the Berlin Defence to the Ruy Lopez, offering queenless middlegames from the outset in order to nullify Kasparov's superior dynamic talent. Many Berlin's have passed under the bridge since then.
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0–0 Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8 Battle lines are drawn. It is useless to approach a position like this in terms of variations. What is important is to list strengths and weaknesses and what both players should be aiming for. The list stacks up as follows:
1) Kingside pawn majority
2) Safe King
3) Easy development
4) Immediate control of the centre.
1) Initiative may run out of steam
1) Two strong Bishops.
2) The Bishop on c8 has no opponent, therefore light-squared play is the key.
3) Black's King is well-placed for any endgames that arise
1) The Black position needs patient unravelling, Black remains passive for a while.
2) The Black King interferes with the coordination of his Rooks. A summary like this helps us to understand what follows.
9.Nc3 Bd7 [I can show you other recent games and it is important to play though them fully to get a feel for the positions that arise. 9...h6 10.b3 (I believe 10.Rd1+ Ke8 11.Ne2! is more promising,cutting down on the options of the Bc8: 11...g5 (11...Be6 12.Nf4) 12.b3 Be6 13.Bb2 Bd5 14.Ne1 Black's King is less secure on e8 than c8.) 10...a5 11.a4 Be6 12.Ne2 This is how Fischer used to play this line for White,except he would play the Knight to f4 as soon as he could. 12...Bd5 13.Rd1 Kc8 14.Ne1 g5 Stopping Nf4 15.Bb2 Bg7 16.Nd3 b6 17.f3 Kb7 18.Kf2 Be6 19.g4 Ne7 20.Ng3 Rhd8 21.h3 c5 22.f4 The overall aim for White is to create a passed pawn on the Kingside,so you could say this is logical. However, Black creates light-squared play with his following move. 22...c4! 23.bxc4 Bxc4 24.f5 Nc6 25.e6! Bf8 26.exf7 (Now 26.Bf6! maintains White's advantage.) 26...Bxf7 27.Ne4 Bc4 28.Bf6 Re8 29.Kf3 Ka7 30.Ndf2 Ba6 31.h4 gxh4 32.Bxh4 Bb7 33.Kf4 Nb4 34.c4 Na6 35.Nc3 Bc6 36.Nfe4 Nc5 37.Nf6 Re7 38.Nh5 Rf7 39.Nb5+ Kb7 40.Ra2 Re8 41.Nf6 Ree7 42.Nd4 Bxa4 43.Rxa4 Bg7 44.Nh5 Re4+ 45.Kf3 Bxd4 46.Ra3 Rxf5+ 47.gxf5 Rxh4 48.Ng3 a4 49.Ra2 Be5 50.Rd5 Bd6 51.Rxd6 cxd6 52.f6 Ne6 53.Rxa4 Rf4+ 54.Ke3 Rxf6 55.Ra1 Ng5 56.Ne2 Rf3+ 57.Kd4 Kc6 58.Ra8 Rf8 59.Ra7 Ne6+ 60.Ke3 Rf5 61.Rh7 Re5+ 62.Kd2 h5 63.Rh6 Kc5 64.Kd3 Kb4 65.Ng3 Nf4+ 66.Kd4 Rc5 67.Rxd6 Rxc4+ 68.Ke3 b5 69.Rd1 Ng2+ 70.Kf3 Nh4+ 71.Ke2 Rc2+ 72.Kf1 Ng2 73.Rb1+ Kc4 74.Nf5 b4 75.Kg1 Kc5 76.Ra1 b3 77.Ra5+ Kb4 78.Ra7 Nf4 79.Rb7+ Kc3 80.Ne3 Rc1+ 0–1 Kamsky,G (2725)-Aronian,L (2750)/Wijk aan Zee 2009/CB06_2009; 9...Ke8 10.h3 h5 11.Ne2 Be7 12.Re1 a5 13.Bg5 a4 14.a3 Be6 15.Nf4 Bd5 16.Nxd5 (16.Bxe7! Bxf3 (16...Kxe7 17.Ng5 Rh6 18.Rad1 Ra5 19.Rd2) 17.Bg5 Bd5 18.Rad1±) 16...cxd5 17.Rad1 c6 18.g4 hxg4 19.hxg4 Nh6 20.Bxe7 Kxe7 21.Rd4 g5 22.c4 dxc4 23.Rxc4 Ra5 24.Kg2 Rb5 25.Rh1 Rxb2 26.Rxa4 f6 27.Re4 Rxf2+ 28.Kxf2 Nxg4+ 29.Rxg4 Rxh1 30.exf6+ Kxf6 31.Rxg5 Ke6 32.Ke2 Kd6 33.Nd2 Rh4 34.Kd3 b5 35.Rg6+ Kd5 36.Rg5+ Kd6 37.Rg3 Kc5 38.Kc3 Kb6 39.Kb3 Rd4 40.Kc2 Ra4 41.Kb2 c5 42.Rg6+ Kc7 43.Nb1 b4 44.Kb3 bxa3 45.Nxa3 Rh4 46.Nc4 ½–½ Timofeev,A (2671)-Inarkiev,E (2656)/Moscow 2009/CB07_2009
Of course from these games we see what a tough nut the Black position is to crack, so it is here I would like to summarise the battle plan for White.
1) You have to be very patient
2) Creating a kingside passed pawn is the overall aim.
3) if you can exchange off Black's light squared Bishop this will generally be good for you.
4) If you can't, subdue this Bishop.]
10.h3! So naturally 10 h3 fits in with all the above aims.
10...h6 Black for his part has to calm the White Knights. Thus ..h6 prevents Ng5 and a subsequent ....g7-g5 dissuades Ne2-f4. [Black can play the King to c8, but I found this game lurking in the ChessPublishing archives and it's a superb performance by White: 10...Kc8 11.b3 b6 12.Bb2 a5?! Black should play 12...Be7 first. (12...Be7 13.Ne4 Nh4 14.Nxh4 Bxh4 15.Rad1 Rd8 16.Rfe1) 13.g4 Now White can roll with her dangerous kingside majority. 13...Ne7 14.Ng5 Be8 15.f4 h5 16.Kg2 Kb7 17.Rad1 a4 18.Kg3 White plays very calmly and avoids giving her opponent counterplay. (18.Nxa4 Nd5) 18...axb3 19.axb3 Ng6 20.Ra1! Exchanging the Black's only active piece in the position. 20...Rxa1 21.Bxa1 Be7 22.Nce4 Now Black can't stop f5 anymore. 22...Nf8 23.f5± Nh7 24.Nxh7 (24.Nxf7!? Bxf7 25.e6) 24...Rxh7 25.g5 h4+ 26.Kh2 c5 27.f6 gxf6 28.gxf6 Bf8 29.Rg1 Bh6 30.Rg4 Be3 31.Rg7? (31.e6! immediately might be more precise. 31...fxe6 32.Rg7 Rxg7 33.fxg7 Bf7 34.Nf6+-) 31...Rh8 32.e6 Rf8? (32...Bc6 33.exf7 Bf4+ 34.Kg1 Rf8 was more resistant.) 33.Be5!+- Kc8 34.Kg2 Black has no moves. 34...fxe6 35.Rxc7+ Kd8 36.Rb7 c4 37.bxc4 Bc5 38.Rb8+ Kd7 39.Ng5 Bd6 40.Bxd6 Kxd6 41.Kh2 Kc7 42.Rxe8 Rxe8 43.f7 A very convincing performance from Hou Yifan in the very difficult Berlin Line. 1–0 Hou Yifan (2298)-Ruan Lufei (2370)/Wuxi CHN 2006/[Olivier Renet]]
11.b3 Ne7 [11...Kc8 12.Bb2 Ne7 13.Rfe1 c5 14.Rad1 b6 15.Nd2 (15.Rd2! seems good for White to me. 15...Bc6 16.Rd3! b5 (16...Kb7 17.e6! fxe6 18.Rxe6±) 17.e6±) 15...Be6 16.Nde4 c4 17.Kh2 cxb3 18.cxb3 Ng6 19.Nb5 Bd7 20.Nec3 Bc5 21.Ba3 Bxa3 22.Nxa3 Re8 23.Nc4 b5 24.Na5 Rxe5 25.Rxe5 Nxe5 26.Rd5 ½–½ Motylev,A (2676)-Volokitin,A (2671)/Wijk aan Zee 2009/CB06_2009]
12.Bb2 Ng6 13.Ne4 Kc8 14.Kh2 Nf4 15.Rad1 Bf5 16.Rfe1 White has a small, nagging edge, typical of this line. Not everyone has the defensive technique of Kramnik, nor the need in club chess to simply play for a draw with Black. So what happens next is very instructive and demonstrates how White should handle this type of middlegame. Basically, it's all about getting the kingside pawns going.
16...Bb4 17.c3 Be7 Black hopes that c2-c3 will prove weakening.
18.Nd4 Bd7 19.g4! h5 [19...Re8 20.Bc1 Ng6 21.Ng3 Bf8 22.f4 was possibly a better defensive try for Black,although it is pretty cheerless.]
20.Kg3 Ng6 21.Nf3 hxg4 22.hxg4 a5 23.Rh1! Exchanges favour White here. Note that White swaps off Black's active pieces, a standard master device. If Black cannot create counterplay, it makes it that much easier to push the kingside pawns.
23...Rxh1 24.Rxh1± a4 25.c4 axb3 26.axb3 Ra2 27.Ra1! Rxa1 28.Bxa1 Kd8 [28...c5 29.Nfg5 Be8 30.f4±]
29.Nfg5 Bxg5 [After 29...Ke8 White planned 30.f4 Nf8 31.Bd4 b6 32.f5 c5 33.Bc3 Bc6 34.Kf4 with slow, but steady progression.]
30.Nxg5 Ke7 31.f4 c5 [31...Nf8 32.f5 g6 33.e6!! A super move, rendering Black totally passive. 33...fxe6 34.f6+ Kd8 (34...Ke8 35.Be5 Kd8 36.f7 Ke7 37.Bxc7 e5 38.c5) 35.Kf4 c5 36.Nf7+ Ke8 37.Ne5 Bc6 38.Nxc6 bxc6 39.g5 Nh7 40.Bb2 Kd7 41.Be5 Kd8 42.Kg4 Kd7 43.Bf4 Nf8 44.Kf3 Nh7 45.Ke4 Nf8 46.Ke5 Ke8 47.Be3 Kf7 48.Ke4 Nd7 49.Bf4+-]
32.f5 [32.e6! is thematic and very strong: 32...fxe6 33.Bxg7 b6 34.Bc3 Bc8 35.Kf3 Bb7+ 36.Ke3 Nh4 37.Be5 Kd7 38.Nh7 White has his outside passed pawn ready to advance.]
32...Nxe5 33.Bxe5 f6 34.Kf4?! [I must say I prefer 34.Nf3 fxe5 35.Nxe5 Be8 36.Kf4 b6 (36...Kf6 37.g5+ Ke7 38.Nd3 Kd6 39.g6! Bd7 40.Kg5+-) 37.g5 Bh5 38.Ng4 Be8 39.Ke5 Bh5 40.Ne3 when White maintains a big advantage.]
34...fxg5+ 35.Kxg5 Kf7 36.Bxc7 b5 37.Kf4 bxc4 38.bxc4 g6! 39.Ke5 gxf5 40.gxf5 Ba4 41.Bd8 Ke8 [41...Bd7! should draw: 42.Bf6 Ba4 43.Bg5 Bd7! 44.f6 (44.Be3 Ba4 45.Bxc5 Bb3=) 44...Be6=]
42.Bh4 Bc2 43.f6 Bg6 44.Kd6 Bf7 45.Kxc5 Kd7 46.Kb5 Kc7 47.Bg3+ Kb7 48.c5 Be8+ 49.Kc4 Kc6 50.Bd6 Bg6 51.Kd4 Kd7 52.Ke5 Bh5 53.Kf5 Bf7 54.Bf8 Be8 55.Be7 1–0 Only tough defenders or ornery personalities should apply to play the Berlin. Kramnik was very successful against Kasparov, because he knew that White couldn't smash Black off the board with a sweeping initiative; instead he had to be extremely patient.
To answer the original question: a chessplayer has to earn to like queenless positions, as they are going to crop up from time to time. However, as we've seen, they can be full of interest.
Anonymous Hi Mr Andrew. I am a fairly experienced chess player who knows all the rules, but wants to learn some openings. I had a look at the moves for a couple of common ones, like the Ruy Lopez and the Najdorf variation of the Sicilian Defense. I saw that the moves were given for both black, and white, so I was confused. What caused the confusion was the fact that if, I for example, am white and use Ruy Lopez, then will my opponent play the exact required moves for black. In GM games, and such, how does one person play an opening, without the other player playing exactly the moves required for Player 1's opening? Thank you so much!
Dear Sir, It sounds that you need to learn the ideas behind the chess openings. A good grasp of general principles will help you to play all positions well, irrespective of the opening moves played. I would concentrate on grounding yourself in the basics of opening play. Find yourself a copy of 'The Ideas behind the Chess Openings' by Reuben Fine, which is a classic work and will certainly help you. [Ed – the idea that opening moves can be played without regard to your opponent’s responses is a suprisingly common misconception among beginners. Whatever opening you try to play, you have to take account of your opponent’s replies – you can’t play an opening if he doesn’t play the ‘right’ moves in response!]
Benny Kristensen Dear Mr. Martin I play chess at club level (1602) in Denmark. I recently got your excellent ABC of the Sicilian Dragon. I enjoy this CD very much and think that you are very good at explaning how to play this opening. The dragondorf really inspired me and I have good results already. But…In the game Karjakin – Romero Holmes you claim that black should play like in the game Foster-Kadara and play 11….b5. I tried this when fooling around with fritz and fritz played 12.Nd5 and after 12….Nxd5 13.Nxb5! Qb8 14. Qxd5. Fritz claimed that white was already 1.20 pawns up. I don’t see much compensation for black. If you have the time I would like to hear your comment on this.
Dear Benny, I think you are right! Let us replay the featured game and see if we can find some improvements.
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 a6!? 8.Qd2 Nbd7 Naturally, Black waits with ...b7-b5 until White either plays Bc4 or castles long.
9.Bc4 [9.g4 b5 10.g5 Nh5 11.a4 is a more positional approach. Despite White's success in the following game, it looks ambitious : 11...bxa4 (11...b4 12.Nd5±) 12.Rxa4 Bauer,C-Lopez Martinez,J/France 2002 and now I think that 12...0–0! is right: 13.Nd5 (13.Nc6 Ne5! 14.Nxe5 Bxe5 15.f4 Bg7 16.Be2 Qd7! 17.Rc4 (17.Bxh5 Bxc3) 17...Qh3 18.Nd5 Ng3) 13...Bb7 14.Rb4 Rb8 15.Bxa6 Bxa6 16.Nc6 Rxb4! 17.Nxd8 (17.Qxb4 Qa8 18.Ncxe7+ Kh8 19.Qxd6 Ne5) 17...Rxb2 18.Nxe7+ Kh8 19.Kf2 Rxd8; Meanwhile 9.a4 0–0 10.h4 h5 11.0–0–0?! does not feel right; a judgement confirmed by the following game : 11...Ne5 12.Bg5 Bd7 13.Be2 Rc8 14.Nb3 Be6 15.Nd5 Bxd5 16.exd5 Nc4 17.Bxc4 Rxc4 18.a5 Qd7 19.Qd3 Rfc8 20.Rd2 Rb4 21.Re1 Rb5 22.Bxf6 Bxf6 23.Re4 b6 Hynes,A-Ward,C/West Bromwich 2004 Combining a2-a4 and 0–0–0 is an uneasy mix for White!]
9...Qc7 10.Bb3 h6 A move which cannot be discounted, however odd it may look. Black simply stops Bh6 and will get on with his queenside play as necessary. I'm coming round to the conclusion that this is Black's best chance in the 'Dragondorf, but he must be very accurate. 11.0–0–0 Nb6?!N [I now propose 11...Nc5! as an improvement for Black: 12.Kb1 a) 12.Nd5 Nxd5 (12...Nxb3+ 13.Nxb3 Nxd5 14.exd5 Bd7 15.Bd4 0–0 16.Rhe1 Rfe8 17.Bxg7 Kxg7 18.Qd4+) 13.Bxd5 e6 14.Bb3 Bd7 15.Ne2 Nxb3+ 16.axb3 Rc8 17.Nc3 Qa5÷ 18.Qxd6? Qa1+; b) 12.g4 Nxb3+ 13.Nxb3 b5 14.h4 b4 15.Nd5 Nxd5 16.exd5 a5; 12...Nxb3 13.cxb3 b5 14.Rc1 Qb7=; Benny mentions 11...b5 12.Nd5 Nxd5 and now the move I had missed 13.Nxb5!! I do not see how Black gets out of this one: 13...axb5 (13...Qb8 14.Qxd5 0–0 15.Nd4±) 14.Qxd5 0–0 15.Qxa8 Nc5 16.Qa3±]
12.e5! I am sure that Romero Holmes missed this move. White sets up threats down the d file.
12...Nfd7 [If 12...dxe5 13.Ndb5 axb5 14.Nxb5+-]
13.exd6 Qxd6 14.Rhe1 [14.Ne4 Qc7 15.Rhe1±] 14...Qc7 [14...0–0 15.Bxh6] 15.Bf4 [Missing the crushing 15.Ndb5! axb5 16.Bxb6 Qxb6 (16...Nxb6 17.Nxb5 Qd7 18.Qf4+-) 17.Rxe7+!]
15...e5 16.Ndb5 axb5 17.Nxb5 Qc6 18.Nd6+ Kf8 [18...Ke7! however risky, was necessary, and then 19.Nxf7 Nc4 20.Bxc4 Qxc4 21.Nxh8 Bxh8÷ leads to a very messy situation.]
19.Nxf7 Nc5? [19...Nc4 20.Bxc4 Qxc4 21.Nxh8 Rxa2 22.Nxg6+ Kf7 23.Qd6!! Ra1+ 24.Kd2 Ra6 gives Black a sporting chance to hang on.]
20.Qd8+ Qe8 21.Qxe8+ Kxe8 22.Nxh8 Nxb3+ 23.axb3 Bxh8 24.Bxe5 Bxe5 25.Rxe5+ Kf7 26.Rd4± It's impossible for Black to muster any realistic chances against White's rock solid position and three extra pawns. In fact,it is remarkable that Romero Holmes lasts as long as he does.
6...Nd7 27.Rf4+ Nf6 28.Ra4 Rb8 29.Rea5 b5 30.Ra8 Rb6 31.R4a7+ Bd7 32.Ra6 Rxa6 33.Rxa6 Nd5 34.Kd2 Nf4 35.g3 Ne6 36.Ke3 h5 37.Rb6 Ke7 38.b4 Be8 39.b3 Ng7 40.c4 Nf5+ 41.Ke4 Nd6+ 42.Ke5 Nf7+ 43.Kd5 Ng5 44.Rb7+ Kf6 45.f4 Nf3 46.cxb5 Nxh2 47.b6 Nf1 48.Rc7 1–0 Black went into this whole mess with his eyes open. He knew what he was doing and he took the risk. With ...a6 and ...h6 Black walks a fine line in the new Dragon. Well done to Benny for finding an improvement in White's play.