The Accelerated Dragon (Part 1)

Feb 22, 2010, 5:13 PM |

The Accelerated Dragon (Part 1) — An Introduction to the Accelerated Dragon.

This is the starting position of the Accelerated Dragon variation of the immensely popular Sicilian Defense.  The Accelerated Dragon sometimes has a repuation for being a drawish opening, but for those of us below Grandmaster level, the opening offers good play for black without the risks associated with the main Dragon. 

The Accelerated Dragon is a fairly "hypermodern" opening, preferring to control the center from the flanks and with pieces rather than occupying the center with pawns.  By playing 1... c5, black establishes some control of the center (in particular, the d4 square) from the side.  2... Nc6 is a logical follow-up, furthering black's control of d4.  Fianchettoing the kingside bishop with ...g6 and ...Bg7 adds even more control to d4. 

After the trade of the black c5 pawn for the white d4 pawn, black does have a central pawn majority (e- and d-pawns vs. white's e-pawn), but will often keep the central pawns held back in reserve, waiting for the opportune moment to strike.  Instead, black's initial focus is on active play for his pieces.

Over the course of a few articles, I'd like to take a look at some of the key ideas and lines in the Accelerated Dragon.

The Dragon vs. the Accelerated Dragon

First, a quick look at how the Accelerated Dragon is different from the "main" Dragon variation.  In the Accelerated Dragon, black plays 2... Nc6, developing a piece and allowing the d7 pawn to come to d5 in one move.  In the Dragon, black plays 2... d6 rather than 2... Nc6.  2... d6 does have the virtue of preventing an early e4-e5 push from white, meaning black can safely play ...Nf6 to force Nc3 before white can play c4, thus avoiding the Maroczy Bind.  However, 2... d6 is just enough slower than 2... Nc6 that white has time to develop his pieces in a strong attacking formation known as the Yugoslav attack:

This is the starting position of the Yugoslav Attack. White has the choice of playing 9. O-O-O or 9. Bc4 (with O-O-O coming later). White will start a kingside pawn storm with h4 and h5, while black will seek counterplay against white's king on the queenside.  The game is very sharp, and black is often subjected to a powerful attack down the h-file.  Sharp and accurate play is required of both sides, and one mistake can prove fatal.

By playing 2... Nc6 instead of 2... d6, the Accelerated Dragon gives black a good game if white tries to set up a Yugoslav attack formation.

While the Accelerated Dragon prevents the Yugoslav Attack, it does allow other continuations from white due to the fact that black does not control the e5 square with a pawn on d6.  This leaves us with three "main" lines unique to the Accelerated Dragon:  (i) the main line with 5. Nc3 and 7. Bc4, (ii) the Maroczy Bind with 5. c4, and (iii) the 7. Nxc6 line. 

Note that games can also transpose to the "classical" line of the Dragon, where white plays Be2 and O-O, and black plays ...d7-d6 rather than ...d7-d5.  However, when white plays Be2, black should always keep an eye out for the opportunity to play ...d7-d5 in one move. 

The next installment in this series will take a closer look at the two main lines involving 5. Nc3.

Hopefully this is a useful introduction. Please leave any comments, corrections, suggestions for improvement, etc.