The Accelerated Dragon stands out as one of the most dynamic variations within the Sicilian Defense, unfolding with the established series of moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6, where black promptly fianchettoes the dark-squared bishop on the kingside.
The name of the Dragon Variation owes its origins to the Russian chess master Fyodor Dus-Chotimirsky, a tutor to Alexander Alekhine, whose fascination with astronomy led him to liken the opening’s pawn structure to the Draco star grouping. Renowned as a fierce choice, the Sicilian Accelerated Dragon has secured a permanent spot in the opening repertoires of elite players, maintaining its popularity even in modern times.
- Winning percentages on both sides
- Main ideas
- Accelerated Dragon’s Theory
- Accelerated Dragon Main line
- Hyper-Accelerated Dragon – 2…g6
- Failed Attack: 4.Nxd4 g6 5.Nc3 Bg7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.f3
- Common Traps
- Trap №1
- Trap №2
- Pros and Cons of Accelerated Dragon
- What is the point of the Accelerated Dragon?
- Is the Accelerated Dragon aggressive?
Winning percentages on both sides
|Win for white
|Win for black
Opting for the Accelerated Dragon over the traditional Dragon Variation aims to expedite the advance of d5-d7 in one go, bypassing the intermediary d6-d7 move required in the Dragon formation. Frequently, the Accelerated Dragon paves the way for a showdown for a kingside versus queenside assault in scenarios of opposite-side castling. White’s customary arrangement encompasses Bc4-Bb3, f3, Be3, Qd2, and 0-0-0, while black’s strategy includes Bg7, Nf6, 0-0, d6, Bd7, Rc8, among others. As it unfolds into an attacking contest, each tempo becomes critical, and the side that seizes the initiative for an offensive typically gains the upper hand in the attacking race. However, without precise play, white can quickly encounter setbacks, especially due to tactical surprises involving black’s kingside fianchettoed bishop.
Similar to numerous Sicilian Defense variations, the key strength in the Accelerated Dragon lies in black’s dark-squared bishop, strategically placed in a kingside fianchetto. Preserving this bishop is paramount for black and should only be exchanged if there’s substantial compensation involved. The bishop plays a dual role, serving as a vital guardian of the king’s safety while simultaneously exerting significant control over the central dark squares and exerting pressure on white’s queenside.
Accelerated Dragon’s Theory
The Sicilian Defense has a wide range of variations. Accelerated Dragon commences with 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 (Old Sicilian) then white opens up the center with 3.d4 (Open Sicilian) cxd4 4.Nxd4. Black now has an abundance of variations that they can choose from, such as 4…Nf6, 4…e6, 4…a6, 4…e5, 4…Qb6, 4…g6 and so on, and each line has its own name and theory. 4…g6, which rapidly aims to fianchetto the bishop is the Accelerated Dragon. The opening is closely related to the Hyper-Accelerated Dragon, which would be 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6, and the traditional variation, which includes early …d6 and …Nf6 instead of …Nc6: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6. Because black prompts an early Nc3 by attacking e4 with …Nf6 in the Dragon Variation, white does not have time to advance c2-c4. However, in the Accelerated Dragon, because the e4 pawn is not challenged, white can achieve the Maroczy Bind with 5.c4 or play the mainline with 5.Nc3, which almost always follows with 5…Bg7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Bc4.
Accelerated Dragon Main line
The main line unfolds with the moves that swiftly exert pressure on d4 with a kingside fianchetto: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.Nc3 Bg7 and white will almost always defend the knight with 6.Be3. Black will continue to develop with 6…Nf6, but also eyeing at the pawn on e4. Now the most popular continuation for white by a big margin is 7.Bc4, which increases white’s control over the d5 square and prevents black from playing …d7-d5.
The function of 7.Bc4 and why it is necessary to take control of d5 become clear when we compare it with white’s other alternatives. For example, if white had continued with a routine development move like 7.Be2, after 7…0-0 8.0-0 black can already equalize the position with 8…d5!
Same goes for 7.f3 0-0 8.Qd2 d5! This will lead to exchanges in the center, which usually improves black’s position.
A sample variation highlighting the strength of 8…d5 would be 9.0-0-0 dxe4 10.Nxc6 Qxd2+ 11.Rxd2 bxc6 12.Nxe4 Nd5, followed by …Rb8.
After 7.Bc4 0-0, it is important for white to play 8.Bb3. This move might look enigmatic at first. However, 8.f3 runs into 8…Qb6, which attacks b2 as well as puts pressure on d4, e.g. 9.Bb3 Nxe4! 10.Nd5 Qa5+ 11.c3 Nc5 12.Nxc6 dxc6 13.Nxe7+ Kh8 14.Nxc8 Raxc8 and black stands slightly better.
The other alternative, 8.Qd2 allows 8…Ng4 and black manages to exchange white’s dark square bishop for the knight.
For these reasons, 8.Bb3 is necessary. The main line after 8.Bb3 continues with 8…d6 9.f3, reinforcing e4, 9…Bd7 10.Qd2
Now, there are several avenues black can explore, such as 10…Nxd4, 10…Na5 and 10…Rc8.
The idea of 10…Na5 is to capture white’s light square bishop after 11.0-0-0 Nxb3 12.cxb3 (12.axb3 a5).
Trading the knights off on d4 is also a viable option: 10…Nxd4 11.Bxd4 b5 12.h4 a5 13.h5 a4 14.Bd5.
But from a practical point of view, 10…Rc8 is likely to give black best chances: 11.0-0-0 (11.Nxc6 Bxc6 12.Bxa7?? b6 traps the bishop) 11…Ne5, a thematic move that aims to get the knight to c4 and provoke an exchange, 12.Kb1, king moves away from rook’s file, 12…Re8 13.h4 h5. It is risky for black to let white go h5 and open up the h-file; therefore, …h5 is an important prophylaxis. A possible continuation would be 14.Bh6 Nc4 15.Bxc4 Rxc4 16.Bxg7 Kxg7 and both sides will carry on with their attack.
Hyper-Accelerated Dragon – 2…g6
The early 2…g6 opens up the long diagonal, so black has to be prepared against white’s recapture on d4 with the queen: 3.d4 cxd4 4.Qxd4, since there is no knight on c6 now. 4….Nf6 is the only move to defend h8-Rook, while 5.e5 looks a bit scary for black, after 5…Nc6 6.Qa4 Nd5 7.Qe4 Nb6 8.Nc3 Bg7 black consolidates without any issues.
If white recaptures with the knight on d4, after 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 Bg7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Bc4 we transpose into the mainline that has been covered earlier in this article.
Failed Attack: 4.Nxd4 g6 5.Nc3 Bg7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.f3
If white attempts to accelerate the attack with 7.f3 0-0 8.Qd2, black can consolidate the position by targeting the center with a strong 8…d5! and it is easy for white to end up in an inferior position, for example after 9.Nxc6 bxc6 10.0-0-0 Qc7! 11.Bh6 Bxh6, now exchanging off the bishops is not a huge problem for black as white cannot exploit the weakness so quickly, 12.Qxh6 dxe4 13.fxe4 Be6 14.Be2 Rab8 and black’s attack appear to be much more promising due to the open b-file, while the sole queen cannot materialize the attack without any help from other pieces, which seems to be not easy to achieve at the moment.
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.Nc3 Nf6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.Bc4 Qa5, a tricky move that pins the knight and trying to cover the pin with a natural move like 8.Qd2? runs into the tactic with 8…Nxe4 9.Nxc6 9…Qxc3!! 10.bxc3 Nxd2 11.Bxd2 bxc6, black is not only pawn up, but white’s pawn structure is also ruined.
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.Nc3 Nf6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.Bc4 Qa5, now if white tries to defend the e4 pawn with 8.f3, 8…Qb4 and a natural move like 9.Bb3, defending both the bishop and the b2 pawn would tactically fail due to 9…Nxe4! 10.Nxc6 Bxc3+ 11.bxc3 Qxc3+ 12.Ke2 dxc6 13.Bd4. Now it looks like the black queen is trapped, but black can solve the problem with the brilliant 13…e5!, encouraging white to take on c3, but after 14.Bxc3 Nxc3+ comes with a fork, and after 15.Kf2 Nxd1+ 16.Rhxd1, black is just two pawns up in the material.
Pros and Cons of Accelerated Dragon
|Provides black wide range of options for counterplay or ways to consolidate position by tactical means.
|Black needs to be theoretically well prepared, as any mistake in the opening can cost him a full point easily.
|The dark square bishop does a great job of defending and attacking at the same time.
The Accelerated Dragon is a high-level opening, which might be like a double-edged sword. Black needs to navigate the opening phase carefully, as each inaccuracy could be decisive. However, the line has stood the test of time, and its effectiveness has been proven over and over by the best players. While Accelerated Dragon cannot be considered suited to beginners, it deserves noteworthy attention for any player who is confident in their tactical skills and is willing to learn the theory in depth.
What is the point of the Accelerated Dragon?
The Accelerated Dragon is a variation of the Sicilian Defense, aimed at rapidly controlling the center and activating the bishop on g7. Its main point is to avoid certain lines of the Open Sicilian while striving for a solid yet dynamic position. It focuses on quick development and counter-attacking opportunities.
Is the Accelerated Dragon aggressive?
The Accelerated Dragon can be aggressive, especially in the hands of players who are well-versed in its intricate tactics and strategies. It offers counter-attacking potential and can lead to sharp, dynamic play. However, it also maintains a balance of solid positional grounding, making it versatile for both aggressive and strategic players.