Game of the Month

Starting in the 1940s Chess Review began a regular article titled, “Game of the Month”, where well-known and top players would write about a contemporary game and provide analysis and notes. Most articles were between one and two pages long.

When Chess Review merged with Chess Life, the new magazine was titled Chess Life and Review. The Game of the Month was continued, and some very good players contributed to the monthly article.

Later on, the magazine dropped the latter part of the title and was known as simply as Chess Life. The Game of the Month was still featured and treasured by many players.

But in the last few years, the Game of the Month has mysteriously disappeared. Was it because the cost of printing such an article became prohibitive? Or was it a casualty of the Internet, where are a player can analyze any game he desires and go into deeper detail than a monthly magazine can possibly do?

Here is perhaps the best game to be featured in that monthly article. It is easy to follow, the notes are clear and the Grandmaster who wrote the article was a well-respected player who must have put in many hours in his creation. This was the time before computers, word processors, the Internet, chess engines, and even ECO.

And here it is:

Many-headed Dragon

Mocking the move 1.b4, Tartakower named it the Orangutan Opening, but chess players took the famous grandmaster and writer seriously and adopted his title for this queer system. There is another name drawn from the (in this case non-existent) animal world which appears in chess opening theory. The chain of five connected Black pawns reminded someone of the head and tail of a dragon, and thus we have a strange name for an important line in the Sicilian Defense. Ill-informed about the origin of the name, some believed that the “Dragon” was Black’s powerful King Bishop, hidden on g7 and ready to breathe fire at the appropriate moment.

But apart from its fearsome name, one is surprised by the large number of tournament games played with this double-edged line in recent years and by the small number of draws in those games, the wheel of fortune favoring sometimes White, at other times Black. Despite many forced continuations which lead to clear decisions in this sharp system, it is extremely difficult to determine finally which side a given line favors. Just when one thinks he has found a refutation for a particular opponent’s conception, another idea or even a single move appears to reveal that the Dragon has many more heads than one to be lopped off.

The game below is just such an example. The winner spent years investigating the risks incurred in playing this variation and made it one of his strong weapons. The dangerous “Dragon” has been grateful to the man who was courageous enough to use it and has contributed its share of precious points toward his title as the new Yugoslav champion.

Planinec (2535)-Velimirović (2525)
Yugoslavia Ch.
Novi Sad, 1975
[GM Gligorić, Game of the Month – Many Headed Dragon”, Chess and Review, June 1975]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 cxd4 5.Nxd4 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 [Premature is 6…Ng4? 7.Bb5+. Experimental is 6…a6 (compare to the note after Black’s 7th move.) 7.f3 Nbd7 8.Qd2 b5 9.a4 bxa4 10.Rxa4 Bg7 11.Be2 O-O 12.O-O Nc5 13.Ra3 Bb7 14.Rfa1 Qc8 15.Nb3 Nxb3 16.Rxb3 Nd7 17.Ra2 Qc7 18.Nd5 Bxd5 19.exd5 a5 20.Bb5 Nb6 21.Qd3 Nd7 22.Rba3 Rfb8 23.Bxd7 Qxd7 24.b3 Qc7 25.c4 Rb7 26.Bd2 with advantage for White in GM Kavalek-GM Bilek, Sousse Izt., Sept. 1967.] 7.f3 (This signifies the beginning of the Rauzer Attack. White’s main weapon against the Dragon Variation. With this move White secures control of space and prepare a pawn assault on the Kingside.) 7…Nc6

[After 8.Bc4 Black may also play 8…Qb6 (threatening 9…Nxe4):

9.Bb3 allows 9…Ng4! and 9.Ncb5 a6 10.Nf5 Qa5+ 11.Bd2 gxf5 12.Bxa5 axb5 13.Bxb5 Rxa5 (White) plays a rather high price for Black’s Queen (as in Mohring-Hennings, Zinnowitz 1965); so there are two main alternatives left to White:

1) The sacrificial line 9.Nf5 Qxb2 10.Nxg7+ Kf8 11.Nd5 Nxd5 12.Qxd5

2) The solid line 9.Bg5 Qc7 10.g4 Bd7! 11.g5 Nhh5 12.Nd5 Qa5+ 13.c3.]

8.Qd2 O-O 9.Bc4 (Another basic move in the Rauzer Atttack. White occupies the important diagonal controls the central square d5.) 9…Bd7 10.O-O-O (This defines the position of White’s King too early. The more accurate order of moves is 10.a4, waiting for the opponent to clarify his plan of action on the opposite wing.) 10…Qb8 (Stein’s idea, which would be pointless after 10.a4 because of the positional 11.Nd5 or the attacking 11.a5.) 11.Bb3

[Fruitless is 11.Nd5 Nxd5 12.Bxd5 e6! 13.Bb3 (or 13.Bc4 Rc8) 13…a5. Also, too slow is 11.g4 b5! 12.Bb3 (if Black’s b5-pawn is taken, 12…Ne5 would follow) 12…a5 13.Nd5 Nxd5 14.Bxd5 with chances for both sides, Sutein-Keene, Hastings 1967/8. Interesting is 11.h4 Rc8 (weaker is 11…a5 12.Bh6! Nxe4? 13.Nxe4 Bxd4 14.h5 d5 15.Bxd5 Qe5 16.Bxf8 Qxd5 17.Qh6! Nb4 18.Rxd4 Qxd4 19.Bxe7 Black resigns, Spassky-Levy, Nice Ol., 1974) or 11…b5 offering a pawn sacrifice for the initiative in connection with Black’s Ne5.]

11…a5 12.Ndb5 [Because of his premature 10th move, White has no time for active play and is forced to defend. Interesting is 12.a4 Rc8 (Playable is 12…Nxd4 13.Bxd4 b5.) 13.Ndb5 Nb4 14.Kb1 d5 15.exd5 Bxb5 16.Bf4 Rxc3 17.Bxb8 Rxb3 18.Be5 Bd3 19.cxd3 Nfxd5 20.Bxg7 Kxg7, draw! 1/2-1/2, Browne-Sosonko, Wijk aan Zee 1975.] 12…a4 (This pawn sacrifice will displace White’s pieces and open the a-file to counterplay by Black.) 13.Bxa4 (The soundness of this pawn sacrifice could be better tested by 13.Nxa4 Na5 14.Qe2 Nxb3+ 15.axb3 d5 16.exd5 Qe5 17.f4 Qf5 18.Kb1 Rfc8 19.Na7 Rc7 with a complicated game as in Savon-Stein, 30th USSR Ch., 1962.) 13…Rc8 14.Qe2 Na5 15.Bb3 (Otherwise 15…Nc4 would follow.) 15…Nxb3+ 16.axb3 (Not 16.cxb3 Rxa2.) 16…d5 (Prepares the centralization of Black’s Queen, one of the points of Black’s 10th move.) 17.exd5 (White’s Knight on c3 is needed to cover the weakness of the long diagonal.) 17…Qe5 (The first threat is 18…Bxb5.) 18.f4 Ra1+! (If 18…Qf5 19.Nd4) 19.Kd2 Ne4+ 20.Ke1 (Black would penetrate more easily after 20.Nxe4 Rxc2+! 21.Kxc2 Qxe4+.) 20…Rxd1+ 21.Kxd1 (White has no better reply: both 21.Nxd1 Qxd5 and 21.Qxd1 Nxc3 look worse.) 21…Qf5 22.Kc1 (White has to spend time looking out for his King’s safety. 22.Nxe4 Qxe4 would make Black’s task easier.)

22…Ra8! 23.Kb1 Nxc3+ 24.Nxc3 Qf6! (Another key move in Black’s attack.) 25.Bc1 [The threatened mating combination starting with 25…Qxc3 forces White to lock king even more into its dangerous position. 25.Qd3 Bf5 26.Qc4 doesn’t work because of 26…b5. (One sample line is 27.Qc6 Rc8 28.Qxb5 Rxc3 29.bxc3 Qxc3 30.Qb8+ Bf8 31.Qe5 Qxc2+ 32.Ka1 Bg7! – RME)] 25… b5 26.Ne4 (White’s only remaining chance is to prepare an escape route on c2 and at the same time to try to cover that weak diagonal.) 26…Qa6 27.c3 Bxc3 28.Nxc3 (After 28.bxc3 Qa1+ 29.Kc2 Ra2+ Black would win immediately.) 28…Bf5+ 29.Ne4 Qa2+ 30.Kc2 Rc8+ 31.Kd2 Qxb3 32.Qd3 (White has to give the piece back with his King still in the open.) 32…Qb4+ 33.Ke3 Rc4 34.Nf6+ (The piece is lost in any case, and this way Black’s pawn mass may be less valuable.) 34…exf6 35.Qa3 Re4+ 36.Kf2 Qd4+ 37.Kg3 Qxd5 38.Qf3 (If 38.h3 Re2) 38…Qe6 39.Rd1 Kg7 40.Rd3 Rc4 41.Re3 Be4 42.Qe2 Qf5 [Here Black could have also had a won game by 47…Rxc1 48.Rxe4 Qc6 (Black’s threats include …f5 and …Rc2. – RME) White sealed his move now.] 43.Rc3 Ra4 (Of course, Black has to retain all his pieces on the board. His basic plan is to keep his Bishop on the long diagonal and to penetrate with his heavy pieces along the two central files.) 44.Qd2 Ra7 45.Qe3 Rd7 46.Rc5 Qe6 47.Kf2 (If White tried 47.f5, then 47…Qd6+ 48.Kf2 g5 would be the best play, capturing White’s f-pawn later.) 47…Qd6 48.b4 Bb7 49.h3 Qd1 0-1

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