GM Joel on Early Deviations Print E-mail
By GM Joel Benjamin   
March 9, 2008
Dear Joel,

I've been playing the Sicilian Dragon for quite some time but recently, I began playing the Accelerated Dragon to avoid the Yugoslav Attack. However, I have come across a problem with it. After 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.c4 Nf6 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.e5 Ng8 Black has lost a tempo.  5...d6 is an alternative but that would bring me back to the Yugoslav.  What do I do?

Sydney Liu


Once White plays c2-c4, there isn’t going to be a Yugoslav Attack anyway.  So Black is just trying to use the most effective move order against the Maroczy Bind.  Now there are some lines in the Dragon where Black allows the knight to be driven back to g8, but this isn’t one of them.  You haven’t actually seen all these moves in the books, have you?  That’s because 7.e5? blunders a pawn to 7…Qa5+.

Position after 7.e5?

  If it makes you feel better, I made the same kind of mistake in my third tournament:  1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.e5? Qa5+ (though I still managed to win the game).

Position after 5...Qa5+

When you are studying a book line and you find an annoying early alternative that is not suggested at all, there may well be a clear reason why the alternative is not playable.

Hello GM Benjamin,
I am working with Donaldson & Hansen's "A Strategic Opening Repertoire", and there is one line that gives me trouble: 1.Nf3 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.e3. Several times I have faced 3... b5, and have not done better than a draw against it.

Position after 4...b5

I try to undermine the pawns with 4.a4. Is there another approach to try?
Congratulations on your victory at the Millennium Festival.
Robert Irons
Hoffman Estates, IL


If the authors didn’t mention such a relevant move, protecting the captured pawn, there stands to be a very clear-cut refutation.  Indeed there is—4.a4 c6 5.axb5 cxb5 6.b3! recoups the pawn with a superior formation. 

Position after 6.b3

For this reason the analogous Queen’s Gambit (1.d4 d5 2.c4) is not truly a gambit.

It is difficult to know what needs to be included in an opening book.  Some variations are so obvious to authors that they don’t realize some readers need to be clued in.