|How Wojo Won: The Accelerated Dragon
|By Jonathan Hilton
|January 10, 2008
In this installment of "How Wojo Won", Jonathan Hilton covers The Accelerated Dragon. Check out previous entries in the series, "The Sicilian" , and the White side of the King's Indian and the Grunfeld , the Open Catalan and the Closed Catalan. In 1999
Wojtkiewicz switched from the Sicilian Scheveningen to the Accelerated
Dragon. This significant change came
late in his career, and for some time the opening remained a work in progress
in his repertoire as he continued to refine his move orders and gain a greater
understanding of the opening's subtleties.
Although his moves with the Black pieces might have changed, Wojo's
essential swashbuckling style as the second player remained the same. He put his vast experience in the
Scheveningen to good use in his Dragon years by characteristically "uncoiling"
I attribute Wojo's success with the Accelerated Dragon to four key characteristics: his positional understanding of the dark squares; his ability to remain comfortable in unclear, high-risk situations; his keen sense of piece placement; and his use of obscure move-orders to prevent the Maroczy Bind, which would yield fewer decisive results than other Sicilians. In this installment, I will first present two typical Wojo wins, both of which reveal clear examples of these four characteristics. I will also present two of Wojo's losses which demonstrate some of the weaknesses he was still trying to eliminate at the end of his career. The following game shows how Wojo's understanding of piece placement - and of the values of the pieces themselves - helped him topple one of the chess world's stars in an exciting rapid game.
Nakamura,Hikaru (2568) - Wojtkiewicz,Aleksander (2543) [B35]
New York Masters 79th New York (2), 28.10.2003
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6 3.d4 Bg7 4.Nc3 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Nc6 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Bc4 0-0 8.Bb3 a5 9.0-0 Nxd4?!
A slight inaccuracy. Modern theory advocates playing first 9...d6, which threatens ...Ng4. After 10.f3, Black continues according to plan with 10...Nxd4 11.Bxd4 Bd7, as in the game; however, White has lost an important tempo needed for f2-f4. Therefore, many players nowadays opt for 10. h3!, followed by a quick f2-f4, instead.
10.Bxd4 d6 11.Qe2 Bd7 12.Rad1
Correct deployment by White. It was much less promising to play the slower 12.a4, as the pawn simply becomes weak after Black responds with 12...Bc6 and ...Nfd7-c5.
12...a4 13.Bc4 Bc6 14.f4 Nd7 15.e5!
The point of White's play. After this move, White's attacking chances are very strong. Wojo, however - having had many years of responding to such central pawn onslaughts in the Scheveningen - was able to come up with a creative "uncoiling" maneuver to activate his pieces.
15...dxe5 16.fxe5 e6
Black voluntarily goes down an exchange for active play.
17...Re8 would allow White to simply pile up on the f7 weakness with devastating effect.
Black, although down in material, has counterplay on the dark squares and an unopposed dark-square bishop. The pawns on h2 and b2 are particularly vulnerable, and White must hasten to secure his position and material edge. 19.Bb5! The strongest move, neutralizing much of Black's counterplay.
After this move, Black's counterplay is sufficient. Best was 20.a3!, fixing Black's pawn on a4 as a target. Now, ...a4-a3 from Black becomes an important resource for unlocking the power of Black's dark-square bishop.
Black's pawns on the queenside appear fractured, but he has more than enough active play from the newly opened lines to compensate for his structural weaknesses.
This is far from critical. White's best try for an advantage was to utilize his extra exchange to target Black's queenside with 21.Rf4!?, but after 21...a3! Black obtains a strong counterattack. For instance, 22.b4 is met by 22...Qb6+ 23.Kh1 f5! with ideas such as ...g6-g5 and ...Ne5-g4. Here, however, White does have some tries, such as 24.Nb1!? and 24.Rb1 After the text, however, Black simply wins White's b-pawn.
21...Qb6+ 22.Qf2 Qxb2 23.c3 Qa3 24.h3
White should certainly have taken the opportunity to secure an even game with 24.Nf6+ Bxf6 25.Qxf6 Qxc3, when despite the material deficit White is seems fine. It would be extremely difficult for Black to make any progress after 26.h3.
24...h6 25.Kh1 f5 26.Nc5 Re8 27.Na6?
This seems desperate, as White now goes down three pawns for the exchange. Structurally, his position was already in shambles; however, it can be salvaged by the Fritz-found 27.Rd6! The point is that 27...Bf8 is not possible due to 28.Rxe6, whereas 27...Kf7 28.Ne4! reveals how exposed Black's king is on f7. A repetition of moves would be possible after 28...Kg8 29.Nc5.
27...Qxc3 28.Nc7 Re7 29.Qa7 Kh7 30.Qb8 Nf7!
Black prepares to position his pieces for checkmate.
31.Qc8 Qg3 32.Nxe6 Be5
White is hopeless against the wrath of Wojo's completely uncoiled pieces!
33.Kg1 Qh2+ 34.Kf2 Qg3+ 35.Kg1 Qh2+ 36.Kf2 Bg3+ 37.Kf3 Ne5+ 38.Ke3 Qxg2 39.Rd8 Qe4+ 40.Kd2 Nc4+ 41.Kc3 Be5+ 42.Nd4 Nb6 43.Qa6 Nd5+ 0-1
A fantastic finish by Wojtkiewicz, demonstrating the power of his minor pieces - and particularly his dark-square bishop.
Such fantastic piece play was Wojo's hallmark against the main lines of the Accelerated Dragon, but certainly would not have been possible against the drawish backdrop of the Maroczy Bind. Against normal move orders, such as 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 g6, the Maroczy Bind starting with 5. c4 grants White the lion's share of the winning chances. Although current theory shows various ways for Black to equalize, in few variations does he obtain serious winning chances. Wojo tailored a peculiar move-order to suit his Swiss System needs. The following game demonstrates how he craftily injected new life into the Bind.
Adler,Viktor (2425) - Wojtkiewicz,Aleksander (2581) [A40]
US op 101st Saint Paul (9), 13.08.2000
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6 3.d4 Bg7 4.c4
White aims for the Maroczy Bind, but Black's "hyper-accelerated" setup is more flexible and less committed than in the normal Accelerated Dragon move-order. Thus Black has an important resource.
4. ... Qb6!
White's reply is now forced.
Although the pawn structure of this position does indeed resemble a Maroczy Bind, Black's active queen affords him extra counterplay on the dark squares: exactly the kind of game Wojo liked.
6.Bd3 d6 7.0-0 Bg4!
Wojo intends to utilize the dark squares again this game. Therefore, he targets White's king's knight, which controls d4 and e5.
Piling further upon the central dark squares. White's position is somewhat uncoordinated, and over the next few moves he hopes to gain space and improve the scope of his pieces.
9.Rb1 Nf6 10.b4!
Tricky. Of course Black should not play 10...Nxb4 11.Qa4+ Nc6 when 12.Rb5! traps the queen.
10...Qh5 11.Be2!? 0-0 12.Rb3!?
White has reorganized his pieces in an interesting fashion, but Black simply continues fighting for the dark squares.
With d4 and e5 already securely under control, Wojo takes the c1-h6 diagonal as well. Note the pressure on White's knights.
Again focusing on the dark squares. Black's only weakness is the slightly vulnerable position of his queen, which White now attempts unsuccessfully to exploit over the next several moves.
14.h3 Bxf3 15.Rxf3 Qg5!
A very peculiar battery! Black manages to defend his position.
Of course Black should not take any of White's pawns, as the position would then become too open and would favor White's bishop pair. 16...axb4 17.h4! would allow White to win a piece for some pawns after 17...Qxh4 18.Rh3 Qxe4 19.Rxh6; 16...Nxe4 likewise would run into complications after 17.h4!
Black has achieved an important objective: the position on the queenside is now closed, which will favor Black's knight pair and more secure pawn structure. However, his queen is still not out of the woods, and so the more active 17...Ne5, coming to aid the invasion of the dark squares on the queenside, was preferable. For instance, 18.Rg3 Qf4 would leave White's position in shambles. In the game, however, White gains an important resource.
18.Rg3 Qf4 19.Bd3?
After this, Black takes the initiative. Best was the odd-looking 19.Bxf6! Bxf6 20.Qd5! Black has some problems. White's counter-attack on the light squares after 19. Bd3?, however, is nonexistent!
19...a4! 20.Bc1 Qe5 21.f4 Qc3
Black's queen can penetrate dark squares on the queenside as well as on the kingside!
22.Bd2 Qb2 23.Nc1 Nbd7
It now becomes obvious that White will have difficulty defending his position on the queenside.
24.Be3 Nh5 25.Rgf3 Bd4!
Removing the last White piece capable of defending the dark squares.
26.Kh2 Bxe3 27.Rxe3 Qd4
Notice the power of the Black queen, exerting influence in all directions from the middle of the board. White must now endeavor to displace the powerful Lady once again.
28.Ref3 Nc5 29.Ne2 Qg7 30.g4 Nf6 31.Re3 Nfd7 32.Qc1 Rac8 33.Kg3 Nb6
It is possible that White lost on time here, but it is also possible that he did not want to continue playing after Black wins the critical c4 pawn with ...Nc5xd3. Another well-played win on the dark squares! 0-1
Wojo's enterprising move-order, however, was not without other distinct variations of its own. One surprising weakness in the system was demonstrated by Nakamura himself. It turns out that White can put Wojo's system to the test by forcing him to bring his queen out early and exploiting the lost time, something he tried to do but failed in the previous game.
Nakamura,Hikaru (2613) - Wojtkiewicz,Aleksander (2536) [B27]
New York Masters 129th New York (4), 04.01.2005
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6 3.d4 Bg7 4.dxc5!
This is better than another attempt to exploit Black's move-order, 4. d5. After 4...Nf6 5.Nc3 0-0 6.e5 (6.Be2 b5! generates complications. 7.e5 Ng4 8.Bf4 b4 9.Ne4 d6, exploiting Black's pressure on b2, gives Black a counterattack.) 6...Ne8 7.Be2 d6 8.exd6 Nxd6 9.0-0 Bg4 10.Re1 Nd7 gave chances for both sides in Najer - Wojtkiewicz 2002, a game which Wojo eventually won. White has a small space advantage, but Black's pieces are well placed. His plan is to "uncoil" further with ...Re8 and ...Nd7-f6.
4. ... Qa5+
It is necessary to regain the pawn right away, as otherwise it is hard for Black to win it back. For instance, after 4...Nf6!?, hoping to slightly improve on the game, White has 5.e5 Ng4 6.Qd4! d5!? and here simplest is 7.h3 Nc6 8.Bb5 Nh6 9.Nc3 e6 10.Bg5 Qc7 11.Qd2 with advantage to White.
The most accurate response.
The point. White coordinates his pieces in an unusual fashion, exploiting his lead in development: his bishop goes to e3, and his knight to b5, wreaking havoc on Black's soft spots at a7 and c7.
6...a6 7.Be3 Qc7 8.Nc4 would allow White to exploit the weakness of the b6 square. Alternatively, 6...Nf6 7.Nb5 0-0?! 8.Be3 Qc6 9.Nfd4 Qxe4 10.Nc7 b6 11.Be2 would also be poor for Black.
7.Be3 Qa5 would have been less precise.
7...a6 8.Be3 Qc6 9.Na7!
Winning the two bishops. A few months earlier, in the New York Masters 121st rapid, Hikaru had tried 9.Nbd4 Qc7 10.Be2 Nf6 11.Nd2 0-0 12.0-0 Nc6 13.a4, but after 13...d5! Black had equal chances, although he eventually lost the game.
9...Qc7 10.Nxc8 Qxc8 11.Qb3
A good move, taking the initiative. White now has an advantage in development. He also has the center and the two bishops. Considering all these advantages, he decides to start attacking right away - a wise choice, considering Black does not yet have any long-term weaknesses. Thus White must attack before his initiative evaporates. The next ten moves feature very creative and energetic play by Nakamura.
11...Nd7 12.Ng5!? e6 13.Rd1 Qc7 14.Bf4!? Be5 15.Be3 Nc5?!
Possibly the decisive mistake, although White would surely have found some other way to continue his attack after the unappetizing retreat 15...Bg7.
16.Bxc5! dxc5 17.Qa4+! Ke7 18.Nxf7!!
The point! Black cannot capture due to the fork on d7.
Wojo finds correct rejoinder. White must now sacrifice two pieces for a rook, but he will get three pawns and a devastating attack for his material. Black is close to being lost.
19.Bxb5 axb5 20.Qxa8 Kxf7 21.Rd8 Bf6 22.Rb8 Qe5 23.Rf8+ Kg7 24.0-0 Qd6 25.Rc8 b4 26.Qa7+ Ne7 27.Rxc5 Ra8
The first move the Black rook has made the entire game - and it sacrifices itself!
28.Qxa8 Qxc5 29.cxb4 Qxb4 30.b3 Bd4 31.Qd8 e5 32.g3
Black has managed to coordinate his pieces at long last, but his position is hopeless - he can do little to stop White's queenside pawns from rolling up the board.
32...Ng8 33.Qd7+ Kh8 34.Qf7 Qd2 35.a4 Bc3 36.Qf3 Qc2 37.Kg2 Qd2 38.Qf7 Qb2 39.Qc4 Qd2 40.Qc5 Bd4 41.Qd5 Kg7 42.Qd7+ Kh8 43.Qd6 Qc2 44.Qd5 Kg7 45.Qb7+ Kh6!
Black sets a trap. If 45...Kh8 46.a5 Nf6 47.a6 Ng4 48.a7, White's pawn queens with check.
The difference is that if here if White tries 46.a5? Nf6! 47.a6? Nxe4 48.a7 Nxf2! 49.a8Q Ng4+ 50.Kh3 Qxh2+ 51.Kxg4 Qh5 is checkmate. But Nakamura's move is strong.
46...Qxe4+ 47.Qf3! Qc2
Trading queens is hopeless for Black.
48.Qf8+ Kg5 49.h4+
White will win the knight next move. 1-0
Did Wojo's Dragon have any other weaknesses? As it turned out, a select group of top players were able to defeat Wojtkiewicz in the actual main lines of the Dragon. They achieved this feat by displaying both remarkable creativity and level-headedness in the same game. In this final game, watch closely as a world-class GM dismantles Wojo's Dragon with small tactics, positional pressure, and tripled b-pawns!
Bologan,Viktor (2620) - Wojtkiewicz,Aleksander (2567) [B35]
Bastia Cup Bastia (2.2), 04.12.1999
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6 3.d4 Bg7 4.Nc3 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Nc6 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Bc4 0-0 8.Bb3 a5 9.0-0 a4?!
Modern theory recommends 9...d6 instead. Going after the e4 pawn so early is risky because the position opens up, giving White the initiative on the queenside and in the center.
10.Nxa4 Nxe4 11.Nb5!
Threatening 12. Bb6 and 13. Nc7.
White adds pressure to the center. Note how active White's pieces are, and how lose Black's are after his premature pawn skirmish. 12...Ra6 13.c4 Nf6 14.h3
White quietly secures his excellent piece placements.
Black attacks White's queenside bind aggressively, but Bologan calmly allows Black to make his exchanges...
15.Qe2 Nxb3 16.axb3 Bd7 17.Rad1!
Black now feels obligated to give White tripled b-pawns; however, White's initiative proves to be very strong!
17...Bxb5 18.cxb5 Ra8 19.Qf3!
White has tripled pawns on the b-file, but Black has to struggle even to defend one single pawn on b7!
19...Qa5 20.b6 Qa6 21.Rc1
Each White b-pawn controls some important square along the c-file, which White comes to dominate.
Wojo tries to make use of his pawn majority in the center, but White's pieces are well-placed to respond: Bologan mounts an attack against Black's two "extra" center pawns!
Provoking Black's weakening response.
22...e5 23.Bg5 e4 24.Qf4 Nd5 25.Qxd6 Qb5 26.Red1 Nb4 27.Rc5! Qe2 28.Qd2 Qxd2 29.Rxd2
White now wins the endgame handily by winning Black's weak b7 pawn. Black only manages to pick off one of White's three b-pawns! 29...Nd3 30.Rc7 Ra5 31.Be7 Re8 32.Rxb7 Rb5 33.Re2
Forcing Black to open the 7th rank.
33...f5 34.Rc2 Bd4 35.b4!
Onward the pawns go!
Seventeen moves after he tripled them, Black finally captures one of White's monstrous b-pawns!
36.Rc4 Nd5 37.Rxd4 Nxe7 38.Rdd7
Black is lost.
38...Kf8 39.Rbc7 Rb4 40.b7 Rxa4 41.Rxe7! A wonderful finish. 1-0
Although Wojo's two main weapons against e4 - the Scheveningen and the Accelerated Dragon - did not make him invincible against accurate play, they always afforded him the opportunity to engage in an interesting and tense struggle. In the final installment of the "How Wojo Won" series, we'll take a look at how Wojo generated tense struggles of a similar nature using the King's Indian.