It is Checkmate Monday once more and today we present a selection of checkmating Dragons.
The Sicilian Dragon is one of the sharpest and most interesting chess openings of all and we are about to see a revival of the fire-breathing beast. Therefore, it is a good time to remind ourselves of the power of the Dragon and how brutally it can strike down the opponent’s king.
There is an unusual theme in the checkmating Dragons in today’s column, which will be revealed at the end.
Boris Verlinsky – Nikolay Riumin
Black to play
The most exciting games in the Sicilian Dragon are when the players castle on opposite sides of the board and launch all-out attacks on the other person’s king. Often, extraordinary moves are required to breathe new energy into the attack. It may look like Verlinksy is keeping Black’s attack at a distance, but Riumin proved him wrong.
With the brutal threat of 29…Rxa3+ 30.bxa3 Qxa3 checkmate.
Flimsy, but what else could White do? 29.Re3 Rxa3+ 30.bxa3 Qd4+ 31.Rc3 Qxc3 is checkmate and 29.Qe3 just loses a rook after 29…Qxe3 30.Rxe3 Rxe3.
Hoping for 30…Qxb3? 31.Qd4+ and 32.Qb2, shoring up the defense.
31. Ka2 axb3 checkmate.
A Race of Attacks
Nikolai Krogius – Georgy Lisitsin
Black to play
Another Dragon, another race of attacks and…
…another rook sacrifice! This removes the last of White’s defenders and gives Black a forced checkmate – which Lisitsin executes perfectly.
35. Ka1 Qa3+
36. Kb1 Rb7+
37. Kc2 Rb2+
38. Kd1 Qa1 checkmate.
The 1980s: A Good Decade for the Checkmating Dragons
The 1980s brought considerable interest in the Sicilian Dragon, thanks partly to a number of British players who used it extensively. These included Tony Miles, Jonathan Mestel and William Watson.
Jim Plaskett – William Watson
Black to play
Black is faced with the threats of 25.Ne7 and 25.Nf6, with checkmate in both cases. Checks are required!
Is that the end of Black’s attack?
No! In fact, this sacrifice gives Black a forced win.
26. Kxc2 Qxe2+
27.Rd2 b1=Q+ 28.Kc3 Rb3 checkmate is no better. 27.Qd2 is technically the best move, but Black achieves a winning ending after 27…b1=Q+ 28.Rxb1 Qxd2+ 29.Kxd2 Rxb1.
White was in serious time-trouble and allows an instant checkmate, but the alternative lines of 28.Qe3 Qxd1 and 28.Ne3 Qxd1! 29.Nxd1 b1=Q are both winning for Black anyway.
The Sicilian Dragon has a habit of biting back just at the very moment when all seems lost. Black faces several threats in the next position.
Evgeny Sveshnikov – John Van der Wiel
Sochi Chigorin Memorial, 1980
Black to play
True, White has sacrificed a rook to get to this position, but 45.Bc4+, winning the queen, is very much in the agenda, as is the simple 45.Qxd8.
Saving the rook and hitting back with a winning counterattack at the same time.
What now? It is time for a special guest appearance…
46.Kb3 Qb5 is checkmate and the only alternative is to block the bishop’s check with the queen, which only delays the checkmate by one move. White resigned here; 0-1.
The unusual theme linking today’s four checkmating Dragons is that none of them used the famous Dragon bishop along the long diagonal. The bishop was already long gone by the time we joined the first three games and in the final example the killing check came along the f8-a3 diagonal – a rarity for a checkmating Dragon.
Of course, there are plenty of examples showing how White checkmates Black in the Sicilian Dragon, but that, as they say, is another story, for another day…
Meanwhile, I hope you enjoyed starting the week with some inspirational attacking play. Watch the skies! I heard a rumour the Dragons are circling again and getting ready to renew their assault on 1.e4 players.
If you enjoyed our Checkmating Dragons, then you may like to know that there are many more beautiful checkmating patterns in our course, The Checkmate Patterns Manual, by International Master John Bartholomew and CraftyRaf. This course won third place in our Chessable Awards for 2020.
There is a shortened, free version of the course here.