The Accelerated Dragon is a variation of the Sicilian Defense beginning with 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 g6
Unlike in the “normal” Dragon, black delays playing the move …d6 for as long as possible, prioritizing piece development instead. This can have significant ramifications – as we’re about to see! We’ll also take a look at this opening’s close cousin – the Hyper-Accelerated Dragon.
The first consequence of this move order is generally seen as a negative for black. White is able to play 5. c4 in this position, which constitutes the Maroczy Bind. Over the years, this has been considered the main approach to try to “punish” black for playing the Accelerated Dragon.
That said, the position is certainly playable for black and many players are willing to play the black side of the Bind nowadays.
I won’t discuss this possibility much here since I have an entire article on the subject, but just to be perfectly clear – you need to be prepared for this option if you’re playing the Accelerated Dragon with black!
Instead, we’ll explore what happens if white tries to play a typical “Yugoslav attack” setup, and how the Accelerated Dragon affords black several advantages.
Many players wonder what the difference is between the Hyper-Accelerated Dragon and the Accelerated Dragon.
After 1. e4 c5 Nf3 g6:
We arrive at the following position – the start of the Hyper-Accelerated Dragon.
If white plays in typical “Open Sicilian” format with 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4, there is essentially no difference between the Hyper-Accelerated dragon and the Accelerated Dragon. Play will transpose.
White can still play the Maroczy Bind. And white can still play the lines we’re about to cover in this article.
The only difference is that black has to be ready to face a different “sideline.”
By playing the Hyper-Accelerated Dragon move order, black avoids the 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 sideline (of course Bb5 makes no sense without a knight on c6!), but now they must be ready to play against 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 g6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Qxd4:
After the nearly forced 4…Nf6, white intends 5. e5 Nc6 Qa4 Nd5 7. Qe4.
This peculiar line can be dangerous for an unprepared player with black, so be on guard!
With this nuance out of the way, let’s cover what happens if white tries to play in “Yugoslav style” against the Accelerated Dragon.
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 g6 5. Nc3 Bg7 6. Be3 Nf6 7. f3 0-0 8. Qd2
This plan is well-known. White is ready to castle long, and then play h2-h5-h5, Bh6, eliminate black’s dark bishop, and then “sac, sac, mate!” as Bobby Fischer once said.
But this is different. Black has never “wasted” a move by playing …d6 and focused solely on development. This gives black the option to play 8…d5!, blowing the center open.
After, say, 9. Nxc6 bxc6 10. 0-0-0 Qa5, it’s clear that white’s attack is never going to materialize and black has the better game. The semi-open b-file could be used to attack the white king, and the center is far too open for the slow march of the h-pawn.
Instead 7. Bc4 can be tried, taking further control of d5 for now. After 7…0-0:
8. f3?! would be hit with 8…Qb6!, when threats of …Nxe4 to unleash the g7-bishop on the d4-knight are in the air. The point is that the bishop on e3 is now undefended, severely restricting white’s options for a discovered attack on this queen.
White doesn’t want to play this position! See the video above for a good illustration of black’s tactical potential.
8. Qd2 allows an annoying 8…Ng4
Most commonly white plays 8. Bb3, tucking this bishop back on square where it’s defended and waiting for black to commit to something! Surely black has to play …d6 finally and white can begin their attack?
Black certainly can play …d6, and often does. But if black wants to stay in original, Accelerated-Dragon style territory, black can delay this move even longer and play 8…a5
Black may succeed in being able to play …a4 by tactical means. For example, after 9. 0-0 a4!, white can win the a-pawn but only at the expense of losing their e-pawn!
In the video above, I give some illustrative lines for how each side can handle the resulting positions.
The Accelerated Dragon, and its close cousin the Hyper-Accelerated Dragon, are very interesting attempts by black to achieve the kingside fianchetto in the Sicilian without coming under such heavy fire on the kingside. Both players need to understand the implications of this move order and adjust accordingly!
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