There are many active chess players who swear by the massive block of memorized moves known as chess opening theory. For most people, a major part of learning the opening during your chess training involves sitting over books learning the possible strategies in positions after some series of moves that the player must commit to memory. While from the perspective of optimizing the learning process there are many issues with this particular method, there are major problems that stem from the practical side of the situation as well. Sometimes what is considered the main line of moves for a particular opening system is actually very flawed and quickly leads to losing or nearly-losing positions. Here we’re going to take a look at a series of brutal attacking moves against the Sicilian Dragon’s old main line that many people still use today because they aren’t aware that opening theory has changed.
The Sicilian Dragon is a black opening that begins 1. e4 c5, 2. Nf3 d6, 3. d4 cxd4, 4. Nxd4 Nf6, 5. Nc3 g6. Black’s plan is to fianchetto his dark-squared bishop to the g7 square and try to operate along the a1-h8 diagonal. This combined with the half-open c-file can lead to some attacking chances in the long-term against white’s queen-side. White, on the other hand, has many plans from this position. He can castle king-side and play a slow attacking game with f2-f4-f5, or he can castle queen-side and rush the black king-side with pawns on the g-file and h-file. The opening continues with white choosing the latter plan after 6. Be3 Bg7, 7. f3 Nc6, 8. Qd2 Bd7, 9. Bc4 0-0, 10. 0-0-0 Rc8.
This is the basic set-up for the main line, but we can see some problems right away for black. White’s attack is going to come very quickly after g4 and h4 or just h4 followed by h5, opening up the h-file for white’s rooks. White can play Bh6 at any time and exchange dark-squared bishops, which leads to black having massive holes in his king-side position. After 11. Bb3 Ne5, 12. h4 Nc4, 13. Bxc4 Rxc4, we have the old main line of what’s called the Yugoslav Attack which is characterized by white castling queen-side and attacking up the h-file. Many players, even grandmasters, played this line for years just because theory told them so. The problem is that white ends up clearly ahead over and over again from this line because it’s flawed!
White begins his attack with 14. h5 Nxh5, 15. g4 Nf6, 16. Bh6 Qa5, 17. Kb1 Rfc8 and it seems like for a moment black might have some counter-play down the c-file. However, as we’ve seen time and time again in many games, white’s attack is extremely harsh against this line. White plays the simple and natural 18. Bxg7 Kxg7, 19. Qh6+ Kg8, 20. Nd5 and the threat is Nxf6 followed by Qxh7+. Black has absolutely no answer for this attack on his king-side, with the rare case of drawing the endgame after being a pawn or two down.
The moral of this example game is not to trust opening theory just because it’s a line of chess moves you’re told to memorize. Your chess training must be complete with learning why you’re doing something instead of just playing on auto-pilot, or you’ll find yourself on the receiving end of attacks like this one.