If you’re looking for an interesting reply to 1. e4, the Accelerated Dragon might just be what you’re looking for.
I’ve played the Accelerated Dragon for most of my life and will share the key concepts of this opening with you today.
What is the Accelerated Dragon?
The Accelerated Dragon is a variation of the Sicilian Defense that can be played as a reply to 1. e4.
The Accelerated Dragon can occur after the move order 1.e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 g7.
Key Ideas of the Accelerated Dragon
The Accelerated Dragon is a Sicilian variation. Many regard the Sicilian Defense as the strongest reply to 1.e4. Unlike 1. … e5, which looks for symmetry, the reply 1. … c5 creates an unbalanced game.
In most Sicilians, white plays d4 to open the d-file. This allows black to play cxd4, which exchanges a bishop pawn for a center pawn. Center pawns are seen as more valuable than bishop pawns.
After cxd4, the c-file is semi-open and black can place a rook on c8 to pressure white’s position.
In the regular Dragon, black plays …d6. In the Accelerated Dragon, black keeps the pawn on d7 to play …d5 in the right moment without a tempo loss. This quick break in the center makes a possible attack of white on the kingside, for example with a queenside castle and h4, less effective.
Main Line of the Accelerated Dragon
Let’s look at two of the main lines:
- White plays the setup Nc3, Be3 and Bc4
- White plays c4, the Maroczy bind
White plays 5. Nc3, 6. Be3 and 7. Bc4
After the natural moves 5. Nc3 Bg7 6. Be3 Nf6 7. Bc4, we reach the old mainline. On an amateur level, this set up is very common for white.
After 7. … 0-0, the best move for white is 8. Bb3.
Weaker is 9. 0-0, because black can strike tactically with 9. … Nxe4!
After 10. Nxe4 d5, black wins the piece back and has the positional advantage.
An even weaker move from white that you’ll see from time to time is 9. f3? Black can respond with 9. … Qb6!, which wins a pawn due to the double threat of Qxb2 and Nxe4.
After 8. Bb3, black can play 8. … a5 with the plan of putting pressure on the white defenders. I’ll leave the position here as there are many possibilities to continue. Dive deeper with an engine if this variation is interesting for you, or start playing and explore it on your own!
White plays 5. c4
The move 5. c4 is called the Maroczy Bind. Grandmasters consider it to be the strongest reply for white, and it’s one of the reasons why the Accelerated Dragon isn’t played as much anymore on the top level.
The Maroczy Bind isn’t immediately dangerous for black, but it’s a positional threat. White “binds” the square d5 – which makes the standard breakthrough …d5 hard to play.
The next moves are logical. Black plays 5. … Bg7, developing the bishop and attacking the knight on d4. White plays 6. Be3 to defend it. 6. … Nf6 and 7. Nc3 are the next standard developing moves.
Now we reach a position where I recommend to play an interesting move that might look surprising at first: 7. … Ng4!
It’s an unusual move because you move your knight to an undefended square where it immediately can be captured. But of course, after 8. Qxg4, black can regain the piece with 8. … Nxd4.
Black also sets up a little trap here. The reply 8. Nxc6 gives black the advantage after 8. … Nxe3 9. Nxd8 Nxd1 10. Rxd1 Bxc3 11. bxc3 Kxd8.
White’s pawn structure looks sad and black has the advantage in the endgame.
Instead, 8. Qxg4 Nxd4 9. Qd1 Nd6 leads into a position that gives white a small advantage but is perfectly playable for black.
Is the Accelerated Dragon a Good Opening?
The Accelerated Dragon is an excellent opening for beginners because the basic concepts are easy to grasp. Also, the Sicilian creates unbalanced positions which are more intriguing to play than variations that start with the symmetrical 1. … e5.
The Accelerated Dragon is playable on a Master level, although it’s considered to be inferior to other variations of the Sicilian.
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Do Grandmasters play the Accelerated Dragon?
Grandmasters like Nakamura, Grischuk or Carlsen have played the Accelerated Dragon, although it’s more of a surprise weapon than a repertoire stable.
Is the Accelerated Dragon easy to learn?
In my opinion, yes, it is easy to learn. I think that the ideas and positions of the Accelerated Dragon are intuitive to understand and to play.