Inspired by Andrew Martin's copious coverage on the topic, I'm trying to evaluate a line in the Sicilian Dragon arising after:
1. e4 c5
2. Nf3 d6
3. d4 PxP
4. NxP Nf6
5. Nc3 g6
Martin (and others) tend to refer to this as the modern 6. Bc4 line, but I'll call it the Neo-Classical Dragon because that's how I roll. All I need is ten other people to start calling it that and we'll have something going.
This variation was conceived as an improvement to the Classical Dragon (6. Be2) which has suffered over the years since its focus on quiet development and only then a kingside attack has not proven sufficient against the dynamic Dragon setup. Consider the pawn skeleton below:
So long as the 'dragon' bishop resides at g7, this is a favorable structure for Black. There is obvious pressure on White's queenside, with a possible exchange sacrifice on c3 on the horizon. The added pieces highlight White's deficiencies - the c3 knight can be pinned to the b2 pawn, and the semi-open c-file is looking tasty for Black. What White has going for him (if there are more pieces) is the possibility of an attack on Black's kingside with the f, g and h pawns being pushed with the help of White's heavy pieces. This is double-edged, however, as it exposes the White king to counterattack.
What to do? In recent years players looking for an alternative to the Yugoslav Attack have turned to 6. Bc4 (Neo-Classical!) as an improvement. How does this change the evaluation? The key difference is that White's light squared bishop finds more activity on the a2-f7 diagonal rather than picking its nose at e2, where its most important job seems to be guarding the g4 square. The g4 square can instead be covered by White moving a pawn to h3, and the bishop now has the task of controlling the center (Nimzovich - centralization!). And if Black gets it into his mind to exchange a knight for the light squared bishop (which is easier to do with the bishop on c4) he may find this a poor transaction because in the resulting positions White's knights can be stronger. Indeed, White's strategy seems to be to aim for a positional squeeze using the d5 outpost as leverage for concessions. Now for a typical line:
6 .... Bg7 (it's easy to fall into a trap here - 6....Nc6? 7. Nxc6 bxc6 8. e5! dxe5?? 9. Bxf7! +-)
7. O-O O-O
8. h3 Nc6 (h3 sets up 9. Be3 by preventing 9....Ng4)
9. Be3 Nd7 (the center fork trick with 9...Nxe4 is a thought here)
arrives at a position that has scored a healthy 58% for White.
The play that follows won't be to the taste of attacking players, but for the Lekos and Kramniks amongst us, consider how Szmetan (2268) - Schiller (2205) went in 1986:
11. f4 Nxb3
12. axb3 a6
13. Qd3 Qc7
14. Nd5 Nxd5 (Soltis aficionados will recognize White's 14th as the positionally minded 'Marco hop', which in this case leads to a dynamic balance featuring Black's weakened center against White's diminished queenside)
15. exd5 e5
16. dxe6 fxe6
Though the game ended in a draw, it's easy to imagine interesting ideas for both sides. This is just a cursory look, but I'm thinking this variation is a reasonable (but slightly inferior) alternative to the Yugoslav Attack. All a matter of taste. As the Brits say, it's worth a punt.