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This is my last update for a while as I'm getting extremely busy with teaching, and I also expect to be playing a bunch of tournaments this summer. I just wouldn't be able to devote the amount of time I'd like to future updates.
Anyway, Tony Kosten has agreed to step in for a few months, and in this update we have 'merged' our efforts.

Download PGN of April '12 Flank Openings games

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Neo-Catalan [A13]

Games in the fashionable line 1.Nf3 d5 2.c4 e6 3.g3 Nf6 4.Bg2 dxc4 5.Qa4+ c6 6.Qxc4 b5 7.Qb3!? continue to pour in:

We fuel the theoretical discussion this month with analysis of two of these contests.

Bruzon Batista-Leitao followed the topical line 7...Bb7 8.0-0 Nbd7 9.d4 a6 10.Ne5! Nxe5 11.dxe5 Nd5 (11...Nd7 was covered last month in Agrest - Grandelius) 12.Nc3 Be7 13.Ne4 Qc7:

Here White has to be ready to pitch the e5 pawn if he hopes to profit from the dark square weaknesses in Black's position. Last month I suggested doing so with 14.Nd6!?+, i.e. Bxd6 15.exd6 Qxd6 16.e4 Nb6 17.Rd1 Qe7 18.Qc3 0-0 19.b3!?. Bruzon preferred 14.Bg5!? instead, and after 14...Bxg5 15.Nxg5 Qxe5 16.Ne4 0-0 17.Nc5 Qc7 18.Rfc1 he demonstrated that White does not need the advantage of the bishop pair to claim full compensation here.

Grachev - Aleksandrov saw something a little different with 7...Bb7 8.0-0 a6, which is less common than 8...Nbd7. The point is that on 9.d4 Black can fully expect to equalize with 9...c5! For that reason Grachev's 9.Ne5!? is an important test. After 9...Qd6 10.d4! Qxd4 he could have obtained excellent play with 11.Bf4!

Réti 4...Be7 [A14]

(TK) I personally find this line very solid for Black, and was hoping that John would be able to show me how to get an advantage as White before he parted! Anyway, my plan over the next few updates is to discuss my ideas and experiences since the last time I covered this section (some 6 years ago or more), and here I'm going to show two interesting recent games of mine where Black played an early ...Ba6.

First, the unpublished game Kosten - Grimberg, when after the normal 1.c4 e6 2.Nf3 d5 3.g3 Nf6 4.Bg2 Be7 5.0-0 0-0 6.b3 c5 7.Bb2 Nc6 8.e3 b6 9.Nc3:

my opponent played 9...Ba6!? 10.d3 Rc8 11.Qe2 Rc7 intending ...Rd7 with pressure on d3.

Worth looking through the game for the pretty tactics alone!

The next game is Kosten - Landa, featuring a fascinating line where Black plays first ...Bb7, and then ...Ba6:

King's English 3...d5, Reversed Dragon [A29]

Vachier Lagrave-Fedorchuk revisits the curious discovery of Pavel Eljanov: 1.c4 e5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Nc3 Nb6 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.0-0 Be7 8.a3 0-0 9.b4 Be6 10.Rb1 f6 11.d3 Nd4 and now 12.Nh4!?:

I wasn't optimistic that we would see much more of this move in the future (especially on such a high level!), but the Frenchman clearly thought it was worth a try. Like Eljanov's opponent in last month's update, Fedorchuk responded pretty cooperatively with 12...c6 (Eljanov-Salgado Lopez went 12...Qc8?!), but after 13.e3 Nf5 (the pawn sacrifice 13...Nb5!? would liven things up a bit) 14.Nxf5 Bxf5 15.Qb3+ Kh8 16.Ne4 Bg6 17.Rd1 Bf7 (17...Bh5!?) 18.Qc2 Qc7 19.Bb2 White could claim a miniscule edge. 12...g5 still looks critical to me.

Symmetrical - Double Fianchetto [A30]

Sergey Karjakin has proven to be a real connoisseur of the Double Fianchetto, and his inventive novelty in Jakovenko - Karjakin is a testament to his level of understanding and preparation in this line.

The novelty in question occurred after 1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 b6 3.g3 c5 4.Bg2 Bb7 5.0-0 g6 6.Nc3 Bg7 7.d4 cxd4 8.Qxd4 d6 9.Rd1 Nbd7 10.Be3 Rc8 11.Rac1 a6 12.b3 0-0 13.Qh4 Rc7 14.g4:

Here the theoretical endorsement belongs to 14...h6 (see the archives for Bu - Shchekachev). Karjakin instead played the outwardly ridiculous 14...Rc8!?, tossing two tempi to the wind! The most human explanation of 14...Rc8!? I can muster is as follows: in exchange for 'losing' two tempi Black has encouraged White to further loosen his position (g3-g4), thereby cutting White's own queen off from the queenside. The counterthrust ...b6-b5! now gains in strength (possibly in conjunction with a discovered attack on c3 by ...Nf6-xg4). The rook facilitates this plan in slyly returning to c8, making way for counterplay with ...Qd8-a5. This is more or less how the game proceeded: 15.Bh3 (White has several options here that deserve attention) 15...b5! 16.cxb5 Qa5! 17.Bd2 Bxf3! 18.exf3 axb5 19.g5 b4! and Black expertly navigated the complications to reach an opposite-color bishop middlegame in which he outplayed his strong opponent.

Botvinnik System [A37]

(TK) The day before the game Johannesson - Kosten I was preparing to play against the Botvinnik as White, but my opponent preferred something else, and as it seemed a shame to waste my opening preparation, I thought I might as well play the black side the next day!

After 1.Nf3 c5 2.c4 Nc6 3.Nc3 e5 4.g3 g6 5.a3 Bg7 6.Rb1 a5 7.Bg2 Nge7 8.0-0 d6 9.d3 0-0 10.Ne1 Be6 my opponent surprised me with 11.Bg5 f6 12.Be3 - my own recommendation for White in 'The Dynamic English'!

Very cheeky, I thought! Anyway, this gives me a good opportunity to see what has happened in this line in the intervening 13 years!

Until next time, Tony

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