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In this Update, we look at several games from the recent FIDE Grand Prix featuring complex lines that have fallen out of fashion, but retain a lot of venom for an unsuspecting opponent!

Download PGN of April ’22 Flank Openings games

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King’s Indian Attack, 6...g6 [A08]

After the standard moves 1 Nf3 d5 2 g3 Nf6 3 Bg2 e6 4 0-0 c5 5 d3 Nc6 6 Nbd2, the mainline of the King's Indian Attack starts with 6...Be7 7 e4. Naiditsch, A - Buckels, V, instead saw an alternative setup for Black with 6...g6:

After 7 e4 Bg7, White tried to break open the centre before Black had completed development, with 8 exd5 Nxd5 9 Nb3 b6 10 d4. Black responded with 10...c4 11 Nbd2 c3, followed by a sacrifice of the c3-pawn, and in return got decent pressure on the c-file. After restoring material parity, it was Black that was pressing later in the game.

English Opening, 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nf3 e6 3 b3 c5 4 g3 d5 5 cxd5 exd5 6 Bg2 Nc6 7 0-0 d4 [A13]

Keymer, V - Nguyen, T opened with the sequence 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nf3 e6 3 b3 c5 4 g3 d5 5 cxd5 exd5 6 Bg2 Nc6 and here (or earlier) White can transpose to a line of the QGD Tarrasch by playing d2-d4. Instead, with 7 0-0 Keymer attempted to keep the game in Flank Opening territory, to which Black answered with 7...d4, grabbing central space in principled fashion:

White’s hopes for an edge are based on undermining Black's centre with e2-e3. After the ensuing moves 8 Na3 Be7 9 Bb2 0-0 10 Nc4 Be6 11 e3 Rc8 12 exd4 cxd4, however, Black appears to have sufficient central control to maintain the balance.

Pseudo-Grünfeld, 5 h4 Bg7 6 h5 [A16]

The popular anti-Grünfeld line 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 Nc3 d5 4 cxd5 Nxd5 5 h4 featured in the game Le, L - Navara, D. After 5...Bg7 6 h5 Nxc3 7 bxc3 c5 we reach a position where David Navara, playing White, recently chose 8 Qa4+ (see the December 2021 Update). Instead, in this month’s game, his opponent chose the apparently quieter 8 g3:

Perhaps simplest here is 8...Nc6 9 Bg2 Bf5, but Black spent an extra tempo developing the bishop with 8...Bd7 9 Bg2 Bc6. After 10 Qb3 0-0, White went for the crude idea of 11 hxg6 followed by Qc4-h4, and after Black flirted with too much danger, the attack on the h-file worked out beautifully for White.

King’s English, 2 Nc3 Bb4 3 Nd5 Be7 4 d4 [A21]

Following 1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 Bb4 3 Nd5, the major alternatives are 3...a5 and 3...Bc5, but the retreat 3...Be7 is an "old" move that has come back into vogue recently. Following White's most popular move 4 d4, we reach the following position:

The game Deac, B - Nevednichy, V proceeded with 4...d6. In the position after 5 e4 Nf6 6 Nxe7 Qxe7 7 f3, White has the two bishops and more space, so Black needs to seek dynamic counterplay in order to avoid being squeezed in a slightly worse position. With accurate play, it appears that White has good chances for an edge. Going back to move 4, Black should investigate 4...exd4 which, based on the evidence of recent games, is more solid.

King’s English, 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 Nf3 e4 4 Ng5 c6 [A22]

The pawn sacrifice starting with 1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 Nf3 e4 4 Ng5 c6!? is a fresh gambit idea that I first covered in the June 2021 Update, as GM Adhiban had tried it in two online rapid games that month. The game Nyzhnyk, I - Sevian, S is the highest rated encounter to feature the gambit in OTB classical chess.

Taking the pawn with 5 Ngxe4 is naturally a critical test. After 5...Nxe4 6 Nxe4 d5 7 cxd5 cxd5 8 Ng3 the important move 8...h5! is a thematic idea to disrupt White's setup. In the game, White‘s 10 Bb5+ and 14 Qa4 were sub-optimal, and Black took over the initiative.

King’s English, Four Knights 4 g3 Bb4 5 Bg2 0-0 6 0-0 e4 [A29]

In Mamedyarov, S - Keymer, V, the players entered a sharp, but not particularly fashionable, line of the English with 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e5 3 Nf3 Nc6 4 g3 Bb4 5 Bg2 0-0 6 0-0 e4:

In this position, the vast majority of games have continued with 7 Ng5 (the mainline) or 7 Ne1. Instead, Mamedyarov surprised his opponent with the very rare 7 Nh4!?. Black actually has several acceptable tries here, and play can transpose into known lines. Keymer was tempted, however to try and exploit the offside h4-knight, and chose an unfortunate moment to lash out with 10...g5. White had to temporarily sacrifice a piece, but Black's king was seriously exposed and Black was soon in big trouble.

Symmetrical English, Four Knights 6 g3 Qb6 7 Nbd5 [A33]

The Symmetrical English line starting with 1 Nf3 c5 2 c4 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 e6 6 g3 Qb6 is a complex variation with a labyrinth of established theory. It also puts the onus on Black to carry a lot of opening knowledge, since White has significant options on almost every move. In Predke, A - Vachier Lagrave, M, White managed to hit the jackpot by testing his opponent in a known, but little played line.

In the diagram position, the move 10 h3 is currently in vogue (see for example the 2020 Candidates battle Giri-Nepomniachtchi), but Predke continued with the less common 10 Qa4. Later on, 14... 0-0? was an incautious move allowed White to generate a strong attack after 15 g4!.

Symmetrical English, 1 c4 c5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 Nc3 d5 4 cxd5 Nxd5 5 b3 [A34]

Predke, A - Shankland, S, left established theory much earlier than the previous game. After 1 Nf3 c5 2 c4 Nf6 3 Nc3 d5 4 cxd5 Nxd5, in a common position that has been played thousands of times, White played the near novelty 5 b3:

In the past, White's 5th move may not have been seriously considered, since Black can immediately trade queens, but many similar ideas have gained respectability. In any case, Shankland answered with 5...Nc6 6 Nxd5 Qxd5 7 e3 Bf5, probing the light squares. White’s position is certainly playable, but in trying to make something happen, White went wrong with 16 Qc2 and from bad to worse with 21 Qh3, leaving him material down with no counterplay.

I hope you enjoy this Update!

Until next month, David.

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