ForumHelpSearchMy ProfileSite InfoGuests InfoRepertoireLinks
This month’s Update includes games from a wide range of events, from Open tournaments all the way up to the World Championship match. There are a number of surprise weapons featured, including Ding Liren’s use of the 4 e3 English to win a critical game early in the match.

Download PGN of April ’23 Flank Openings games

>> Previous Update >>

Réti, Capablanca’s System 1 c4 c6 2 Nf3 d5 3 g3 Bg4 4 Ne5 [A11]

Capablanca's system with an early ...Bc8-g4 is a generally reliable answer to the Réti, but the absence of Black's bishop from the queenside can sometimes lead to tactical motifs in the opening phase. The game Abasov, N - Brunello, S is a case in point. After 1 c4 c6 2 Nf3 d5 3 g3 Bg4 4 Ne5 Bf5 5 Qb3 Qb6:

White continued with the apparently innocent 6 cxd5 Qxb3 7 axb3, but despite the trade of queens, Black needs to be accurate here. 7...Bxb1! is called for, while 7...Be4 allowed a shock refutation. After 8 dxc6!, the main point is that after 8...Bxh1 9 Rxa7! Rxa7 10 c7 White makes a new queen! Instead, Black had to play on a pawn down after 8...Nxc6 9 f3. It wasn’t all plain sailing from here, but White did end up winning the game.

Réti Opening, Reversed Benoni 7 d3 [A13]

In Warmedam, M - Petkov, M, White tried a move order finesse in the reversed Benoni after 1 Nf3 d5 2 g3 c5 3 Bg2 Nf6 4 0-0 e6 5 c4 d4 6 e3 Nc6. Now, White usually plays 7 exd4 cxd4 8 d3, when the topical move is 8...h6, which we looked at in last month’s Update. Instead, 7 d3 delays the e3xd4 trade, in order to potentially divert Black from his intended setup. The game continued 7...h6 8 Na3 allowing Black to occupy further space in the centre with 8...e5:

Compared to a standard Benoni, Black has used up a lot of extra tempi, so the question is whether White can take advantage of the open e-file after 9 exd4 exd4. The game continued 10 Bf4 Bd6 11 Re1+ Be6. Now White grabbed a pawn with 12 Ne5 0-0 13 Bxc6, but giving up the key g2-bishop exposed White’s kingside and gave Black adequate compensation.

Anti-QGD System 4...Bd6 [A17]

I was recently lucky enough to play in the excellent Fagernes tournament in Norway, which gave me a chance to play some of the lines researched on ChessPublishing. As a result, I decided to include Cummings, D - Ter Sahakyan, S in this Update. The game opened with 1 Nf3 d5 2 e3 Nf6 3 c4 e6 4 Nc3 Bd6 5 b3 0-0 6 Bb2 Re8:

Now 7 Nb5 Be7 8 Be5 is similar to the idea used in Artemiev-Ding Liren from the March 2022 Update. White forces the b8-knight to defend the c7-pawn, in a way that is perhaps reminiscent of the Jobava London. After 8...Na6 9 Be2 c6 10 Nc3 Nc5 11 Qc2 Ncd7 12 Bg3, the g3-bishop has made an interesting journey to the kingside. Following 12...a6, I believe that White has a pleasant game after 13 d4. On the other hand, 13 0-0 Nh5, as played in the game, allowed Black to equalize.

Mikenas Attack 3...d5 4 cxd5 exd5 5 e5 Ne4 6 Nf3 Bf5 7 Be2 [A18]

One of the modern mainlines of the Mikenas occurs after 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e6 3 e4 d5 4 cxd5 exd5 5 e5, and was seen this month in Caruana, F - Aronian, L. In this position, Aronian has experimented with 5...d4, but this time went for the main move 5...Ne4. After 6 Nf3 Bf5, the move 7 d3 has been in vogue for the last 5-6 years, so the “old” move 7 Be2 came as a bit of a surprise:

Now 7...d4 is regarded as the antidote to 7 Be2. Caruana continued 8 Nxe4 Bxe4 9 d3 Bd5 10 0-0 Nc6, and here 11 Bf4 was a new move. It remains to be seen what Fabiano had in mind against quiet development, but in any case Black played aggressively with 11...h6 12 Bg3 g5. At this point, things kicked off with 13 Qa4 Bg7 14 Nxd4, snatching a pawn and provoking complications, which ended in White favour.

King’s English, Four Knights 4 e3 Bb4 5 Qc2 Bxc3 6 bxc3 [A28]

Game 4 of the World Championship match Ding Liren - Nepomniachtchi, I opened with 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e5 3 Nf3 Nc6 4 e3. This line peaked in popularity around 2018-2020, with many high-level games advancing the theory of the variation. In the last few years, it has been seen less often, enabling Ding to use it with an element of surprise. The game continued 4...Bb4 5 Qc2 Bxc3 6 bxc3 d6 7 e4 0-0:

From this position, 8 g3 used to be the most popular choice, but 8 Be2 going for simple and quick development, has cropped up in a few recent games. Black has many options here, but 8...Nh5 9 d4 Nf4 gave White a central pawn majority after 10 Bxf4 exf4, and so put Black on the back foot. Later on, with 15 c5, White sacrificed a pawn to get an even stronger centre. The game remained strategically complex, and far from clear, until the error 28...Nd4 allowed an exchange sac, which gave White a crushing position.

King’s English, Four Knights 4 e4 Bb4 [A28]

Nakamura, H - So, W varied from the previous game with 4 e4, which continues to be popular at top level. The game continued with 4...Bb4 5 d3 d6 6 a3 Bc5 7 b4 Bb6 8 Na4 Bg4 9 Be2 Bxf3 10 Bxf3 Nd4 11 Nxb6 axb6 12 0-0 leading to a typical positional struggle:

From this position, Wesley continued 12...Qd7, staying flexible, and after 13 Bb2 Nxf3+ 14 Qxf3 0-0 15 Qe2 Rfe8 16 f4 b5, demonstrated an instructive method of generating counterplay against White's central construction. Later on, Nakamura’s 21 d4 offered a pawn to open the position, and some intense complications arose, with the game eventually ending peacefully.

Symmetrical, Hedgehog 7 d4 cxd4 8 Qxd4 0-0 9 Rd1 d6 10 Bg5 [A30]

The game Warmedam, M - Baenziger, F started with 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 c4 b6 3 g3 Bb7 4 Bg2 c5 5 0-0 e6 6 Nc3 Be7 7 d4 cxd4 8 Qxd4. It has been quite a while since we looked at the good old Hedgehog! The diagram position was reached after 8...0-0 9 Rd1 d6 10 Bg5:

Here the move 10...h6 is quite rare, but it forces White to clarify matters with 11 Bxf6 Bxf6. White can grab the d6-pawn, but Black appears to get full compensation. Instead, after 12 Qf4 Qe7 13 Rac1 White continued with material parity, but Black was fine before faltering on move 17 and losing material shortly thereafter.

Symmetrical English, 1 Nf3 c5 2 g3 Nc6 3 Bg2 Nf6 4 0-0 e6 5 c4 Qb6 [A30]

Gledura, B - Yoo, C began with 1 Nf3 c5 2 g3 Nc6 3 Bg2 Nf6 4 0-0 e6 5 c4, and here Black uncorked the very rare 5...Qb6. This is only Black's 8th most popular move, and is new to this site. Black prevents an immediate 6 d4, while eyeing a possible ...d7-d5 to fight for the centre.

Following 6 b3 d5 7 cxd5 exd5 8 Bb2 Be7, White has several critical options such as 9 Nc3 and 9 Bxf6 Bxf6 10 Nc3, while the game continued 9 Ne5 0-0 10 Nxc6 Qxc6 11 Nc3. Now with 11...b5, followed by 14...a5, Black established an impressive array of pawns which constrained White’s piece play. From move 20 onward, the game veered into tactical complications and an unusual material balance. The game swung back and forth, with Black eventually emerging victorious.

Until next month, David.

>> Previous Update >>

To contact the author please go to the Flank Openings Forum, or subscribers can write directly to