ForumHelpSearchMy ProfileSite InfoGuests InfoRepertoireLinks
Hi Everyone!
This month there were many interesting Flank Opening games played in both top-level Closed events as well as the many Open tournaments that take place during the summer. In this Update, I look at the latest developments in Larsen's opening, the anti-Stonewall Réti and heavyweight battles in the Symmetrical English.

Download PGN of August '15 Flank Openings games

>> Previous Update >>

Larsen's Opening 1 b3 e5 2 Bb2 Nc6 3 e3 Nf6 4 Bb5 Bd6 [A01]

On his way to great results in the Benasque and Andorra Opens, Granda Zuniga played 1 b3 four times this month, scoring two wins and two draws against Grandmaster opposition.

In Granda Zuniga-Demuth, after 1 b3 e5 2 Bb2 Nc6 3 e3 Nf6 4 Bb5 Bd6, instead of the more common 5 Na3 White played the quiet developing move 5 Ne2:

After 5...0-0 6 Na3, Black played 6...e4 when 6...Ne7!? was an interesting and probably better alternative. In the game, Granda got a playable though balanced position from the opening, but then outplayed his opponent rather quickly for a short 22 move win. I have included references to Granda's other 1 b3 games in the notes to the main game.

Larsen's Opening 1 b3 e5 2 Bb2 Nc6 3 e3 d5 4 Bb5 Bd6 [A01]

Hillarp Persson-Grandelius, was another high-level encounter in Larsen's Opening. After 1 b3 e5 2 Bb2 Nc6 3 e3, while 3...Nf6 is all the rage, in this game Grandelius chose the more ambitious 3...d5. After the subsequent 4 Bb5 Bd6 5 f4, rather than throw in the more common queen check 5...Qh4+, he bolstered his centre with the immediate 5...f6:

Black came out of the opening with a solid position, and outplayed his opponent in the early middlegame. Hillarp Persson fought back, however, from an inferior endgame to hold a draw.

Perhaps we will see more of 3...d5 going forward, as it doesn't appear to have any drawbacks compared to 3...Nf6.

Réti v Stonewall Dutch 1 Nf3 f5 2 c4 e6 3 g3 Nf6 4 Bg2 d5 [A10]

The Réti move order is generally regarded as a good option against Stonewall Dutch players. White does not commit his d-pawn, and if Black insists on setting up the Stonewall structure, White can attack on the light squares with d2-d3 and e2-e4.

Bu Xiangzhi-Fedoseev, from the recent China-Russia match, reached the following position after 1 Nf3 e6 2 c4 f5 3 g3 Nf6 4 Bg2 d5 5 0-0 Bd6 6 Nc3 0-0 7 d3 c6 8 e4:

Black was left with an isolated e-pawn following 8...dxe4 9 dxe4 e5 10 Qc2 fxe4 11 Ng5. White emerged from the opening with an edge due to his control of the light squares, and despite one or two ups and downs, brought home the full point.

Symmetrical English 1 c4 c5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 Nc3 d5 4 cxd5 Nxd5 5 e3 [A17]

Anton Guijarro-Salem saw highly original play from both players, resulting in a completely new and unusual position after a mere 7 moves! After 1 Nf3 c5 2 c4 Nf6 3 Nc3 d5 4 cxd5 Nxd5 5 e3 e6 we reach a normal position which has been played many times. Then, however, the sequence 6 Nxd5 exd5 leads to a surprisingly rare position, at which point White launched a pawn sacrifice with the novelty 7 b4!?:

Black responded with the equally creative 7...c4!? and a strange and unbalanced position arose. The advantage swung dramatically in both directions before White finally emerged victorious.

Symmetrical 4 Knights 6 a3 [A33]

After 1 c4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 e6 the line with 6 a3 is a reliable alternative to 6 g3 and avoids the theoretical craziness that can come with that territory (see the next game below!). In Navara - Eljanov from Biel, Black tried 6...Bc5 7 Nb3 and now 7...Bb6!? instead of the more usual 7...Be7:

In this little-explored position, Navara set up a Maroczy bind structure with 8 e4, and an interesting duel ensued where White's light-square control was countered by Black's dark-square influence The game was dynamically balanced throughout, and eventually transitioned to a drawn endgame.

Symmetrical 4 Knights 6 g3 Qb6 7 Ndb5 [A33]

Svane - Heimann followed a highly topical theoretical line which Tony last reviewed in the March Update.

Following 6 g3 Qb6 White played the sharp 7 Ndb5 Ne5 8 Bf4 Nfg4 9 Qa4!? to which Black responded with the best move 9...g5!:

This has been analyzed out to a forced draw but the variations are very complex. As in the Nakamura-Karjakin game from earlier in the year, in this game Black forgot or couldn't find the right moves over the board. In the notes, I give recent games where Black did find the draw, and supporting analysis showing that there really is no choice for either side to deviate without risking a loss.

Pure Symmetrical 5 Nf3 e6 [A37]

In the pure symmetrical English with 1 c4 c5 2 Nc3 Nc6 3 g3 g6 4 Bg2 Bg7 5 Nf3 the Fischer line with 5...e6 and 6...Nge7 is a very reliable Black setup that scores well in practise:

In Cori - Salomon, we see some typical ideas for both sides. After White erred in the early middlegame, Black won a fine game against his higher rated opponent. Overall, Black looks to be in good shape in this line.

Pure Symmetrical 5 Nf3 e5 Botvinnik 7...a6!? [A37]

Navara - Vachier Lagrave saw another reputable Black setup in the Pure Symmetrical. After 1 Nf3 c5 2 c4 Nc6 3 Nc3 e5 4 g3 g6 5 Bg2 Bg7 6 0-0 Nge7 7 Ne1 Black started early queenside action with the slightly unusual 7...a6!?:

After the typical shadow boxing between moves 8 and 14, Black emerged with a fine position. Shortly after this Navara overreached and unwisely grabbed a pawn. MVL soon got a big attack and moved in for the kill. In the notes I refer to other high-level games in this line and summarize the key plans for both sides.

I hope you enjoy this update! Till next time, David.

>> Previous Update >>

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