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Hi everyone!
Lots of new ideas and important novelties this month as strong tournaments happen across the globe. Look out for the wild Jakovenko-Sutovsky – one of the most entertaining games of the year so far!

Download PGN of August ’16 Flank Openings games

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Larsen's Opening 1 b3 d5 2 Bb2 Bg4 [A01]

Against 1 b3, while 1...e5 is the most popular reply, the light-squared strategy with 1...d5 is a perfectly valid response to Larsen's opening. After 2 Bb2, Li - Ostrovskiy continued with 2...Bg4 which is a slightly abstract, provocative approach, inviting White to chase the bishop on the kingside. Now 3 g3, transposing to a Réti, is playable of course, although Larsen fans would likely prefer one of the other 3rd moves. Indeed, Ruifeng Li chose 3 f3 Bh5 4 Nh3:

Despite the tempi that White gains on the bishop, his pawn structure is not ideal, and Black's setup is solid. In the game, however, Black opened the centre a little too early, allowing White to gain an edge.

Réti Opening Reversed Benoni [A09]

Caruana - Buhmann opened with a Réti where Black went for the big pawn centre with 1 Nf3 d5 2 g3 c5 3 Bg2 Nc6 4 0–0 e5 5 c4 d4 6 d3 Nf6 7 e3. Here Black most often chooses the conservative setup 7...Be7 8 exd4 exd4, but in this game Buhmann chose 7...Bd6 8 exd4 cxd4, playing a classical Modern Benoni with colours reversed:

Objectively there is nothing wrong with this for Black, although here he was gradually outplayed in the early middlegame. Caruana played a nice thematic game for this structure, expanding on the queenside and applying pressure to the e5-pawn.

Réti Opening, Capablanca's System 3...Bg4 4 Ne5 [A11]

Capablanca's system with an early ...Bc8-g4 is a reliable answer to the Réti. The game Nepomniachtchi - Wang Hao features the scenario where White has inserted an early c2-c4 before completing kingside development with Bf1-g2, 0-0 etc. After 1 c4 c6 2 Nf3 d5 3 g3 Bg4 4 Ne5 Black bolstered his d5 strong point with 4...Be6:

Black reached a balanced game with active, concrete play.

Mikenas Attack 3...d5 4 e5 Mainline 8...Nc6 [A18]

Kovalenko - Jumabayev opened with the mainline of the Mikenas Attack 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e6 3 e4 d5 4 e5 d4 5 exf6 dxc3 6 bxc3 Qxf6 7 d4 where theory has been deeply explored, with debate focusing on the position after 11 h4:

Here, after 11...h6 12 Qe2 White offers a temporary piece sacrifice to try and seize the initiative. Kovalenko later launched a novelty with 16 Ne5, setting Black some problems, although Jumabayev was up to the task.

King's English Four Knights 4 e3, 5...Bxc3 6 bxc3 [A28]

In the Four Knights system with 1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 Nf3 Nc6 4 e3, the current mainline is 4...Bb4 5 Qc2 Bxc3. Black surrenders the two bishops in return for quick development. In place of the standard 6 Qxc3, the move 6 bxc3 is an unconventional and interesting choice that has been gaining ground in the last couple of years:

Lie - Hauge illustrates ideas for both sides in this relatively fresh position. I also compare notes with Delchev and Semkov who cover this line as part of their repertoire for Black in a recently published book.

Pure Symmetrical 4 e3 [A30]

1 c4 c5 2 g3 g6 3 Bg2 Bg7 4 e3 is an "accelerated" version of the Pure Symmetrical. White aims to get in a quick d2-d4 before Black is ready to respond with his own ...d7-d5, thus enabling White to gain space with d4-d5. This idea was played in Nakamura-Caruana in the 2016 Moscow Candidates, while this month Ivanchuk tried it in the last round of the Danzhou tournament. Ivanchuk - Nepomniachtchi proceeded with 4...e6 5 d4 cxd4 6 exd4 Ne7 7 d5:

Black concedes a space advantage, leading to a complex position. In the game, White gradually built up the pressure, missing chances to win in the run up to the time control.

Symmetrical Four Knights 6 Bg5 [A33]

The Symmetrical Four Knights with 1 Nf3 c5 2 c4 Nf6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nc6 5 Nc3 e6, and now 6 Bg5 has a rather tame reputation. The game Sargissian-Grischuk from the December 2015 Update showed, however, that White's chances should not be underestimated. Wojtaszek - Sutovsky revisited the position after 6...Be7 7 e3:

In this game Wojtaszek managed to reach a technical position with a small structural advantage, and won a nice endgame. So natural developing moves may not be enough for Black, and he should explore some of the options on the 6th and 7th moves.

Symmetrical English 3...d5, 5 e4 [A34]

Sutovsky had a more enjoyable time in Jakovenko - Sutovsky which saw the critical line 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 Nc3 d5 4 cxd5 Nxd5 5 e4 Nb4 6 Bc4 Nd3+ 7 Ke2. Here theory focuses on 7...Nf4+ but instead wheeled out 7...Nxc1+!?, a move that has often been dismissed because Black falls so far behind in development. Sutovsky shows that things are by no means so simple, following 8.Rxc1 a6!:

Black's point is that the c4-bishop is short of squares, restricted by Black's pawns and partly by his own king (!). Jakovenko responded aggressively, improving on his own play in a 2012 rapid game. Mayhem soon brook out, with multiple sacrifices and both kings exposed, before the game finally swung in Black's favour. Not only is this game important for the theory of the popular 5 e4 line, but in my view it is one of the most entertaining games of the year so far.

I hope you enjoy this Update!

Until next month, David.

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