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In this Update, we investigate the English with 4 e3, three Rétis and two Shakh attacks in the English!

Download PGN of August ’18 Flank Openings games

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Réti Opening, Anti-Slav Gambit, 4...Bf5 [A11]

The anti-Slav gambit 1 c4 c6 2 Nf3 d5 3 g3 dxc4 is a sharp option for Black when White plays an early c2-c4 in the Réti. Usually Black tries to hold onto his extra pawn, but in Sivuk, V - Dreev, A, Black went for 4 Bg2 Bf5!?, a rare line than leads to non-standard position:

Black's idea after 5 Na3 e5 is to return the pawn but gain time by kicking White's knights around. This hasn’t been played much since the 2015 timeframe, but Dreev shows that it can be a useful surprise weapon. With moves like 8...Qd4 and 13...h5, Black was able to disrupt White's setup and get an unbalanced game, which he eventually won.

Réti Opening, Capablanca’s System, 5 d3, 6 c4 [A11]

Continuing our look at the Réti with an early c2-c4, Oparin, G - Kobalia, M opened with 1 Nf3 d5 2 g3 c6 3 Bg2 Bg4 4 0-0 Nf6 5 d3 Nbd7 6 c4 and now Black went for a line that has been tested in some recent high-level games, playing 6...dxc4 7 dxc4 e5:

Black stakes a claim in the centre with the e5-pawn, while blunting White’s g2-bishop with his queenside pawn chain. Oparin responded actively with the new move 11 b4, and with 15 g4 securing the two bishops. In the early middlegame, Black's position was solid but passive, while White could gradually improve his position and try and exploit his unopposed Réti bishop in the long term. White’s great breakthrough idea with 25 b5! is well worth studying.

Réti Opening, Capablanca’s System, 4 c4, 5 Ne5 [A11]

After 1 Nf3 d5 2 g3 Nf6 3 Bg2 c6 4 c4 Bg4, the critical line is 5 Ne5, which can lead to sharper play than a typical Réti. Andersen, M - Arvola, B now saw 5...Bh5, which is probably the riskiest of the plausible bishop moves:

In the game, White employed a mechanism involving cxd5, Qd1-a4+, g2-g4 and h2-h4 which puts Black under a lot of pressure. I had always thought of this line as a kind of opening trap, but it turns out there are several move order nuances that both sides need to be aware of. In the game, an up-and-down struggle ended in a draw, while in the notes I examine the best paths through the early complications.

Neo-Catalan 5 Qa4+ Bd7 6 Qxc4 c5 [A13]

In the Neo-Catalan following 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nf3 e6 3 g3 d5 4 Bg2 dxc4 5 Qa4+, Black’s most common moves have been 5...Nbd7 and 5...c6, but 5...Bd7 has been gaining in popularity and is proving to be a solid choice for Black. The game Giri, A - Wojtaszek, R c continued with the modern mainline 6 Qxc4 c5 7 Ne5 Qc8 where Black is prepared to cede the two bishops in return for space and control of central squares:

The game saw a typical war of attrition where White tried to make something of his bishops, but for most of the game had no clear weaknesses to aim at. Giri got some chances as the time control approached, but Wojtaszek held firm.

Anti-QGD System, 4...a6, 5...c5 [A17]

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov began his journey towards winning the Accentus Biel GM tournament by opening his first game with the topical anti-QGD system 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nf3 e6 3 Nc3 d5 4 e3 a6 5 b3. In Mamedyarov, S - Georgiadis, N, White then uncorked an interesting novelty with 8 Rc1!?, leading to the diagram position:

White’s idea is to take immediate aim at Black's c5-pawn, and delay d2-d4 until the time is right - which in this game turned out to be move 20! Black’s reply 8...Bg4 was likely already inaccurate, and his centre soon came under heavy pressure.

King’s English, Four Knights 4 e3 Bb4 5 Qc2 Bxc3 6 Qxc3 Qe7 7 b3 [A28]

In last month’s Update, we looked at the game Caruana-Karjakin which opened with 4 e3 Bb4 5 Qc2 Bxc3 6 Qxc3 Qe7 and now featured the fresh idea 7 b3!?. Caruana’s win in that encounter has quickly led to a flurry of games that throw further light on this variation. While Karjakin chose the quieter continuation 7...0-0, the critical line is 7...d5 8 d4 which is covered in two games this month. If Black now plays 8...exd4 followed by the 'normal moves' that are typically used against 7 a3, the following position is reached after 11 Qf4:

In several recent games (including Svidler-Navara), White played calmly, aiming for an endgame ‘squeeze’ scenario with two bishops vs. bishop and knight. By contrast, in Vaibhav, S - Prithu, G, played in the Biel Master Open, the move 11...d4!? provoked White into sacrificing a pawn with 12 Bb2 dxe3 13 0-0-0. This gave him some dangerous attacking chances, and this approach appears to be White’s best chance for an advantage.

Instead of playing 8...exd4, in Agdestein, S - Hammer, J, Black introduced a novelty with the sharper 8...Bf5:

At the cost of the e5-pawn, Black tries to quickly generate threats before White has completed development. Both sides need to be very precise around here, and in the game the advantage went back and forth in the early middlegame. In the notes, I also look at other games that varied from the mainline 8...exd4.

Symmetrical English, 3...e5 4 e3 Nf6 5 d4 e4 6 Ne5 [A34]

Mamedyarov, S - Vachier-Lagrave, M opened with 1 Nf3 c5 2 c4 Nc6 3 Nc3 e5, a variation which has been one of the mainstays of MVL's repertoire as Black in the English. Mamedyarov came well prepared, reviving the rare line 4 e3 Nf6 5 d4 e4 6 Ne5 g6 7 g4!?:

Shakh’s novelty was 9 h3!?, a flexible move which leads to an unusual, tense position with a myriad options for both sides. White emerged from the complications with an extra pawn, which he converted in convincing fashion.

I hope you enjoy this update!

Until next month, David.

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