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This Update features some exciting new ideas from the Legends of Chess online event, as well as instructive games from the in-person(!) Biel Chess Festival.

Download PGN of August ’20 Flank Openings games

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Reversed King’s Indian 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 g3 c5 3 Bg2 Nc6 4 0-0 e5 5 e4 [A04]

The setup with 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 g3 c5 3 Bg2 Nc6 4 0-0 e5 is a principled answer to the Réti. Black occupies the centre, heading to a reversed King's Indian Defence structure. In Giri, A - Leko, P, after 5 e4 d6 White essayed the rare 6 c3 aiming to quickly open the centre, but offering a gambit pawn:

Leko continued with 6...Nxe4, taking up the challenge and already creating a brand new position on the board. In the central confrontation following 7 d4 f5 8 dxe5 dxe5 9 Nbd2 Black appeared to be OK, but 12...Bd5? neglected development for one move, and suddenly Black found himself in huge trouble.

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

The system with 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nf3 e6 3 g3 d5 4 Bg2 dxc4 5 Qa4+ Bd7 has proven to be very reliable for Black. In the mainline after 6 Qxc4 c5 7 Ne5 Qc8 Black cedes the two bishops but gets a space advantage with a "semi-Maroczy" structure:

Given the solidity of this line, it is interesting to see White come up with some new middlegame ideas in Anton Guijarro, D - Adams, M. Anton avoided any trades of minor pieces, and gradually started pushing his kingside pawns, eventually generated some attacking chances against Black’s king.

Pseudo-Grünfeld, 5 e4 Nxc3 6 bxc3 Bg7 7 Rb1 0-0 8 h4 [A16]

Gelfand, B - Ivanchuk, V was a great battle between two legends, beginning with the pseudo-Grünfeld setup 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 Nc3 d5 4 cxd5 Nxd5 5 e4 Nxc3 6 bxc3. White can transpose into a mainline exchange Grünfeld by playing d2-d4, but Gelfand's idea was to keep the centre closed so that Black doesn’t have the d4-pawn as a target for his counterplay.

From the diagram position, play continued 8...c5 9 h5 Nc6 10 hxg6 hxg6 and now 11 Qe2!? was the key idea, first played in a recent blitz game by Daniil Dubov. White intends simply to get his queen around to the h-file and threaten checkmate! This does indeed looks like a challenging practical line. Gelfand eventually won after many twists and turns.

English vs. KID/Grünfeld hybrid 5...c6 6 e4 [A16]

With the move order 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 g3 g6 3 c4 Bg7 4 Bg2 0-0 5 Nc3 c6, Black is aiming for a symmetrical Grünfeld structure with ...d7-d5. In this position, however, White has the option of keeping the game in "English" waters with 6 e4, avoiding the well trodden paths of 6 d4 d5.

This line has had a number of high-level outings in the recent online tournaments, while the featured game Donchenko, A - Stefansson, H was played in a rare over the board event. After 6...d5, normal is 7 cxd5 cxd5 8 e5 Ne4, but here White played the uncommon 7 e5. Now critical is 7...Nfd7!, but Black continued with the less challenging 7...Ne4. Black should still be OK here, but in the game fell into a slightly worse ending.

Mikenas Attack, 3...d5 4 cxd5, 7 d3 [A18]

Wojtaszek, R - Keymer, V revisited the topical Mikenas line 1 c4 e6 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 e4 d5 4 cxd5 exd5 5 e5 Ne4 6 Nf3 Bf5 7 d3. Black has several approaches here, and Keymer chose the fixed pawn structure that arises after 7...Nxc3 8 bxc3 c5 9 d4 c4 Now 10 a4 is an important move, restraining Black's queenside majority, as well as facilitating a later Bc1-a3 to trade the dark-squared bishops:

In this strategically complex position, there appears to be a fine line between Black getting an acceptable game or a passive setup. Keymer drifted into the latter scenario and was left with a tough defensive task. As instructive win for Wojtaszek that demonstrates some of the venom in White's setup.

King’s English, Four Knights 4 d3 d5 [A28]

The Four Knights line with 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e5 3 Nf3 Nc6 4 d3 is not White’s most popular choice, but has been played multiple times by Kramnik and Carlsen among others. Edouard, R - Wojtaszek, R continued 4...d5 5 cxd5 Nxd5 6 e4 Nf6 leading to a a reversed Boleslavsky Sicilian and an early fight for the central squares:

Now White played 7 h3, taking time out to prevent ...Bc8-g4, but the course of the game suggests that this tempo is quite important. With 7...Bc5, 8...Qe7, 9...0-0 and 10...Rd8 Black executed a straightforward plan to control the d4-square and clamp down with a Maroczy structure. White got a grim version of the reversed Sicilian, and Wojtaszek showed strong technique to exploit his advantage.

Symmetrical English, Four Knights 6 a3 [A33]

In the Symmetrical Four Knights with 6 a3, the variation 1 Nf3 c5 2 c4 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 e6 6 a3 Be7 7 e4 0-0 8 Nf3 Qa5 9 Bd2 Qh5 has been a tough nut for White to crack, with Black holding his own in recent top level games. Black aims for 10...d5 to liquidate the central pawns before White is sufficiently developed to establish a grip on the centre.

In Giri, A - Nepomniachtchi, I, White unleashed the surprising novelty 10 Rg1!?, which dramatically changes the nature of the game. White prepares a quick g2-g4 to disrupts Black’s plans, at the cost of his own king safety in the short term. In the game, Black chose 10...a6, a pragmatic reaction to avoid the mainline of his opponent’s preperation. The critical line must be 10...d5, for which expect more developments in future games!

In the game, White initially got a big advantage, but fell into a passive position and was eventually overrun.

Symmetrical English, Four Knights 6 g3 Qb6 7 Nb3 [A33]

Gelfand, B - Svidler, P explored the highly theoretical variation 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 Nc3 Nc6 4 d4 cxd4 5 Nxd4 e6 6 g3 Qb6 and now 7 Nb3. Gelfand has been prominent in the recent revival of this move, scoring good practical results.

The diagram position was seen in two games from the Gelfand-Svidler match. In the first game, Black chose 10...a5 11.0-0-0 a4, while in the featured game, he varied with 10...0-0. After 11 Bg2 a5, White switched plans, castling kingside after 12 f4 Nc6 13 Be3 Qc7 14 0-0. Following 15...e5?! White got fast moving kingside play with 16 f5 and 17 g4. In a sharp position with attacks on opposite wings, White faltered, however, and Svidler eventually scored the full point.

I hope you enjoy this update!

Until next month, David.

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