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Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everybody!
This month we take a look at games from the World Team Championship, the Mind Games in China and also one game from the London Chess Classic, which is now a rapid tournament.

Download PGN of December '13 Flank Openings games

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Orang-utan Opening 1 b4 d5 [A00]

Short tries an unusual setup in Short - Caruana, and Caruana punishes it in a good way.

It's interesting to play some exotic lines, but to develop the pieces and control the center can't be bad either.

Larsen's Opening 1 b3 e5, 5 Na3 Be7 [A01]

1.b3 is becoming more fashionable, especially for rapid and blitz games. Le Quang tries the idea played by Jakovenko last month, 5...Be7:

and also gets into trouble, see Ivanchuk - Le Quang.

Réti Opening 2...b5 [A05]

In the game Aronian - Ipatov Black plays 2...b5 to enter less theoretical positions and Aronian also plays an exotic idea, 7.Nd4!?:

Soon they exchange two pieces for a rook and pawn, and because of the lack of open files I think White has a small advantage.

Closed Réti with ...g6 [A11]

In Kramnik - Li Chao Black tries a pawn sacrifice that looks a bit like a blunder, 13...Nd7:

For the most part I don't believe in Black's idea so much, but to my surprise the position was repeated a few days later in the same tournament. Again White got some advantage, in my opinion, so I don't believe people will continue giving the a5-pawn.

Classic setup ...e6, ...d5 and ...Be7 [A14]

In Durarbayli - Yu White's 15.d5!? pawn sac was quite an interesting idea:

much more active than the normal 15.Nb1, and it brought a lot of life to the game. However, the later 17.Nxd5 was better and would be my recommendation in the position. Soon things went wrong and Black easily won the game.

Ezat tried a brave idea, sacrificing the queen for two pieces against Kramnik:

Nakamura tried this move back in 2009 and he also drew. It's hard to believe that the sacrifice is enough for equality, but it is also not so clear how White should proceed to gain an advantage. In this game Kramnik actually blundered and got into trouble, see Kramnik - Ezat.

King's English Keres 3...c6 4 Nf3 [A20]

Ivanchuk - Vachier Lagrave was a complicated game with ups and downs, as is usual in rapid chess. White tried a new idea with 8.h4, to push the pawn forward if the queen leaves:

and in a few moves it proved to be quite important.

Symmetrical 3...e5 4 e3 [A34]

Wang Hao tries a new idea against one of Grischuk's specialities, 10.Kxd1:

but got nothing after a series of strong moves, which makes me wonder if he was still in Grischuk's preparation. Apparently Black's position is holding well. For White, maybe 7.g4 can be an interesting surprise, see Wang - Grischuk.

Till next time, Alex.

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