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Unfortunately quite a lot of recent high-level Flank games were played with blitz or rapid time controls where the players were deliberately avoiding a theoretical argument (and, of course, the level of play is always worse anyway). So, perhaps not the most exciting bunch of games this month, and also, no scintillating game from Rapport(!) for once, but still, plenty of new ideas and important concepts to chew over.

Download PGN of December '14 Flank Openings games

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Réti Opening Lasker's System with c4 [A11]

Following on from last month's discussion of a strong plan against Lasker's line, involving c4xd5 and then e4, in Svidler - Morozevich we see another standard series of Lasker System moves 1 Nf3 d5 2 g3 c6 3 Bg2 Bf5 4 c4 e6 5 cxd5 exd5 6 d3 Nd7 7 O-O Ngf6 8 Nc3 Be7:

This time White has captured on d5 much earlier (to avoid allowing Black to take on c4), but we reach the same basic structure, and once again 9 e4! is the key move. This line is almost exactly like one in the London System (with colours reversed), except there White has the fairly useless extra move h3.

With best play here Black can get into an opposite-colour bishop ending a pawn down, and maybe some drawing chances.

Réti Opening 4...dxc4 5 0-0 and 6 Na3 [A13]

As Alex showed in his notes to Salgado Lopez-Pelletier, a while ago, the pawn sacrifice 4...dxc4 5 0-0!? is dangerous for Black should he play 5...a6 and try to hold on to the c4-pawn.

So instead, in Grischuk - Inarkiev, Black preferred the solid developing move 5...Be7. However, now White can play 6 Na3 to capture on c4 with his knight rather than wasting time with his queen. On the further 6...c5 7 Nxc4 Nc6 8 b3 O-O 9 Bb2 White has a nice advantage, Black is solid, but a bit passive, and must still develop his light-squared bishop:

In the game Black played sensible moves but got crushed.

Nimzo-English g3 v ...b6 [A17]

In the following position Black has been angling for a Nimzo/Queen's Indian position, but White has withheld d4:

The normal moves here are 9 b3 or 9 a3, but instead, in Bu - Zhao White played the surprising 9 Na4!?. The idea is to play a3, then d4, and if Black captures on d4 the move b4 will win the offside bishop. Probably this shouldn't gain any advantage against correct play (see my notes) but in the game one false move from Black led to an enormous White advantage very quickly - the fairly stupid-looking a4-knight became a monster on c5, and then went to e4 to help deliver the decisive blow.

Mikenas Attack 3...d5 4 cxd5 exd5 5 e5 [A18]

In Ding - Wang we take another look at the Mikenas Attack with 3...d5 4 cxd5 exd5 5 e5 Ne4 6 Nf3:

Later White tried a new idea, 10 Bxc6, and gained some advantage when Black sacrificed a pawn but failed to follow-up correctly. However, after a couple of inaccurate moves White found himself in a very unpleasant endgame with a myriad of pawn islands, and lost horribly.

This line is worth repeating, but I think I would prefer 6 d4 myself, and follow Alex's analysis to Ding, L - Wei, Y - see the PGN Archive.

King's English Reversed Dragon 6 e3 [A22]

In Khismatullin - Matlakov we take another look at the ever-so-trendy 6 e3 against the Reversed Dragon.

In the above position White would normally play the thematic 9 f4, with good play, but instead Khismatullin preferred 9 d4!?. The d-pawn is poisoned, but White is soon obliged to play d5 and exchange it against the black c-pawn, which appears fairly drawish.

Actually Black avoided this and allowed the pawn to advance to d6. After this White took full control and missed innumerable wins (although many of them were quite tricky ones in an interesting two rooks versus queen endgame) and could have drawn whenever he wanted ... before making one really bad blunder and actually losing! A time trouble tragedy!

Symmetric - Hedgehog Variation with early ...0-0 and ...Nc6 [A30]

Giri - Jakovenko reached the following theoretical position after eleven moves:

Now White's best move seems to be 12 Nb5 which almost forces Black to sacrifice his queen! Yes, I know, it looks so safely tucked away on b8 now, but soon it will have to swap itself for rook, bishop and pawn.

Anyway, Black will set up a sort of blockade, and although Giri made a good attempt to break it down, Black held firm. Probably this line can just be considered a forced draw!

Symmetric 4...e5!? [A30]

3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 e5!? is an interesting line, and following the natural 5 Nb5 fellow ChessPubber Richard Palliser wrote a whole chapter about 5...a6 in the DW Flank book, entitled 'An Improved Lowenthal?'.

Instead, in Giri - Jobava, the maverick Georgian GM played 5...d6, an 'improved Kaleshnikov' perhaps?

Maybe not so improved, though, as White played simple yet logical moves and Black was almost completely outplayed.

Once again White missed a whole raft of wins, and somehow Jobava hung on for a draw. After the game the post mortem interview turned a bit nasty, it seems Jobova didn't appreciate Giri's sense of humour!

Symmetric 3...e5 4 e3, 7 g4!? [A34]

Li - Borovikov features the interesting line 1 c4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Nc3 e5 4 e3 Nf6 5 d4 e4 6 Ne5 g6 7 g4!?, intending g5 to undermine the e-pawn:

Following the natural 7...h6 8 Bg2 Bg7 9 h4 Black played the novelty 9...d5!, first suggested by Alex Fier on this section last year.

This really does seem to be a perfect reply, although in the game White was soon better, and then quickly much worse, and then at the end, when they repeated moves and agreed a draw, completely lost!

Till next time, Tony.

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