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Hi Everyone!
The major team events usually provide a rich harvest of games in topical as well as offbeat lines. The European Team Championship in Reykjavik was no exception, so much so that all the games in this Update are taken from that event. Read on to see novelties and great new ideas in the full gamut of Flank Openings.

Download PGN of December '15 Flank Openings games

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Larsen's Opening 1 b3 e5 2 Bb2 Nc6 3 e3 Nf6 4 Bb5 Bd6 [A01]

One of the main lines of Larsen's Opening these days starts with 1 b3 e5 2 Bb2 Nc6 3 e3 Nf6 4 Bb5 Bd6 5 Na3 Na5. The last few moves raised a lot of eyebrows (and looked like beginners' moves) when they were first played but have become standard, indeed there are some two hundred games in the database starting from this position:

In Mamedov - Andersen, after 6 Be2 a6 (of course Black plays this after the bishop has moved!) 7 Nf3 Qe7 White came up with 8 Qc1 which is an interesting alternative to the more common (and Jobava favoured) 8 Nb1. White avoids wasting time with the a3-knight and argues that the queen can become active from the c1-square, particularly if the a1-h8 diagonal gets opened up. Unfortunately, White's follow-up in this game was a little too passive, and in the end he was lucky to escape with a draw. Nevertheless, I think there are some good ideas here for 1 b3 fans.

Bird's Opening 1 f4 d5 2 Nf3 g6 3 c4 [A03]

It's been a while since we covered the Bird's on this site. In Rapport - Fressinet, Richard Rapport brought his own flavour to the opening starting with the 3rd move, 1 f4 d5 2 Nf3 g6 3 c4!?:

White then constructed a Stonewall formation with the inclusion of this c2-c4 move. Fressinet missed a couple of early chances to counter in the centre and ended up conceding too much space. Once Rapport secured an advantage he finished the game off in powerful fashion.

Réti Opening 1 Nf3 d5 2 g3 g6 [A07]

Anand ignited interest in the line 1 Nf3 d5 2 g3 g6 when he successfully employed it as Black in the first and third games of his World Championship match against Carlsen in Chennai 2013. If White avoids an early d2-d4, Black will develop with ...Bg7, ...e7-e5 and ...Nge7 with a strong centre.

In Pantsulaia - Kryvoruchko, White used a King's Indian Attack formation with d2-d3 and e2-e4. This is a topical approach among top players, and Pantsulaia showed some interesting new ideas here. Black was provoked into over-extending himself on the kingside, and White won a nice game.

Réti Opening, Anti-Slav System 3 e3 [A11]

1 c4 c6 2 Nf3 d5 3 e3 Nf6 4 Nc3 is an Anti-Slav system we have covered quite extensively on ChessPublishing. In Gajewski - Eljanov, Black continued with the Chebanenko-style 4...a6 and after 5 Qc2 e6 6 b3 c5 7 Bb2 he launched the novelty 7...d4!?:

Black makes his sixth pawn move out of seven in order to occupy the centre in principled fashion. White tried to take advantage of his lead in development and indeed won a pawn, but Eljanov had full compensation. After some missteps by White, Eljanov won with a tactical breakthrough before the time control.

King's English, Keres System 2...c6 [A20]

Navara - Nisipeanu reached the position after 1 c4 e5 2 g3 c6 3 Nf3 e4 4 Nd4 d5 5 cxd5 Qxd5 6 Nc2 Nf6 7 Nc3 Qh5 8 Ne3 which we saw in Anand-Adams featured in the May 2015 Update:

Nisipeanu varied from the earlier game on move 10 and soon threw caution to the wind, allowing Navara's queen to capture his entire queenside! At one point Navara was four (!) pawns up and objectively should have won but at the end of a crazy game had to settle for a draw. In the cold light of day, White is doing well in this line, so Black needs to find some further resources.

Symmetrical Four Knights 6 g3 Bc5 [A33]

After 1 c4 c5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 Nc3 Nc6 4 d4 cxd4 5 Nxd4 e6 6 g3, the move 6...Bc5 is a solid alternative to the main line 6...Qb6. After 7 Nb3 Be7 Black plans to develop quietly with a Hedgehog setup. In Howell - Meier, White tried to spice things up with 11 Nd5!?:

Meier refused to be provoked, however, and continued to play the most sensible moves. After Howell over-pressed slightly, it was Black that was a bit better, although the game ended in a draw. So the ball is now in White's court to find an edge against this line.

Symmetrical Four Knights 6 Bg5 [A33]

Sargissian - Grischuk also started with 1 c4 c5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 Nc3 Nc6 4 d4 cxd4 5 Nxd4 e6 but now White played 6 Bg5, which is only the sixth most popular move here:

This continuation has a reputation for being rather harmless, but after an early queen trade, Sargissian emerged with a slight pull in a rook and minor piece endgame. In an extremely impressive performance, Sargissian was able to outplay Grischuk and score a big win. Unless Black can demonstrate an easier path to clear equality, Sargissian's approach may attract other followers.

Symmetrical English 1 c4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Nc3 g6 4 e3 [A35]

Nepomniachtchi - Areshchenko reached the fairly well known position after 1 c4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Nc3 g6 4 e3 Nf6 5 d4 cxd4 6 exd4 d5 7 cxd5 Nxd5 8 Qb3 e6:

Here White continued 9 Bb5 followed by the trade on c6, reaching a fairly typical scenario for this variation. In a strategically complex position, both sides have offsetting pawn weaknesses and strong outpost squares for their knights on c5 and d5 respectively. Nepomniachtchi's approach is well worth studying as he gradually outplayed his opponent with two knights vs two bishops to secure a fine victory.

I hope you enjoy this Update!

Until next month, David.

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