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One of the reasons many players choose Flank Openings is to sidestep highly analysed defences to 1.d4 such as the Slav and Gruenfeld. This month I'll take a look at ways of sidestepping these two defences which came up in the recent Tata Steel Tournament in Holland.

Download PGN of February '11 Flank Openings games

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English Anti-Slav (Gurevich's System) [A11]

English and Réti move orders can be used to avoid the Slav and Semi-Slav via 1.c4 Nf6 2.Nf3 c6 3.Nc3 d5 4.e3 or 1.Nf3 d5 2.c4 c6 3.e3 Nf6 4.Nc3:

Grischuk used this in his game against Kramnik (Grischuk - Kramnik) and would have had a slight edge had he chosen 22.Bd3.

Whenever I see this line I'm reminded of Botvinnik's fascinating treatment of this line in his famous game against Chekhover (Botvinnik - Chekhover). Whilst this encounter is more often remembered for the combinative play following 22.Ng5! it's the provocative 9.Nd4!? which interests me. The concept of luring Black's pawns forward looks quite promising but modern players seem loathe to repeat it.

Another interesting concept in this line is to start some play on the kingside with g2-g4, and this is most directly introduced by Kozul's speciality of 8.h3 in Kozul - Jakic:

I doubt that anyone would deliberately allow the kind of endgame that arose in this game but White also has his chances after 8...Re8 and 8...Qe7.

Mohr - Mencinger featured an attempt to get some queenside play with 8...a6 though White's attacking chances still look quite attractive. The main thing Black needs in this line are good nerves as many players seem to crumble when White's g-pawn moves up the board.

Players who are worried about this kind of thing, or indeed those who play the Slav rather than the Semi-Slav, might well prefer the 4...Bg4 of Wang Yue - Zhou Jianchao and Markus - Ansell:

Wang Yue's victory was more down to both players' fighting spirit rather than any outstanding merits of his opening position but I quite like White's prospects after Marcus's 5.cxd5 and 7.Bb5+. The pressure he got on the c-file is nothing too dramatic but it's annoying enough and one sided.

Finally White has some interesting possibilities should Black play 4...a6, for example Zilberman's 5.Be2 b5 6.cxd5 cxd5 7.b4 gave him quite interesting prospects in a fresh and original position:

See Zilberman - Postny.

English Anti-Gruenfeld 1.c4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.d3 [A16]

Another Kramnik game that interested me was his rapid victory against L'Ami (Kramnik - L'Ami). I've never seen the insipid looking 5.d3 before but it can't be a bad move and seems to have quite a lot of bite:

Black will probably find a way to neutralise it in time but meanwhile it could be worth giving it a try.

Nigel Davies

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