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Hi everyone!
This month I review some original ideas in key lines of the English, a bonus game annotated by Bogdan Lalic, plus an Orang-utan and a Hedgehog!

Download PGN of February ’16 Flank Openings games

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Orang-utan Opening 1 b4 e5 2 a3 [A00]

Sevian - Grandelius saw a rare all-Grandmaster clash in the Orang-utan/Sokolsky Opening. After 1 b4 e5, White defended his b-pawn with 2 a3 rather than enter the main line with 2 Bb2 Bxb4. Grandelius built a classical centre and quickly got a comfortable game.

Although Sevian had an acceptable position from the opening, he chose the wrong plan, and had to defend an unpleasant position for the rest of the game. I have taken the opportunity to review recent developments after 1 b4 in the notes to the main game.

Réti v Stonewall Dutch 1 Nf3 f5 2 c4 e6 3 g3 Nf6 4 Bg2 c6 5 0-0 d5 [A10]

Jakovenko - Sandipan featured a popular anti-Stonewall Dutch system:

In this position, Jakovenko preferred a slow build up with 7 b3 to immediate central action. White gradually outplayed his opponent and eventually achieved complete domination of the dark squares with a monster bishop on e5! A model game by Jakovenko - this flexible system can be annoying for players that insist on a Stonewall setup as Black.

Romanishin Gambit 4 d3 [A13]

The Romanishin Gambit 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 g3 a6 has always scored quite well for Black in the main line after 4 Bg2 b5. In Bruzon - Donchenko, White varied early with 4 d3. This is a rare choice, especially with Bruzon's follow-up of 4...b5 5 e4 Bb7 6 e5:

The game soon entered wild and unusual complications where White eventually prevailed. Bruzon's enterprising approach looks like a good way to spice things up in this opening.

Hedgehog 7 Re1 d5 [A30]

In So - Carlsen at Wijk aan Zee, the World Champion offered Wesley So a chance to enter the Hedgehog after 1 c4 c5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 Nc3 e6 4 g3 b6 5 Bg2 Bb7 6 0-0 Be7. Rather than go for the old main line with 7 d4, White chose 7 Re1, aiming for sharp Open-Sicilian style play with 8 e4 and 9 d4. See Stella-Aroshidze from the September 2015 Update for an overview of the dangers facing Black in that line. Carlsen countered with what could now be regarded as the official antidote by playing 7...d5:

This is a very solid option for Black, and So's attempted improvements on existing theory didn't bear any fruit. In the notes to the game, I give my view on the question of Hedgehog move orders, in particular the pros and cons of 6...a6 and 6...Be7.

Symmetrical Four Knights 6 g3 Qb6 7 Nbd5 Ne5 8 Bg2 [A33]

Howell - Jumabayev opened with the topical variation 1 c4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 e6 6 g3 Qb6 7 Ndb5 Ne5, and here Howell continued 8 Bg2 a6 9 Na3, offering a gambit of the c4-pawn after 9...Bxa3 10 bxa3 Nxc4. This was popular in the early 2000s, but only seen sporadically since:

As David Howell demonstrated in this game, defending against White's initiative is a difficult task, and he crowned the game with a brilliant combination. I expect we will see more examples of this line going forward.

Symmetrical English 1 c4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Nc3 e5 4 e3 Nf6 [A34]

As a bonus this month, guest analyst GM Bogdan Lalic annotates an interesting game of his. Lalic - Bridge started with 1 c4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Nc3 e5 4 e3 Nf6 5 d4 cxd4 6 exd4 e4 7 Ne5 Bb4 8 Be2 Qa5 9 0-0, a pawn sacrifice brought to prominence by Aronian-Caruana, Wijk aan Zee, 2012:

The game culminated is some very exciting tactics which Bogdan analyzes in detail.

Symmetrical English 3...d5, 5 e4 [A34]

The ever popular 1 c4 c5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 Nc3 d5 4 cxd5 Nxd5 5 e4 Nb4 6 Bc4 popped up again this month in a game from Gibraltar. In Grandelius - Gopal, instead of the usual 6...Nd3+ Black revived the old move 6...Be6 which is rarely seen these days:

Gopal had played 6...Be6 before with success, and the line after 7 Bxe6 Nd3+ does appear to be better than its theoretical reputation. Grandelius however, answered with the surprising (and tempo-losing) move 7 Bb5+, arguing that Black's bishop is misplaced on e6. Black soon got his minor pieces tangled and White emerged with a clear edge from the opening.

Pure Symmetrical, Botvinnik Setup [A36]

So - Giri started with a Pure Symmetrical English, which after some move-order finesses reached a position where both sides had the Botvinnik system pawn structure:

White has the slightly better setup due to his control of the b5-square, and So managed to generate a small edge from the opening. Black tried to relieve the pressure by exchanging his light-squared e6-bishop for a White d5-knight, but the cure was worse than the disease. Wesley So built a bind on the light squares and won with excellent positional play.

Pure Symmetrical, Fischer System 5 Nf3 e6 [A37]

Adams - Wei Yi began with 1 c4 g6 2 g3 Bg7 3 Bg2 c5 4 Nc3 Nc6 5 Nf3 e6 and now Adams pushed 6 h4, which is one of White's many attempts to gain an edge against the ultra-reliable 5...e6 Fischer system. Wei Yi countered with the principled 6...d5:

Wei Yi had played the same move in 2015, and Adams was no doubt ready with his preparation, but Wei Yi got his improvement in first. White's slight initiative dissipated and Adams had to defend an endgame in order to hold. I highlight some possible improvements in the notes, but once again this system proved its worth for Black.

I hope you enjoy this Update!

Until next month, David.

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