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This Update highlights sharp novelties and important move order tricks in a variety of Flank Openings.

Download PGN of February ’20 Flank Openings games

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Réti Opening, Capablanca’s System 6 d4 [A07]

The exciting World Championship match Ju Wenjun - Goryachkina, A came down to a rapid playoff and, just as in Carlsen-Caruana 2018, featured a decisive game in the Réti/English complex. After the fairly standard-looking sequence 1 Nf3 d5 2 g3 c6 3 Bg2 Bg4 4 0-0 Nd7 5 h3 Bh5 6 d4 e6 7 c4 Be7 8 cxd5 exd5 9 Nc3, Black decided to chop off the f3-knight before it could do any damage, playing 9...Bxf3:

In Game 1 of the playoff, Ju Chen played 10 Bxf3, but in Game 3 she unleashed the novelty 10 exf3!, radically changing the structure. With the further moves 10...Ngf6 11 h4 0-0 12 Bh3 the players reached a position quite different from a typical Réti. The open e-file is a key factor, and White’s setup is a bit more flexible. This makes the position harder to play from Black's viewpoint, especially in a rapid game, and Ju Chen went on to win a fine game.

Réti Opening 1 Nf3 d5 2 g3 Nd7 3 c4 dxc4 [A13]

Artemiev, V - Caruana, F opened with the tricky move order 1 Nf3 d5 2 g3 Nd7!? which has featured in several high-level games in recent months. Black threatens to play 3...e5, make it harder for White to reach a normal Réti structure.

Now 3 d4 Nb6!? gives this line a unique flavour and is covered in the notes, while Artemiev’s 3 c4 is, naturally enough, one of White's main options. After the sequence 3...dxc4 4 Qa4 a6 5 Qxc4 b5 6 Qc2 Bb7, however, we have reached a line of the Neo-Catalan where Black is fairly comfortable, with the b7-bishop ensconced on the long diagonal. Caruana equalized easily, before taking over the initiative and gradually outplaying his opponent.

Réti Opening, Reversed Benoni, 8 Ne5 [A14]

In the Double Fianchetto Réti after 1 Nf3 d5 2 g3 Nf6 3 Bg2 e6 4 0-0 Be7 5 c4 0-0 6 b3 the reversed Benoni with 6...d4 has come into vogue as players try to avoid the annoying lines where White plays an early cxd5. Grandelius, N - Ganguly, S featured a new try for White with 7 e3 c5 8 Ne5!?:

White’s 8th move is a fresh idea, first played in April 2019. White opens the path of the g2-bishop, and enables a later f2-f4 thrust. In the game, White demonstrates another of the main ideas by trading both a pair of knights, and the dark-squared bishops via a subsequent Bc1-a3. These exchanges favoured White as Black’s structure is at risk of being over-extended and the d4-pawn harder to defend.

The Colle-Zukertort/Réti Opening [A06]

Another fascinating battle from the recent world championship match was Ju Wenjun - Goryachkina, A, which began as a Nimzo-Larsen, soon becoming more of a Colle-Zukertort after 1 Nf3 d5 2 b3 c5 3 e3 a6 4 Bb2 Nc6 5 d4 Nf6. Richard Palliser covered that in his latest D-Pawn Specials column, but Flank Opening subscribers can now also enjoy his notes.

Anti-QGD System, 4...dxc4 [A17]

In the anti-Queen’s Gambit move-order 1 Nf3 d5 2 e3 Nf6 3 c4 e6 4 Nc3, the move 4...dxc4 is not the most common try, but a logical one if Black has the Queen's Gambit Accepted in his repertoire. In most games starting from this position, play transposes into the QGA, as White sooner or later plays d2-d4. Artemiev (and some other players), however, have experimented with ideas that keep the game in Flank Opening waters. Artemiev, V - Vitiugov, N is a case in point, where 8 a4 was a novelty, fighting for light-squared control, even at the cost of losing tempi with his c3-knight.

In principle, Black should be OK in this opening, but with 12...a5 13 Nb3 c4 he made a positional concession. This allowed the a5-pawn to becomes a fixed weakness, which Artemiev exploited to squeeze out a win.

Mikenas Attack, 3...d5, 7 d3 [A18]

An important modern line of the Mikenas occurs after 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e6 3 e4 d5 4 cxd5 exd5 5 e5 Ne4 6 Nf3 Bf5 7 d3. The move 7 d3 has only been a "thing" since 2017, and we have covered it in several key games that can be found in earlier Updates. Following 7...Nxc3 8 bxc3 c5 9 d4, the game Goryachkina, A - Ju Wenjun, featured Black’s sharpest response 9...Qa5, reaching the following position after White’s 12th move:

Here Ju Chen uncorked the important novelty 12...Be4, posting the bishop on a more active square than the previously played 12...Be6. Although this looks good from a theoretical viewpoint, in the game Black went wrong in the complications, and ended up in a problematic endgame.

Mikenas Attack, 3...c5, 5 d4 [A19]

In the 3...c5 Mikenas after 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e6 3 e4 c5 4 e5 Ng8, the mainline is the well-known pawn sacrifice with 5 Nf3 Nc6 6 d4 cxd4 7 Nxd4 Nxe5 etc. Dubov, D - Kovalev, V, however, varied with the rare 5 d4 and after 5...cxd4 6 Qxd4 Nc6 the even more rare 7 Qf4 appeared on the board:

Dubov’s new idea asks Black some questions, and he faltered on move 10, where 10...Qxd6?! exposed the queen to tempo-gaining ideas such as Ra1-d1 and c4-c5. White soon generated a strong initiative and eventually won the game.

King’s English, 1 c4 e5 2 g3 Nf6 3 Bg2 Bc5 4 Nc3 c6 [A23]

One of the most fashionable lines of the English right now is 1 c4 e5 2 g3 Nf6 3 Bg2 Bc5 4 Nc3 c6, which has been getting a lot of airtime in recent high-level games. Now after 5 Nf3 e4 6 Nh4 d5, we looked at 7 d4 in the December 2019 Update. This month’s Caruana, F - Van Foreest, J, instead continued 7 cxd5 cxd5 8 d3 Ng4 9 0-0 g5, reaching the following sharp position:

Now 10 d4 was featured in the November 2019 Update (Anton Guijarro-Grischuk), while Caruana preferred 10 dxe4!?, offering a piece sacrifice. In return for the piece, White got two pawns and active play in an open position. Black soon went wrong with 13...Bxg3?! 14.Qxg3 Be6? and was on the brink of defeat, but got back in the game and drew from a position of strength.

Symmetrical English, 3...e5 4 e3 Nf6 5 d4 e4 [A34]

Deac, B Barbosa, E featured 1 Nf3 c5 2 c4 Nc6 3 Nc3 e5 4 e3 Nf6 5 d4 e4, a combative and topical line of the Symmetrical English. There are multiple options for both sides around here , but this month’s game saw the rare 6 d5 exf3 7 dxc6 bxc6 8 Qxf3 Bd6 9 g4:

Now 9...0-0 10 Bd3 Qe7?! played into White's hands, since after 11 g5 Ne8 12.Qe4!, it turns out that White isn't going for an all-out kingside attack, but forcing the queens off and then aiming to exploit his space advantage and better pawn structure.

I hope you enjoy this update!

Until next month, David.

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