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Hi everyone, I've returned after fulfilling my coaching obligations and this month we will once again look at the most important new moves from the previous 4 weeks or so.

Download PGN of July '12 Flank Openings games

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Neo-Catalan [A13]

We've examined some of the more volatile lines in the Neo-Catalan over the past few months, so the first stage of Mareco - Tristan ought to appear calmer by comparison. The line 1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 d5 4.Bg2 dxc4 5.0-0 Nbd7 6.Qa4 c5 7.Qxc4 b6 is particularly noted for its solidity:

Here Mareco played 8.Rd1!?, which is exceedingly rare in this exact position, yet very standard in the Neo-Catalan as a whole. After 8...Bb7 9.Nc3 Rc8 10.e4 a6 11.Qe2 e5?:

White suddenly unleashed the line-opening sacrifice 12.d4!!, completely changing the nature of the position. Black should have preferred 9...a6!, threatening ...b6-b5 before White has a chance to retreat the queen to e2.

Pseudo-Grünfeld [A16]

Ulf Andersson is the most noted practioner of the line 1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4, having amassed an impressive score of +5, =5, -0 with it in the period 1978-2009. The endgame after 5...Nxc3 6.dxc3 Qxd1+ 7.Kxd1 is not theoretically dangerous for Black, but he really ought to be aware of some key ideas to avoid needless torture. In Keklidze - Robson it was clear that Black had done his homework. After 7...f6 8.Be3 e5 9.Kc2 Nd7 10.Nd2 Bc5 11.Bxc5 Nxc5 12.b4 Ne6!? 13.Nc4 Ke7 14.Na5 Bd7! 15.a4 b6 16.Nc4?:

Robson played the excellent 16...a5!, simultaneously fixing the pawn on a4 and ensuring control of c5. The entire game was exemplary play by Black.

King's English 3...d5, Reversed Dragon [A22]

A recent development in the line 1.c4 e5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Nc3 Nb6 6.e3 comes to us from the Russian Championship Higher League. In Nepomniachtchi - Lintchevski Black adopted a fresh approach with 6...g6!? Given that White's plan is to assault Black's center with f2-f4 (or perhaps d2-d4), directing the bishop to the long diagonal is entirely logical - on g7 Black can monitor the dark squares from afar. The critical position arises after 7.Nge2 Bg7 8.f4 exf4 9.Nxf4:

Here Black reverted to 9...c5?! To discourage d2-d4, but he soon experienced problems with the c5 pawn. It looks better to postpone a decision in the center with 9...0-0 10.0-0, when Black has a number of viable options (i.e. 10...Nc6, 10...Re8, 10...a5!?).

Closed English 4...Bc5 [A25]

The temporary pawn sacrifice 1.c4 e5 2.g3 Nc6 3.Bg2 Nf6 4.Nc3 Bc5 5.e3 d5!? is high-scoring and well-regarded for Black. Well, that certainly doesn't phase one Vassily Ivanchuk! After 6.cxd5 Nb4 the wily Ukrainian introduced the novel 7.Nf3!?, White ignores the light-square weaknesses and carries on with development, leaving Black to weigh the ramifications of this decision:

A strategy well-suited to the time control in the World Rapid Final! After 7...Nd3+ 8.Ke2 Bf5?! Ivanchuk played the disruptive check 9.Qa4+! and Svidler soon collapsed, see Ivanchuk - Svidler. Analysis shows that 7.Nf3!? is legitimate, so we will be keeping an eye out for further developments.

Symmetrical - Double Fianchetto [A30]

Topalov - Karjakin follows the game Salgado Lopez, I - Karjakin, S (examined in the November 2011 update) until move 17. Topalov employs Salgado Lopez as a second, so it would be a mild surprise if he didn't have anything up his sleeve for this rapid encounter: 1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 b6 3.g3 c5 4.Bg2 Bb7 5.0-0 g6 6.Nc3 Bg7 7.d4 cxd4 8.Qxd4 d6 9.Rd1 Nbd7 10.Be3 Rc8 11.Rac1 a6 12.b3 0-0 13.Qh4 Rc7 14.Bh3 Qb8 15.Bh6 b5! 16.Bxg7 Kxg7:

Here Topalov introduced the new move 17.cxb5 (Salgado Lopez played the inferior 17...Nd5?!). However, after 17...axb5 18.Bxd7 Rxd7 19.Qb4 Rc8! 20.Nxb5:

Karjakin played the excellent 20...Rc5!. The rook is immune, and with the threat of ...Bb7xf3 hanging over White's head, Topalov wisely took measures to simplify the position. I called 15...b5! a "clean equalizer" in the notes to the Salgado Lopez game, and thanks to Karjakin's continued patronage I see no reason to amend this statement. The Double Fianchetto is alive and well!

Botvinnik System [A37]

Ian Nepomniachtchi has pleasant memories of the counter-punching line 1.c4 g6 2.g3 Bg7 3.Bg2 c5 4.Nc3 Nc6 5.Nf3 e5 6.0-0 Nge7 7.a3 d6 whereupon Black passes on the chance to prevent b2-b4. Wang Yue - Nepomniachtchi proceeded 8.b4 e4, and now White played the adventurous 9.Ng5!? (Kramnik preferred 9.Ne1 in Kramnik, V - Nepomniachtchi, I [John Bartholomew], but after 9...f5 10.Bb2 0-0 11.d3 Be6! Black's play was entirely adequate, and he went on to win), offering to sacrifice the knight for three pawns. Nepomniachtchi accepted the challenge with 9...h6 and after the sequence 10.Ngxe4 f5 11.bxc5 fxe4 12.cxd6 Qxd6 13.Nxe4 Qe6 14.Rb1 0-0 15.d3 b6 16.Bb2 an unbalanced position arises:

My gut feeling says that Black ought to have the better of it here in the long-run, but it's not at all easy to neutralize White's play.

Pure Symmetrical [A39/E65]

The pawn offering 1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nc6 4.g3 g6 5.Bg2 Bg7 6.d4 cxd4 7.Nxd4 0-0 8.0-0 d6!? has traditionally been regarded with suspicion. Does the 1999 FIDE World Champion and noted theoretician Alexander Khalifman have anything to say on the matter? Funny that you ask - yes! In Grachev - Khalifman White followed the theoretically approved method of acceptance with 9.Nxc6 bxc6 10.Bxc6 Rb8 11.Bg2 Qa5 12.Qc2:

Here Khalifman deviated from a recent recommendation of... himself! Instead of 12...Bb7 - which Khalifman claims in the 2011 rerelease of Opening for White According to Kramnik vol. 4 "...creates maximal problems for White..." - Black played 12...Bf5!. This move had previously been under a cloud in view of the exchange sacrifice 13.e4 Be6 14.b3 Nxe4 15.Nxe4 Bxa1 16.Bg5:

but here Khalifman had a surprise in store: 16...Bf5! (again!) This excellent reply went unnoticed in both Khalifman's book and Marin's Grandmaster Repertoire 5 - The English Opening vol. 3. It turns out that Black can solve his problems purely by tactical means thanks to the loose bishop on g5. After 17.Bxe7 (17.Rxa1? Bxe4 18.Qxe4 Qxg5 is the point) 17...Rfe8 18.Bxd6 Rbd8 19.Rxa1 Rxd6 20.Qc3 Qxc3 21.Nxc3 Rde6! White had no trace of an advantage. This game really puts the whole 12.Qc2 line in question, so White ought to investigate other alternatives.

Until next time, John

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