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This month saw a number of high-level rapid and blitz tournaments, which gives us a chance to look into some of the offbeat lines and surprise weapons that often crop up in these events. Meanwhile in classical games, there were new developments in both the Réti and English.

Download PGN of July ’16 Flank Openings games

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Van Geet (or Dunst) Opening 1 Nc3 [A00]

It's been a while since we covered 1 Nc3 - the Van Geet (or Dunst) Opening - on this site. In the strong Eurasian Blitz Cup, IM Egerov of Kazakhstan more than held his own in four games with 1 Nc3 against much higher rated GMs, scoring wins against Bologon and Potkin. Black's choice of first move is usually influenced by his repertoire against 1 e4, although there are a number of move-order tricks for the unwary. Egorov - Bologan opened with 1 Nc3 e5, and with 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 White stayed firmly within Van Geet waters. Following 3...exd4 4 Nxd4 Black then tried the rather rare 4...Bb4:

Following 5 Nxc6 Bxc3+ 6 bxc3 dxc6 7 Qd4 Nf6 8 Bg5 Be6, the game was already in uncharted territory. White's queenside pawns are shattered but he has the two bishops and a kingside majority.

Bird's Opening 1 f4 d5 2 Nf3 Bg4 [A03]

The Bird is another rare guest at top level that more often takes flight in blitz and rapid chess. Black's most common response to 1 f4 is to play 1...d5 and then enter a typical reversed mainline Dutch with an early ...g7-g6. Aleksandrov - Sjugirov instead opened with 1 f4 d5 2 Nf3 Bg4. Since Black's 2nd move was Kramnik's choice in a 2014 classical game, it deserves attention. Black gets his light-squared bishop outside the pawn chain and goes for quick development. It also discourages White from an early kingside fianchetto:

After 3 e3 Nd7 4 h3 Bxf3 5 Qxf3 e6 6 b3 Ngf6 7 Bb2, Black needs to come up with a plan to counter White's simple idea of creating a big kingside pawn-roller, although his answer in this game was unconvincing.

Réti Opening 2...d4 3 b4 f6 4 Na3 [A09]

A critical line of the modern Réti starts with 1 Nf3 d5 2 c4 d4 3 b4 f6 and now 4 Na3 has taken over as White's main try, after Black found plenty of resources in the line 4 e3 e5 5 c5 a5. Following 4...e5 5 Nc2 Aronian - Topalov continued with the novelty 5...Na6!?:

Black's 5th move is actually recommended by Topalov's compatriots Semkov and Delchev in their new book Attacking the English/Reti. Black plays for central space in classical fashion. In the game, Black certainly did well from the opening, although Aronian later outplayed his opponent to take the full point.

Anti-Grünfeld 1 c4 g6 2 e4 e5 3 d4 [A10]

Inarkiev - Xu Xiangyu opened with 1 c4 g6 2 e4 e5 3 d4, a topical anti-Grünfeld line which we have covered here several times so far this year. After 3...Nf6 4 Nf3 Black now essayed 4...Bg7!? – an almost unknown move in this well analyzed position:

This seemed to catch Inarkiev by surprise and he failed to find a path to an advantage. After 5 dxe5 Nxe4 White played 6 Qd5 – a new move, but not the best. I examine alternatives in the notes.

Réti Opening Anti-Slav [A11]

In Alekseev - Goryachkina we review the latest developments in the Gurevich anti-Slav setup 1 Nf3 d5 2 e3 Nf6 3 c4 c6 4 Nc3 e6 5 b3, which continues to crop up on a regular basis. With 5...Bd6 6 Bb2 0–0 7 Be2 Re8 8 Qc2 Black's move-order is designed to enable the principled ...e6-e5 thrust, fighting for the centre at the earliest opportunity. By delaying ...Nbd7, she keeps the option open of playing ....Nb8-c6 should pawns get exchanged on the d5-square.

The game continued 8...e5 9 cxd5 and now Black chose the recapture 9...Nxd5 leading to a typical reversed Sicilian setup. A critical question is whether White can get anything after the alternate recapture 9...cxd5, which is reviewed in the notes to the game.

Reversed Dragon 6 e3 [A22]

In the highly theoretical reversed Dragon, the relatively fresh line 1 c4 e5 2 g3 Nf6 3 Bg2 d5 4 cxd5 Nxd5 5 Nc3 Nb6 6 e3 continues to attract followers. The game Piorun - Dziuba proceeded with 6...Be7 7 Nge2 0–0 8 0–0 Nc6 9 f4 f6:

Here Black deviated from earlier games with 10 f5 Bd7 11 d4 and now 11...Be8, a new move, re-routing the bishop and keeping the pawn structure flexible.

Hedgehog 7 d4; 8...0-0 [A30]

Kovalenko - Bluebaum opened with the traditional mainline of the Hedgehog 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 c5 3 Nf3 e6 4 g3 b6 5 Bg2 Bb7 6 0–0 Be7 7 d4 cxd4 8 Qxd4. Here 8...d6 is the most popular try, but Black instead played 8...0–0, which has a reputation, perhaps unjustly as it turns out, of being less accurate. White continued 9 Rd1 d6 10 b3 Nbd7 11 Ba3 which is one way of trying to take advantage of Black's move-order:

Following 11...Nc5 12 b4 Nce4 White has chances for a small edge, although Black held in this game. I also take a look at alternatives for both sides on earlier moves.

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

At the elite Grand Chess Tour rapid and blitz tournaments, held in Paris and Leuven this month, many games featured the Flank Openings. For the most part, however, these were of the "let's just play chess" variety, rather than theoretical duels. The game Giri - Vachier Lagrave is one exception, where Giri appears to have arrived well prepared with an improvement in an opening that Vachier-Lagrave has played many times in recent tournaments. Following 1 Nf3 c5 2 c4 Nc6 3 Nc3 e5 4 e3 Nf6 5 Be2 d5 6 d4 cxd4 7 exd4 e4 8 Ne5 dxc4 we reach the following position:

After 9 Qa4 Be7 10 Nxc6 bxc6 11 d5 was likely Giri's prepared improvement over earlier MVL games. He emerged a pawn to the good and eventually converted in a rook endgame.

I hope you enjoy this Update!

Until next month, David.

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