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In this Update we examine critical lines in the 1 c4 e5 English as well as some theoretically important games in the Réti.

Download PGN of July ’18 Flank Openings games

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Larsen’s Opening, 1 Nf3 d5 2 b3 [A06]

One option for devotees of Larsen’s Opening is to start with 1 Nf3 and delay b2-b3 to the second move. This avoids 1 b3 e5, although Black does of course have a wide range of other development plans. Rakhmanov, A - Inarkiev, E continued 1...d5 2 b3 c5 3 e3 entering a reversed Queen's Indian. There is plenty of scope for originality in these lines and indeed after 3...a6 4 Bb2 Nc6 White chose a rare double fianchetto plan starting with 5 g3:

Rakhmanov initially got quite a promising setup, but then went wrong with 10 Bxf6?!, which was a misguided attempt to grab a pawn.

Speaking of 1 Nf3 with 2 b3, this is a move order quite often used by Hikaru Nakamura (and other leading players) in Rapid and Blitz. In Leuven this month he uncorked a nice trap against a King's Indian setup for Black, beating three elite players with the same line in a single day! Look out for this in the notes to the main game.

Réti Opening, Capablanca’s System, 4 h3, 6 d4 [A07]

Chirila, I - Moradiabadi, E opened with 1 Nf3 d5 2 g3 c6 3 Bg2 Bg4 4 h3 Bh5 5 0-0 Nd7 and now White chose 6 d4, a kind of Réti-Catalan hybrid which is an important alternative to ideas involving d2-d3 and either e2-e4 or c2-c4. Starting with 9 Qb3, Chirila went for a queen sortie first introduced at the top level by Maxime Vachier-Lagrave:

White's idea is to answer 9...Qb6 by swinging the queen to the e-file with 10 Qe3, which considerably sharpens the play. Black reacted well with 10...Nf8! aiming to break the pin on the e-file, and put pressure on the d4-pawn, by ...Nf8-e6. A few moves later, however, Black stumbled into a tactical firestorm.

Réti Opening, Reversed Benoni [A13]

In the Réti after 1 Nf3 d5 2 c4 e6 3 g3 Nf6 4 Bg2, the continuation 4...d4 is an important line where Black goes directly for a reversed Benoni setup. Oparin, G - Matlakov, M reached the following position after 8...Bd6:

Since he hasn't committed to an early ...e6-e5, Black's setup is very solid. In the game White found it hard to get his queenside majority moving effectively, and indeed this variation currently appears to be a tough nut for Réti players to crack.

Réti Opening vs. QGD setup [A14]

In Kramnik, V - Mamedyarov, S, White chose a different move order to the above game. With 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 g3 d5 3 Bg2 e6 4 0-0 White completes his kingside development before committing to a specific pawn structure. After 4...Be7 5 c4 0-0 6 b3 c5 White chose 7 cxd5, a popular modern plan in the double-fianchetto Réti which has been a Kramnik favourite for the last few years:

The game followed a typical pattern with an exchange of queens leaving White with a nagging edge in the resulting 'Catalan style' endgame. Objectively Black should be fine, but it is more pleasant to play the position with White.

King’s English, Four Knights 4 e3 Bb4 5 Qc2 Bxc3 6 Qxc3 [A28]

One of the principal variations of the 4 e3 Four Knights is 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e5 3 Nf3 Nc6 4 e3 Bb4 5 Qc2 Bxc3, when White has a choice of recaptures. We looked at 6.bxc3 in the May 2018 Update (Carlsen-Topalov) while this month, in Caruana, F - Karjakin, S White chose the traditional mainline 6 Qxc3. After 6...Qe7 Caruana had prepared 7 b3!?, a fresh attempt for White in this setup:

Perhaps surprised by Caruana's choice, with 7...0-0 Karjakin avoided the critical line 7...d5 8 d4 which has been played in only a handful of games. Out of the opening, White got a favourable reversed Sicilian, which Caruana executed in great style.

King’s English, Four Knights 4 e3 Bb4 5 Qc2 d6 [A28]

Another approach for Black in the 4 e3 Four Knights is the move 5...d6, which has featured in a number of recent high level games, as an alternative to 5...0-0 and 5...Bxc3.

Here a topical move is 6 Ne2, but in Duda, J - Eljanov, P, White chose 6 a3, forcing the bishop to clarify its intentions. I’m curious how Duda would have answered the critical 7...e4, but after Eljanov’s 7...Bg4, the players soon reached an unbalanced position with White’s two bishops facing off against Black’s two knights. Duda managed to gradually open lines for the bishops and ended up scoring a nice thematic win.

King’s English, Karpov Variation [A29]

Kovalenko, I - Meskovs, N opened with the reliable Karpov variation 1 c4 e5 2 g3 Nc6 3 Bg2 Bc5. Rather than immediately occupying the centre, White went for a slow build-up, waiting to see how Black arranges his pieces.

When the central confrontation did eventually happen, after 16 d4 e4?! and 18 d5 Kovalenko secured a structure that favoured White.

King’s English, Four Knights 4 g3 Bb4 5 Bg2 0-0 6 0-0 e4 [A29]

In Nakamura, H - Karjakin, S, the players went down one of the concrete mainlines of the English Four Knights beginning with 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e5 3 Nf3 Nc6 4 g3 Bb4 5 Bg2 0-0 6 0-0 e4. Karjakin chose the line with 9...exf3 and 11...dxc4, first played by Anand in 2015.

Nakamura introduced a novelty with 14 Nd2, whereupon Karjakin went wrong and soon found himself in big trouble. Although the engine gives Black a path to equality, this line does appear to harder for Black to handle with precision over the board.

I hope you enjoy this update!

Until next month, David.

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