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This month’s Update includes a number of interesting gambit lines. One of these is a well-known variation in the Mikenas, dating back to the 1970s. By contrast, the Adhiban Gambit has only taken off since 2021!

Download PGN of July ’23 Flank Openings games

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King’s Indian Attack, 5 d3 Nc6 6 e4 [A08]

Grischuk, A - Abdusattorov, N opened with 1 Nf3 d5 2 g3 Nf6 3 Bg2 e6 4 0-0 c5 5 d3 Nc6, and now instead of 6 Nbd2 (leading to a standard KIA), White unleashed the rare gambit line 6 e4:

One of the ideas of this move order is that after 6...Be7, White has the option of a combative setup starting with 7 Qe2 0-0 8 e5 Nd7 9 c4. In the game, however, Black accepted the challenge with 6...dxe4. After 7 dxe4 Qxd1 8 Rxd1 Nxe4 9 Na3 White has a small lead in development, and a more active setup. If Black tries too hard to hold on to the extra pawn, he can end up making concessions. Instead, Abdusattorov pursued quick development, and returned the pawn after 9...Be7 10 Be3 0-0 11 Nd2 Nxd2 12 Rxd2 e5 13 Nc4 Be6 14 Bxc6 bxc6 15 Nxe5 Rfc8, when Black's bishop pair balanced out the doubled c-pawns.

Anti-King’s Indian 3 b4, 5 e3 [A15]

1 Nf3 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 b4 is an anti-King's Indian setup which has been getting some attention in recent years, and was essayed in Rasulov, V - Can, I, which continued 3...Bg7 4 Bb2 0-0 5 e3:

Now, the KID style 5...d6 is Black's most popular approach, which we reviewed in the May 2021 Update. In this month’s game, Black instead opted for the Schlechter/Slav approach with 5...c6. Wanting to justify the placement of the b2-bishop, White developed without the inclusion of d2-d4. After 6 Be2 d5 7 cxd5 cxd5 8 0-0 Nc6 9 a3, the move 9...Bg4 appeared to solve most of Black's problems. Nevertheless, White managed to ask a few questions, and seized the initiative after Black reacted too passively.

Nimzo-English, 4 Qc2, 6...b6 [A17]

The Nimzo-English with 1 c4 e6 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 Nf3 Bb4 is seen less often than it used to be, but showed up in Santos Latasa, J - Rozentalis, E. We have looked at the aggressive 4 g4 in the past, but 4 Qc2 is the mainline, leading to intricate strategic play. After Black’s 11th move, the players reached a fairly typical position for this variation.

Here White usually continues with 12 d4, but delaying the d2-d4 push with 12 Rfd1 may have tempted Black into 12...e5. In the game, White then succeeded in opening the a1-h8 diagonal. After 13 d4 cxd4 14 exd4 e4 15 Nd2 Re8 16 Qg3, the bishop pair and dark square control gave White the advantage.

Mikenas Attack, 3...c5 4 e5 Ng8 5 Nf3, 13 Qc5 [A19]

Zhao Jun - Lu Shanglei entered the long mainline of the 3...c5 Mikenas after 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e6 3 e4 c5 4 e5 Ng8 5 Nf3 Nc6 6 d4 cxd4 7 Nxd4 Nxe5. White sacrifices a pawn in return for the bishop pair and extra space. The position resulting after Black’s 12th move has been a tabiya since the 1970s.

Here 13 Qb4 is the most topical these days, but this game gives us a chance to revisit the alternative 13 Qc5. Now after 13...d6 14 Qa5 Qd7 15 f4 Nc6 16 Qa3 0-0, continuing with 17 0-0-0 is the way to try and put Black under pressure. Instead, 17 g4 was an unfortunate novelty, giving Black control of the d4-square. After 17...Ncd4 18 Qa4 Ne3! White was soon in trouble, and wasn’t able to recover.

Adhiban Gambit, 5 Qa4 [A22]

Hamitevici, V - Laurent Paoli, P featured 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e5 3 Nf3 e4 4 Ng5 c6 - another outing for the Adhiban Gambit! Now 5 Ngxe4 Nxe4 6 Nxe4 d5 is the mainline, where Black gets thematic counterplay in return for the pawn following 7 cxd5 cxd5 8 Ng3 h5. Instead, 5 Qa4 leads to a sharp tactical battle, where the theory is still in its infancy.

After 5...b5 6 cxb5 d5 7 bxc6 Qb6 we reach a rare, but critical position. Now White has quite a choice of moves, which are analyzed in the notes. In the game, 8 d3 was a new move, leading to a complex position where both players struggled for accuracy.

After trading queens and castling with 14 0-0-0, it looked like White was consolidating with two extra pawns, but Black later found an inspired piece sacrifice and eventually held the game.

King’s English, Four Knight 4 e4 Bc5 [A28]

The heavyweight battle Caruana, F - Mamedyarov, S revisited 1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 Nf3 Nc6 4 e4 Bc5 5 Nxe5 Nxe5 6 d4 Bb4 7 dxe5 Nxe4 8 Qf3, when 8...Nxc3 9 bxc3 and now both 9...Bc5 and 9...Ba5 have been well explored on this site. Instead, 8...d5 is an uncommon choice, but a well-prepared Mamedyarov showed that this is a dynamic alternative to the mainline.

After 9 Be2, the move 9...d4! was an important improvement over more commonly played moves. Following 10 Qxe4 dxc3 11 0-0 0-0 12 a3 cxb2 13 Bxb2 Bc5 14 Bd3, White has some initiative, but his broken pawn structure looms as a long-term weakness. After soaking up the initial pressure, Mamedyarov grabbed a pawn, and eventually won the game.

Symmetrical English, Four Knights 6 g3 Qb6 7 Nbd5 [A33]

One of the critical lines with the Symmetrical Four Knights complex occurs after 1 Nf3 c5 2 c4 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 e6 6 g3 Qb6 7 Ndb5 Ne5 8 Bg2 a6 9 Qa4 Rb8 10 Na3:

In this position, Black often continues with either 10...Bc5 or 10...Bxa3. Instead, the game Shchekachev, A - Ganguly, S saw 10...h5!?, a fresh attempt to spice things up. After 11 0-0 h4 12 Qb3 Qc7 13 Bf4 hxg3 14 hxg3, Black had opened the h-file for attacking purposes, and 14....b6! would have left White in trouble. Instead, 14...Nh5? ran into a tactical refutation with 15 Nab5!, which turned out to be decisive.

Symmetrical English, 1 Nf3 c5 2 c4 Nc6 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 g3 d5 [A34]

After 1 Nf3 c5 2 c4 Nc6 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 g3 d5 5 cxd5 Nxd5 6 Bg2, the line with 6...g6 is a reliable choice for Black, favoured by Caruana among many others. Now, in Praggnanandhaa, R - Bjerre, J, White went for 7 h4, an attempt to create an imbalance in this otherwise quiet position:

Following 7...Bg7 8 h5, the move 8...Bf5 was first played by Kramnik in 2013, and has since become the mainline. The ensuing moves 9 Ng5 e6 10 Nge4 Bxe4 11 Nxe4 Qe7 12 d3 0-0 13 hxg6 hxg6 14 Bg5 f6 15 Bd2 left the game finely balanced. White has the bishop pair, and controls the open h-file, but Black's forces are well centralized. Mayhem soon followed, however, and all three results were possible, before White eventually prevailed.

Until next month, David.

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