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Hello and apologies for the lateness of this update. I have my excuses, mainly happy ones, but am sorry to keep subscribers waiting, and hope this update combined with the next will give you plenty of helpful ideas to make up for it.

Download PGN of June '09 Flank Openings games

Reversed Dragon [A20]

First of all, I received a query from Julian concerning the previous (May) update:

"Hi Jonathan,
Nice update on the reversed dragon. Hmm, I was wondering if it would be possible for you to cover 1.c4 e5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 d5 Nxd5 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.0-0 Nb6 7.b3!? in a future update? This is a Davies recommendation in his recent DVD and also my chosen line as white. There doesn't seem to be much in depth coverage of this sideline out there. Thanks!"

I am happy to oblige, because 7.b3!? is indeed quite a tricky move:

On a good day White plays Bb2, Qc2, Rd1 and d4 and Black is crushed by the collective power of the fianchettoed bishops and the central pawn majority. On a bad day Black gets easy development and central control, and on most days the position transposes back to normal looking territory.

That said, I did actually cover 7.b3 in the May update in Kuzmick - Socko, which featured 7...g6!? after which I suggested White might try 8. Nc3!? Bg7 9.Ba3!? or even 8.Ba3!? I have covered Black's alternative approaches below.

7...Be7 and 7...Be6 are likely to lead to similar positions, but there are some wrinkles. Kotsur - Naiditsch looks like a very reliable recipe for Black, especially after 9...Nb4!

V Georgiev-Krush indicates the kinds of problems Black can face when he (or she in this case) takes on d4 instead of closing the position with ...e4. White had an enduring edge that Black never quite managed to extinguish:

7...Bd6 is obviously decent, but I have to say it doesn't feel quite right to me; not in the sense of being an error, but just not quite fitting the spirit of the position. Look at it this way, how often does White play Bd3 in the Sicilian Dragon? That said, White has to play cleverly to get any advantage, and succeeded in Ehlvest - Charboneau, albeit in a rapid game.

The diagram position occurred after 12 Ne4.

Finally, 7...e4!? might even be playable. In most cases, Black is likely to lose his e-pawn, but he gains rapid development and kingside attacking chances. I am not fully convinced, but after considering Kuzmicz - Vovk closely I have some respect for Black's idea.

In general my feeling is therefore that 7.b3 creates some fresh problems, but that Black has plenty of adequate counters.

Réti Opening

For something slightly more thematic, I have noticed that in the Reti lines where Black plays ...Bg4, the strongest Black players very rarely give their bishop for the knight on f3, and for good reason. If you are up against a good player, you will gradually feel the absence of this bishop on the light squares. The classic illustration is Botvinnik-Szilagyi which I first came across several years ago in Michael Stean's classic book, Simple Chess. This game is hardly theoretically hot, but it is instructive, so I have included it in the notes to Granda - Cramling which gives a more measured illustration of how a tiny concession in light-squared control can gradually become a big deal without doing much else wrong:

Markos - Krjartansson is somewhat similar, with White's bishops giving nagging pressure that Black did not manage to full absorb:

I'll be back very soon with the July Update! Jonathan


Please remember to point out and send your games to me. Drop me a line at the Flank Openings Forum, or subscribers can write directly to