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I spent quite a chunk of this month playing the Top12 in Belfort, which I found very tough (am I getting weaker or is everyone getting stronger ... or a combination of both?) I've given my views on my games and the other ones that interested me below, and I've also received help from Richard Palliser, who covered 4 games, mostly featuring 1 b3.
IM John Bartholomew will be back next month.

Download PGN of June '12 Flank Openings games

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Nimzowitsch-Larsen Attack 1 b3 [A01]

After a slow start, Luke McShane played some excellent chess at the recent Tal Memorial, so I feel slightly bad for beginning with a loss of his from the blitz tournament that preceeded the main event. Nakamura was the first to go 1 b3 there, but the Englishman was to employ the move against both Grischuk and Tomashevsky. After 1...Nf6 2 Bb2 the latter opted for the solid 2...d5 3 e3 c6 and now 4 h3!? was a very interesting way to prevent Black developing comfortably with ...Bg4 or ...Bf5. McShane - Grischuk saw the more provocative 2...g6!?:

I believe 3 Bxf6 exf6 4 c4 must be critical here, but lovers of bishops will disagree and even the maverick 3 g4!? has been tried. Instead Luke settled for 3 g3, but after one natural-looking move too many in a reversed Benoni scenario rapidly found himself in trouble.

I've long been a fan of 1...e5 2 Bb2 Nc6 3 e3 Nf6 4 Bb5 Bd6!?, which it seems is by now very much here to stay:

For a long time 5 Na3 was White's main choice, but Black has been doing well enough with the solid 5...a6 6 Bxc6 dxc6 7 Nc4 Qe7 8 Ne2 0-0 when the position rather resembles a Delayed Exchange Lopez. As such 9 0-0 e4?! doesn't feel right, although Black battles back in Petrosian - Naroditsky only to stumble at the last.

5 Nc3!? may seem strange, but actually in conjunction with an exchange on c6 feels quite harmonious to me, fighting for the e4-square and allowing a second knight to go via e2 to g3. That said, an early f2-f4 break didn't work out too well in McShane - Jones, where we also consider various other 5th move possibilities.

Réti Opening anti-QGA [A09]

Delchev's "The Modern Réti: An Anti-Slav Repertoire" has been coming under some pressure recently, and considerable doubt has been cast on his analysis in the 1 Nf3 d5 2 c4 d4 line, see here for further details.

There may be another problem in his recommended anti-Queen's Gambit Accepted system, which involves deferring d4, as well. In the recent French Teams Championships (Top12) I was playing the black side of a King's Gambit and managed to hit my opponent with some analysis from the Forum KG eBook by Micawber which sent my opponent into a deep think (see here for more about this), so I had plenty of time to watch my teammates' games. Ragger - Postny had started 1. Nf3 d5 2. c4 dxc4 3. e3 Nf6 4. Bxc4 e6 5. O-O a6 6. Qe2 b5 7. Bb3 Nbd7 8. Rd1 Bb7:

How should White proceed? 9 d4 would transpose to a mainline QGA, so Marcus continued with the thematic 9 a4!?, but this was answered by 9...Nc5 10 Bc2 Nxa4 gaining the bishop pair. When we returned to the hotel after the match had finished I brought the Delchev book from my room and we were surprised to see that this move order is not mentioned at all, he basically only covers lines where Black plays an early ...c5.

However, if White can delay d4 then why can't Black simply delay ...c5 and keep this square free for a piece, as here?

English Defence - 1...b6 [A10]

Following 1. c4 b6 2. Nf3 Bb7 3. g3 Bxf3 4. exf3 c5 5. d4 we hadn't previously considered Black's most common move 5...cxd4 on this site. My game Kosten - Paci continued 6. Qxd4 Nc6 7. Qd1 e6 and now I played 8. Bg2!? which challenges Black to attack the loose c4-pawn:

I had spent a lot of my preparation focussing on a sharp exchange sac line, which might be close to winning for White, but my opponent played more solidly and avoided this. White's doubled f-pawn is a serious inconvenience in this line, but actually proved an advantage at the end of this game as the front f-pawn could have given mate!

Mikenas Attack 3...d5, 8...Nc6 [A18]

One of the teams pulled out because they lost their female player, Marie Sebag at the last minute - she appeared on 'Secret Story' (a sort of 'Big Brother', I believe)! So round 10 was a free day for my team and we went sightseeing, which was why I missed seeing the game Naiditsch - Fedorchuk, which featured 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e6 3. e4 d5 4. e5 d4 5. exf6 dxc3 6. bxc3 Qxf6 7. Nf3 e5 8. d4 and now 8...Nc6!:

This move has really come to the fore recently and is a serious problem for the Mikenas Attack - my game from round 11 (the very next morning!) against Wesley So in the notes shows what White should not do!

Symmetrical - Four Knights 6 Ndb5 [A33]

After 1 c4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 e6 one might have expected 6 a3 from Nakamura, but he went in for 6 Ndb5 d5 7 Bf4 e5 8 cxd5 exf4 9 dxc6 bxc6 10 Qxd8+ Kxd8 11 Rd1+ Bd7 12 Nd6 Kc7!? 13 Nxf7 Rg8 14 Ne5 Rb8 15 Nxd7 Nxd7 in Nakamura - Kramnik, which has a rather drawish reputation:

The main move is 16 Rd2, but the American no.1 immediately returned the pawn with 16 g3!? and yet it was soon White who was happy to simplify down to a slightly worse endgame. A most uncharacteristic game from Nakamura!

Nimzovich's 5 e4 [A34]

I've always wanted to play this dynamic move, and would have analysed it in the 'DW-Flank' book if I'd had more chapters to cover! In Kosten - Dourerassou I prepared the line 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 c5 3. Nf3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nb4 6. Bb5+ N8c6 7. d4 cxd4 8.a3:

I'd analysed some sharp lines against 8...Bd7 which I felt would give me good winning chances with little risk, and also had a good look at the endgame following 8...dxc3, where I thought that White's initiative was enough for the pawn, and that my young opponent would feel uncomfortable having to defend this.

I may have misjudged this as he actually defended very stubbornly, although I did miss a chance to keep the pressure up on move 26. Afterwards some of my 2600+ teammates seemed to think that this line was actually fairly easy for Black to draw, so I think I will only repeat this line very occasionally as a surprise weapon.

John Bartholomew will be returning next month, Tony

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