ForumHelpSearchMy ProfileSite InfoGuests InfoRepertoireLinks
Hi everyone!
With many high-level events this month, including the French and Russian team championships, the European championship as well as Shamkir, a number of leading players were in action again in Flank Opening territory. In this Update, we dig into brand new ideas as well as improved responses to recent novelties.

Download PGN of June ’16 Flank Openings games

>> Previous Update >>

Réti Opening 1 Nf3 d5 2 g3 Nf6 3 Bg2 c6 4 c4 g6 5 b3 [A11]

After 1 Nf3 d5 2 g3 Nf6 3 Bg2 c6 4 c4 g6 5 b3 Bg7 6 Bb2 0-0 7 0-0 we reach a tabiya for this double-fianchetto line. In Aronian-Carlsen from last month's Update, Black chose 7...dxc4 8 bxc4 c5, but didn't things didn't pan out for the World Champion. Instead, Dubov - Korobov continued with 7...Bg4 which is one of Black most popular tries, getting the light-squared bishop outside the pawn chain and aiming to maintain a solid pawn structure on the light squares:

Following 8 d3 Bxf3 9 Bxf3 e6, Black's setup is very solid, but it is hard to find active plans for him. Meanwhile while White can gradually expand and aim for eventual pawn breaks to create space and targets for his two bishops. Dubov went for the patient build-up and then pounced when a tactical opportunity arose.

Neo-Catalan 1 Nf3 d5 2 c4 e6 3 g3 dxc4 4 Bg2 a6 [A13]

Safarli - Eljanov opened with 1 Nf3 d5 2 c4 e6 3 g3 dxc4 4 Bg2 a6 5 Qc2 and now Black went for 5...Bd6 which, surprisingly, is a new move in this specific position. Black continues his development while ruling out Nf3-e5, so reducing White's options:

We have seen a number of recent games in the neo-Catalan (i.e. a Catalan-type structure where White refrains from an early d2-d4) where Black has fared well, and Eljanov has been at the forefront of this. After taking the c4-pawn, Black develops quickly and often gains tempi on White's queen once it recaptures on c4. White has yet to find a clear path to an opening edge against this approach, and the opening phase of this game was no exception.

King's English 2...Bb4 [A21]

Vachier Lagrave-Baklan started with 1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 Bb4 3 Nd5 Bc5 4 Nf3 c6 5 Nc3 d6 6 e3 Qe7 and now with 7 Be2, MVL took the game somewhat off the beaten track:

After 7...e4 8 Nd4 Nf6 9 d3 Black should probably have tried 9...d5 reaching a reversed c3-Sicilian type position. Instead, after 9...exd3, White got a typical pawn structure with a space advantage and outplayed his opponent from there.

King's English Four Knights 4...Nd4 [A29]

Svidler - Sjugirov opened with 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e5 3 Nf3 Nc6 4 g3 and now 4...Nd4, a major variation which has fallen somewhat out of the limelight in recent years. For example, the moves featured at the Moscow Candidates tournament were 4...Bb4 and 4...d5.

Svidler was well prepared, however, choosing the most critical line with the pawn sacrifice 10 d4 and then varying from an earlier Sjugirov game with 14 Bf4. Black faltered in the early middlegame and then had to suffer in an inferior endgame.

Reversed King's Indian [A30]

Kramnik - Karjakin began 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 g3 c5 3 Bg2 Nc6 4 0-0 e5 - a reversed King's Indian structure which is Karjakin's favourite setup against this move-order. Despite the dynamic reputation of the KID for Black, in the version with colours reversed it is often a struggle for White to prove any advantage. Kramnik, however, came prepared with the dynamic 5 c4 d5 6 Qa4 Bd6 7 d4!?:

This is not something you see every day in standard King's Indian positions! Kramnik's choice prompted Karjakin to go wrong only a few moves in. Despite numerous chances to close the deal, however, White finally had to give up his winning attempts on move 138!

Symmetrical English 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 g3 d5, 7 Ng5 [A34]

In Kovalenko - Salgado Lopez, after 1 c4 c5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 g3 d5 4 cxd5 Nxd5 5 Nc3 Nc6 6 Bg2 g6, with 7 Ng5 Kovalenko repeated the rare idea that Peter Svidler introduced against Fabiano Caruana at the Candidates two months earlier. Following 7...e6 8 d3 Bg7 9 Nge4 Black varied with 9...b6, which makes sense given that Caruana had come under a heavy attack by castling early.

White now needs to try and make something happen, since if he simply develops normally, then Black's space advantage would start to become the predominant factor. Kovalenko therefore initiated a tactical sequence with 13 Nxf6+, but Black was up to the task and appears to have enough resources to hold the balance.

Pure Symmetrical Botvinnik Setup [A36]

Giri - Karjakin started with 1 g3, a move which is a rare guest at top level, although games starting with 1 g3 usually transpose to Réti or English lines. After 1...c5 2 Bg2 Nc6 3 c4 g6 4 Nc3 Bg7 5 a3 d6 6 Rb1 a5 7 d3 e5 8 e4 Giri repeated the setup in which he has suffered as Black against Wesley So at Wijk aan Zee earlier in 2016. Karjakin varied with 8...h5!?:

Black aims to exchange the dark-squared bishops with ...Bg7-h6. This is a fairly unusual approach in these structures, but in the game Karjakin equalized with ease.

Pure Symmetrical 5...e6 6 d4 pawn sac [A37]

In Melkumyan - Sivuk, following 1 c4 c5 2 Nf3 g6 3 Nc3 Bg7 4 g3 Nc6 5 Bg2 e6 White ventured 6 d4!?, White's sharpest and most dynamic attempt to gain an advantage against the reliable 5...e6 Fischer system. The 6 d4 gambit has been covered in depth on Chess Publishing over the years, so it is good to check in on the latest theoretical developments.

In the game Sivuk went for the variation 6...cxd4 7 Nb5 d5 8 cxd5 exd5 in which Black agrees to the isolated queen's pawn. This shouldn't be the end of the world, but it does give White a target. In the game, after trading all the minor pieces, Melkumyan was able to take advantage of this long-term weakness.

I hope you enjoy this Update!

Until next month, David.

>> Previous Update >>

To contact the author please go to the Flank Openings Forum, or subscribers can write directly to