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Hi everyone!
In this Update, we look at some original Flank Openings from the French and Russian team championships, as well as the Moscow Grand Prix. And Jobava’s 1 b3 is back!

Download PGN of June ’17 Flank Openings games

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Larsen’s Opening 1 b3 d5 2 Bb2 Bg4 [A01]

Jobava used 1 b3 to beat a fellow 2700+ player in Jobava, B - Wojtaszek, R. The game opened with 1 b3 d5 2 Bb2 Bg4 3 f3 Bf5, entering a line that both players have experience of. The game soon left known paths, reaching the following rather bizarre structure after 11 moves:

Out of the opening, Black had things under control, but on move 16 had to decide on which side of the board he should castle. It turned out that castling short made his king more of a target for White’s attack, which eventually became extremely venomous.

Larsen’s Opening 1 b3 e5 2 Bb2 Nc6 3 e3 Nf6 4 Bb5 Bd6 [A01]

Jobava, B - Brochet, P began with the mainline 1 b3 e5 2 Bb2 Nc6 3 e3 Nf6 4 Bb5 Bd6 5 Na3 and now Black chose the ambitious 5...e4. Brochet followed up with 7...dxc6 and 8...h5, staking out space on the kingside, and preparing to castle queenside:

The French IM played the next phase of the game very well, building up a clearly winning position. In time trouble, however, he let his opponent off the hook, allowing a perpetual check. This opening line is one that Larsen fans definitely need to find an answer to.

English Defence, 1 c4 e6 2 Nc3 b6 3 e4 [A10]

Eduardas Rozentalis is one of the leading devotees of the English Defence, which he demonstrated in Milov, V - Rozentalis, E. Following 1 c4 e6 2 Nc3 b6 3 e4 Bb7 4 Nf3, White stayed within English Opening territory, and the players reached the following position after 7...f5:

Now 8 Qe2 is the mainline, but instead White chose the unfortunate 8 e5?!, when White is already struggling after the simple but effective 8...Bxf3!. White's e5-pawn is weak, and he is way behind in development.

English vs. KID/Grünfeld hybrid with 5...c6 6 e4 [A16]

After 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 g3 g6 3 Bg2 Bg7 4 c4 0-0 5 Nc3 c6, many games have continued 6 d4 d5, entering the well trodden paths of the symmetrical Grünfeld. Instead 6 e4!? is an interesting way of avoiding these solid and highly theoretical lines:

Bacrot, E - Nataf, I continued with 6...d5 7 cxd5 cxd5 8 e5 Ne4 9 0-0 Nc6 10 d4 Nxc3 11 bxc3 leading to an unbalanced pawn structure. White gets a space advantage on the kingside, but needs to pay attention to his backward c3-pawn.

Mikenas Attack 3...d5 4 e5 with 8...exd4 [A18]

One of the mainlines of the Mikenas Attack starts with 3...d5 4 e5 d4 5 exf6 dxc3 6 bxc3 Qxf6 7 d4 e5 8 Nf3:

Recent high level games have focused on 8...Nc6, but in Nepomniachtchi, I - Harikrishna, P, Black revisited the old mainline 8...exd4. With the novelty 15 Rb1 and the aggressive 19 f5, White was able to drum up an attack before Black had completed development.

King’s English, Keres System 4 d4 e4 [A20]

1 c4 e5 2 g3 Nf6 3 Bg2 c6 4 d4 e4 is a topical line in the Keres system. Piorun, K - Degraeve, J saw 5 Nc3 d5 6 cxd5 cxd5 and now 7 Bg5, putting pressure on the d5-pawn:

Here Black chose the reliable 7...Bb4, against which White has yet to show a path to an advantage. Unfortunately for White, worse was to come when he fell headlong into a hidden trap with 14 Rfc1?, when Black wins a piece by force!

King’s English, Keres System 4 Nf3 e4 [A20]

The game Ding Liren - Inarkiev, E, also started 1 c4 e5 2 g3 Nf6 3 Bg2 c6 but here White varied from the above game with 4 Nf3. After 4...e4 5 Nd4 d5 Ding Liren chose the relatively rare move 6 d3!?:

Things got complicated early on after 6...exd3 7 cxd5 Bb4+ 8 Nc3 c5 9 Nb3 c4. Once the structure clarified, however, White secured a better position. Ding Liren’s line looks promising and if it holds up to further tests, Black will need to explore earlier deviations.

Symmetrical English, Kasparov Gambit 3 d4, 4...e5 [A31]

The variation 1 c4 c5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 e5 5 Nb5 d5 6 cxd5 Bc5 is a sharp gambit line, which was initially popularized by Kasparov's games in the early 1980s.

After renewed interest in the early 2000s, however, it seems to have fallen under a cloud. So it is very interesting to see an elite player take up the challenge as Black in Matlakov, M - Giri, A which continued with one of the key lines 7 e3 0-0 8 N5c3:

Now the long standing main move is 8...e4, but Giri chose a different philosophy with 8...Bf5. Black aims to develop quickly, making it harder for White to hold on to the extra d5-pawn. Indeed, with the accurate 10...Bb4!, Giri got the pawn back and had a comfortable game. Food for thought, although Black still needs to demonstrate a reliable answer to the other critical try 7 N5c3 0-0 8 g3.

I hope you enjoy this Update!

Until next month, David.

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