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Hi everyone!
In this Update we take a break from mainline theory to explore some of the more offbeat and unusual Flank Openings. In fact, all eight games this month feature a different first move. Which of these is “bold and creative” and which is “eccentric and weakening“? Judge for yourself - as the saying goes, from the sublime to the ridiculous is but one step!

Download PGN of June ’18 Flank Openings games

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Delayed Grob, 1 e3 Nf6 2 g4 [A00]

It is rare to see the Grob played in a (non-blitz) game between two Grandmasters, but that is what happened in the game Larino Nieto, D - Sumets, A, albeit in an improved(?) version with 1 e3 Nf6 inserted before 2 g4:

White is threatening to kick the f6-knight around, but in the game, Black put a stop to that with the level headed 2...h6. Now 3 Bg2 is already a novelty, although this isn’t the only game this month to enter new territory at a very early stage. Sumets reacted well to the unusual position, and Black was soon better.

Orangutan Opening, 1 b4 e5 2 Bb2 Bxb4 [A00]

After 1 b4 Black has many playable moves, but 1...e5 is the most principled reply, simply taking aim at the b4-pawn. After 2 Bb2 Bxb4 3 Bxe5 Nf6 Black has traded a central pawn for a wing pawn but has faster development.

Honos, A - Kantor, G showed that Black’s resources can be dangerous in the hands of an attacking player. Kantor showed some original touches such as 8...Qd6!? to quickly swing the queen across to the kingside. After White played too slowly, his king soon came under heavy fire.

Van Geet (or Dunst) Opening 1 Nc3 e5 [A00]

1 Nc3, the Van Geet (or Dunst) opening can be tricky for Black to meet if he doesn't have a specific line prepared. Improvising, for example playing 1...e5 or 1...c5 and continuing by analogy with 1 e4 openings, holds some dangers. In some positions, White's extra tempo (through delaying the move e2-e4) give him extra possibilities.

Karpatchev, A - Mazur, S, reached the above position, and Black continued with the natural looking move 5...h6. After 6 Bxf6 Qxf6 7 Ndb5, however, Black is caught out by the weakness of the c7-pawn and is already in some trouble.

1 g3 anti-Dutch [A00]

1 g3 is by far the most mainstream of the opening moves in the ‘A00’ category, and usually transposes to standard English, Réti or 1 d4 setups. In Turner, M - Cheparinov, I, however, White employed an independent option against the Dutch, starting with 1...f5 2 Bg2 Nf6 3 d3 d6 4 e4:

White's plan with an early d2-d3 can be particularly effective against Stonewall structures, but Black has more flexibility in this setup. Cheparinov now clarified the centre with 4...fxe4 5 dxe4 e5 and developed his dark-squared bishop on the e7-square. This gave him long term ideas of expanding in the centre, while it was harder for White to find a convincing plan.

Larsen’s Opening 1 b3 a5 [A01]

In Dobre, C - Manea, A Black answered 1 b3 with the rare and provocative 1...a5!?:

This move was played in the fairly well known 2015 game Rapport-Adly, which was covered here on ChessPublishing. Black argues that he has time to get away with this wing move, and meanwhile the players are on their own. There are several promising options for White such as 2 Bb2 a4 3 e4 or 2 c4, but obviously no established theory. In fact Black has scored fairly well in practical games, and not just in blitz games. Dobre’s 2 Bb2 a4 3 a3 wasn’t very impressive, so in this encounter the surprise element worked in Black’s favour.

From’s Gambit Declined, 1 f4 e5 2 fxe5 d6 3 e6 [A02]

From's Gambit 1 f4 e5 2 fxe5 d6 is a rare guest in tournament play, but has a body of theory which goes quite deep.

White’s best try for an advantage is to grab the pawn, but in Tu, H - Bao, K, White decided to decline the gambit, playing 3 e6. This doesn’t promise much against correct play, but in the game Black continued 3...Bxe6 4 Nf3 g5?!. The loosening g-pawn thrust makes less sense with a pawn, rather than a bishop, on the d6-square. 5 d4 led to a pleasant edge for White, although the game swung back and forth several times later on.

Réti Opening, 1 Nf3 d5 2 c4 d4 3 b4 g5 [A09]

Duda, J - Bartel, M opened with 1 Nf3 d5 2 c4 d4 3 b4, and now instead of playing one of the main moves 3...f6 and 3...Bg4, Bartel unleashed 3...g5!?:

This is a dynamic idea that deserves more attention. If White grabs the pawn right away, then after 4 Nxg5 e5 Black has a double attack on the g5-knight and b4-pawn. The critical line is Duda’s 4 Bb2 when after 4...Bg7 5.Nxg5 e5 Black gets a large mobile pawn centre as compensation for the pawn.

King’s English, 1 c4 e5 2 g3 h5 [A20]

After 1 c4 e5 2 g3, Bruzon Batista, L - Rakhmanov, A, took an unexpected turn with 2...h5!?:

2...h5 is only Black's 10th most popular move, but has picked up some interest recently and scored reasonably well for Black. The h-pawn thrust is somewhat justified by White's lack of central control at this early stage of the game. In the notes I look at White’s major 3rd move options. Bruzon chose 3 Nc3 when after 3...Bb4 we again have a brand new position after only 3 moves! In the game, both players developed along standard lines, except that Black’s h3-pawn proved to be an annoying thorn in White’s side.

I hope you enjoy this update!

Until next month, David.

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