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In this Update, I have covered topical English and Réti lines from recent elite online events, but also explored theoretical developments in correspondence and engine chess.

Download PGN of June ’20 Flank Openings games

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Reversed King’s Indian 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 g3 c5 3 Bg2 Nc6 4 0-0 e5 5 e4 [A04]

With the move order 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 g3 c5 3 Bg2 Nc6 4 0-0 e5, Black steers the game from a Réti towards a reversed King's Indian Defence structure. Now 5 e4!? is not White's most popular move, but has scored well in practice:

Now a move such as 5...Be7 leads to a slow manoeuvring game, but in Ding Liren - Nepomniachtchi, I, Black took the plunge with 5...Nxe4. White proceeded to recover the pawn with 6 Re1 Nf6 7 Nxe5 Be7 and then after 8 c4! enjoyed a slight lead in development and good control of the light squares. Ding Liren nurtured a small advantage through to an endgame and eventually won.

Réti Opening, Anti-Slav Gambit 4...dxc4, 8 Ng5 [A11]

This month we look at two games in the sharp anti-Slav gambit, both starting with 1 c4 c6 2 Nf3 d5 3 g3 Nf6 4 Bg2 dxc4 5 0-0 Nbd7 6 Na3 Nb6 7 Qc2 Be6, when White has a choice of major continuations. Nepomniachtchi, I - Vachier Lagrave, M proceeded with 8 Ng5 and after 8...Bg4 9 Nxc4 Bxe2 10 Ne5 Bh5 11 Re1 reached a critical and complex position:

Now 11...e6? is a big mistake that Black needs to avoid - see the November 2019 Update. Instead, after 11...h6, Nepomniachtchi unleashed the rare piece sacrifice 12 Ngxf7!? After 12...Bxf7 13 b4 White has to act quickly in order to open up the position before Black has time to consolidate. The correct moves from here on are far from intuitive, and in this rapid game both sides missed opportunities in the complications, before Black eventually prevailed.

Réti Opening, Anti-Slav Gambit 4...dxc4, 8 Ne5 [A11]

Ding Liren - Dubov, D varied from the previous game on move 8, with the other important move 8 Ne5. Now 8...Qd4 used to be the mainline, but Dubov instead uncorked the typical thrust 8...h5!?:

Now 9 h4 is the most circumspect, but White instead preferred the double edged 9 Naxc4, allowing Black to proceed with kingside play. In a shocking turn of events, Ding Liren continued on auto-pilot with his queenside attack, while Black broke through with a mating attack to win in only 21 moves!

King’s English, Botvinnik System 8...Nh5 [A26]

The ”book“ position after 1 c4 e5 2 g3 Nf6 3 Bg2 g6 4 Nc3 Bg7 5 d3 0-0 6 e4 d6 7 Nge2 Nc6 8 0-0 Nh5 was selected in the recent TCEC engine competition as the starting point for the game LCZero - KomodoMCTS. It is intriguing to see how two of the leading engines handle this classic position in the Botvinnik system. In such a "system opening", the typical plans and themes have been well explored in many human games.

In fact with 9 b3!?, Leela immediately broke from established theory with a very rare move! White waits for Black to show its hand with 9...f5 before committing to further piece deployment. It does appear counter-intuitive, however, to open up the a1-h8 diagonal for Black's g7-bishop. The game continuation and notes contain some instructive ideas which provide fresh ideas for players of this venerable setup.

King’s English, Four Knights 4 e3 Bb4 5 Qc2 0-0 6 Nd5 Re8 7 Qf5 [A28]

Duda, J - Carlsen, M featured the old mainline of the 4 e3 English with 4 e3 Bb4 5 Qc2 0-0 6 Nd5 Re8, when with 7 Qf5!? White aims to disrupt Black's kingside by inflicting doubled f-pawns. This unusual line dates back to the late 1970s, but is not often seen over the board, as Black usually deviates at an early stage, notably with the modern mainline 5...Bxc3. After 7...d6 8 Nxf6+, Black can trade queens 8...Qxf6 9.Qxf6 gxf6, but Carlsen went for the more critical 8...gxf6 9 Qh5:

This position has been deeply explored in correspondence chess over the last few years, and I have covered the latest developments in the notes. After Magnus went wrong with 16...Qd5?!, Duda took over and scored a win against the World Champion.

King’s English, Four Knights 4 e3 Bb4 5 Qc2 Bxc3 6 bxc3 e4 [A28]

After 4 e3 Bb4 5 Qc2 Bxc3 6 bxc3, Black usually plays 6...0-0 or 6...d6 leading to a typical closed structure after 7 e4. In Firouzja, A - Dominguez Perez, L, however Black essayed the sharper 6...e4:

After 7 Ng5 Qe7 8 f3 exf3 9 Nxf3 0-0 10 Be2, the move 10...b6! is the new trend emerging from correspondence chess. Black marshals his forces to restrain White's centre, with ...Bc8-b7 and often ...Ra8-e8 and ...f7-f5 ideas. As it turned out, Black was doing fine until the players traded mistakes in the middlegame.

King’s English, Four Knights 4 g3 g6 5 d4 [A29]

Caruana, F - Artemiev, V opened with 1 c4 e5 2 g3 Nc6 3 Bg2 g6 4 Nc3 Bg7 5 Nf3 Nf6, a line that Artemiev has championed in numerous rapid and blitz games. Black combines ideas from the King's Indian Defence with a 1 c4 e5 setup. Now 6 d4 grabbed space in the centre, leading to the following position after 9 moves:

White has the slightly better pawn structure, with a space advantage conferred by control of the d5-square. Black's aim is to generate counterplay, using ideas such as ...a7-a5-a4 and tactics along the a1-h8 diagonal. In the game, Black came very close to full equality but then erred and allowed White to generate attacking chances.

Symmetrical English 3...e5 4 e3 Nf6 5 d4 e4 [A34]

A key line of the Symmetrical English occurs after 1 Nf3 c5 2 c4 Nc6 3 Nc3 e5 4 e3 Nf6 5 d4 e4 6 Ne5. Now after 6...g6, Mamedyarov has championed the sharp move 7 g4, but this can be preempted by 6...h5!:

In conjunction with the e4-pawn, the h-pawn thrust establishes Black's claim on kingside space. Recent correspondence games make a strong case for Black’s setup, and we examine one such encounter in Romm, M - Shulman, B.

I hope you enjoy this update!

Until next month, David.

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