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This Update includes games from a range of tournament formats and time controls. Look out for some sharp attacking battles and fresh ideas for both sides.

Download PGN of June ’22 Flank Openings games

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King’s Indian Attack Mainline 8 Re1 Qc7 [A08]

The game Shevchenko, K - Gavrilescu, D featured a King’s Indian Attack starting with 1 Nf3 d5 2 g3 Nf6 3 Bg2 e6 4 0-0 Be7 5 d3 0-0 6 Nbd2 c5 7 e4 Nc6 8 Re1. Now 8...Qc7 is a move order nuance that forces White to play Qd1-e2 in order to support the e4-e5 thrust. In doing so, Black effectively gains a tempo over comparable lines such as 8...b5 9 e5 Nd7 10 Nf1, in which White has time for 11 h4 and 12 Bf4 directly. The players reached the diagram position after 9 e5 Nd7 10 Qe2 b5 11 Nf1 Bb7 12 h4 Rfc8:

Black has adopted the modern mainline setup involving ...Rf8-c8, which allows the bishop to drop back with ...Be7-f8 and the queen to cover the kingside after ...Qc7-d8.

The game turned into an entertaining slugfest with players pursuing their attacking aims on opposite sides of the board. Black broke through on the queenside and had many chances to win. White, however, eventually got through to Black’s king, supporting the old adage that checkmate wins the game!

Réti Opening, Anti-Slav Gambit, 3...dxc4, 4...Nb6 [A11]

Donchenko, A - Horvath, D entered the sharp anti-Slav gambit with the slightly unusual move order 1 c4 c6 2 Nf3 d5 3 g3 dxc4 4 Bg2 Nd7 5 0-0 Nb6 6 a4 a5:

Now a sequence such as 7 Qc2 Nf6 8 Na3 would transpose to known theory, but 7 b3!? was a novelty. After 7...cxb3 8 Nc3 Nf6, rather than simply recapturing the b3-pawn, White expanded aggressively with 9 e4, putting Black under pressure. Following 9...Bg4 10 Qxb3 Bxf3 11 Bxf3 e5 White continued in swashbuckling style with 12 d4, and by move 15 was down by no fewer than three pawns! Black had to work hard to complete development and safeguard the king, and in fact a dynamic balance was reached. An error by Black on move 26, however, allowed an abrupt conclusion.

Anti-Grünfeld, 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 Nc3 Bg7 4 e4 e5 [A16]

After 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 Nc3 Bg7 4 e4 e5 5 Nxe5, the move 5...0-0 is a pawn sacrifice which has become quite popular since Daniil Dubov's adoption of it in 2019. Now with 6 Nf3 Re8 7 Bd3, White offers to return the pawn in favour of quick development, and the diagram position is reached after the logical sequence 7...Nxe4 8 Bxe4 Bxc3 9 dxc3 Rxe4+ 10 Be3 Nc6 11 0-0 d6:

Here 12 Qd2 looks reasonable, but Giri, A - Jones, G instead featured the new move 12 Qd5, forcing Black to choose how to defend the rook. Black responded with 12...Qe8 13 h3 Bf5 14 Rfe1 Re6, after which White could have applied some pressure with 15 Nd4. In the game, 15 Ng5 Re7 16 b3 a6 17 g4 loosened White’s own kingside. As is typical for a rapid game, the evaluation swung to and fro, until White eventually prevailed.

Mikenas Attack 3...d5 4 cxd5 exd5 5 e5 d4 [A18]

After the opening moves 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e6 3 e4 d5, Black usually answers 4 e5 with 4...d4, but the situation is different after the interpolation of 4 cxd5 exd5 and now 5 e5, when the mainline is 5...Ne4 6 Nf3 Bf5. The move 5...d4 is quite rare at the elite level, but often played in lower rated encounters. Levon Aronian has played 5....d4 in several times in recent blitz games, however, so Shevchenko, K - Aronian, L gives us a chance to review the theory.

Following 6 exf6 dxc3 7 Bb5+, the move 7...c6 is the most common try, examined in the game notes. Instead 7...Nc6 was Aronian's chosen weapon. In the game, Black equalized without difficulty, and even went on to win. With accurate play, White should be able to extract a slight edge from this opening, but this is tough to find at a fast time control without prior knowledge.

King’s English, Keres System 2 g3 c6 3 d4 e4 4 Qa4 [A20]

Mamedyarov, S - Khenkin, I opened with 1 c4 e5 2 g3 c6 3 d4 e4 and now with 4 Qa4, Mamedyarov repeated the rare line with which he beat Pragg at Wijk aan Zee 2022. That game continued with the sharp 4...d5 5.cxd5 b5, but Khenkin varied with 4...Na6:

Black keeps the option of ...f7-f5 to defend the e4-pawn as well as ...Na6-c7 to support the centre after a subsequent ...d7-d5. After 5 a3 Nc7 6 Nc3 f5 7 f3 Nf6 8 Bg2 d5, Black established an impressive central pawn chain, and it became clear that White didn’t get anything out of the opening. White needs to look for improvements on move 7 or earlier.

King’s English, Four Knights, 4 a3 g6 [A26]

After 1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 Nf3 Nc6, the move 4 a3 is only White's 6th most popular continuation, but is a respectable way of getting a game without a huge body of concrete theory. Now 4...d5 if of course possible, but in Korobov, A - Caruana, F, Black opted for a closed setup. After 4...g6 5 g3 Bg7 6 Bg2 0-0 7 0-0 d6 8 d3 a5 9 Rb1, the players reached a well-explored tabiya with over 3,000 games in the database:

The featured game is an instructive demonstration of the plans available to both sides.

Black adopted the straightforward idea of ...Bc8-e6, ...Qd8-d7 and ...Be6-h3 to trade the light-squared bishops, while White expanded on the queenside with b2-b4 and traded rooks along the a-file. Just as White’s queen was breaking through to Black’s queenside pawns, Black’s kingside counterplay arrived just in time, with a draw by perpetual check being the logical result.

Symmetrical English, Hedgehog 7 Re1 a6 8 e4 d6 9 d4 [A30]

Seel, C - Shevchenko, K showcased an old-school Hedgehog starting with 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 Nc3 e6 4 g3 b6 5 Bg2 Bb7 6 0-0 Be7 7 Re1. Now 7...d5 is a very solid line, but Black didn’t shy away from the dynamic open position arising after 7...a6 8 e4 d6 9 d4 cxd4 10 Nxd4 Qc7 11 Be3 Nbd7 12 Rc1 0-0 13 f4:

Here Black usually chooses between 13...Rac8 and 13...Rfe8, but Shevchenko went for the double-edged 13...h5!?. Black temporarily slows down White's kingside pawn storm, but raises the stakes by potentially leaving Black's king more exposed once the kingside does eventually blow up. After 14 Bh3 Nc5?! 15 b4 Ncxe4 16 Nxe6! White struck with a thematic sacrifice and was soon well on top.

Pure Symmetrical, 5 Nf3 e6 6 d4 Nxd4 [A37]

So, W - Anand, V started with the well-known gambit line 1 c4 c5 2 Nc3 g6 3 g3 Bg7 4 Bg2 Nc6 5 Nf3 e6 6 d4:

The most common capture here is 6...cxd4, which usually leads to positions where Black has an isolated d-pawn. Instead Anand continued with the sharp 6...Nxd4 7 Nxd4 cxd4 8 Ne4 d5, and now 9 Qa4+ is a relatively fresh idea. It was suggested on this site by Alexandr Fier back in 2013, but picked up in practice only several years later. After 9...Kf8 10 Qa3+ Qe7 11 Nd6 Be5, the move 12 c5 is new move to over-the-board chess, although it has been explored in correspondence play. White remains a pawn down but is ahead in development and Black still needs to unravel the kingside. Later on, 16 b4! would have enabled White to keep up the pressure, but after 16 f4 White's chances for an opening advantage slipped away.

I hope you enjoy this Update!

Until next month, David.

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