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After reviewing the games played in the last month, I ended up focusing on the Sharjah Masters, a very strong Open tournament filled exclusively with Grandmasters. All the games from this month’s Update come from that event, and feature a number of new and creative ideas, that were used to generate fighting games.

Download PGN of June ’23 Flank Openings games

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Larsen’s Opening, 1 b3 d5 2 Bb2 Bg4 3 f3 Bh5 [A01]

Harsha, B - Aditya, M reached unorthodox territory early on. After 1 b3 d5 2 Bb2, the move 3...Bg4 is a provocative choice, and White responded by chasing the bishop down with 3 f3 Bh5 4 h4:

Now 4...f6 provided a bolt-hole for the h5-bishop. Following the developing moves 5 d4 e6 6 e3 c5 7 Ne2 Nc6 8 Nbc3 Bd6 9 Qd2 a6 10 0-0-0 Nge7, Black has nothing to complain about. After 11 g4 Bf7 12 h5 h6 13 f4, however, it becomes clear that Black’s king also belongs on the queenside, so the loosening move 13...b5 was questionable. Indeed, after this, White was pressing for most of the game, although the final result was a draw, after several ups and downs.

Larsen’s Opening, 1 Nf3 d5 2 e3 Nf6 3 b3 c6 4 Bb2 Bf5 [A06]

In contrast to the previous game, Korobov, A - Yu Yangyi, was a long strategic struggle that started with 1 Nf3 d5 2 e3 Nf6 3 b3 c6 4 Bb2 Bf5 5 Be2:

If Black continues with 5...h6, then White has the option of 6 Bxf6, spoiling Black's pawn structure, but 5...e6 allowed White to grab the bishop pair with 6 Nh4, which set the course for much of the game. In principle, Black should be OK in such a setup, but he allowed White to establish a typical bind with 18 d4 and 19 f4. As the game wore on, however, Black established an impenetrable fortress, and even won the game after White over-pressed.

Réti Opening, Anti-Slav Gambit 4...dxc4, 7 a4 [A11]

Iskandarov, M - Mishra, A was important for the theory of the Anti-Slav Gambit. After 1 c4 c6 2 Nf3 d5 3 g3 Nf6 4 Bg2 dxc4 5 0-0 Nbd7 6 Qc2 Nb6, White has to choose between the immediate knight jump 7 Na3, and the line with the insertion of 7 a4 a5 8 Na3:

Now 8...Be6 attempts to hold on to the extra pawn, while with 8...g6 Black returns the gambit pawn in favour of quick development. Mishra was well prepared for this game, and after 9 Nxc4 10 Qxc4 Bg7 11 e4 0-0 12 d3, entered fresh territory with 12...b6!?, following Shankland's recommendation from a Chessable course. White now has several ways of grabbing the c6-pawn, but in this game White declined the offer with 13 Rd1. This, however, allowed Black to develop smoothly, and after 13...Ba6 14.Qc2 c5, chances were balanced.

Accelerated Nimzo 1 c4 e6 2 Nc3 Bb4 3 e4 [A13]

After 1 c4 e6 2 Nc3, the tricky move 2...Bb4 is seen from time to time. Now 3 Qb3 is the most popular move, but in Yakubboev, N - Peralta, F, White essayed the recently trending move 3 e4:

Now 3...c5 can be met by 4 Nb5, so 3...Ne7 a sensible reply. Following 4 Nf3 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3 6 dxc3 d6, White needs to play dynamically, since he has a sub-optimal pawn structure and so he continued with the novelty 7 h4. This was followed up by 8 h5 and 9 h6 probing the dark squares. The game evolved into a double-edged struggle with castling on opposite wings, where White eventually prevailed.

Anti-QGD System 4...b6 [A17]

Kobalia, M - Vescovi, G reached a fairly topical position after 1 Nf3 d5 2 b3 Nf6 3 Bb2 e6 4 e3 b6 5 c4 Bb7 6 Nc3 a6 7 Rc1 Nbd7 8 cxd5 exd5 9 Ne2, whereupon Black uncorked the new move 9...Bc5:

Black aims to chop off the first knight that lands on the d4-square, and then gain space with ...c7-c5 and ...d5-d4. After 10 a3 0-0 11 Ned4 Bxd4 12 Nxd4 c5, White can play it safe with 13 Nf3, but instead 13 Nf5 d4 14 exd4, opening the e-file was a risky endeavour. Black didn’t seize all his chances, however, and the game went back and forth in a series of crazy complications, before eventually ending peacefully.

King’s English, Keres System 1 c4 e5 2 g3 c6 3 Nf3 e4 [A20]

Suleymanli, A - Yuffa, D reached a major modern tabiya after the opening moves 1 c4 e5 2 g3 c6 3 Nf3 e4 4 Nd4 d5 5 cxd5 Qxd5 6 Nc2 Nf6 7 Nc3 Qe5 8 Bg2 Na6 9 0-0 Be7. White has a wide choice of possible moves, and in earlier updates we have looked at 10 Ne1, 10 d4, the piece sacrifice 10 Nxe4 as well as 10 Ne3:

After 10...0-0 11 a3, Black introduced a new idea with 11...Rd8, 12 b4 c5 putting pressure on the d2-pawn as well as the b4-pawn. White raised the stakes with 13 Bb2 ignoring the threat to the b4-pawn. After 13...cxb4 14 axb4, Black should likely continue with 14...Nxb4. Instead, Black went astray with 14...Be6 and landed in immediate trouble.

King’s English, 1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 d6 3 g3 Be7 4 d4 Be7 5 Bh3 [A21]

After 1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 d6 3 g3 Be7 4 d4 f5, last month’s Update covered the line 5 Nf3 e4 6 Nh4 in Svidler-Erigaisi. The game Sevian, S - Kuybokarov, T, instead saw the unusual concept 5 Bh3, putting lateral pressure on Black's pawn centre:

After 5...Na6 6 dxe5 dxe5 7 Qxd8+ Bxd8 8 Nf3, Black should probably stay flexible with 8...Bf6 9 e4 Ne7, since after 8...e4 Black's pawn centre loses its flexibility, which gives White some targets. Following 9 Nd4 Bf6 10 Ndb5 Be5 11 f4 exf3 opening up the centre played into White's hands, and after 12 exf3 c6 13.0-0 White's lead in development gave him a tangible initiative.

Symmetrical 1 Nf3 d5 2 g3 c5 3 Bg2 Nf6 4 0-0 g6 5 c4 Bg7 6 Qa4+ [A34]

From the move order 1 Nf3 d5 2 g3 c5 3 Bg2 Nf6 4 0-0 g6 5 c4 Bg7, 6 cxd5 would transpose into a regular Symmetrical English. In Dardha, D - Jumabayev, R, White unleashed the more testing 6 Qa4+, inviting Black to choose between the multiple ways of answering the check:

Black should likely choose between 6...Bd7 and 6...Nc6, while 6...Qd7 trading queens doesn't appear to fully equalize. After 7 Qxd7+ Nbxd7 8 cxd5 Nxd5 9 Nc3 we have a standard-looking English setup, but without the queens on the board! Later on, with 13...Rc8 Black started to fall behind in development with his queenside became exposed, and White was soon on top.

Until next month, David.

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