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Hello, and welcome to the March update. I have again decided to focus on one line, and this time it is a line that is both theoretically important but still relatively unexplored. The line in question is basically an approach to playing against the Slav that involves delaying the move d2-d4 or indeed not playing it at all. In some cases White can play positionally and castle kingside, but the more challenging lines involve White pushing his kingside pawns and castling queenside. I began to give this idea some attention when I noticed Tony Kosten's Chapter called "Slaying the Slav" in Dangerous Weapons: Flank Openings, and then noticed that the line has already been covered quite extensively on this site, and can be found under Reti: Gurevich's System, A11.

Download PGN of March '09 Flank Openings games

Gurevich's System [A11]

I started to mull these ideas after being impressed by White's creative play in Malakhatko - Hoffman:

which was not totally convincing, but still made an impression because it seemed to me that it must have been fun to play White's position.

However, this game highlights a more general issue with this line, which is the challenge of making sense of the move order issues. To be honest I am still a bit lost, but am gradually making sense of things, and hope to revisit this important line in an update in the near future. The issue is that White generally plays some combination of Nf3, c4, e3, Nc3, Qc2, b3, Bb2, Be2 and Black generally plays some combination of ...d5, ...c6, ...Nf6, ...e6, ...Bd6 (sometimes ...Be7), ...Nbd7 (sometimes ...Na6), ...0-0, ...a6, ...Re8, ...Qe7, ...b6 and depending on what comes first, you can slightly switch your system. For instance, White can opt to switch back to main line Semi-Slavs with d4, while Black can sometimes eschew ...Nbd7 and play for an early ...e5, as he does in Clery - Savchenko:

Personally, I like this sort of situation, where you have to pay close attention to detail to get out of the opening with a desirable position, but I appreciate that many do not. As time goes on, I hope to clarify the move-order issues, but in most cases I suspect it is largely a matter of taste.

Speaking of which, to give an idea of how effective White's set-up can be, consider Andreikin - Kaplan after 12 Nd4:

which was very one sided, despite the fact that Black played a lot of natural moves.

Payen - Couche is an interesting variation on a theme:

suggesting that White might be able to hedge his bets between positional play and an all out attack.

Finally, the critical line, or rather the most frustrating line is when Black takes the sting out of White's ideas by playing an early ...Bg4:

White can now transpose into a mainline e3 Slav, which gives some prospects for a slight advantage, but only for those who are very patient and positional, or else seek to do something a bit distinct.

In Kempinski - Sorm White shows why Black should not underestimate the latent power of White's light-squared bishop, even in a quiet position:

While in Schecheckachev - Romanov we examine an endgame where I prefer White, but Black remains typically solid:

I hope this is enough to whet your appetite for this fascinating line, which I will certainly revisit soon, if only because I am bored of banging my head against a brick wall in the main line Slavs after 1 d4.

Until next time! Jonathan


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