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This month features games from the Aeroflot Open, the FIDE Sharjah Grand Prix as well as top team competitions. In theoretically important games MVL blocks the Reversed Dragon, while Kamsky’s Bird takes flight!

Download PGN of March ’17 Flank Openings games

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Bird’s Opening, Reversed Leningrad 7 c3 [A03]

When playing White, Gata Kamsky normally features in the d-Pawn Specials section of ChessPublishing, but in Kamsky, G - Tari, A he wins a critical Aeroflot matchup with a rare Bird. The game started 1 g3 d5 2 Bg2 g6 3 f4 and after 3...Bg7 4 Nf3 Nf6 5 0-0 0-0 6 d3 c5 White chose the setup 7 c3 Nc6 8 Na3:

It is a bit surprising that Leningrad Dutch players don't more often try their favourite setup with reversed colours, although statistically White's results are no better than for the Black in the Dutch. This game does show how it can be an effective surprise weapon, especially if the opponent is not an expert on the White side of the Leningrad proper. Kamsky used some subtle ideas to reach a queenless position where he could go to work against Black’s pawn weaknesses, culminating in a convincing win.

Réti Opening, Capablanca’s System [A07]

Giri, A - Gajewski, G began quietly enough with Capablanca’s system through the move order 1 Nf3 d5 2 g3 Nf6 3 Bg2 Bg4 4 c4. Now Black embarked on a committal path aiming to fix the pawn structure. After 4...Bxf3 5 Bxf3 c6 6 Qb3 Qd7 7 d4 e6 8 0-0 Black continued with 8...b5:

Black tries to clarify the structure, but he is falling behind in development. Giri responded energetically, preparing to open up the position as quickly as possible with 12 Bg5, 13 Bxf6 and 14.e4!. Play soon went down a forced line, in which Giri had calculated more accurately and he won in a mere 23 moves.

Réti Opening, Anti-Slav Gambit [A11]

Vladimir Fedoseev was the worthy winner of the Aeroflot Open, but had a very close call in the game Khismatullin,D - Fedoseev,V which featured the anti-Slav Gambit 1 c4 c6 2 Nf3 d5 3 g3 dxc4 4 Bg2. In this well known position, Black ventured 4...h6?!:

Black takes a tempo to rule out Nf3-g5, which is a typical idea once Black has played ...Bc8-e6 to protect his c4-pawn. This does seem to be an extravagant measure, however - if Black doesn't manage to hold on to the extra pawn he risks falling behind in development. In fact White soon won the c4-pawn back with the help of some tactical points, and got a very nice position with a space advantage and the two bishops.

Facing defeat in an endgame, Fedoseev pulled off a remarkable escape to hold a draw.

Réti Double Fianchetto vs. QGD setup [A14]

Artemiev, V - Lysyj, I started with the Double Fianchetto vs QGD setup after 1 g3 d5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 Bg2 e6 4 0-0 Be7 5 c4 0-0 6 b3 b6 7 Bb2 Bb7. Now Artemiev opened the centre with 8 cxd5 followed by 9 d4, which is in vogue in high-level games. It is worth noting that in the mainline with 8 e3 c5 9 Nc3 Black is doing well with the flexible move 9...Qc8! which has taken off since Robson-Shankland (which was featured in the May 2016 Update) - in fact Black has scored 6-1 with 6 draws! Back to our main game, which continued 8...Nxd5 9 d4 Nd7 10 Re1:

After the sequence 10...c5 11 e4 N5f6 12 Nc3 cxd4 the centre is open and Black's "hedgehog" piece formation is a little less comfortable with the d- and c-files open, since it is harder for him to find shelter for his queen and connect the rooks. White emerged with a slight but nagging edge due to the two bishops and was able to play for ‘two results’.

Reversed Dragon 7 b3 [A20]

Adams, M - Vachier-Lagrave, M featured 1 c4 e5 2 g3 Nf6 3 Bg2 d5 4 cxd5 Nxd5 5 Nf3 Nc6 6 0-0 Nb6 and now Adams chose 7 b3, an alternative to the mainlines with 7 d3 or 7 Nc3, that continues to pop up on a regular basis.

White aims to put quick pressure on the e5-pawn, and find play for his dark-squared bishop on the long diagonal. In the game, Black responded aggressively, pushing forward with 11...f5!? and 13...e3!?. White needs to look for improvements over the next few moves, since after 17 e4 the tension was released through exchanges, and Black had solved all his problems.

Reversed Dragon 8 d3 0-0 9 a3 Re8 [A29]

Nepomniachtchi, I - Vachier-Lagrave, M saw MVL again showing excellent preparation in the Reversed Dragon, this time starting with 1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 Nf3 Nc6 4 g3 d5 5 cxd5 Nxd5 6 Bg2 Nb6 7 0-0 Be7. In this game, we see a theoretical duel in one of the mainlines following the moves 8 d3 0-0 9 a3 Re8 10 b4 a5 11 b5 Nd4 12 Rb1 Bf8:

With 16 Nxe5, Nepomniachtchi played a near novelty in a position that has been played several times in the past. After a forcing sequence, Black steered the game into a rook endgame which was comfortably drawn despite a pawn deficit.

Symmetrical English, Double Fianchetto [A30]

Grigoriants, Sergey - Vetoshko, V opened with 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 c4 b6 3 g3 Bb7 4 Bg2 g6 5 b3 where White employs a double fianchetto against the double fianchetto. Following 5...Bg7 6 Bb2 0-0 7 0-0 c5 8 Nc3 Black played the pawn break 8...d5 to clarify the centre:

After multiple exchanges in the centre, the game reached an endgame tabiya which, although objectively equal, has often caused Black some headaches. Jonathan Hawkins even dedicated a chapter of his book to the position after move 15, so it is interesting to see how this has been handled in the latest games. In our game, Grigoriants managed to win in fine Ulf Andersson style!

Symmetrical English, 3...d5, 5 e4 [A34]

The line 1 Nf3 c5 2 c4 Nf6 3 Nc3 d5 4 cxd5 Nxd5 5 e4 Nb4 continues to be one of the hottest theoretical lines in the English, frequently contested among top-level players. In this month’s game Erdos, V - Svidler, P, Black strikes back, improving on the game Aronian-So from the January 2017 Update, which also saw 6 Bc4 Nd3+ 7 Ke2 Nf4+ 8 Kf1 Nd3 9 Qe2 Nxc1 10 Rxc1 e6 11 h4:

White prepares a rook-lift via the h3-square, which means that Black’s king usually heads to the queenside. Svidler developed modestly with ...Nc6 and ...Bd7, avoiding the queenside expansion with ...a7-a6 and ...b7-b5 which had been played before. After castling long, Black’s king was reasonably safe, which gave him time to work with his assets of the two bishops and White's awkward pawn structure.

I hope you enjoy this Update!

Until next month, David.

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