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In this Update we review some important theoretical developments in the Larsen, Réti and English. The month’s games also include a couple of miniatures played at the super strong Aeroflot Open.

Download PGN of March ’19 Flank Openings games

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Larsen’s Opening, 1 b3 e5 2 Bb2 Nc6 3 e3 g6 [A01]

After 1 b3 e5 2 Bb2 Nc6 3 e3 the move 3...g6 is an interesting move order for Black if he wants to play a King's-Indian style setup. The game Antipov, M - Wei Yi from the Aeroflot Open then continued by White activating “Harry” with 4 h4:

It is hard to be shocked by an early h4-thrust these days, and this one has been played several times by 1 b3 guru Baadur Jobava. Wei Yi’s response was to go for fast development and play in the centre with 4...Nf6 and the new move 5...Qe7! After 6.Nf3?! e4 it became clear that White's position doesn't hang together very well, and he soon ended up clearly worse. Wei Yi scored a 22 move win with precise and elegant play.

Réti Opening, Anti-Dutch system 1 Nf3 f5 2 d3 [A04]

The blitz game Nakamura, H - Duda, J started with the Anti-Dutch variation 1 Nf3 f5 2 d3. We have covered this line a number of times on the site, but this is the first featured game where Black grabbed the gambit pawn with 2...Nf6 3 e4 fxe4. Taking up the challenge is rather dubious, but it is instructive to see how the game plays out. I couldn't resist including it because of the 19th century style position we soon get on the board!

White won the rook in the h8-corner and just needed to consolidate by getting his knight back into play.

Réti/Larsen Opening 1 Nf3 d5 2 e3 c5 3 b3 [A06]

1 Nf3 d5 2 e3 is a flexible move-order that has become a fairly frequent guest in high-level chess. In Grachev, B - Lobanov, S, the players entered a a reversed Nimzo/Queen's Indian setup after 2...c5 3 b3 Nc6 4 Bb5 Nf6. Now Grachev’s 5 Ba3!? was already a novelty!

After 5...e6 6 Bxc6+ bxc6 7 Nc3 White went for Nimzo-style pressure against the c5-pawn. In principle Black should not have struggled in the opening, but as the position opened up, he left it too late to castle and went down to a quick defeat.

Réti Opening, Reversed Benoni [A13]

Duda, J - Nakamura, H, from the Rapid portion of their match, began with 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nf3 e6 3 g3 d5 4 b3 after which Black chose a reversed Benoni setup starting with 4...d4 5 Bg2 c5.

An exciting game ensued, that swung back and forth several times. With 16...f6 Black bolstered his centre, but introduced tactical themes based on the weakened light squares. Starting with 20 Nfxd4!, Duda initiated a powerful breakthrough that gave him a winning position, but after many adventures the game was drawn.

King’s English, 2 Nc3 Bb4 3 Nd5 a5 [A21]

In Dubov, D - Kulaots, K, we take another look at this topical variation 1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 Bb4 3 Nd5 a5. Now 4 Nf3 was featured in The February 2019 Update while in this month’s game, White chose the other main option 4 a3. After 4...Be7 Dubov steered the game into less charted waters with 5 Nf3 d6 6 d3:

White’s last move is already a novelty. White refrains from the usual d2-d4 plan and keeps his pawn structure flexible. Dubov managed to outplay his opponent over the next few moves, but went wrong later in the middlegame. Kulaots scored an important point on his way to winning the Aeroflot Open.

King’s English, Four Knight 4 e3 Bb4 5 Qc2 d6 [A28]

In Santos Ruiz, M - Kevlishvili, R we catch up with the latest developments in the line 1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 Nf3 Nc6 4 e3 Bb4 5 Qc2 d6. Now 6 Ne2! has become White's main try for an advantage since it was introduced in the game Karjakin, S - Vidit, S (see the January 2018 Update).

In the featured game, 11 0-0-0 was a new move, but Black missed an attacking opportunity with 11...a4!. Instead, after 11...Ba7 12 d4 White got a pleasant position with a space advantage.

Symmetrical English, Four Knights 6 Ndb5 [A33]

In the mainline Symmetrical Four Knights after 1 Nf3 c5 2 c4 Nf6 3 Nc3 e6 4 d4 cxd4 5 Nxd4 Nc6, the move 6 Ndb5 is one of many options that White has in this position. After 6...d5, 7 Bf4 initiates a forcing sequence that leads to a well tested queenless middlegame position.

Mirzoev, A - Ponkratov, P continued 7...e5 8 cxd5 exf4 9 dxc6 bxc6 10 Qxd8+ Kxd8 and now the natural move 11 0-0-0+ has been played many times, although (in contrast to 11 Rd1+) it leaves the f2-pawn undefended. In the game, Black found a creative way of leveraging this weakness starting with the rare 11...Ke7! This has only been played in a handful of games, but appears to be an important improvement over established theory.

Symmetrical English, Four Knights 6 g3 Qb6 7 Nbd5 Ne5 8 Bg2 [A33]

The game Navara, D - So, W revisits an interesting gambit line that we last looked at in the January 2019 Update, starting with 1 c4 c5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 Nc3 Nc6 4 d4 cxd4 5 Nxd4 e6 6 g3 Qb6 7 Ndb5 Ne5 8 Bg2 a6 9 Na4:

After 9...Qd8 David Navara uncorked 10 Nbc3!?, scoring 2/2 with this line in his blitz match against Wesley So. Despite the results, theoretically speaking Black appears to be OK with accurate play.

I hope you enjoy this update!

Until next month, David.

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