ForumHelpSearchMy ProfileSite InfoGuests InfoRepertoireLinks
This month’s Update features topical lines played in several classical events. These include three games from the recent WR Masters, each featuring a different 3rd move for Black after 1 c4 e5 2 g3 c6 3 d4. It appears that all three are playable, so perhaps Black is spoilt for choice. Aronian did, however, score a crucial win in the first of these games below. Apparently, he was ready to offer a remarkable queen sac in the opening, but sadly for the spectators, this remained behind the scenes.

Download PGN of March ’23 Flank Openings games

>> Previous Update >>

King’s Indian Attack, 3...e6 4 0-0 Be7 5 d3 c5 6 e4 Nc6 7 Bf4 [A08]

We start with the game Galperin, P - Seo, J, where after 1 Nf3 d5 2 g3 Nf6 3 Bg2 e6 4 0-0 Be7 5 d3 c5 6 e4 Nc6, White essayed 7 Bf4 0-0 8 Ne5, varying from the standard KIA patterns involving the e4-e5 push.

White stays flexible, while increasing the influence of the g2-bishop. Now after 8...Nxe5 9 Bxe5, Black can close the position with, for example 9...Nd7 10 Bf4 d4, which we have looked at in a past Update. Instead, 9...dxe4 looks like a concession, since opening lines favours White thanks to his more active setup. After 10 dxe4 Bd7 11 a4 Bc6 12 Qe2 White was for choice, and eventually won, but only after many ups and downs.

Réti Opening, Reversed Benoni 8...h6 [A13]

We continue to track developments in the reversed Benoni with 1 Nf3 d5 2 g3 Nf6 3 Bg2 c5 4 0-0 e6 5 c4 d4 6 e3 Nc6 7 exd4 cxd4 8 d3 and now the topical idea 8...h6. Last month we looked at 9 Re1, while this month’s game Bosiocic, M - Narayanan, S continued with 9 b3, aiming to trade White's 'problem' c1-bishop via the a3-square. After a logical series of moves, the following position was reached after Black’s 13th:

Black is doing well theoretically, but the next few moves are crucial in the battle for key squares. In the game, White got the upper hand with the pawn thrusts 17 c5, 19 a4 and 20 f4, after which he was pressing on both sides of the board.

King’s English, Keres System 2 g3 c6 3 d4 e4 4 d5 [A20]

Aronian, L - Praggnanandhaa, A is the first of three games (all from the same elite tournament) that opened with the line 1 c4 e5 2 g3 c6 3 d4. Now 3...e4 is Black's most ambitious try, and the most popular move overall. Aronian continued with the dynamic 4 d5 and after 4...Bb4+ 5 Bd2 Qe7 6 Nh3 Nf6 7 Nc3 cxd5 uncorked 8 Nf4, a fresh idea introduced by Sam Shankland last year. White aims to sacrifice at least one pawn to generate active play:

Now after 8...Bxc3 9 Bxc3 dxc4 10 e3!? Nc6, the aggressive 11 g4 could have involved a wild queen sac if Black had answered 11...Ne5. Instead, Pragg chose discretion with 11...h6, but dropped a pawn a few moves later. White eventually ground out an endgame win.

King’s English, Keres System 2 g3 c6 3 d4 exd4 4 Qxd4 Nf6 5 Nf3 Na6 [A20]

Gukesh, D - Abdusattarov, N varied from the previous game with 3...exd4, which is a solid alternative to 3...e4. After 4 Qxd4, Black often plays 4...d5 which can lead to positions with an isolated d-pawn for Black. Instead, Abdusattarov’s idea was 4...Nf6 5 Nf3 Na6 6 Bg2 Bc5, gaining a tempo for development, and also aiming to recapture with a piece on the d5-square after a subsequent ...d7-d5.

In this position, 7 Qe5+ is the most testing, while after the retreat 7 Qd1 Black should in principle be fine. The queens came off following 7...d5 8 cxd5 Qxd5 9 0-0 Qxd1 10 Rxd1, and although Black had to defend a bit in the endgame, the game was never far from balanced.

King’s English, Keres System 2 g3 Nf6 3 Bg2 c6 4 d4 Bb4+ [A20]

Keymer, V - Giri, A featured yet another option for Black in the Keres with d2-d4. The game opened with the alternate move order 1 c4 e5 2 g3 Nf6 3 Bg2 c6 4 d4 Bb4+, although the game position can be reached after 2...c6 3 d4 Bb4+ etc.

From the diagram, the most popular moves are 8 e3 and 8 e4. Instead, Keymer chose the prophylactic 8 b3, although Giri’s accurate follow-up shows that Black shouldn’t have too much to worry about here.

King’s English, Reversed Dragon, 6...Bc5 7 Qc2 [A29]

Rapport, R - Eljanov, P explored the modern mainline 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e5 3 Nf3 Nc6 4 g3 d5 5 cxd5 Nxd5 6 Bg2 Bc5, and now 7 Qc2 is an idea which leapt to prominence when Hikaru Nakamura used it to score an important win on his path to the 2022 Candidates (see the March 2022 Update).

After 7...Nf6 8 0-0 0-0 9 a3, White has scored well in practice so far. After 9...Nd4 10 Nxd4, the move 10...Bxd4 varied from the Nakamura game. Following 11 b4 c6 12 Bb2 Re8 13 e3 Bb6 14 Rac1 Qe7 15 Kh1 h5, a double-edged middlegame battle turned in White’s favour around move 24-25.

King’s English, Karpov Variation [A29]

The game Indjic, A - Adams, M opened with an offbeat move-order, but transposed into the classical Karpov system with ...Bf8-c5 in the English Four Knights. The diagram position was reached after 1 c4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 g3 Nf6 4 Bg2 Bc5 5 0-0 d6 6 e3 0-0 7 Nc3 a6 8 d4 Ba7 9 h3:

In past years, we have looked at 9...exd4 and 9...h6, with Adams playing with White in one of those games! Instead, 9...Rb8 aims for ...b7-b5, although White is best off ignoring this threat, as 10 a4 was a committal move which weakened the dark squares. Following 10...Bf5 11 Nh4 Bd7 12 d5 Ne7 13 Kh2 Bc5 14 Rb1 a5 15 e4 c6 16 f4 Ng6, the position was balanced, but White needed to play energetically to compensate for some positional deficits. In the game, White soon came under pressure, and Black generated a winning kingside attack.

Symmetrical English, 1 c4 c5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 Nc3 Nc6 4 e3 e5 5 d4 [A34]

In the line 1 c4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Nc3 e5 4 e3 Nf6, we looked at 5 Be2 d5 last month, in the game Carlsen-Abdusattorov. Instead, Mamedyarov, S - van Foreest, J entered the mainline 5 d4 e4. Now Mamedyarov repeated one of his pet lines with 6 Ne5 g6 7 g4, reaching a critical position after 7...h6 8 h3 Bg7 9 Bg2:

Now grabbing a pawn too early, with 9...Qe7 10 b3 cxd4 11 exd4 Nxe5?!, led Black into trouble in a 2018 game Mamedyarov-Vachier-Lagrave. van Foreest was well prepared, however, and after 9...0-0 10 0-0 Qe7 threaded his way through the complications and essentially defused White's idea.

Until next month, David.

>> Previous Update >>

To contact the author please go to the Flank Openings Forum, or subscribers can write directly to