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Hello and Welcome to the May update. If the flank openings have a main line (and that's a big if) then it is probably the Reversed Dragon, which is perhaps the most classical battle in the English opening. White gets a Sicilian Dragon with an extra move, but given that Black is not trying to launch a mating attack it is not clear whether White can put this extra move to much use.

Download PGN of May '09 Flank Openings games

Reversed Dragon [A20 & 29]

I learned these lines for Black about eight years ago, and they have served me quite well, but I must admit that I always found them a bit confusing because there are just so many move-order issues and minor wrinkles. However, I think I am in good company, because it seems that, rather than trying to figure them all out, even experts in these lines tend to relax and trust in more general themes.

That said, Van - Wely- Nyback had the whiff of preparation:

, and looked like such a smooth victory against a strong Grandmaster that I felt I should look a bit more closely at this game and the surrounding issues. In this particular case, Black has plenty of chances to improve, and I use this game to highlight that Black has four main ways to deal with White's queenside expansion with b4: 1) Allow it and react with ...a5, 2) Allow it and play ...a6, 3) Allow it and ignore it, usually with ...Nd4 and ...c6, 4) Prevent it with ...a5.

Stopping b4 with ...a5 does solve some problems, but the move is not without its downsides; it uses a valuable tempo, weakens b5 and b6 and gives White the idea of Be3xb6. These same themes apply whether White provokes ...a5 with Rb1 or with a3.

Botvinnik - Portisch is an old classic that amply shows why avoiding the Bxb6 (or White not playing it!) of Hodgson-Gormally (see the PGN Archive) is not a simple path to equality. White can use the c-file and weak b5 square to create some nagging pressure.

Marin - Lemos and Ivanchuk - Kramnik both deal with the most solid way of approaching this line with Black, namely playing ...Nd4 and ...c6, but in both cases White emerges with a small plus.

Kuzmick - Socko and Paunovic - Topalov deal with move order issues relating to White delaying Nc3.

In the first case, Black tries tries a novel form of development, but White could perhaps have done more to set the pace:

In the Topalov game, the jury is still out on whether Black needs to fear 6. d4, and the verdict probably lies in a closer analysis of 10.Qc2!?:

See the notes.

That's all for now, see you next month. Jonathan


Please remember to point out and send your games to me. Drop me a line at the Flank Openings Forum, or subscribers can write directly to