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In this month's update I'll take a look at the Flank Openings that were used in the first round of the Candidates Matches; although there weren't any really startling new developments these lines may well become quite fashionable. I also got a couple of interesting questions from Patrick McCartney, one with White and one with Black.
Let's look at the Candidates Matches first and then go on to Patrick's questions:

Download PGN of May '11 Flank Openings games

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Anti-Grünfeld [A16]

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5:

Topalov and Kamsky had a couple of interesting games in this line with Topalov's 5.Qc2 (Topalov - Kamsky) doing rather better than 5.Qb3. I've incorporated the 5.Qb3 game within the notes partly because I'm not sure it should be categorised as a Gruenfeld or an English. At least with 5.Qc2 it will only come about from an English Opening move order.

Symmetrical English [A37 & A34]

Aronian failed to get much against Grischuk's 1.Nf3 c5 2.c4 Nc6 3.Nc3 e5 with 4.g3 in Aronian - Grischuk:

However he was doing rather better with his 4.e3 Nf6 5.a3 followed by 6.d4:

see Aronian - Grischuk, where he had several stronger lines later in the game, most notably 31.Qc3! Nxd6 32.c6! Qc7 33.Re7!!.

Réti Opening 4...a6 [A11]

Now onto Patrick's questions...

"White: A question on the Reti. In Marin's book GM Repertoire The English, Volume Two, where he covers Anti-Slav lines (1.c4 c6 2.g3 d5 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Bg2), he mentions 4...dxc4, 4...Bf5, 4...Bg4, etc. In the case of the 4...Bf5, he gives the line similar to the Slav where Black plays 4...Bf5 without ...dxc4, and recommends 5.cxd5 cxd5 6.Qb3, taking advantage of b7 claiming it's hard to defend, and in all those lines, White gets at least a slight edge.

However, there's a player at our club (low expert, about 2025) that loves the ...a6 Slav, and he plays 4...a6 here as well. No matter what I do, I always seem to be worse. If I make some basic developing move (5.d3, 5.O-O, 5.Nc3, 5.Na3), he usually follows with 5...Bf5, with an early ...h6, and plays almost like he's playing the London System in Reverse with ...a6 thrown in. I have yet to find any way to counter this, and I can't even seem to maintain equality, let alone the slight advantage I should get with the first move. The 6.cxd5 cxd5 7.Qb3 idea appears ineffective because Black can play 7...b5 (unless I'm missing something, and White gets this great attack with some a4-push, but I just don't see it). Basic development like 5.O-O, 6.d3, 7.Nc3, and developing the rest of the Queenside doesn't seem to lead to anything. What am I missing? Should I be attacking the center or Kingside instead of the Queenside in this line? Or has an expert outsmarted a GM (Marin) and Black's just better after 4...a6 intending 5...Bf5?"

1.c4 c6 2.g3 d5 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Bg2 a6:

This is actually a sensible move though I'm not convinced by 5.0-0 Bf5 because of 6.cxd5 cxd5 7.Qb3 b5 8.a4 (Heimann - Boekhoff).

But Black can also answer 5.0-0 with 5...dxc4 with Burmakin meeting 6.a4 with the interesting 6...h6!? in Miroshnichenko - Burmakin:

Perhaps White could do better with 7.b3 or 7.a5 though it's far from convincing. I'm also not that impressed with moves like 5.b3 which is too quiet to really pose a threat. So 4...a6 looks like a very reasonable move.

From Gambit 5.d3 [A02]

"Black: A question on the From's Gambit. After 1.f4 e5 2.fxe5 d6 3.exd6 Bxd6 4.Nf3 Nf6, Tim Taylor seems to claim that 5.d4 is White's only good move, shows that 5.Nc3 doesn't do much for White, and then leaves it at that. Based on that claim, I would expect Black to have fairly easy equality against other moves (or advantage if White's move is really bad). However, another expert (about 2080) in my area appears to have the answer, and I still can't find anything for Black. After 5.d3 (instead of 5.d4), if Black responds with the normal 5...Ng4, then 6.Bg5 seems extremely annoying, almost like Black has to block himself. 6...f6 impedes on any ...Qh4 threats, 6...Qd7 hems in his own Bishop on c8, 6...f6 followed by 7...f5 and the Bishop just comes back to g5. 6...Nf6 just seems like too early a time for backwards development. I can't seem to survive against this. Again, am I missing something here for Black that equalizes? Or has an expert outsmarted an IM (Taylor) and White's just winning after 5.d3?"

1.f4 e5 2.fxe5 d6 3.exd6 Bxd6 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.d3:

When you get into territory like the From Gambit it can be difficult to find games played by titled players. In this case I managed to dredge up Szlos - Quinteros which followed Patrick's line with 5...Ng4 6.Bg5 f6 after which White played 7.Bh4. The real problem for White in this game was his mistaken 8.Nc3 followed by the disastrous 9.Qd2?. Instead he should have tried 8.Qd2 or 8.c3, both of which leave me wondering about the extent of Black's compensation.

Instead of 7.Bh4 White played the bishop back to c1 in Mena Sanroma - Canal Oliveras but I found this far less convincing. Note that this game had a one move delay because of the 3.Nf3 dxe5 4.Nxe5 Bd6 5.Nf3 Nf6 6.d3 move order.

Searching for enlightenment about 5.d3 I came across Pribyl - Hausner which was a distinctly light-hearted looking affair which suddenly ended in a draw when Black was doing very well. Hausner played 5...Qe7, which certainly looks interesting. Though I wonder whether Black gets enough after 6.e4.

So whilst I wouldn't go so far as to say that 5.d3 is 'winning', it certainly looks like a testing alternative. More tests are required.

That's all for this month! Nigel Davies

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