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Such a difficult choice this month, so many big novelties, so many interesting and brilliant games. Look out for some strong positional exchange sacrifices from former World Champions Anand and Kramnik.

Download PGN of May '15 Flank Openings games

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Larsen's Opening 1 b3 a5!? [A01]

I first saw Rapport - Adly a little while ago on the Forum. I don't know which is the most surprising, the manner of Rapport's defeat, or the opening moves, 1 b3 a5!? 2 e4 a4, almost as if two complete patzers were playing:

Black played really strong chess for a while (see his ninth move, for instance), but after one slight slip White was almost back in the game, but then immediately blundered.

Réti Opening 2 g3 b5 3 Bg2 Bb7 4 Na3 [A05]

Carlsen - Vachier Lagrave gives us a chance to look at the line 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 g3 b5 3 Bg2 Bb7 4 Na3 a6:

Later the position resembled a strange sort of Queen's Indian, White took more space, and then gained a big positional advantage after Black's tactical trick went wrong. Black found himself with a 'bad bishop' and the end was never in doubt.

Réti Opening KIA v Capablanca's System [A07]

Kramnik - Vachier Lagrave is another bad game for the French number one. Kramnik played a KIA against Black's Capablanca System, but avoided bringing his queen's knight to d2:

The knight later went to c4 via a3, and it seems to me that there are a lot of advantages to playing this way, see my notes.

In the middlegame Kramnik sacrificed the exchange in return for two mobile central pawns and won powerfully.

Réti Opening Lasker's System without ...c6, 3...Bf5 [A07]

The next game is some sort of tragedy. First, Black played a powerful novelty, 6...Nbd7!:

This is justified by some clever, and far from obvious tactics. After the opening Black continued to play bold, exciting chess, and reached a winning position despite White's tough defence.

However, one, far from obvious slip in time trouble allowed White an incredible saving resource. There was still time for a couple more errors, one each, before White finally ran out the winner in Khismatullin - Vallejo Pons. Don't miss it!

Réti Opening 2...d4 3 b4 f6 4 e3 [A09]

After 2...d4 3 b4 f6 4 e3 we've looked at 4...e5 5 c5 a5! many times, and this seems more than adequate for Black. So, it is surprising to see a 2700+ player prefer to take on e3 and then play 6...Bg4:

This looks wrong to me, shouldn't the bishop be defending the weak light squares along the a2-g8 diagonal? Black actually had a possible forced draw, very briefly, in Shoker - Yu, but didn't take it, and then got horribly mangled, his king forced to make an embarrassing walk to d6 and then back again to e8.

Anti-Grünfeld 2 e4 e5 3 d4 [A10]

Following 1 c4 g6 2 e4 e5 3 d4 Nf6 4 dxe5 Nxe4 5 Bd3 I think that Black is doing quite well after 5...Nc5, but in So - Giri the Dutch GM preferred 5...Bb4+, which had only been played once before, by his compatriot Timman against Korchnoi back in the 70's:

Black is probably already better after Korchnoi's 6 Nd2, but instead, Wesley So moved his king, 6 Kf1!, and won a crushing game.

I'm afraid the bishop check must be consigned to the rubbish tip of refuted opening moves.

King's English Keres 2 g3 c6 3 Nf3 [A20]

Anand - Adams featured an accelerated Keres System, 2 g3 c6 where Black delayed playing ...Nf6 a bit and White delayed playing his bishop to g2 quite a lot. They reached the following normal-looking position:

And here another ex-World Champion played another strong exchange sacrifice: 15 Rxf5!. However, Mickey defended really very well, and was certainly not worse until just before the time control, when one slip cost him dearly.

Symmetrical 4 Knights 6 g3 Qb6 7 Ndb5 Ne5 [A33]

Harikrishna - Grischuk examines the Symmetrical 4 Knights line 6 g3 Qb6 7 Ndb5 Ne5 8 Bg2 a6 9 Qa4 Rb8 10 Be3, where I thought that 10...Bc5 was OK for Black (see the PGN Archive). So it was a surprise to see Grischuk prefer 10...axb5!?:

I'm not sure that I really trust this for Black, although Grischuk drew relatively easily.

Back in March I looked at the alternative 8 Bf4 Nfg4! 9 Qa4 g5! and concluded that this "should lead to a draw with best play", and this seems to have been confirmed, see the note to move 8.

Till next time, Tony.

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