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Our coverage this month will focus on the two premier events in November: the European Team Championship and the Tal Memorial.

Download PGN of November '11 Flank Openings games

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From's Gambit [A02]

It's exceedingly rare to see From's Gambit at GM-level, so when the contestants in Lie - Sulskis began bashing out the main-line moves, we take notice! After 1.f4 e5 2.fxe5 d6 3.exd6 Bxd6 4.Nf3 g5 5.g3 g4 6.Nh4 Ne7 7.d4 Ng6 8.Nxg6 hxg6 9.Qd3 Nc6 10.c3 Qe7 11.Bg2:

the combative Lithuanian issued a rare continuation with 11...Be6!?. This has some independence from the more common 11...Bf5 and 11...Bd7. Lie reacted correctly with 12.Nd2! 0-0-0 13.Ne4 (bringing the knight to e4 is a standard theme), when White can play for a small edge.

Pseudo-Grünfeld 5.Qc2!? [A16]

We haven't examined Topalov's novelty 1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Qc2!? since the source game Topalov-Kamsky in May:

Almost 40 games have been played in the intermission, so in Agopov - Elsness we summarize the practical results. The players followed a sharp line with 5...Nc6 (Kamsky played 5...Bg7) 6.d4 Bg7 7.e4 Nbd4 8.Qa4 Bd7 9.Qb3 Bxd4:

and now White began to lose the thread with 9.Bc4?!. Le Quang Liem has demonstrated that 9.Nd5! is much more dangerous for Black. Serious attention should be paid to the alternative 6...Nbd4, especially the Vorobiov-Sutovsky encounter.

King's English 3...h6 [A20]

In Kramnik - Carlsen Magnus played the ultra-flexible 1.c4 e5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 h6:

challenging White to find a setup in which 3...h6 isn't appropriate. The game continued 4.Nc3 Bb4 5.e4 Nc6 6.Nge2 Bc5 reaching a position we've actually seen before on After 7.d3 d6 8.h3:

the World number one played the creative 8...Nh7!?, heading for d4 in Botvinnik English style! A sharp struggle ensued. Theoretically, Black is doing great - in addition to 8...Nh7!?, he could play normally with 8...0-0 9.0-0 Be6 (or 9...a6/a5), reaching a totally acceptable version of the Karpov Variation.

3...Bb4 [A22]

A high-quality line for Black is 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.g3 Bb4:

a continuation that has prompted White players to retool their move order in the early stages (particularly with 2.g3). In Naiditsch - Topalov White tried to prove some advantage after 4.Bg2 0-0 5.e4 Bxc3 6.bxc3 c6 with 7.Rb1!?. However, the lasting impression is that Black has good play in a fully sound position.

Four Knights 4.d4 [A28]

In Sulskis - Socko, after 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Nf3 Nf6, Sulskis tries to resurrect the old Four Knights main line 4.d4:

Black has not previously had many issues in the line 4...exd4 5.Nxd4 Bb4 6.Bg5 h6 7.Bh4 Bxc3 (7...0-0!? is also critical) 8.bxc3 Ne5, but now Sulskis created fresh problems with 9.f3!?, looking to create a bind with e2-e4. Socko declined to capture on c4, but this is definitely the crucial test of White's idea.

Symmetrical - Double Fianchetto [A30]

The Double Fianchetto main line 1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 b6 3.g3 c5 4.Bg2 Bb7 5.0-0 g6 6.Nc3 Bg7 7.d4 cxd4 8.Qxd4 d6 9.Rd1 Nbd7 10.Be3 Rc8 11.Rac1 a6 12.b3 0-0 13.Qh4 has an impressive pedigree, with many strong players manning the White and Black pieces over the years:

Karjakin is an exceptional player in his own right, so it's not surprising that after the typical 13...Rc7 14.Bh3 Qb8 15.Bh6, he demonstrates a convincing equalizer for Black with 15...b5!. Salgado Lopez immediately began to drift with 17.Nd5?! I can't find a trace of an advantage for White, so 15.Bh6 probably needs to be discarded. See Salgado Lopez - Karjakin.

Three Knights 4.e3 [A35]

Aronian agrees with our analysts that the way to challenge the move order 1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 g6 is 4.e3! intending to advance in the center with d2-d4:

Aronian - Stevic featured the important line 4...Nf6 5.d4 cxd4 6.exd4 d5 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.Qb3. Stevic played 8...Nxc3 9.Bc4 e6 10.bxc3 Bg7, but the position after 11.Ba3! (preventing castling) gives White a solid initiative that Aronian fully appreciated. Black does better to consider 8...e6 or 9...Nd5, but neither of these lines seem like a picnic to me.

Botvinnik System [A37]

The first round of the Tal Memorial witnessed a major upset as Nepomniachtchi was successful with Black in the line 1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 e5 4.g3 g6 5.Bg2 Bg7 6.a3 d6, allowing White to carry out his queenside expansion with 7.0-0 Nge7 8.b4:

Now the 2010 Russian Championship continued down a critical avenue with 8...e4 9.Ne1 f5 10.Bb2 0-0 11.d3 Be6. Kramnik released the tension with 12.dxe4 and gained no advantage. Stronger is 12.Rb1, though after 12...Ne5!? (alternatives are also examined) it's tough to prove an edge for White in a very complex position. See Kramnik - Nepomniachtchi.

Until next time, John

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