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Another wide selection of openings this month, with the usual assortment of new ideas and plans, sharp attacks ... and some fairly dull (but theoretically important) draws!

Download PGN of November '14 Flank Openings games

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Larsen's Opening 1 b3 e5, 3...d5 mainline [A01]

In the last few months we've looked at 1 b3 e5 2 Bb2 Nc6 quite a lot, and I wondered why all the strong players continued with 3...Nf6 here, rather than the natural 3...d5. So I was happy to see the game Gonda - Saric which followed the critical mainline, 4 Bb5 Bd6 5 f4 Qh4+ 6 g3 Qe7 7 Nf3 f6, which scores very well for Black:

Later Black played a new move and equalised easily. However, after a couple of inaccuracies the game became a total mess with pieces en prise all over the board. It looked incredibly exciting to me, but my emotionless computer just says '0.00'!

Réti Opening Lasker's System with c4 [A11]

The next game gives me a chance to discuss an opening sequence that seems very strong for White, and that can be applied in a number of similar situations. In Khismatullin - Volkov, after the standard series of Lasker System moves 1 Nf3 d5 2 g3 c6 3 Bg2 Bf5 4 c4 e6 5 O-O Nf6 6 d3 h6 7 Nc3 Nbd7:

White first captures on d5, 8 cxd5 (important, to weaken the black centre and the h1-a8 diagonal), and then, after Black recaptures with a pawn, White plays the central thrust 9 e4!. After this Black is in trouble, no matter how he continues. Worth knowing!

Note that sometimes White can make this idea work by throwing in Nd4 before playing e4, to lend extra support to the e-pawn advance.

Mikenas Attack 3...d5, 11 Kf1!? [A18]

According to John Watson, after 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e6 3 e4 d5 4 e5 d4 5 exf6 dxc3 6 bxc3 Qxf6 7 Nf3 c5 8 d4 h6 9 Bd3 cxd4 10 cxd4 Bb4+ the move 11 Kf1!? "introduces a fun attack that seems to win every time"!

It certainly seems very dangerous for Black, White often advancing g4 and h4 on the kingside, while at worst he can always play g3 and Kg2.

The game Smirin - Levin features an interesting new move from White followed by a rook lift that commits him to a sharp piece sacrifice, that may just be good - see my notes.

King's English - Keres System 4...Bb4+, Marin's 9 Rd1 [A20]

After my game against Gawain Jones 3 years ago I had been rather put-off playing Marin's 9 Rd1 (and even 4 d4 to be frank), so I was curious to see the game Mamedyarov - Radjabov and whether White had found anything after Gawain's strong novelty 19...c5!:

Not much, it seems, Black drawing with consummate ease. None of the other recent games show anything either, so this 9 Rd1 line appears to be a forced draw with best play.

King's English - 2...d6 [A21]

Well, nowadays it wouldn't be a real Flank update without a Richard Rapport game! This month we look at him on the black side of a ...d6 and ...f5 line, and the critical position occurs after 19...Ng4!?:

I know Black only seems to be attacking with one minor piece (the knight) but if I was White I would be worried! Don't miss Laznicka - Rapport.

King's English Reversed Dragon 6 e3 [A22]

In Li - Karpatchev we look at the line 1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 g3 d5 4 cxd5 Nxd5 5 Bg2 Nb6 6 e3 Be7 7 Nge2 O-O 8 O-O c6:

Solidly blocking the long diagonal. White plays the standard 9 f4 here and goes on to win fairly easily, but Black could have improved at several points.

King's English 3 g3 f5 4 Nf3 [A27]

1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 Nc6 3 g3 f5 4 Nf3 is another interesting move order trick, after 4...Nf6 5 d4 e4 the white knight can go to h4, instead of the g5 or d2 of other, similar, lines:

Black gets totally crushed in Li - Landa, but maybe his 6th move was at fault. Anyway, an interesting idea for White, worth repeating.

Symmetric Four Knights 6 a3 [A33]

While it is true that 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 c5 3 Nf3 Nc6 4 d4 cxd4 5 Nxd4 e6 6 a3 is not as trendy as it once was, it is still a little surprising that we'd never covered the natural 6...d5 on the site before, especially as after 7 cxd5 exd5 White's a3 move starts to look like a waste of time:

In Karjakin - Kasimdzhanov, after the further 8 Bg5 Bc5 9 e3 Bxd4 10 exd4 h6 11 Be3 O-O Black has free play and easy development in return for the bishop pair, and he was soon slightly better.

Till next time, Tony.

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