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Hi everyone!
This month’s update draws mainly on games from team competitions. We take a look at an English Wing Gambit, an English/Bird hybrid and a new twist in the old reversed Dragon!

Download PGN of November ’17 Flank Openings games

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Réti Opening 2 c4 d4 3 b4 Bg4 [A09]

The line 1 Nf3 d5 2 c4 d4 is probably Black’s most principled answer to the Réti. Now after 3 b4, the move 3...f6 is a major option, but interest has been growing in the alternative 3...Bg4. In Christiansen, J-S - Navara, D, Black went for central occupation with 4 g3 Bxf3 5 exf3 e5:

The fact that 6 b5 is already a novelty, shows how much room there is for originality in these systems. In the ensuing complications, White perhaps underestimated Black’s resources, and the game was decided by an impressive sequence of attacking play from Navara.

Pseudo-Grünfeld 5 h4 [A16]

The anti-Grünfeld line 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 Nc3 d5 4 cxd5 Nxd5 5 h4 Bg7 6 e4, aims for the following queenless middlegame:

Since Wang Yue introduced this line in 2015, White has scored over 70% in some 30 games in the database. Khairullin, I - Mikhalevski, V continued from the diagram with the sensible 8...Nd7 which is emerging as Black's main choice. White in turn tried 9 Nd4, threatening to probe Black's queenside. In the game, Black was close to equality, but fell for a big tactic, although White later returned the favour.

Symmetrical English 3...d5, 7 b4!? [A17]

Sargissian, G - Bok, B, at the European Team Championship, opened with the unusual ”English Wing Gambit“ 1 Nf3 c5 2 c4 Nf6 3 Nc3 d5 4 cxd5 Nxd5 5 e3 e6 6 Nxd5 exd5 7 b4!?. In some earlier top level encounters, Black had replied 7...c4, but in our featured game Black grabbed the offered pawn with 7...cxb4, leading to this position after 8 Bb2:

In return for the pawn, White has a grip on the centre and pressure on the g7-pawn which is awkward for Black. Black got into trouble in the early middlegame and was unable to recover. In an earlier round, a similar fate befell Black in the game Kuzubov-Schreiner, which is also included in the notes.

King’s English 2 d3 [A20]

The debut 1 c4 e5 2 d3 remains a rare choice, but been played in several high level clashes over the last two years. Black has a wide choice of reversed Sicilian setups, but there is still very little established theory. Kramnik, V - Inarkiev, E continued 2...Nf6 3 Nf3 Bb4+ 4 Nbd2 Qe7 5 a3:

Here 5...Bd6 was already a new move. Black soon got rather tangled up, however, and decided to jettison a pawn. Kramnik emerged from the opening with a safe extra pawn which he eventually converted into a win.

King’s English 2...Bb4, 4 Nf3 [A21]

Spoelman, W - Sokolov, I began with the topical line 1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 Bb4 3 Nd5 Bc5. After 4 Nf3 c6 5 Nc3, Anand has played 5...d6 but Sokolov deviated with 5...Qe7 6 d4 exd4 7 Nxd4 Nf6:

Black wants to play ...d7-d5 in one go, but this provoked 8 Nf5 leading to a sharp battle, from which White emerged with an edge.

King’s English Four Knights - Reversed Dragon 6...Nb6 mainline 12 e3 [A29]

In the Reversed Dragon mainline the last few Updates have featured the new 6...Bc5, but this month we return to the classical 6...Nb6. From here, the vast majority of games include the move d2-d3 at some point in moves 8-12. In Gelfand, B - Edouard, R, White employed a fresh idea which involves omitting this move.

White’s last move 12 e3 is the key idea, which was first played by Daniil Dubov in May 2017. Play has a markedly different character from typical reversed Dragon battles. White puts immediate pressure on the b7-pawn, and is able to play the central move d2-d4 in one go.

Symmetrical English 3...e5 4 e3 Nf6 [A34]

The Symmetrical English line 3...e5 4 e3 Nf6 5 d4 e4 6 d5 exf3 7 dxc6 is a favourite (perhaps a former favourite?) of MVL, who has played all three of Black’s main moves here. In Svane, R - Vocaturo, D, Black went for 7...bxc6:

After 8 e4 and the subsequent central confrontation 12...d5, the position blew up into an intricate and complex battle.

Pure Symmetrical 5 d3, 6 f4!? [A36]

After the standard moves 5 d3 d6, in the game Cori, J - Patel, A, White unleashed 6 f4!?. This is a highly original idea, taking play out of the normal Symmetrical English patterns, and into a kind of Bird-English hybrid!

Following 6...e6 White made another singular move with 7 Bxc6+. Borrowing some themes from the Rossolimo Sicilian, Cori was able to generate play against Black's doubled c-pawns.

I hope you enjoy this update!

Until next month, David.

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