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This month’s Update features games from recent major events, including the FIDE Grand Swiss. Some important novelties, as well as tricky move orders, were used to throw an opponent off balance, leading to a lot of decisive results!

Download PGN of November ’23 Flank Openings games

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Reversed King’s Indian, 4 0-0 e5 5 e4 d6 6 c3 Nxe4 [A04]

Maurizzi, M - Santos Lasa, J opened with 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 g3 c5 3 Bg2 Nc6 4 0-0, and now Black grabbed the centre with 4...e5. White can just play a reversed King’s Indian with 5 d3, but 5 e4 is the most topical continuation these days. Here Black chose the critical line 5...d6 6 c3 Nxe4:

From this position, earlier games had seen 7 d4 f5 8 dxe5 dxe5 9 Nbd2 which gives White adequate piece play in return for the pawn. Instead, this month’s game saw the novelty 7 Re1, the idea being to follow up with 7...f5 8 d3 Nf6 9 b4 undermining Black's central construction from the side. Black was under some pressure out of the opening, and faltered around move 19-20, after which White took over.

Reversed Benoni 4...d4 5 d3 Nc6 6 0-0 Bc5 [A13]

A popular answer to the Réti these days is the reversed Benoni with ...Nb8-c6 that arises after 1 c4 e6 2 g3 d5 3 Bg2 Nf6 4 Nf3 d4 5 d3 Nc6 6 0-0 Bc5:

In the August 2023 Update, we looked at the plan with 7 Nbd2 0-0 8 Nb3 Be7 9 e3, trying to open the centre. Anton Guijarro, D - Erigaisi, A varied with 7 Na3 0-0 8 Nc2, a typical knight re-grouping. After 9...a5 9 b3 e5, White decided to trade the c1-bishop with 10 Bg5 h6 11 Bxf6 Qxf6 12 a3 but this idea doesn't test Black. After 12...Qe7 Black has a nice grip on the dark squares and is already slightly better.

Reversed Benoni 4...d4 5 0-0 Nc6 6 e3 e5 7 exd4 e4 [A13]

Esipenko, A - Keymer, V started with the same opening as the previous game, but with White taking radical measures to avoid being saddled with a space disadvantage. First of all, after 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 g3 d5 4 Bg2 d4 5 0-0 Nc6, with 6 e3 White aims to open the e-file as soon as possible. Now after 6...e5 7 exd4, the line 7...exd4 8 d3 allows White to build pressure on the d4-pawn, so 7...e4 is the critical try:

Here White uncorked the novelty 8 d5!?, offering a piece sac, and leading to a long forcing line for which Esipenko was seemingly very well prepared. After finding at least 10 correct moves, Black was still doing fine, but faced with such deep preparation, it is not surprising that his accuracy would drop off at some point. White secured the better endgame and went on to win.

King’s English, Four Knights 4 g3 Nd4 5 Bg2 Nxf3+ 6 Bxf3 Bb4 7 g4 [A29]

Vallejo Pons, F - Petrov, N featured the interesting new line 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e5 3 Nf3 Nc6 4 g3 Nd4 5 Bg2 Nxf3+ 6 Bxf3 Bb4 7 g4!? h6:

In August, we looked at Praggnanandhaa-Nakamura which continued 8 d3 c6 9 Qb3 Be7 10 Be3 d6 11 0-0-0, offering the g-pawn. This month’s game varied with 8 h4, continuing the aggressive kingside build-up. Black has several ways of dealing with this idea, but his knight manoeuvre ...Nf6-h7-f8-e6 was rather time consuming and allowed White to gain space and take the initiative after 15 d4 and 16 g5. Overall, the fresh 7 g4 certainly livens up the rather solid 4...Nd4 variation.

King’s English, Four Knights 4 g3 Bb4 5 Nd5 e4 6 Nh4 [A29]

One of the sharpest lines in the Reversed Rossolimo arises after 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e5 3 Nf3 Nc6 4 g3 Bb4 5 Nd5 e4 6 Nh4 0-0. In past Updates, we have looked at several possibilities, including the complexities of 7 Bg2 d6 8 0-0 g5 9 d4 for example. Instead, in Maghsoodloo, P - Sadhwani, R, White varied with the little move 7 a3, which is rare in this specific position, and forces Black to choose a square for the bishop.

Here 7...Bc5 would likely lead back to known theory, but 7...Ba5 was already a slight inaccuracy. After 8 b4 White gains extra space for free, since Black does not have the immediate ..Bc5-d4 available, Following 8...Bb6 9 Bb2 Bd4 10 Bxd4 Nxd4 11 e3 Nc6 12 Bg2 Ne5 13 Nxf6+ Qxf6 14 Bxe4 Nxc4 15 0-0 Nd6 16 Bg2, the central pawn majority gave White the more pleasant game.

King’s English, Reversed Dragon 6...Bc5 7 0-0 0-0 8 d3 h6 [A29]

Duda, J - Tari, A revisited the modern mainline 1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 Nf3 Nc6 4 g3 d5 5 cxd5 Nxd5 6 Bg2 Bc5. The follow-up was 7 0-0 0-0 8 d3 h6 9 Nxd5 Qxd5 10 Bd2, reaching the diagram position:

Despite the theoretical robustness of the 6...Bc5 line, the resulting positions are sufficiently rich to allow a full fight, as Duda managed to show in this game.

After 10...Rd8, White built up pressure on the e5-pawn with the sequence 11 Bc3, 12 Nd2, 13 Nc4, 14 e3, and 15 Qh5. This provoked complications, which somehow ended with White having four pawns for a piece!

Symmetrical English, Hedgehog 7 d4 Ne4 [A30]

The game Shimanov, A - Fedoseev, V appeared to be heading for a Hedgehog after 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 Nc3 e6 4 g3 b6 5 Bg2 Bb7 6 0-0 Be7 7 d4:

Now 7...cxd4 would, of course, lead to a standard Hedgehog, but instead Black chose. 7...Ne4. This is a rare move, presumably intended as a surprise weapon, but objectively is not that great. Shimanov ended up playing a model game, showing how to deal with this line. After 8 d5 Nxc3 9 bxc3 Bf6, White chose the energetic 10 Bf4, ignoring the threat to the c3-pawn. After 10...0-0 11 e4 Bxc3 12 Rc1 Ba5 Black was a pawn up but had completely abandoned the centre. White won within another 10 moves.

Pure Symmetrical 5 Nf3 e6 6 d4 cxd4 7 Nb5 d5 [A37]

Donchenko, A - Gelfand, B started with 1 c4 c5 2 g3 g6 3 Bg2 Bg7 4 Nc3 Nc6 5 Nf3 e6 6 d4, an evergreen gambit line in the symmetrical English. It feels like the theory has been gradually worked out over many years, with this game continuing 6...cxd4 7 Nb5 d5 8 cxd5:

After 8...Qa5+ 9 Nd2, 9...Qxb5 has been the most common move historically, but 9...exd5 has performed well in recent practice. Now, following 10 Nd6+ Kf8 11 0-0 Be6 we finally got to the first new move 12 e4, trying to make something of White's lead in development. Black has some problems to solve, but Gelfand was up to the task, and a well played draw was the eventual result.

Until next month, David.

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