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This month we continue our discussion of topical lines in the Double Fianchetto and Three Knights with 4.e3. I also played a theoretically important game in Lasker's System of the Réti at the SPICE Cup Open, so we lead with that.

Download PGN of October '12 Flank Openings games

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Réti - Lasker's System [A11]

Lasker's System -1.c4 c6 2.Nf3 d5 3.g3 Nf6 4.Bg2 Bf5 - is a solid option for Black. White normally obtains a slight edge after 5.cxd5 cxd5 6.Qb3, but in Bartholomew - Ostrovskiy my opponent surprised me with me with the enterprising pawn sacrifice 6...Nc6!?:

Black pitches the b-pawn for the sake of speedy development and central dominance, an idea that injects new life into this variation.

Symmetrical - Double Fianchetto [A30]

Can White punish Black for castling early in the Double Fianchetto? Sergey Karjakin and many pros prefer to defer castling until the preparatory moves ...d7-d6, ...Nb8-d7, ...Ra8-c8, and ...a7-a6 have been exhausted, but the question remains open. Bartholomew - Kavutskiy saw 1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 b6 3.g3 Bb7 4.Bg2 c5 5.Nc3 g6 6.0-0 Bg7 7.d4 cxd4 8.Qxd4 0-0 9.Qh4 d6 10.Rd1 Nbd7 11.Bh6 (the critical test - White achieves Bc1-h6 in one go) 11...Rc8 12.b3 a6 13.Rac1 Rc7:

Here I played the direct 14.Ng5!? which is a novelty, surprisingly. Black's position holds up reasonably well. Investigate the notes for a full discussion of this move order.

Kraai - Browne saw the more mainstream 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.Be4 Rc8 11.Rac1 0-0 12.Qh4 a6 13.b3 Rc7 14.g4:

Prior to 2012, Black mostly played 14...h6 here, but Karjakin's recently wrinkle with 14...Rc8!? is quite promising as well. Instead, American chess legend Walter Browne chose 14....b5?!, an active move that had been tried a couple times before. A slugfest ensued, but ultimately 14...b5?! looks suspicious.

In Zhou Jianchao - Sasikiran we revisit an important 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 0-0 12.Qh4 a6 13.b3 Rc7 14.Bh3 Qb8 15.g4 e6 16.g5 Ne8 17.Nd4:

Last month we examined Bartel, M - Almasi, Z, in which Almasi proceeded with his favored 17...Nc5. Instead, Sasikiran played the constructive 17...Ba8!?, flirting with the ideas of ...b6-b5 and ...Qb8-b7 while waiting for White to reveal his intentions. White reacted well with 18.Ne4!?, and Sasikiran soon went wrong. My analysis indicates that 17...Ba8!? is fine so long as Black follows up correctly.

Three Knights 4.e3 [A35]

The following line has exploded in popularity in 2012: 1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc3 3.Nc3 g6 4.e3 Nf6 5.d4 cxd4 6.exd4 d5 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.Qb3 e6

A reliable alternative to 8...Nxc3 that has frustrated White in recent months. Vorobiov - Grigorants continued 9.Bb5 Bg7 10.Bg5 Qb6 11.Qa3 f6! 12.Nxd5 exd5 13.Bxc6+ bxc6 14.0-0! Kf7 15.Rfe1:

At this point 15...Bf8! practically forces White to accept a draw, a fact that other games have verified. It will be interesting to see if 8...e6 overtakes in 8...Nxc3 in popularity, as both lines are doing well at present.

Nigel Short blazed a new path with 13...f6!? in Pantsulaia, L - Short, N/Istanbul TUR 2012 (see last month), and Black follows suit this month in Bruzon - Bologan: 1.Nf3 c5 2.c4 Nc6 3.Nc3 g6 4.e3 Nf6 5.d4 cxd4 6.exd4 d5 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.Qb3 Nxc3 9.Bc4 Nd5 10.Bxd5 e6 11.Bxc6+ bxc6 12.0-0

Here Bologan played 12...f6!?, which is Short's idea a move earlier!

Instead, Kraai - Kacheishvili saw the more usual 12...Qd5, to which White replied with 13.Qxd5. This early queen exchange won't cause Black any sleepless nights, but he should have an idea of what to do. Kacheishvili showed the path with 13...cxd5 14.Bf4 f6 15.Rfc1 h5 16.h4

Now Kacheishvili's 16...Rh7! was a very attractive lift that allowed his rook to enter the fray on the kingside. Black ground out a win in 94 moves.

Pure Symmetrical - 5.Nf3 Nf6 6.0-0 0-0 7.d4 [A39]- or [E60]

Finally, some brevity! The following is a specialty of several Yugoslavian Grandmasters: 1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.0-0 Nc6 6.d4 cxd4 7.Nxd4 0-0 8.c5!?

White plays to inhibit ...d7-d6, and it's a favorite of GMs Kurajica, Paunovic, and Strikovic. In Bogosavljevic - Antic Black more than equalizes after 8...Ng4!? 9.Nb3 b6 10.Nc3 bxc5 11.Nxc5 Rb8!, but a massive blunder forces him to capitulate on move 19. White scores well with 8.c5!? and it's worth an occasional punt, but Black is fine provided he knows a thing or two.

Until next time, John

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