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Whereas I noticed that g4 thrusts have started to feature quite often in the Nimzo updates, here it is the h-pawn that stars this month. This is also an update full of forceful play and sharp refutations, some lines seen here may never be played again!

Download PGN of October '14 Flank Openings games

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Larsen's Opening 1 b3 b6 2 e4 [A01]

In Rapport - Mista White transposed from a Flank Opening into something resembling a weird mix between the 'Queenside Fianchetto' and the GPA!

Now I suspect this game is no longer a 'Flank' but rather an 'Anti-Sicilian' (in B20), and so I thought I'd better wait until Dave Smerdon got his October update online before annotating it, just in case he covered it too! Anyway, the game is another superb attacking demonstration from Richard Rapport, demolishing a 2600 GM in just over 20 moves, and gives us an opportunity to see how Rapport and Morozevich both handle this line.

Réti Opening Lasker with 4...dxc4 [A11]

The Lasker-type line 1 Nf3 d5 2 g3 c6 3 Bg2 Bf5 4 c4 dxc4 5 Na3 e5 was played a couple of times in the 90s, and then not at all until this year, when it suddenly become quite popular with some very strong GMs:

Following 6 Nxc4 e4 Black has taken some space, and has open lines to finish his development. It looks reasonable for Black, but in Grischuk - Rodshtein White plays a new move and reduces Black's position to rubble before he can get his pieces out.

Very powerful play from the World number 4!

Réti ...d5 and ...e6, 6 Qc2 [A14]

After 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nf3 e6 3 g3 d5 4 Bg2 Be7 5 O-O O-O I recommended 6 Qc2 in my Dynamic English book, a long time ago. White simply defends the c-pawn and maybe heads for Catalan-style play:

Curiously, we've never covered it on ChessPublishing before, so I couldn't resist the game Bosboom - Leko, where the normally so solid Hungarian GM takes a terrible hammering.

See the notes for the game (of mine) which put me off playing the line for White.

Pseudo-Grünfeld 7 h4!? [A16]

The sharp 7 h4!? is considered in Gupta - Cawdery:

This certainly makes sense as the black kingside is no longer very well defended (the king's knight has already headed off to the queenside), much as in the recently fashionable 5 h4 line in the normal Grünfeld.

Play tends to get pretty sharp with neither side sure of where to put their king.

King's English 2 g3, 4 Nf3!? [A20]

After 1 c4 e5 2 g3 Nf6 3 Bg2 Nc6 the move 4 Nf3!? is an interesting move order trick:

As advancing the e-pawn is not very good (see my notes) Black mostly plays 4...Bc5 to stop White from playing a quick d4. In Dominguez Perez-Zhigalko White answered this with 5 O-O d6 6 e3! O-O 7 d4, driving the bishop back to b6. This will likely transpose into Marin's preferred way of tackling the Karpov System, except that Black hasn't had the time to play ...a6/a5 and retreat his bishop back to a7.

Very promising, in my opinion.

Symmetrical English with ...d5, 7 h4 Bf5 [A34]

Another Leko game, and another 7 h4 move, but this time with a happier outcome for Black! His novelty 10...Nc2 looks like a good one:

White was quickly worse, and so this may spell the end of this line for White, see Vachier Lagrave-Leko.

Botvinnik System 5 Nf3 e5 [A37]

The game Barrero Garcia-Granda Zuniga was a standard Botvinnik System:

but I was somewhat shocked to see Black (who has a 2675 rating) play the feeble move 11...h6?!, virtually forcing White to play the move he wanted to play anyway, 12 Bxe7! Black has the bishop pair, but the blocked position suits the white knights, which can find nice spots on the light squares (d5 in particular, but also b5 and sometimes e4). Also, White has a very simple plan of bringing his e1-knight to c2 and rook to b1, and then play b4 to pressure the b7-pawn.

In the actual game White didn't play very precisely, and allowed Black to play a neat trick to win an exchange. Even then White may have been better, but after mutual mistakes the game become a complete mess where, as often happens, the last blunder was terminal!

Till next time, Tony.

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