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Hi Everyone!
At the recently concluded World Cup, top players employed Flank Openings in decisive battles in both classical and rapid (tiebreak) games. So this Update is a World Cup special, featuring everything from the Neo-Catalan to the Pseudo-Grünfeld, and four games by one of the heroes of the event, Pavel Eljanov!

Download PGN of October '15 Flank Openings games

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Reversed King's Indian 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 g3 c5 3 Bg2 Nc6 4 0-0 e5 [A04]

First up is Eljanov - Karjakin (first tiebreak game) which started 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 g3 c5 3 Bg2 Nc6 4 0-0 e5 5 e4 Be7:

This reversed King's Indian structure has become a Karjakin favourite against the Réti move-order, and is new for this site. Black's setup is solid, but Eljanov came prepared with an improvement over two earlier Karjakin games. He emerged from the opening with a slight edge, and moved in for the kill when Black went on an ill-timed pawn grabbing spree.

Réti Opening 1 Nf3 d5 2 g3 c6 3 Bg2 Bg4 [A11]

In Karjakin - Eljanov (second tiebreak game), Karjakin played 1 Nf3 in a must-win situation, and Eljanov replied with the very reliable 3...Bg4 line, reaching the following position after 8 d4:

Despite the non-forcing nature of the position, Karjakin had studied the line very deeply in his preparation, and had even reviewed the position reached after move 20 in the game. Objectively, Black should be able to equalize, but Karjakin made life difficult for his opponent and won a thematic "Fischer endgame" of Rook and Bishop vs. Rook and Knight.

Neo-Catalan [A13]

Grischuk - Eljanov opened with the Neo-Catalan line 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nf3 e6 3 g3 d5 4 Bg2 dxc4 5 Qa4+ Nbd7 6 Qxc4 c5 7 0-0 b6:

Here Grischuk came up with 8 Nc3 Bb7 9 d4 Rc8 and now 10 Qd3 which is a new move in this position. Black was fine out of the opening, however, and the game remained balanced until the run-up to the move 40 time-control. There both players missed winning chances, but it was Eljanov that finally secured the full point.

Reversed Benoni 2...e6, 4...d4 [A13]

After 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nf3 e6 3 g3 d5 4 Bg2 d4!? is an ambitious try, immediately going for a reversed Benoni structure:

This site has reviewed this line in the past, but recent books on the English/ Réti have failed to mention it. Jakovenko - Eljanov put the variation to the test, and it is fair to say that it passed. Eljanov used energetic counterplay to hold the balance in an accurately played game by both players.

Pseudo-Grünfeld 5 h4 [A16]

The Pseudo-Grünfeld with 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 Nc3 d5 4 cxd5 Nxd5 5 h4 should perhaps be re-named the anti-Wei Yi variation! Ding Liren-Wei Yi from the World Cup (4th round, first classical game) is the fourth game in the last few months where other leading Chinese players have chosen this approach against the 16-year old star. After 5...Bg7 we looked at 6 e4 in the July Update, but in this month's game Ding Liren played the more aggressive 6 h5:

The h-pawn was soon embedded on h6, and a sharp game ensued with opposite side castling. Ding Liren caused some problems for his opponent in the opening, but both players missed chances in the unusual complications. Eventually Ding Liren emerged the winner of a great fighting game.

Mikenas Attack 3...d5 4 cxd5 exd5 5 e5 [A18]

In the Mikenas Attack after 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e6 3 e4 d5, the move 4 cxd5 has been steadily gaining traction compared to the historically much more popular 4 e5. Giri - Wojtaszek (first tiebreak game) continued with 4...exd5 5 e5 Ne4 6 Nf3:

Giri unleashed a well-prepared new idea culminating in 16 Nb5 which caught his opponent off-guard. After securing a powerful "octopus" knight on d6, White broke through quickly and scored a crushing win.

Symmetrical Four Knights 6 Bf4 [A33]

So - Vachier Lagrave started with 1 Nf3 c5 2 c4 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 e6 and now White played 6 Bf4, an interesting alternative to the more common main lines 6 g3, 6 a3 and 6 Ndb5.

On move 10, So deviated from an earlier game played by Vachier Lagrave, and secured a slight advantage. Although White later blundered and lost, the opening was a success for him.

Pure Symmetrical 5 d3 e6 [A36]

The Fischer setup with ...e6 and ...Nge7 in the Pure Symmetrical after 1 c4 c5 2 g3 g6 3 Bg2 Bg7 4 Nc3 Nc6 has proved to be a tough nut for White to crack, as we noted in the August 2015 Update. In Nakamura - Shankland (first tiebreak game), after 5 d3 e6, White tried the rare move 6 Bf4:

After 6...d6, White will gain a tempo should Black later play the typical move ...d5. Perhaps the best approach for Black was shown in the vintage game Réti-Rubinstein, Breslau 1925! In the game, Shankland went for a different pawn structure with ...e6-e5. Nakamura was pressing for most of the game and eventually won a tough fight in a rook endgame.

Until next month, David.

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