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Hi everyone!
This month’s Update draws on the wealth of games from the FIDE World Cup as well as the Isle of Man Masters. My aim is to cover both the latest sharp novelties and ideas-based lines.

Download PGN of October ’17 Flank Openings games

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Larsen’s Opening 1...e5, 4 Nf3 [A01]

Baadur Jobava has played 1 b3 often enough that it can longer be a surprise for his opponents, but in the World Cup he gave Wesley So a hard time with a new line. After 1...e5 2 Bb2 Nc6 3 e3 Nf6, the standard move is 4 Bb5 which we have covered many times on the site. Jobava, B - So, W instead saw the less common 4 Nf3:

White lures Black’s centre forward, softening up the long diagonal after 4...e4 5 Nd4. In the middlegame, Jobava emerged with enduring pressure, although Wesley put up a staunch defence in the long manoeuvring battle that followed.

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

The first game of the FIDE World Cup final match Aronian, L - Ding Liren, followed the topical Mikenas line 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e6 3 e4 d5 4 cxd5 exd5 5 e5 Ne4 6 Nf3 Bf5 7 Be2 and now Ding Liren unleashed 7...d4:

Black’s 7th is a relatively fresh move which worked out well for him in this game. Black was very solid after an early queen trade, but he also had the choice of playing for more with opposite side castling. The ball is back in White’s court to find an earlier improvement.

King’s English, Closed System [A21]

Eggleston, D - l'Ami, E was an interesting thematic game in the closed setup arising after 1 c4 g6 2 Nc3 Bg7 3 Nf3 d6 4 g3 e5 5 Bg2 f5 6 d3 Nf6 7 0-0 0-0 8 Rb1:

Since it takes a while for the two armies to make contact, the exact early move order is less important - each side has a clear plan of expanding on 'their' side of the board. In this game, White’s queenside play was faster and Eggleston found a nice exchange sac, although he faltered before move 40.

King’s English, Reversed Dragon 6 b3 [A22]

Tarjan, J - Kosteniuk, A opened with 1 c4 e5 2 g3 Nf6 3 Bg2 d5 4 cxd5 Nxd5 5 Nc3 Nb6 and now White essayed 6 b3!?, a little known option that takes the game out of the heavy theory of the Reversed Dragon mainlines:

Following 6...Be7 7 Bb2 Nc6 White went for the double-edged trade 8 Bxc6+. In return for play against Black's doubled c-pawns, White has weakened his kingside light squares, although it is not trivial for Black to take advantage of this. An up and down battle ended in a win for the veteran American GM.

King’s English, Four Knights 4 e3 Bb4 5 Qc2 Bxc3 6 bxc3 [A28]

In the 4 e3 Four Knights, the line 1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 Nf3 Nc6 4 e3 Bb4 5 Qc2 Bxc3 is regarded as a solid choice for Black after the most common recapture 6 Qxc3. In Aronian, A - Matlakov, M, however, White went for 6 bxc3!?:

White’s choice injects more dynamism into the position - he keeps a flexible central pawn mass and maintains the tension, banking on the two bishops as a long term asset. As the game developed, Aronian put on a master class, playing on both sides of the board, accumulating small advantages, and finishing with an attack on the king. A beautiful game!

King’s English, Reversed Dragon 6...Bc5 [A29]

We continue to track developments in the line 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e5 3 Nf3 Nc6 4 g3 d5 5 cxd5 Nxd5 6 Bg2 Bc5 which has grown up from scratch in a few months following Eljanov-Grischuk (see the August Update). The World Cup game Dubov, D - Karjakin, S followed what can for now be considered the mainline with 7 0-0 0-0 8 d3 Bb6 9 Nxd5 Qxd5 10 b4:

White’s 10th is perhaps the most critical try, since if Black doesn't respond actively, then White simply gains space on the queenside. Karjakin responded with 10...e4!? but Dubov had a novelty ready with 12 Ba3. The players entered a sharp continuation after which Karjakin was the first to go wrong on move 18.

Symmetrical English 3...d5, 5 e4 [A34]

The World Cup quarter-final match Svidler, P - Vachier-Lagrave, M saw some new twists and turns in the enduring, sharp line 1 c4 c5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 Nc3 d5 4 cxd5 Nxd5 5 e4 Nb4 6 Bc4 Nd3+ 7 Ke2, with the players contesting two games with 7...Nf4+ 8 Kf1 Ne6 9 h4!?:

With 9 h4, White takes pre-emptive action against the ...g7-g6 fianchetto. MVL answered with 9...Nd4 10 d3 and in the classical game got into some difficulty with 10...Nbc6 11 Nb5, but in the Rapid playoff made a key improvement with 10...e6! 11 Bf4 a6. Black has a flexible Sicilian-style formation, while White's position (with the king out of place on the f1-square) is probably harder to play with a reduced time control.

Symmetrical English, Botvinnik vs. KID setup [A36]

Nihal, S - Adhiban, B featured a clash of two standard formations with White adopting the Botvinnik set up (based on the c4-d3-e4 pawn chain) while Black went for a classical King's Indian style development plan.

In the early middlegame Adhiban appeared to be better versed in the typical themes. Black outplayed his young opponent in instructive fashion, although after a fightback from Nihal, it was a close run thing.

I hope you enjoy this update!

Until next month, David.

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