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This Update draws heavily on games from the FIDE World Cup, which featured many decisive battles in the English Opening.

Download PGN of October ’19 Flank Openings games

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Réti Opening, Capablanca’s System, 1 Nf3 d5 2 g3 Bg4 3 Bg2 e6 4 c4 c6 5 cxd5 [A11]

Karjakin, S - Sevian, S saw the opening moves 1 Nf3 d5 2 g3 Bg4 3 Bg2 e6 4 c4 c6 5 cxd5, after which Black went for a solid approach with 5...Bxf3. He plans to recapture with ....c6xd5 and restrict White's activity with his central light-squared pawn chain. The following position was reached after 10 e3:

White has the bishop pair, but neither bishop has much scope at the moment, and engines evaluate this position as equal. Nevertheless, White has scored around 60% from here, and in this encounter, Karjakin played a model game, showing how White can squeeze the most out of the position.

King’s English, Keres System 1 c4 e5 2 g3 c6 3 Nf3 e4 4 Nd4 d5 [A20]

After 1 c4 e5, the Keres system comes in two flavours, namely the immediate 2...c6 and the delayed version with 2...Nf6 3 Bg2 c6. There are subtle differences between the two lines, and both have their followers, although the delayed Keres has had a little more attention in high level games over the past couple of years. This month, however, we look at two important games involving 2 g3 c6 3 Nf3 e4 4 Nd4 d5.

Now Ju Wenjun - Goryachkina, A continued with 5 cxd5 Qxd5 6 Nc2 Nf6 7 Nc3:

Here Black essayed 7...Qe5, which is a new move to this site. After the subsequent 10 d3 exd3 11 Qxd3, White secured a kingside majority which she started to mobilize with the new move 12 e4. After one or two inaccuracies from Black, Ju Wenjun was significantly better.

Ding Liren - Yu Yangyi varied from the above game with 5 d3, which is quite rare in this position:

This line is analogous to the topical 2...Nf6 3 Bg2 c6 4 Nf3 e4 5 Nd4 d5 6 d3, but in this game we get to see some important differences. Yu Yangyi equalized comfortably and even took over the initiative after Ding Liren faltered with 13 fxe4?!

King’s English, 1 c4 e5 2 g3 Nc6 3 Bg2 h5 [A20]

Anton Guijarro, D - Wei Yi was the second classical game in a two game knock-out match, and was a must win for Wei Yi, after he had lost the first game with White. He did his best to mix things up, by enlisting the help of Harry the h-pawn with 1 c4 e5 2 g3 Nc6 3 Bg2 h5!?:

Black’s 3rd move has been tried a few times by Nepomniachtchi, albeit in rapid and blitz games. Anton’s 4 h3 is fine for White, but I always feel that reacting with such a move slightly justifies Black's early h-pawn thrust. After 4...d6 5 Nc3 h4 6 g4 f5 7 gxf5 Bxf5 8 d3 Nf6 Black was probably happy to have achieved an unbalanced fighting position, even if objectively White should be able to claim an edge. Black eventually won after many ups and downs.

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

In Dubov, D - Firouzja, A, the players went down one of the sharpest lines of the reversed Rossolimo starting with 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e5 3 Nf3 Nc6 4 g3 Bb4 5 Nd5 e4. Black goes for the most direct approach, trying to disrupt White's development.

From the diagram position, Firouzja’s 7...g5 created a mess on the board, but objectively 7...0-0 is sounder. With 8 Qa4! White maintained material parity by tactical means and Dubov emerged with a sounder setup.

King’s English, 2 g3 Nf6 3 Bg2 Bc5 4 d3 [A29]

After the initial moves 1 c4 e5 2 g3 Nf6 3 Bg2 Bc5, in Ding Liren - Grischuk, A White introduced the move order nuance 4 d3!?:

Among other things, this avoids the setup 4 Nc3 c6 that Ding has himself played with Black. Grischuk chose the most principled option 4...d5, playing in open (reverse) Sicilian style. After 5 cxd5 Nxd5 6 Nc3 Nb6, the players have reached a fresh and little explored position. After 12-13 moves, Black was very close to equality, but White was able to keep asking questions such that his opponent eventually went wrong in time pressure.

Symmetrical English, Four Knights 4 g3 d5 5 cxd5 Nxd5 6 Bg2 Nc7 7 0-0 g6 [A34]

In the Symmetrical English after 1 c4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 g3 d5 5 cxd5 Nxd5 6 Bg2 Nc7 7 0-0, Black’s most popular choice is the Rubinstein variation 7...e5. Duda, J - Xiong, J instead varied with the uncommon 7...g6!?:

Now Duda’s 8 Na4 is the most pointed reply, pressing on the c5-pawn before Black has developed, and after the reply 8...Ne6?!, White soon picked up the c-pawn. White initially had a pleasant edge, but the game soon veered into dense complications.

Symmetrical English, 3...d5, 5 e3 Nxc3 6 dxc3 [A34]

Radjabov, T - Vachier Lagrave, M was the decisive game enabling the eventual World Cup winner to reach the final. It opened with an invitation to a queenless middlegame after 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 Nc3 d5 4 cxd5 Nxd5 5 e3 Nxc3 6 dxc3. This line experienced a resurgence after Radjabov used it to beat Svidler in a 2017 FIDE Grand Prix event. Since then, keeping the queens on the board with 6...Qc7 has become the favoured approach for Black in high-level games:

From the diagram, 8 Bd3 is a novelty, which worked perfectly after 8...Be7 9 Qe2 Bd7 10 0-0 since 10...0-0? put Black's king in the danger zone and allows White to impose a powerful bind with 11 e5.

I hope you enjoy this update!

Until next month, David.

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