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With the return of a number of over-the-board tournaments and team competitions, this Update consists exclusively of ”off line“ games played at classical time controls!

Download PGN of October ’20 Flank Openings games

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Réti Opening 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 g3 g6 3 b3 d5 4 Bb2 c5 [A05]

Several of this month’s games feature White employing an early fianchetto of both his bishops. Wojtaszek, R - Dragnev, V, for example, started with 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 g3 g6 3 b3 d5 4 Bb2 c5 5 Bg2. In view of White's quiet first few moves, Black has a wide choice of setups, and we will see two other structures in the Symmetrical English section below.

From the diagram, White started to fight for the central squares with 7 e3 Nc6 8 Ne5. Now Black play ambitiously with 8...Nxe5 9.Bxe5 Bg4, but in the game 8...Bd7 handed White the bishop pair, which comes across as a slight concession. After 9 Nxd7 Qxd7 10 d3 and the subsequent e2-e4, the players reached a reversed King's Indian structure but with a few unusual features. The resulting closed position is roughly balanced: both sides need to manoeuvre and looks for ways to outplay the opponent.

Réti Opening, Capablanca’s System 6 d4 [A07]

An important line of the Réti occurs after 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 g3 d5 3 Bg2 c6 4 0-0 Bg4 5 h3 Bh5 6 d4 Nbd7 7 c4 e6 8 cxd5 and now Black has an important choice to make. How he recaptures the d5-pawn determines the strategic course of the game. In earlier updates, we have looked at 8...exd5, which can lead to a sharper fight after 9 Qb3 Qb6 10 Qe3+ etc. In Kozak, A - Solodovnichenko, Y, however, Black went for symmetry with the solid move 8...cxd5:

Here White continued 9 Nc3 Bd6 10 Qb3 Qb6 11 e4!, aiming to blast open the long h1-a8 diagonal and exploit the absence of Black's h5-bishop from the queenside. As the featured game illustrates, White has a good chance of securing a nagging edge in this setup.

King’s Indian Attack Mainline 8 Re1 Qc7 [A08]

Amin, B - Studer, M opened with 1 Nf3 d5 2 g3 Nf6 3 Bg2 c5 4 d3 e6 5 0-0 Nc6 6 Nbd2 Be7 7 e4 0-0 8 Re1 reaching the starting point of the King's Indian Attack mainline. Now the most common move is 8...b5, but 8...Qc7 is a move order nuance that forces White to spend a tempo on Qd1-e2 in order to support the e4-e5 thrust.

From the diagram, 10 e5 is the standard move, but Amin instead varied from the time-honoured KIA scheme with 10 Nf1!?. Black took the chance to change the structure with 10...dxe4, and then continued with queenside expansion following 11 dxe4 b4. Black emerged from the opening in good shape, but 17...Qxc2? 18 Be4! turned the game on its head. White suddenly got a big kingside attack, since Black wasn’t able bring sufficient defensive resources in to help his king.

King’s Indian Attack Mainline 7...b6 [A08]

In Kamsky, G - Huschenbeth, N, after 1 g3 d5 2 Bg2 Nf6 3 Nf3 c5 4 0-0 e6 5 d3 Nc6 6 Nbd2 Be7 7 e4, Black varied from the previous game with the flexible 7...b6:

After 9 c3 Qc7 10 Qe2 0-0 Black has to spend an extra tempo on ...b6-b5, but his move order has prompted White to loosen his queenside structure with 9 c3. In a typical middlegame position, Black spurned a repetition of moves, but in doing so allowed a thematic sacrifice 27 Nxf7! exposing Black's king, after which Kamsky went on to win. Another good example of White’s practical chances in the KIA.

King’s English, Four Knights 4 g3 Bb4 5 Bg2 0-0 6 0-0 Re8 [A29]

In the Four Knights after 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e5 3 Nf3 Nc6 4 g3, much of the focus in recent high-level games has been on the reversed Dragon with 4...d5, so it is good to catch up with the other major setup arising after 4...Bb4. Following 5 Bg2 0-0 6 0-0, the sharpest try is 6...e4, but Kovalenko, I - Kuzubov, Y instead continued with the logical centralizing move 6...Re8:

The game continued 7 Ne1 Bxc3 8 dxc3, entering a strategically complex reversed Rossolimo structure. Black went for a thematic plan to press on the light squares, starting with 10...a6 and 11...b5. In fact this game is worth studying as a good illustration of strong play from Black in this setup.

Symmetrical English, Double Fianchetto [A30]

The symmetrical English line with a ”double“ double fianchetto after 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 b3 c5 3 Bb2 g6 4 c4 Bg7 5 g3 b6 6 Bg2 Bb7 7 0-0 0-0 has thousands of games in the database, and a body of theory that dates back to the 1970s. Even now though, new twists and turns can be found. White usually chooses between 8 d4 and the move 8 Nc3 which we look at this month:

Larino Nieto, D - Rubio Mejia, L continued 8...d5 9 Nxd5 Nxd5 10 Bxg7 Kxg7 11 cxd5 Qxd5 12 d4, and now the move 12...Na6 is a refinement over the straightforward simplifying approach starting with 12...cxd4. Here White essayed the ambitious 13 e4, trying to grab the centre. For reasons explained in the notes, Black’s best is 13...Qd6! but the game move 13...Qd7?! gives White has a good chance of securing an opening advantage if he plays accurately.

Symmetrical English 3 b3 Nc6 4 Bb2 d5 [A30]

Franco Alonso, A - Grandelius, N, saw another variation on the double fianchetto theme after the opening moves 1 Nf3 c5 2 c4 Nf6 3 b3 Nc6 4 Bb2 d5 5 cxd5 Nxd5:

Now 6 g3 is White's most popular move here but it does allow Black the time to setup a full scale Maroczy bind with 6...f6 7 Bg2 e5. The resulting middlegames are complex and interesting, but as White isn't ready with any pawn breaks or immediate active play, this is not a realistic attempt for an advantage.

Symmetrical English, Four Knights 6 Bf4 [A33]

Following 1 Nf3 c5 2 c4 Nf6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nc6 5 Nc3 e6, the move 6 Bf4 is only White's 6th most common choice at this point. Despite its rarity, it has featured in a number of high-level games over the last couple of years, with the latest example being McShane, L - Vachier Lagrave, M.

With 6...d5, Black doesn't concede any central space, and the early clash of forces leads to concrete play. Following 7 e3 Bb4 8 Be2 Bd7 9 Ndb5 e5, White introduced a new move 10 Bg3, offering a pawn sacrifice. In the ensuing play, both sides had their positional trumps. McShane managed to outplay his opponent and was much better at one point, although MVL eventually managed to hold.

I hope you enjoy this update!

Until next month, David.

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