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This Update features novelties and creative ideas in important lines of the Réti and English.

Download PGN of October ’22 Flank Openings games

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Réti Opening, Polish System 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 g3 b5 3 Bg2 Bb7 4 0-0 [A05]

Yilmazyerli, M - Sanal, V opened with the slightly offbeat 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 g3 b5. This extended fianchetto is an attempt by Black to unbalance the game and steer it towards non-standard positions. After normal developing moves, the following position was reached after Black’s 6th move:

Here White uncorked the unexpected 7 Nd4!?. White gains time by attacking the b5-pawn, and plans a neat re-grouping Nd4-b3 targeting the a5-square, as well as introducing tactical ideas based on e4-e5. In the game, Black didn’t react optimally, and White was soon much better coordinated, with strong pressure on the queenside.

Reversed Benoni 8...Bc5 [A13]

In Praggnanandhaa, R - Keymer, V, the players reached a well-known tabiya in the reversed Benoni after 1 Nf3 d5 2 g3 c5 3 Bg2 Nf6 4 0-0 e6 5 c4 d4 6 e3 Nc6 7 exd4 cxd4 8 d3:

In this position, 8...Bd6 is the mainline, while 8...h6 (preventing Bc1-g5) has also gained some popularity. Instead, Keymer chose the uncommon 8...Bc5. His idea was revealed after 9 Bg5 h6 10 Bxf6 and here 10...gxf6!? was a novelty. Despite the opened lines on the kingside, Black argues that his king is safe enough. On the other hand, Black’s f-pawns are covering key squares on the e-file, and he can cement the queenside with ...a7-a5 and ...Qd8-d6. Keymer emerged from the opening with a fine position, so I expect this idea to get further outings.

Mikenas Attack 3...c5 4 e5 Ng8 5 d4 [A19]

Yakkubboev, N - Pichot, A featured a topical line of the Mikenas arising after 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e6 3 e4 c5 4 e5 Ng8 5 d4 cxd4 6 Qxd4 Nc6 7 Qf4. Now Black has tried 7...Nge7, but the latest word is 7...d6 8 Nf3 Nh6 which had been previously essayed by Pichot in an online game.

In this position, 9 Be2 was a novelty, attempting to improve over 9 exd6 (played by Caruana) and Dubov’s move 9 Bd2. After 9...Nf5 10 0-0 dxe5 11 Nxe5 Qc7, play became very sharp with the sequence 12 Nb5 Qxe5 13 Qxe5 Nxe5 14 Nc7+ soon leading to an irrational position, with a material imbalance and both kings under attack. The advantage changed hands several times before White won.

King’s English, Keres System 1 c4 e5 2 g3 Nf6 3 Bg2 c6 4 d4 e4 5 Bg5 [A20]

The Keres system can be employed with ...c7-c6 on either move 2 or move 3, and while play can sometime transpose, the two lines also have their own nuances. This month we look at two games with the delayed Keres 1 c4 e5 2 g3 Nf6 3 Bg2 c6. In the game, Eljanov, P - Cheparinov, I, White chose 4 d4, and after 4...e4 maintains the tension with the move order 5 Bg5 Bb4+ 6 Nc3 d5 7 Qb3:

After 7...Bxc3+ 8 Qxc3, the move 8...Be6 was a novelty, but does, however, set the e6-bishop up as a target for White's natural Ng1-h3-f4 manoeuvre. After 9 Nh3 Nbd7 10 Nf4 Bf5, was an admission that things haven't gone according to plan, and Black was in trouble after 11 cxd5 12 Qa3 preventing Black from castling.

King’s English, Keres System 3...c6 4 Nf3 e4 5 Nd4 d5 6 cxd5 Qxd5 7 e3 [A20]

The game Firouzja, A - Nepomniachtchi, I varied from the previous game on move 4, with White other main idea 1 c4 Nf6 2 g3 e5 3 Bg2 c6 4 Nf3, reaching the diagram position after 6 moves:

Earlier in the Sinquefield Cup, Firouzja had played 7 Nc2 against Mamedyarov, but in this rapid play-off game chose 7 e3, which he claimed is more critical. Although the game was marred by a blunder later on, it is relevant to the current state of theory. After 7...Na6!? 8 d3, White clarified the pawn structure, and soon got a mobile kingside pawn majority which was tricky for Black to handle.

King’s English, Adhiban Gambit 4 Ng5 c6 5 Ngxe4 Nxe4 6 Nxe4 d5 7 Nc3 [A22]

Luplescu, C - Grandelius, N was another sighting of the Adhiban gambit, opening with 1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 Nf3 e4 4 Ng5 c6 5 Ngxe4 Nxe4 6 Nxe4 d5:

In last month’s Update, we looked at 7 cxd5 cxd5 8 Ng3 h5, but in this month’s game White varied with the fresh idea 7 Nc3. Following 7...dxc4 8 e3 Be6 9 b3, White gives the gambit pawn back, and offers to play a quieter game with an asymmetric pawn distribution. This line appears to offer balanced chances, although in the game White started to go wrong around move 15, and slipped into an inferior endgame.

King’s English, Four Knights 4 e4 Bb4 5 d3 d6 6 a3 Bc5 7 b4 [A28]

One of the key positions of the 4 e4 Four Knights arises after 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e5 3 Nf3 Nc6 4 e4 Bb4 5 d3 d6 6 a3 Bc5 7 b4 Bb6:

Now 8 Na4 has, hitherto, been the mainline. Instead, 8 Be3 appears to have become a favourite of the top Uzbek players. Since their team won the Gold medals at the recent Olympiad, we should pay attention! The game Vakhidov, J - Iniyan, P is a case in point. The game continued with 8...Bg4, with White gradually outplaying his opponent. In the notes, I look at Black’s other main options.

Symmetrical English, 1 c4 c5 2 Nc3 g6 3 d4 [A34]

After 1 c4 c5 2 Nc3 g6, the move 3 d4!? has been played by some strong players over the years, but hasn't been covered before on this site. White wants to avoid the pure symmetrical English lines (with 3 g3 Bg7 etc.), and tries to ensure a space advantage. Black needs to make good use of the time that White loses by moving the queen around early.

The game Forcen Esteban, D - Muzychuk, A continued with 3...cxd4 4 Qxd4 Nf6 5 g3 Nc6 6 Qd2 Bg7 7 Bg2. Now Black secured active counterplay with 7...d6 8 b3 0-0 9 Bb2 Qa5 and 12...b5, and was fine. Perhaps the most accurate reply is the flexible alternative is 7...0-0 when, for example, 8 Nh3 Na5! already gives Black a promising initiative.

I hope you enjoy this Update!

Until next month, David.

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