ForumHelpSearchMy ProfileSite InfoGuests InfoRepertoireLinks
Exciting times for Flank Openings with Richard Rapport joining Baadur Jobava to espouse Larsen's Variation, not to mention Bird's Opening, and some even more exotic opening ideas! Both players are not just content to play off-beat openings against weaker opponents, but they also play them against top GMs, so we get the chance to see some high-quality games in less common lines.

Download PGN of September '14 Flank Openings games

>> Previous Update >>

Larsen's Opening 1 b3 e5, 4...Bd6 5 Na3 [A01]

After 1 b3 e5 2 Bb2 Nc6 3 e3 Black seems to play 3...Nf6 almost invariably at the higher levels nowadays (although I have no idea why everyone avoids 3...d5). Following 4 Bb5 Bd6 5 Na3 we reach an important crossroads:

In Jobava - Dukaczewski we examine developments with the recently popular move 5...e4, where Black makes some space for his bishop and knight on e5. A key position is reached after 9 0-0:

Looking at the various alternatives here I can't find one line where Black has completely equalised yet, White's superior structure and powerful b2-bishop seem to outweigh Black's bishops.

The first of this month's Rapport games features the trendy 5...Be7, the bishop retreats so that Black can play ...d6. We've seen the following position before:

Black has the bishop pair and more space, but typical doubled c-pawns. White is ready to play either f4 or d4 to open the a1-h8 diagonal and weaken Black's central control. In Rapport - Golod White seemed to lose time unnecessarily, and Black had a promising-looking position, but before long White played a strong exchange sacrifice and won convincingly anyway.

The other move we are going to consider is the 2nd most popular one, 5...a6, grabbing the bishop pair immediately. Rapport's first game with 1 b3 was a loss to Wesley So, with 8 Ne2, and so then he introduced the move 8 a4!? and has since won two compelling games with it:

White hinders ...b5, and plans both a5, to fix Black's weakened queenside, and also possibly Nxd6 followed by Ba3. However, there is a third, rather less obvious idea involving a rook lift via a4. See the impressive miniature Rapport - Onischuk.

Anti-KID 4 g4!? [A16]

Actually I'm not really sure how to describe the opening of this next game. White actually started with 1 e3, Black played in KID style, and then Rapport unleashed 4 g4!?:

This is rather surprisingly the 4th most popular move here ... and the highest scoring for White! White intends to fianchetto his light-squared bishop, but grab more kingside space than normally. It is an invention of Belgian Pascal Vandevoort from 1989, but he stopped playing it soon after ... and then went on to become an IM.

However, Rapport's opponent in Rapport - Melkumyan is himself 2650+ and so found a very strong line of play, and went into an endgame where he certainly wasn't worse. It required some tactical magic from our hero to save half a point.

Is 4 g4!? any good? Yes, I think it is, or at least it is no worse than a lot of 'Anti-KID' lines for White, such as the b4 Réti line that I've played so many times in the past.

King's English 2 g3, Keres System 4 Nf3, 7 e3 [A20]

Back to more standard fare now, and another very convincing win for White against the Keres System in Ding - Balogh, using the currently fashionable 7 e3 move:

There is something about the position after White's 25th which should appeal to every Flank player, with White's mobile centre, fianchettoed bishops and beautifully centralised knights:

Black is already in big trouble here.

King's English Reversed Dragon 6 e3 [A22]

Jones - Le Roux tests some ChessPublishing analysis of John Bartholomew in the sharp 7...Bf5 8 d4! Nb4 line:

White is forced to play 9 0-0 and then sacrifice his a1-rook. Probably this is close to a forced win for White, and in this game Gawain played a convincing new move which just wins. Unfortunately, he then put his knight on the wrong square, missing a killer tactic that traps blacks queen in the middle of the board, and had to work very hard to get the full point.

Symmetrical English Rubinstein's Variation, 8 a3 [A34]

I was undecided about including the next game for a long time, and then put it in as an after thought (at first I'd started analysing another Rapport game!) It's not that theoretical, you've probably seen it before, and White didn't play very well, but Topalov - Caruana does feature the current World's number 2 and 6, and was the first game in Caruana's amazing run in the Sinquefield Cup. The opening featured Rubinstein's Variation with 8 a3, planning b4:

This might not be the best line to play against Caruana, as he does seem to like Maroczy-style positions with both colours, but on the other hand, what can you play against someone who plays so perfectly?

Pure Symmetrical 5 Nf3 e6 6 d4 [A37]

Finally, in the penultimate round of the Olympiad China and France were battling for first place. Not the best time to try the 6 d4 pawn sac line, you might think?

And yet this was White's choice in the game Fressinet - Yu. Black answered 6...cxd4 7 Nb5 d5 8 cxd5 and now, rather than the main 8...Qa5+ that I'd played against Tony Miles back in the eighties, the Chinese GM played the solid 8...exd5 9 0-0 Nge7 10 Nbxd4 0-0 with an active IQP position. Play is close to equal, but it seems easier for White to go wrong.

And that is actually what happened, in dramatic fashion in the double rook endgame. This line might be enough to put me off playing 6 d4.

Till next time, Tony.

>> Previous Update >>

To contact the author please go to the Flank Openings Forum, or subscribers can write directly to