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This month we feature top-level games from the Sinquefield Cup as well as the national championships of England, France and Russia. A wide spectrum of Flank Openings are covered, illustrating the scope for creativity and early novelties that many top players are exploring. Also, as a bonus game this month we include a guest annotation from Richard Pert.

Download PGN of September '15 Flank Openings games

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Réti Opening 1 Nf3 d5 2 c4 d4 3 b4 f6 4 Na3 [A09]

After 1 Nf3 d5 2 c4 d4 3 b4 f6, White hasn't had much joy recently in the gambit line 4 e3 e5 5 c5 a5 6 Qa4+ Bd7 7 b5 Bxc5, see Ramirez-Edouard in the July Update for example.

So in Bacrot - Edouard, White tried the rare move 4 Na3!?, aiming to re-route the knight to c2 and attack the Black centre in the style of the (reverse) Benoni:

Black responded aggressively with 4...e5 5 Nc2 g5!? and after only 5 moves we have a fresh position which is completely new to theory. In the game, the players built up pawn storms on opposite wings, and both had their chances. In the ensuing battle, Bacrot secured a positional advantage, and went on to win a nice thematic game.

Réti Double Fianchetto v QGD setup 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 g3 d5 4 Bg2 Be7 5 0-0 0-0 6 b3 [A14]

Gajewski - Olszewski saw a remarkable turn of events after 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 g3 d5 4 Bg2 Be7 5 0-0 0-0 6 b3 b6, when instead of the normal slow build up in this line, White uncorked 7 cxd5 Nxd5 8 e4!?:

After 8...Nb4 9 d4 Ba6, White continued with 10 a3, offering Black the choice of 10...Nd3, or 10...Bxf1 simply grabbing a clean exchange! Black chose the former, and though he was in good shape out of the opening, he was later outplayed. In the end Gajewski scored a convincing win, but it remains to be seen if White could demonstrate sufficient compensation to justify the exchange sacrifice.

Gajewski is well known as one of Anand's seconds and a noted theoretician, though his novelty in this game has the feel of a one-off experiment. But who knows!? It certainly illustrates the scope for originality in the Flank Openings.

King's English 7 d3 v KID setup [A24]

T.L.Petrosian-Jobava opened with the well-tested line 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 g3 g6 3 Bg2 Bg7 4 0-0 0-0 5 c4 d6 6 Nc3 e5 7 d3, where Black most often continues 7...Nc6 followed by focusing on generating kingside play. Instead Jobava went for immediate central control with 7...c6:

White continued with his usual queenside build up and didn't challenge Black in the centre early enough. As a result Jobava emerged from the opening with a slight plus, and went on to win a model game for Black in this line.

Four Knights 4 g3 Bb4 6...e4 [A29]

After 1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 Nf3 Nc6 4 g3 Bb4 5 Bg2 0-0 6 0-0 e4 7 Ng5 Bxc3 8 bxc3 Re8 9 f3 exf3 10 Nxf3 d5, the move 11 d4! was prepared by Kasparov for his 1987 Seville match against Karpov, but unleashed against Ivanchuk the following year.

Aronian - Anand from the last round of the Sinquefield Cup revisited this important theoretical position. Aronian had already played this variation twice earlier this year, so Anand came well prepared, and ventured 11...dxc4!?, a fresh approach which had only been played once before in a 1991 correspondence game (where Black was crushed)

White was able to set up an unopposed pawn centre with 12 Bg5 h6 13 Bxf6 Qxf6 14 e4, which both conventional wisdom and the live commentary team (including Garry Kasparov himself!) suggested should be great for White. Anand had analyzed the position deeply however, and was able to hold the game despite creative play from Aronian.

Four Knights 4 g3 Bc5 [A29]

Richard Pert, our guest contributor for this month, annotates his interesting encounter Howell-R.Pert from the British Championship.

1 c4 e5 2 g3 Nf6 3 Bg2 Nc6 4 Nc3 Bc5 is a reliable line championed by Tomashevsky from the Black side. After 5 Nf3 d6 6 e3 0-0 7 0-0 a6 8 h3 Ba7 9 d4 h6:

David Howell's 10 dxe5 was a novelty, but Richard played well and secured a slight advantage from the opening. Later in the game, Black was the one playing for the win but erred in his opponent's time trouble and lost.

Double Fianchetto Defence 13...Re8 [A30]

Caruana - So entered a line of the Double Fianchetto which (on the Black side) has almost become the personal property of Sergey Karjakin. After 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 c4 b6 3 g3 c5 4 Bg2 Bb7 5 0-0 g6 6 d4 cxd4 7 Qxd4 Bg7 8 Nc3 d6 9 Be3 Nbd7 10 Rac1 Rc8 11 b3 a6 12 Rfd1 0-0 13 Qh4 we reach the following tabiya:

After 13...Re8 14 Bh3, Karjakin's latest try is 14...Ba8, but in this game Wesley So went for the more frequently played 14...Rc7. Black soon went wrong, however, and Caruana built a winning position, only to miss the decisive combination. After this incident, murky complications ensued, and the game finally ended in a draw.

Hedgehog 7 Re1 [A30]

The Hedgehog remains an important opening at all levels of tournament play, although it currently appears to be rather out of fashion on the super-tournament circuit. The most aggressive line for White features an early Re1 followed by e2-e4, d2-d4 and recapturing with knight on d4 after ...cxd4. This leads to very sharp play similar to the Hedgehog lines in the Open Sicilian.

Stella - Aroshidze reached the well known position after 7 Re1 d6 8 e4 Be7 9 d4 cxd4 10 Nxd4 Qc7 11 Be3 0-0 12 Rc1 Nbd7 13 f4 Rac8 14 g4 Nc5 15 Bf2 g6:

Here White hit his opponent with 16 f5 gxf5 17 Nd5!?, a thematic sacrifice which was rewarded with the full point. In the notes I highlight other Nd5 sacs in the Hedgehog, including a game played this same month by the British champion Jonathan Hawkins.

Symmetrical Four Knights 6 a3 [A33]

In Artemiev - Khismatullin we continue our coverage of the increasingly popular line of the Symmetrical that occurs after 1 c4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 e6 6 a3. The game continued 6...Bc5 7 Nb3 Bb6 and now instead of 8 e4 which was played in Navara-Eljanov in last month's Update, White essayed 8 Bf4:

In an interesting strategic struggle, White had chances for an advantage from the opening. Artemiev lost the thread of the game though, and Khismatullin had a completely winning position before move 40. He made it interesting however, but eventually won after the players exchanged blunders in a complex endgame.

Symmetrical English 6 Bg2 Bg7 7 Qa4+ [A34]

So - Vachier Lagrave featured a "blast from the past" in a line of the Symmetrical which had fallen out of favour, and perhaps rightly so. The players reached the position after 6 Bg2 Bg7 7 Qa4+ Nc6 8 Ng5 e6 9 Nge4 which doesn't have any games in the database since the year 2000:

In fact this site's coverage of the old games Lputian-Krasenkov and Lputian-Timman gives you all the key theory of this line - a good illustration of the value of the Chess Publishing Archives! The game followed the famous Tatai-Karpov encounter until move 14, and Vachier-Lagrave went on to win convincingly.

Enjoy! Till next time, David.

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