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Hi everyone!
This month’s update has a mix of old and new, and some strange transpositions. The Reversed Dragon with the new 6...Bc5 continues to be hot, while we revisit the venerable 4 e4 Four Knights.

Download PGN of September ’17 Flank Openings games

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Symmetrical English 3...d5 4 cxd5 Nxd5 5 e3 e6 6 Nxd5 [A17]

In the Symmetrical English line 1 c4 c5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 Nc3 d5 4 cxd5 Nxd5 5 e3 e6, play often transposes to Semi-Tarrasch lines after 6 d4 or 6 Bc4. Instead, the move 6 Nxd5 is an interesting try, staying within English Opening territory:

Now 6...exd5 7 b4!?, which gives this variation a unique flavour, was played in Nepomniachtchi-Harikrishna, from the February 2017 Update. This month, we look at Rakhmanov, A - Erdos, V which featured the more solid 6...Qxd5. Black avoids fixing his pawn structure, and envisages an open centre after a later d2-d4 followed by ....c5xd4.

Mikenas Attack 3...d5 4 cxd5 exd5 5 e5 [A18]

Kulaots, K - Bernotas, A features the Mikenas with 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e6 3 e4 d5 and now 4 cxd5 reaching the following position after 7 moves:

White chose the straightforward approach 8 0-0 0-0 9 d4, just occupying the centre and arguing that Black's c6-knight is not well placed. Strangely enough, this position can also be reached from a sideline of the Italian Game (!). Out of the opening Kulaots was more active and had the better pawn structure.

Given that Nepomniachtchi has also introduced some important novelties after 4 e5 (see recent Updates), the 3...d5 line is currently under some theoretical pressure.

King’s English, Keres System 4 Nf3 e4 [A20]

The Keres system with 2...c6 or 3...c6 is very topical, and one of the key lines occurs after 1 c4 e5 2 g3 Nf6 3 Bg2 c6 4 Nf3 e4 5 Nd4.

Now Svidler, P - Caruana, F saw 5...Qb6, which Caruana has repeated in multiple recent games:

Black delays ...d7-d5, first pushing the d4-knight back with 6 Nb3 a5 7 d3 a4. Svidler later struck back with the dynamic move 14 b4!?, aiming to blow open the position before Black has finished development, and White emerged with an advantage.

In Gelfand, B - Inarkiev, E, Black instead chose 5...d5, which was followed by 6 cxd5 Qxd5 7 e3:

The next few moves typically see an intricate battle for central control. Black came out on top in this game, but with careful play White should be able to secure a slight edge from the opening.

King’s English Four Knights 4 e4 [A28]

It's been a while since we covered the Four Knights 1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 Nf3 Nc6 with 4 e4 on the site:

Now 4...Bc5 5 Nxe5 Nxe5 6 d4 Bb4 is the critical line, although 2600+ players appear to have avoided this line as Black in the last few years, instead preferring the quieter 4...Bb4. In Pantsulaia, L - Korobov, A, however, White got a pleasant position with the two bishops, so Black is perhaps best advised to do the homework on the 4...Bc5 line - see the game notes for details.

King’s English Four Knights 4 g3 g6 5 d4 [A29]

Nepomniachtchi, I - Carlsen, M opened with 1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 Nc6 3 Nf3 Nf6 4 g3 and now with 4...g6 Carlsen essayed an interesting line which is a hybrid between English and King's Indian setups. Nepomniachtchi chosen an open position with 5 d4 and later played the fresh idea 8 Bf4!?:

After 8...Nh5 9 Nxc6 dxc6 10 Qxd8 Rxd8 11 Bxc7 Rd4 Black's rook ended up a little offside on the queenside, but the game didn’t stray far from the bounds of equality.

King’s English Four Knights Reversed Dragon 6...Bc5!? [A29]

The suddenly fashionable line 4 g3 d5 5 cxd5 Nxd5 6 Bg2 Bc5!? was introduced in Eljanov-Grischuk in last month's Update. It has since undergone further high level tests, including Aronian, L - Caruana, F in which White unleashed 9 Ng5!?:

White’s idea was to play 9...Qd8 10 Nxh7, which was justified with tactics. Aronian succeeded in creating an imbalance, which hadn’t been achieved in many of the earlier 6...Bc5 games, however it remains to be seen if this is more than a one game weapon.

Symmetrical English 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 d5 [A31/D06]

After 1 Nf3 c5 2 c4 Nf6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4, Anand, V - Vachier-Lagrave, M saw the rare 4...d5, which is only the 8th most popular move in the position. Black makes a direct attempt at equality by clearing the d- and c-files of pawns:

The position after 5 cxd5 Nxd5 6 e4 is officially classified as a Queen’s Gambit (ECO D06), but is often reached via the English Opening move order. Indeed, the theoretical verdict here is critical for the English with 3 d4. After both sides have developed logically, the question is whether White can eke out an advantage from his slight development lead and more active pieces. In the game, Anand had a slight pull at one point, although MVL held the draw.

I hope you enjoy this update!

Until next month, David.

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