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This Update focuses on games from the later rounds of the recent Chennai Olympiad. I first covered the gambit 1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 Nf3 e4 4 Ng5 c6 in June 2021, when GM Adhiban first tried it, and it has since gained momentum. The man himself used it again in a critical Olympiad encounter which is covered here.

Download PGN of September ’22 Flank Openings games

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Réti Opening, 1 Nf3 d5 2 g3 g6 3 Bg2 Bg7 4 0-0 e5 [A07]

After 1 Nf3 d5 2 g3, the move 2...g6 has proven to be a tricky one for Réti players, assuming White doesn’t want to transpose into a symmetrical Grünfeld structure with an early d2-d4. In Amin, B - Jobava, B, after 3 Bg2 Bg7, White allowed Black to occupy the centre following 4 0-0 e5 5 d3 Nc6:

Despite its rather modest appearance, this reversed Pirc setup has been used by several 1 Nf3 specialists to play for win. After 6 Nc3 Nge7 7 e4 dxe4 8 dxe4, we get a symmetrical pawn structure with a queen trade on offer. White has won a fair share of games from this point, indicating that Black has some work to do to equalize. Rather than swapping queens, Jobava played energetically with 9...Be6 9 b3 Nd4, followed later on by a pawn sacrifice with 15...e4. Black’s activity enabled him to hold the balance despite the pawn deficit.

Réti Opening, 1 Nf3 d5 2 g3 Nd7 3 Bg2 e5 [A07]

2...Nd7 is another second move which has come into vogue in the last few years. In earlier updates, we have looked at both 3 d4 Nb6 and 3 c4 dxc4. In Jones, G - Sonis, F, however, White continued 3 Bg2, allowing 3...e5, which has some similarities to the previous game. After 4 d3 Ngf6 5 0-0, Black has a wide choice of moves, but 5...Bc5 looks active and has been essayed in a number of recent game:

Here White unleashed 6 Nxe5, changing the structure following 6...Nxe5 7 d4 Bd6 8 dxe5 Bxe5 9 c4. Now Black started to drift into a passive position with 9...dxc4 10 Qc2 0-0 11 Na3 c6 12 Nxc4, and White soon built up strong pressure in the centre. Black can improve with 9...c6, or consider alternatives on move 5.

Réti Opening, Lasker’s System 5 Qb3 [A11]

Pantsulaia, L - Vera Siguenas, D was more of an old-school Réti starting with 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 g3 d5 3 Bg2 Bf5 4 c4 c6. Now 5 Qb3 is an idea which has supplanted the more traditional move order 5 cxd5 cxd5 6 Qb3 when 6...Nc6! is a good pawn sac giving Black active counterplay. After 5...Qb6 6 d3 e6 7 Be3 offering a queenless middlegame, where White hopes to squeeze an advantage by expanding on the queenside while Black's light-squared bishop remains somewhat offside on the other half of the board.

The mainline here is 7...Qxb3 8.axb3 a6, but with 7...Qb4+, Black tried to avoid giving White the open a-file, before later going for the queen trade anyway after 8 Nbd2 Nbd7 9 0-0 h6 10 Bd4 Qxb3. Following 11 axb3 a6 12 Bc3 Be7, White could continue with positional play on the queenside, but instead went for concrete action with 13 e4!? dxe4 14 dxe4. Now Black should grab the e4-pawn, since after 14..Bh7 15 Rfe1 White's extra space and activity left him clearly better.

Anti-QGD System, 4...b6 [A17]

With the move-order 1 c4 e6 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 Nc3 d5 4 e3 b6, Black adopts a flexible structure, and in particular, delays the development of the f8-bishop in order to best react to White's choice of setup. In Jumabayev, R - Ganguly, S, White in turn kept his options open by delaying d2-d4, as play continued with 5 cxd5 exd5 6 b3 Bb7 7 Bb2 Nbd7 8 Rc1 a6 9 Ne2 c5 10 Ng3:

In this position, Black can consider an early ...h7-h5 push, as recently played by Anand. Instead, Ganguly went for a harmonious setup with 10...g6 11 d4 Bg7. A typical hanging pawns structure was in prospect, but Black’s plan of 13...Bc6 and 14...Bb5 left the d5-pawn lacking in protection, and White later got strong central pressure and won a pawn.

Mikenas Attack, 3...d5 4 cxd5 exd5 5 e5 Ne4 [A18]

The game Vakhidov, J - Nisipeanu, L featured a debated in a highly theoretical line of the Mikenas starting with 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e6 3 e4 d5 4 cxd5 exd5 5 e5 Ne4 6 Nf3 Bf5 7 d3 Nxc3 8 bxc3 c5 9 d4. Now Black has valid alternatives with 9...c4 and 9...Nc6, but our game continued with the sharp 9...Qa5 and 10 Bd2 Nc6 11 c4 Qd8 12 Qb3:

Now following 12...Be4 13 Qxb7 Rc8, the move 14 Ng5 is White's best chance for an edge, although Black is OK with accurate play. After a long semi-forced sequence, the players reached an ending that has been contested in multiple earlier games. 20.Rb7+ was the first new move, although it doesn't move the theoretical needle and Black held comfortably.

King’s English, 4 Knights 3...e4 4 Ng5 c6 5 Ngxe4 Nxe4 6 Nxe4 d5 7 cxd5 cxd5 8 Ng3 h5 [A22]

GM Adhiban was the first top player to essay the gambit 1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 Nf3 e4 4 Ng5 c6 (see the June 2021 Update), and employed it again in a critical Olympiad clash, Vakhidov, J - Adhiban, B . I think we can safely use the moniker Adhiban Gambit going forward! Now the critical line continues 5 Ngxe4 (accepting the gambit) 5...Nxe4 6 Nxe4 d5 7 cxd5 cxd5 8 Ng3 and now the disruptive pawn thrust 8...h5:

Now the game continued 9 e3 h4 10.Ne2 (10 Bb5+ was reviewed in the April 2022 Update) 10...Nc6 11 d4 Qf6. Black brings the queen out to hassle White on the kingside. After 12 Nc3 Qg6 13 f3 Bd6 14.Kf2 Bg3+! was an annoying check to disrupt White's coordination. In many of these lines, the engine will show White as slightly better, but it has proven tricky to play over the board. In this game White later allowed a tactical shot 23...Nxd4! which solved all of Black’s problems.

In the FTX Crypto Cup, Adhiban’s teammate Pragg used the same gambit to score 1.5/2 against Levon Aronian. In Aronian, L - Praggnanandhaa, R, White varied from the previous game with 12 Bd2:

White aimed to delay Black's thematic ...Qf6-g6 idea, the game continuing with 12...Bd6 13 a3 Bf5 14 Rc1 Rd8 15 Nc3 Qg6 16 Qf3. White soon won a second pawn with 18 Qxd5 but fell so far behind in development that the tactics starting with 20...Nxd4! were very risky for White. Black eventually won after many ups and downs.

Symmetrical English, Four Knights 6 g3 Qb6 7 Nbd5 [A33]

One of the sharp mainlines of the Symmetrical English occurs after 1 c4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 e6 6 g3 Qb6 7 Ndb5 Ne5 8 Bf4 Nfg4 9 e3 a6, reaching a tabiya which has been frequently debated in high-level games over the last few years.

In Erigaisi, A - Mekhitarian, K, the game proceeded within theoretical lines with 10 Qa4 g5 11 Bxe5 Nxe5 12 0-0-0 Rb8 13 Nd4:

Now 13...Be7 was a novelty, but it appears that the g7-square is a better post for the f8-bishop in this setup. After 14 Be2 Qb4, White continued with 15 Qc2, declining the queen trade and offering a sacrifice of the c4-pawn. After 15...Nxc4 16 a3 Nxa3 Black got 3 pawns for a piece, but White's more active pieces outweighed the risk to White's somewhat exposed king.

I hope you enjoy this Update!

Until next month, David.

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