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I noticed that Jan Timman used the English Opening on his way to a first-place tie in the just-finished Sigeman & Co Chess Tournament in Malmo and Copenhagen. Since the variations he uses are of topical interest I'll use a few of his games as a basis for investigation, and then turn my attention to other recent ideas.

Download PGN of April '05 Flank Openings games


English Opening


English Symmetrical 1...c5

Many of the games in this update involve the Symmetrical English. In general it is considered the safest way to handle 1.c4, although play usually becomes double-edged anyway. That was the case at the Sigeman & Co event.

Strong players persist in trying out the following position for Black, arising after 1.c4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.g3 g6 5.Bg2 Bg7 6.0-0 (or 6.d4 first) 6...0-0 7.d4 cxd4 8.Nxd4 Ng4!?:

This seems to me a tribute to White's advantage in the normal line 8...Nxd4 9.Qxd4 d6. But White keeps getting the advantage after 8...Ng4 as happened in Timman - Palo, Sigeman 2005 , as well as in the variations seen in the notes to the game.

Timman - Hermansson from the same tournament went much more smoothly for White. The opening position has been reached seemingly hundreds of times:

White shouldn't get much out of this structure and indeed he didn't. Very soon, however, Timman began to outplay his opponent and finally wins a nice technical struggle.

Both Shirjaev - Shinkevich, Ufa 2005 and Kharlov - Jakovenko, Sochi 2005 feature the variation 1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 e5 4.e3 Nf6 (although 4...f5 is unresolved). Both players choose to enter the most critical variation 5.d4 cxd4 6.exd4 e4:

This has enjoyed considerable popularity over the last 15 years and Tony has covered much of the relevant background material. Kharlov tried 7.Ne5 and the players followed a theoretical main line until White tried a minor but significant improvement that should yield him a small advantage. Shirjaev chose 7.Ng5 instead; he vastly improved upon a line thought to be better for the second player. This is a little scary for Black and in general he still has to prove that he has a reliable way to equality in this variation.

Franz Steenbekkers continues with his question/analysis from the January Update. He is still trying to make Tony's Dynamic English line of the Symmetrical English work to White's advantage. Here is the critical position:

The final position is extremely hard to assess. See what you think. It's an excellent analytical exercise.

English 1...e5

Timman - Hector from that event was a tough fight from start to finish. The game opened 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.g3 (by transposition) 4...Nd4 5.Bg2 Nxf3+ 6.Bxf3 Bb4 7.Qb3 Bc5:

This position has been the starting point of many top-level battles. I prefer White, but not because of the way this game proceeded.

English 1...Nf6

In Kiril Georgiev - Adler, Noyon 2005, the players enter in a variation that seems bad from the 3rd move on! After 1.c4 e6 2.Nc3 Bb4 3.Qb3, Black keeps insisting upon playing 3...c5?!:

Here he is punished again.

A traditional Grünfeld-like English opening position arises in Bu Xiangzhi-Wang Yaoyao, Jinan 2005. It's interesting that White allows ...a4 in response to a3, with one pawn holding up the two on a3 and b2. This is the same decision, traditionally considered positionally bad, that Timman took in both his games versus Hermanson and Hector! In this game, however, Black doesn't take up the challenge and suffers as a result.

Reti and Other Flank Openings

Two superstars try out a main-line English/Reti System in Morozevich - Vallejo Pons, Amber Blindfold 2005. Those who use the Reti Opening versus Slav setups may wonder why the books usually suggest letting Black play ...dxc4 and forcing White to play a gambit. For example, instead of the order 1.c4 Nf6 2.g3 c6 then 3.Bg2 d5 4.Nf3, allowing 4...dxc4, why not play 3.b3 d5 4.Nf3 and thus avoid gambiting a pawn?

The most important reason is given in the note to move four of the game, with several examples.

Two games between relatively low-rated players illustrate some other issues in the Reti Opening. Goodwin - Fowler, Coventry 2005 opens 1.c4 Nf6 2.g3 c6 3.Bg2 d5 4.Nf3 Bg4, an extremely common move order:

Here Black will get a good game versus routine play. But Reti players should know that their opponents can end up in serious trouble if White both plays aggressively and times his moves well. In fact, the simplicity of White's correct plan may inspire players of White who hate meeting ...Bg4 systems. I include some games and analysis to demonstrate that. On the other hand, Goodwin - Manson, Coventry 2005 indicates a possible solution for Black involving the move ...Be6. In that game White doesn't play the most critical line so we're still not sure how safe it is for Black to enter into this line, but the lines are drawn.

In this month's email bag, Jose Blades asks about the variation 1.c4 c6 2.e4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.cxd5 Nf6 5.Qa4+ Nd7:

I previously covered 5..Bd7. In fact, this is actually an opening that is out of my province in Chesspublishing (it's a Caro-Kann), but I will try to complete the circle. See BladezII - Regmanden, Free Internet Chess Server (FICS) 2005.


Please feel free to share any of your thoughts with me, whatever they are, suggestions, criticisms, etc. Drop me a line at the Flank Openings Forum, or subscribers can write directly to

Till next month, John