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There's a good bunch of instructive games here, all with 2500+ on at least one side of the board (I've been told that I'm presenting too many X-Y, Girls Under 12 sorts of games. Well, maybe not that bad). In several of these the opening didn't decide the struggle, of course, but it's always nice to get a good start. Watch specially for our heroic Webmaster's contribution to theory, in which he fortunately escaped the influence of some of my previous bad analysis!


Download PGN of April '06 Flank Openings games

Symmetrical (1...c5)

P H Nielsen-L Aronian, Monte Carlo (Rapid) 2006 features an Anti-Benoni system with 4...b6. This generally gives rise to a Hedgehog that has been seen hundreds of times. But Black must beware of the move-order issue that arises in this game, and many players of White fail to take advantage of a fairly common inaccuracy:

Here White exploited the fact that ...Nbd7 has preceded ...0-0. Do you see how?

What to do after 1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3 e6 ? The normal 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Nc6 6.g3 isn't achieving anything in the old main line with 6...Qb6. In Schlosser - Ftacnik, TCh-AUT 2005-6, White played 7.Ndb5, which looks more and more like a temporary fix to the problems associated with 7.Nb3 (although I think that might be a matter of who finds the last improvement). Following the further 7...Bc5 8 Nd6+ Ke7 9 Nde4:

Black seems to have more than one way of equalising here.

With games like Tchakiev - Ruck, TCh-AUT 2006, you can see why the Symmetrical English is such a popular defence to 1.c4 against top players. When White plays the sort of quiet lines that he hopes to get an equal, interesting middlegame from, he often looks up and sees that his opponent's position is rather more aggressive than he'd hoped. After 9...d5:

Already it's time for a decision as to how to stop Black from seizing the initiative.

King's English (1...e5)

Bareev - Shirov, Poikovsky 2006 features the same Closed Sicilian Reversed variation that we've already seen Bareev play against twice as White, after 18.f4:

This time, with little advantage from the opening, he slips up and let's Shirov gain the advantage. As these things happen, Bareev is soon better again with what looks like a winning ending, but his opponent is one of the best endgame players in the world and holds on. It's worth looking at that rook ending, which I see as unclear throughout.

An old-fashion English d3 Anti-King's Indian system is seen in Rotstein - Scharrer, Verona 2006. Black plays the relatively common idea of ...Nh5 and White counters with the unusual move e4. Here is the position after the further 8...Nc6:

As I say, I used to be dogmatic that one shouldn't play this when the knight was on f3 instead of e2. However, the combination of ...Nf6 and ...e5 in the Sicilian is sometimes best, so why not here? Rotstein played 9.Bg5! and gained an advantage.

Note that I have also looked at 1.c4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.Nf3 Nf6 6.O-O O-O 7.d4 cxd4 8.Nxd4 d6 in the E-mailbag this month.

English 1...Nf6

The Mikenas Variation again. How else for an English Opening player to avoid all those Nimzo-Indians and Queen's Gambit Declineds that 1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 e6 aims for? In Tomashevsky - Ilgin, Cheboksary 2006 we revisit the old main line using ...c5 instead of ...e5. I give some notes about what's happened in a couple of other recent games and then we arrive at the position after 13.Qe3:

You may not get this far every time, but it's not that uncommon. As I say in the notes, White has the kind of positional advantage with which he can hardly lose, and Black can suffer for a long time.

Tony Kosten shows that he's able to survive bad information that he's given by a certain ChessPublishing author in the game Kosten - Jo1 Horvath, TCh-AUT 2005-6 (I assume this means the senior Horvath). I don't know how I missed this game before because it's quite relevant.

This follows an earlier game Timman-Kulaots, Prague 2004. At any rate White's never worse.

Another of the Qa4+ anti-Gruenfeld systems arose in Psakhis - Khmelniker, Cappelle la Grande 2006. Here after 6.Qc4:

Black played 6...a6, which isn't very convincing. Soon Psakhis took up the challenge with a pseudo-queen sacrifice. Perhaps not necessary or even that good, but it posed some difficult problems and White won. These Qa4+ moves are worth looking into if you don't like main-line Gruenfelds.


Please remember to point out and send your games to me. Drop me a line at the Flank Openings Forum, or subscribers can write directly to

Till next month, John