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Hi! This month's batch includes more Symmetrical Englishes than other variations. I can't help it if so many players choose this as their anti-English weapon. Part of the reason arises from the order 1.Nf3 c5 (hoping for 2.e4 and a Sicilian) 2.c4. Another factor may be that Nimzo Indian players don't want to deal with 1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 e6 3.e4 so they turn to another, apparently straightforward, solution.

At any rate, players of 1.c4 and their opponents continue to experiment with irregular and discarded variations. That's a blessing for us because a small part of English Opening theory is beginning to resemble the sleep-inducing 20-move-deep variations of other openings.

Download PGN of August '05 Flank Openings games


English 1...e5

Nimzowitsch's favourite 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e4 has always attracted some experimenters and is considered soundly equal:

The question is whether White can gain anything from using 4.e4. The game in the game Ye Rongguang-Al Modiahki, Xiapu 2005 succeeds in raising our interest level about this.

The Dragon Reversed following 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.g3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Bg2 Nb6 6.Nf3 Nc6 is an enormous subject in and of itself:

Tony has analysed a number of games over the years and it's interesting to see how little the basics of theory have changed, although naturally there are nuances that have been introduced.

M Marin-Komljenovic, Benasque 2005 follows main-line theory well into the game and arrives at some murky positions. White eventually emerges with the better game but strangely agrees to a draw in much the better position.

English Symmetrical 1...c5

The famous gambit 1.c4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.Nf3 e6 6.d4!? continues to be played. Its relative, 6.0-0 Nge7 7.d4!? is seen in the games Gharamian - Housieaux, La Fere 2005 and Cuenca Jimenez-Farago, FSIMC 2005:

This form of the gambit has never been considered that dangerous for Black. On the other hand, a refutation or even an established way to equality isn't known, so it bears further investigation. Cuenca Jimenez, for example, played an innovation against the only main line that is given in the books as a solution. He secured a convincing advantage by force. The Gharamian game also saw White get an advantage, although only a slight one. Since both games stemmed from 7...cxd4 I have given notes on 7...Nxd4 as well. All in all an interesting and little-known variation.

Wells - Jakovenko, Warsaw 2005 is a test of this very important position from one of the oldest main lines of the Symmetrical English:

White wins the theoretical battle but his game falls apart for tactical reasons.

D Gurevich-Ishkhanov, Minneapolis 2005 illustrated White's deviation from this line with an early g3. The system has never scared Black, but he chooses what may be an inferior plan. The note to White's seventh move is critical.

We have talked about the Botvinnik System for White at some length, but it's even more popular for Black in the Symmetrical English (it also arises after 1.Nf3), probably because the ideas are relatively simple to implement and it's hard for White to crack the ultra-solid pawn structure. A position that arises time and again is the following:

In Gonzales - Mekhitarian, American Continental 2005 White used the traditional maneuver Ne1-c2 with an early Nd5 (I have included notes on other ideas by White). Black defeated his much higher-rated opponent with quite a bit of luck, but the opening was classically played and achieved a reasonable position for him.

Meenakshi - Philippe, Le Fere 2005 saw the same main line but with a different and frequently played setup for White in which Nd5 is omitted. Black reacted with the standard break ...d5. But he played an inferior move activating his opponent's pieces and got the worst of it. After a struggle with mutual missed opportunities, White prevailed.

For a great example of two high-rated players duking it out in this line, see Nalbandian - Khismatullin, Warsaw 2005. White embarks on a speculative early pawn sacrifice. Black counters everything that White can throw at him and is on the verge of victory when White's wild attack confuses him enough to change the course of the game.

Other Flank Openings

There are two entries in this category this time. One is a reader's letter which raises a rather important issue that the books skirt by. I'm convinced that part of the reason for this is that the move order issues are too confusing! Basically the question has to do with what happens when White plays a Gruenfeld Defence with colours reversed. But there are several versions. Chris' starting position is simply this:

Black has the solid move 5...Nf6 with 6...e6, the active 5...Qb6, and the surprising 5...e5, taking on a position that is dicey enough when White plays it! I've given an analysis of those moves as well as two associated lines in which White plays d4 without playing cxd5 first, see Chris' Question about the Reversed Gruenfeld.

Finally, it's silly to call the variation in the game Kovacevic - Marzolo, Warsaw 2005 the 'Main Line' of 1.b3, but Black's setup is certainly popular! Every one from amateurs to normally dour professional players are having some fun with it:

Are you getting bored by this position yet? I'll try to incorporate as much theory as I can of what Tony has already laid out on this site.


Please remember to point out and send your games to me. They're pretty consistently more interesting than those that TWIC produces. And there's always the problem that the (rare) interesting move is played by a 9-year-old who drops a rook on the next move! Drop me a line at the Flank Openings Forum, or subscribers can write directly to

Till next month, John