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In this update I'll catch up on a couple of games from July and then examine this month's most instructive flank openings. In spite of my investigative efforts, most of the games worthy of publication came from the English Opening. I made a desperate search for a good game with 1.Nc3, an opening that I have played myself, but couldn't dig up a quality example of interest. Thus we have only a Polish/Sokolsky's Opening (1.b4) and a From's Gambit (via a reader question) to represent the unusual.
The popular Symmetrical English returns as the main focus. Magnus Carlson's convincing defeat at the hands of Andrei Volokitin in Biel 2006 has the most theoretical importance.

Download PGN of August '06 Flank Openings games

King's English (1...e5)

When you're on the White side of the English Opening, one of the scariest things to face is a massive pawn advance on the kingside, even if you know that it's premature or shouldn't be correct. It's important to study and think about these positions. Lyanguzov - Klimov, Pardubice 2006 provides a cautionary tale, here is the position after 8...g5:

In the game Ostenstad - Agdestein, Norwegian Ch 2006 we look at the another early push of the g-pawn by Black (also on move 8!), this time in the Dragon Variation. This is an established idea, although still controversial:

Once again this position arises after 8...g5. In the notes I take a look at trying to do the same thing with White (in a real Dragon), where the move is virtually untried. The whole thing is analysis, but you can see that the extra tempo can be useless, or even an impediment, as in many Reversed openings. This is a particularly surprising case.

Black plays a more conventional Reversed Dragon versus our ChessPublishing upholder of 1.c4, Tony Kosten. In Kosten - Jean, Marseille 2006, the opening goes back and forth a bit, but when White takes over the key squares we see why Black needs to play decisively in the Reversed Dragon before he gets tied up, after 14.Qc2:

White's pieces are more harmoniously placed. A couple of inaccuracies can spell a quick downfall for Black, although naturally White must play precisely as well.

Symmetrical English with 1...c5

Most of our games come in the Symmetrical English, which is still the defence of choice at the higher levels.

Young Magnus Carlsen continues to amaze and has achieved great results recently, seemingly on his way to breaking through the 2700 barrier. But there are other good young players such as Andrei Volokitin ('only' 4 years Carlsen's senior!) who can play with anyone. The opening in M Carlsen-Volokitin, Biel 2006 is one of the oldest variations of the Symmetrical English and arguably its very main line:

Black tries something new (à la Carlsen!), and suddenly White's broad centre is of little use. It's White's turn to find a move order that gives him positive chances.

The opening of Pelletier - Bruzon, Biel 2006 is of a type long considered satisfactory for Black, with his bishop pair compensating for his compromised pawn structure:

Indeed, this position (after 9.Nb3) is equal, but it's unbalanced enough for either side to play for an advantage. White manages to make something out of Black's weaknesses, and the play goes chaotic in time pressure.

Gelfand - Navara, Prague 2006 sees White gain the two bishops in a position in which he seems to have conceded very little to get them.

Here, after 9...b6, White played 10.Nd5!? and Black declined to accept the offer, conceding the bishop pair. The resulting position wasn't clear, and after an inaccuracy or two by White, Black ended up with development and activity, forcing White to sacrifice a pawn. He never got it back.

Bu Xiangzhi plays the English Opening with considerable success, probably looking for original positions in which he can demonstrate his strength (2664 for this game, with almost the same rating for Jakovenko). In Bu Xiangzhi-Jakovenko, Ergun 2006 White doesn't get anything out of the opening, but finds an original way to create chances. He conducts a decisive attack but lets his opponent slip away at the end.

Stepping back a few months, I forgot to show the game F Berkes-Stohl, Turin 2006.

In this standard Hedgehog position, after 9...a6, we again get to see White's knight sortie 10.Ng5, intending to increase the pressure on d6. After 10...Bxg2 11.Kxg2 0-0 12.Nce4, Black reverts to 12...d5, a move that was initially popular before 12...Ra7!? was discovered. White handles the position in an instructive manner, although Black had his chances.

Other Flank Openings

Ardaman - Anka, Chicago 2006 features 1.b4 c6!?, one of Black's oldest anti-Polish/Sokolsky ideas. As usual, Black ends up ahead in development, without White even having gained a central majority (compare 1.b4 e5 2.Bb2 Bxb4 3.Bxe5):

After 7.h3 Bxf3 8.Qf3, Black took over the centre by 8...e5 and had an easy game.

A question from reader Michael Ridge concerns From's Gambit. He asks about (suggests?) the theoretical novelty 1.f4 e5 2.fxe5 d6 3.exd6 Bxd6 4.Nf3 Bg4!?:

As he points out this isn't covered in the literature, not even in Tim Taylor's recent book. In Game 10 I present analysis to explore the possibilities. In some important ways this seems better than other fourth moves, and is certainly worth trying!


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