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This month is a mixed bag, some recent top games, some games from Sweden but not all of them very new, and a couple of games I found interesting for other reasons. I hope you will enjoy the selection. I will return shortly with the September update.

Download PGN of August '08 Flank Openings games

Bird's Opening

We haven't spent too much time and space on the Bird, mainly because not too many players use it on a regular basis, but thankfully the Swedish Grandmaster Lars Karlsson, who also has a liking for a number of other Flank Openings as White, has taken upon himself the promotion of the opening. Not all of his efforts are successful, but most of the games are quite entertaining.

In the first game, Karlsson - Tairi, we encounter an interesting version of the From Gambit: 1 f4 e5 2 fxe5 Nc6!?, which we have looked at briefly a while back. The problem with the theory on this line is that it is largely based on games by fairly weak players and therefore numerous improvements can be found for both sides. Our main game continued with 3 Nf3 g5 4 d4 g4 5 Ng5, and now 5...d5 has been covered in a previous update. But Black instead opted for the more thematic 5...d6!?:

after which the game took a sharp and very entertaining turn after 6 exd6 Bxd6 7 Nc3 Nxd4. The game is full of mistakes from both sides, but the entertainment value cannot be denied.

The same can be said about Karlsson - Hector, where the combatants very quickly leave mainstream opening theory with 1 f4 d5 2 g3 Nc6 3 Nf3 Bg4 4 Bg2 Bxf3 5 Bxf3 e5:

and here White sharpened the battle further with 6 c4!.


In previous updates we have discussed several lines where Black plays an early ...dxc4 against the Reti and tries to hang on to the pawn with ...Qd5. This idea is also employed in Pantsulaia - Meier, where Black plays a line which isn't mentioned in the ECO, but seems very problematic for White, 1 c4 e6 2 g3 d5 3 Bg2 Nf6 4 Nf3 dxc4 5 0-0 a6. Here White opts for 6 a4, which in my opinion is already dubious on account of the plan employed by Black in this game: 6...Nc6! 7 Qc2 Na5! 8 Na3 Qd5!:

9 Rd1 Bd7!, and White is already in trouble as evidenced by this and a couple of earlier games. It is rare to see a 2600+ rated player get routed with White in this fashion.

Anglo-Indian: Anti-Nimzo

While theoretically solid for Black, the Anti-Nimzo main lines of the Anglo-Indian: 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nf3 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 seem problematic for Black, which has also been confirmed by a nice overall percentage score for White. However, since last year's Kramnik-Ivanchuk encounter in Monaco, Black has explored the lines with ...d7-d6 followed by ...e6-e5 with promising results. In our main game, Bogner - Wirig, we see Black employ a similar plan to that of Ivanchuk's: 4...d6 5.a3 Bxc3 6.Qxc3 e5 7.b4 0-0 8.Bb2 Re8 9 d3 a5 10 g3 axb4 11 axb4 Rxa1+ 12 Bxa1 b5!?

Black obtains a pleasant position without any further complications though the players actually conspired to make the game unnecessarily nerve-wrecking for both sides.

King's English

An interesting, but not a particularly frequently played line in the King's English is 1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 f5, which isn't as promising as 2 g3 f5. In Gonzales - Sadorra, after 3 d4 e4 White opted for 4 f3:

This is probably less accurate than 4 Nh3, as discussed in an earlier update on this page, but nevertheless the resulting battle in this game proved quite interesting.

Symmetrical English

In several of this summer's top tournaments there was an apparent lack of games with Flank Openings. One of the exceptions was Jakovenko - Gashimov, which saw the players discuss a line in the Hedgehog: 1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.Nc3 e6 4.g3 b6 5.Bg2 Bb7 6.0-0 Be7 7.d4 cxd4 8.Qxd4 d6 9.Rd1 a6 10.Bg5 Nbd7 11.Qd2 0-0 12.Bf4 Ne8 13.Rac1 Rc8 14.b3 Nc5 15.Ng5 Bxg2 16.Kxg2, and now instead of the normal 16...h6, which we have looked at in an earlier update, Black opted for 16...Qc7!?:

arguing that White will likely have to retreat his knight from g5 anyway, so why force him to do it at the expense of a tempo. Based on my analysis of the game, Black appears to be doing okay, but there are some alternatives that need to be explored further.

In my book on the Symmetrical English, I took issue with the evaluations of several of the Anti-Benoni Lines where White allows Black to take on c4. In the game Agrest - Carlsson from the Swedish Championship, the players followed a blitz game between Kasparov and Kramnik from 2001 for a while: 1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.Nc3 e6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 a6 6.g3 Qc7 7.Bg2 Qxc4 8 0-0 Nc6 9 Nb3 d5 (In the notes, I also review Black's 9th move alternatives as well) 10 Bf4 Qb4:

and here Agrest varied with 11 a3 (instead of Kasparov's 11 Re1). While Black was definitely under severe pressure, Carlsson defended very accurately for a while, and could in fact have claimed an advantage very late in the game. This line certainly needs to be explored further, but this game proves that Black can get away with the pawn grab, if he is ready to go on the defensive for a while.

In the last game of this update, we have an idea which blew me away when I first saw it, and it still intrigues me. This summer I was back in Denmark, where a stack of Swedish chess magazines were waiting for me. In their high quality Tidskrift för Schack or as it is also known TfS, I found the following game, Karlsson - Ernst. The Pure Symmetrical Variation: 1 c4 c5 2 Nc3 Nc6 3 g3 g6 4 Bg2 Bg7 5 a3 a6 6 Rb1 Rb8 7 b4 cxb4 8 axb4 b5 9 cxb5 axb5 can be a bit of a bore, but White's idea in this game unbalances the game very quickly: 10 Bxc6 dxc6 11 Bb2:

Ne4-c5 is next.

See you next month, Carsten


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