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Just when I was complaining about the lack of English Openings in the upper echelon, they're appearing all over the place! The FIDE World Chess Cup (aka "World Cup" or "WCC") in Khanty Mansyisk, Russia and the Russian Championship Superfinal in Moscow saw a higher percentage of English Openings than would be indicated by their share of ECO codes; in this update alone we have the names Bareev, Gelfand, Morozevich, Aronian, Lautier, and Ponomariov on the White side.


Download PGN of December '05 Flank Openings games

My organisation will be different here in that I won't divide the games into categories such as Symmetrical or King's English. Rather, I'll proceed according to theme. The first such is the miniature or disaster game, in which one of these monstrously strong players comes down to earth and makes an elementary mistake:

In Bareev (2675) - Volkov (2614), Russian Championship Superfinal Moscow 2005, Black misses a simple trick in the English Opening and his opponent picks up the point. It warms the heart.

In this position Black charged forward by 11...Bh3? and was instantly punished.

Continuing along with our theme of grandmaster disasters, how about this position?

From Istratescu (2622) - Ftacnik (2612), WCC Khanty Mansyisk 2005. White plays the odd-looking 14.h4 and Black responds 14...Rae8, leading to immediate catastrophe.

Next, another two leading players and another calamity! Get this from Gelfand (2717) - Dreev (2694), WCC Khanty Mansyisk 2005:

White lost perspective and played 27.Qa1?? The punishment was immediate.

Moving on to more competitive matters, we turn to Aronian (2724) - Areshchenko (2653), WCC Khanty Mansyisk 2005. Both sides play excellently in this double-edged game until Aronian exploits a minor mistake:

It doesn't look that horrible, but after 32.Bg2! Kg7 33.Bd5, Aronian's technique brings home a victory.

Ponomariov's comeback continues. Here he uses the English Opening to good effect in Game 5, and after only 12 moves achieves this position versus Motylev (again in the WCC):

Black is remarkably tied down by the knight on f5 and soon ends up in a losing position. Unfortunately, White messes up at a key moment and can only draw.

In Gelfand (2717) - Pantsulaia (2578), WCC Khanty Mansyisk 2005, we find that Black must act resolutely in anti-Benoni systems.

Here he's moved too slowly and Gelfand pounces with 13.Na4! Rb8 14.Qb6!

In the same match Pantsulaia gained revenge, also using the English Opening.

A standard and seemingly innocent position, considered safe by theory. The ...Rc5 defence (threatening ...Rh5) has succeeded at the highest levels. But in Pantsulaia (2578) -Gelfand (2717), WCC Khanty Mansyisk 2005, White played 15.Nd5! and a good reply was not to be found.

In the last round of the Russian Championship Superfinal, Morozevich (who forfeited a point by oversleeping!) needed a win to secure a respectable finish. What opening to select? The English, of course! The following position was reached in Morozevich (2707) - Motylev (2632):

Black has just played 13...Bf8?! and Morozevich found a clever way to exploit the queenside weaknesses.

Another high-level game with the English Opening from a couple of months ago was Ivanchuk (2748) - Illescas Cordoba (2607), Barcelona 2005. The game tested an important system to some extent popularized by Kramnik's use of it.

We've seen this position before. The main line is 10...e6 11.Nxc4 Ba6. In this game Black tried 10...Ba6!? but was still left with some disadvantage.

Naturally we have a game by our Webmaster. Kosten - Noordhoek, Rohde Open Sautron 2005 tests a very solid structure for Black.

White's queenside attack seems to be at a standstill. White finds the star move 16.Bb4! and poses problems for his opponent.

Finally, I've tossed in three unannotated English Openings from the World Cup; after all, I have older games to catch up with next month and we've barely begun with the Russian Championship. The first is the hard-fought Jobava - Rublevsky, a Reversed Sicilian with some tension-filled positions . There follows Lautier - van Wely from the Places 13-16 playoff round, and then Lautier - van Wely again, but from two games later! These are not terribly important theoretically but have interesting and characteristic middlegames. The two Lautier-van Wely games would be difficult to annotate in any case, because they are 92 and 101 moves long!


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