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With this being the last update of 2007, I figured it would be nice to round the year of with a bang. Therefore I decided to look at all the games from the recently played World Blitz Championship, which took place in Moscow at the end of November. With the tournament taking place right before the World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk, the Russian Championship and, for that matter, the Wijk aan Zee tournament in January as well, several of the players decided to play off-beat openings in order not to reveal their new ideas. Therefore there were an unusually high volume of 1 d4 Anti-Indian set-ups and Flank Openings, the latter of which being the ones of interest for our purposes.
I wanted to bring all 33 games into one update, but the volume was a little over the top, so I settled for about half, the remainder of which will follow in next month's update, along with some other interesting games.
Happy New Year!

First, a small New Year competition: subscribers should submit their favorite three Flank/English Games of 2007 (whether covered on or not). The best five suggestions, judged on quality or originality or any other criteria we may deem valid, will each receive a copy of my new book Strategic Opening Repertoire - co-written with John Donaldson.

Please send your entries to before the end of February.

Download PGN of December '07 Flank Openings games

Nimzowitch-Larsen Attack

In the first game of this month's update, we will see the returning American superhero play a very unusual Modern-like set-up, though with the colours reversed in Kamsky - Ponomariov. Black takes it upon himself to play to punish White's approach with an aggressive set-up:

though apparently lacking belief in the idea himself and he soon ends up in a slightly worse position. Aside from the oddball opening play, Kamsky's play is very convincing.

In Mamedyarov - Karpov, White took the game out of the books with his 3rd move, taking it to the weird zone with his 4th move:

, and proceeded to play one crazy game, where both sides made numerous mistakes and had numerous chances to win the game, before Karpov finally took the full point.

Nimzowitsch would initially have been happy with White's opening play in Mamedyarov - Bacrot as it replays White's set-up from some of the games in My System:

White stayed on course for a long time, only to throw everything away around move 30. However, Black's 4th move doesn't seem logical, throwing a move away on something White was planning to do voluntarily later anyway.

The Nimzo-Larsen Attack is full of highly original positions, but although Mamedyarov - Kramnik started out by dodging all the usual theory with 1 b3 e5 2 Bb2 Nc6 3 e3 d6 4 Nf3 g6 5 d4:

it soon became something similar to a King's Indian, where the chances were approximately even.

Mamedyarov - Kamsky started out as a Nimzo-Larsen, but soon became a Hedgehog type of position until here:

when White felt like trying something original with 9 Rg1?!, unfortunately, though, Black soon gained the upper hand and should have won the game.

Bird's Opening

The game in this category is actually a hybrid between the Nimzo-Larsen Attack and Bird's Opening, which arises after 1 b3 e5 2 Bb2 d6 3 e3 g6 4 f4!? Bg7 5 Nf3:

, and now rather than the 'normal' 5...Nc6 (which I have examined at some length in the notes), the game Bacrot - Adams saw Black try 5...Nd7!?, which is more solid, and after 6 Bc4 Nh6 7 0-0 0-0 8 fxe5, Adams played the first new move of the game with 8...Nxe5, which appears to equalize, though it is a matter of taste which you prefer to play.

Réti Opening

This opening saw a lot of action, primarily on account of Morozevich who frequently wheels out this opening at shorter time limits, and often to great effect. Earlier in 2007 we saw him use it several times in Monaco.

In three of his games against ...Bg4 set-ups, he employed a plan involving h2-h3, g3-g4 and then either Nf3-h4xg6 or Nf3-e5xg6: 1 Nf3 d5 2 g3 Bg4 3 Bg2 c6 4 d3 Nd7 (4...e6 was played by Bacrot, but it transposes to the same position) 5 h3 Bh5 6 g4 Bg6 7 Nh4 e6 8 Nxg6 hxg6 9 e3 Bd6 10 Qe2:

The first of these games we will take a look at is Morozevich - Rublevsky, where Black played 10...Ne7 which equalized. Morozevich - Bacrot saw Black try the more aggressive 10...f5, though this doesn't look as good as Rublevsky's continuation.

Although Black's play in Morozevich - Kramnik seemed almost effortless, White still had a couple of decent options to consider before he fell into a worse position from which Kramnik never released him. Worth noting is Black's 7th move alternative, 7...e5!?, which has scored very well for Black and it is more aggressive than the solid set-up with 7...e6 chosen by Kramnik in our main game.

In Morozevich - Gelfand, White also tried for the set-up that had brought him success against Rublevsky and Bacrot, but after 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 g3 d5 3 Bg2 c6 4 d3 Bg4 5 Nbd2 Nbd7 6 h3, Gelfand opted for 6...Bxf3!?, although Morozevich was the first to try something new as he after 7 Nxf3 e5 8 0-0 Be7, went for 9 Nh4.

In the Lasker Variation, there were also some developments. In Morozevich - Karpov, Black tested a new 9th move, 9...Na6!?, but the follow-up was embarrassingly pathetic.

Morozevich also got the opportunity to play against the Réti in Kasimdzhanov - Morozevich but White didn't do much and played a rather harmless line: 1 Nf3 d5 2 g3 Nf6 3 Bg2 c6 4 0-0 Bg4 5 d3 Nbd7 6 Nbd2 e6 7 Qe1 Be7 8 e4 0-0 9 h3 Bh5:

, and after 10 e5 Morozevich quickly obtained the better chances.

In this month's survey, it seems to me that the combatants in Bacrot - Mamedyarov were the ones to first aim for obscure lines, so it is hardly surprising that in their own game something odd happened. White chose 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 g3 g6 3 b4!? Bg7 4 Bb2 d6 5 Bg2:

here Black played the somewhat rare 5...c5!?, and soon equalized, though he could have opted for more on the 10th move.

Recently there has been some discussion in the Forum regarding 1 Nf3 d5 2 c4 d4, which is also the topic of the game Korotylev - Kramnik. White countered with 3 b4:

which may well be the strongest move, though by no means the only one. The game had ended up outside mainstream opening theory within another three moves: 3...f6!? (probably best) 4 e3 dxe3 (4...e5!? Is recommended in Palliser's Beating Unusual Chess Openings) 5 fxe3 e5 6 c5!, and White already has the better chances. This is another testimony to how effectively White can obtain an advantage in the Reti against a strong player; most players, even really strong ones, don't have a considered reply against the Reti and play what they think they remember or simply make it up as they go along, often resulting in a pleasant position for White.

King's English

One of the more popular "new" lines in the English 1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 Bb4 was employed in Savchenko - Shirov. White tried 3 Nf3, which has yet to be discussed here at, and the continuation was sharp and fun and deserves further tests: 3...Bxc3 4 bxc3 d6 5 d4 Qe7 6 c5!?:

But ultimately Black got a better game after the opening, and his creative play should have been better rewarded.

The Reversed Dragon is a popular line, which could be discussed a lot more frequently than is the case. In Savchenko - Rublevsky, the players wandered down a line that is not played particularly often: 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e5 3 Nf3 Nc6 4 g3 d5 5 cxd5 Nxd5 6 Bg2 Nb6 7 0-0 Be7 8 d3 0-0 9 Be3 Be6 10 a3 f5 11 Rc1 Kh8:

and here White played the obvious, but new 12 b4!?, apparently not fearing a piece of analysis by Romanishin, claiming an edge for Black, because, as my notes indicate, White has a simple improvement completely overturning Romanishin's evaluation.

A few months ago, we discussed the interesting 4...Nd4!? in the King's English Four Knights. In this tournament we had another example, when the young Norwegian Carlsen played it. However, in Savchenko - Carlsen White played a very peculiar 8th move in this position:

8 Qb5. It looks nothing short of bizarre, but the idea must be to clear the path for the b2-b4 advance, otherwise it just looks like a time-consuming exercise with no particular purpose in mind.

Bye, Carsten


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