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Welcome to the belated December update. I am going to be working on the Flank Openings part of the site for the next few months, and hope to keep you entertained and informed. Most subscribers will know me from my previous work in the Anti-Sicilian and (latterly) 1.e4 ... sections, but I plan to do something a little different here, mainly because the subject matter tends to be less 'hot' theoretically, so understanding structures, themes and plans takes on added importance.

To make some sense of my personal motivation, I was a 1.e4 player until I became an IM, played 1.e4, 1.d4, 1.c4 and 1.Nf3 in the process of becoming a Grandmaster, during which time I gained a lot of strategic breadth, at the cost of some theoretical depth. Then I switched back to mostly 1.e4 until I was about 2550 and recovered some depth but after a while I found that after I pushed 1.e4 and waited for a reply, I realised I wasn't looking forward to anything, so I switched to 1.d4 and deepened my repertoire there, which has served me rather well and helped to bring me above 2600 (alas, only in live ratings so far). However, times change, and in recent games I have felt a certain fatigue with 1.d4 because I am no longer sure what I hoping for, and more generally I feel it is time to absorb some new ideas. The updates that follow will therefore be mainly about me sharing my attempts to make sense of lines as I learn them. I hope that in the process the subscribers will also learn some new ideas but also pick up something about how a Grandmaster's openings impressions are formed. This process often involves revisiting earlier games and making sense of them in light of more recent games, but sometimes it means looking at theoretical lines with fresh ideas and posing questions about whether moves that seem 'best' or 'forced' really are.

So we will examine new ideas as they arise, and I am still keen to cover lines that are of interest to subscribers, but my main aim is to show that is possible to develop your opening repertoire, at least in these relatively tranquil waters, without getting completely lost in a theoretical quagmire. This month I offer six games, including impressions on a few of my own recent games, including two from weekend congresses that would not otherwise be readily known about, a couple from the recent Wijk aan Zee and one impressive effort from our site manager in the Austrian league. (Apologies for Jan 2009 games in a Dec 08 update, but things will settle down soon...)

Download PGN of December '08 Flank Openings games

Four Knights with 4.a3

Rowson - Ansell sees my first attempt to play 1.c4 in a long time, and some thoughts on the 4.a3 line more generally:

Hanreck - Rowson involves a line that may not have a name, but is worth considering for Black for players who have some mover order problems after 2.g3.

Symmetrical English

McNab - Rowson shows why it is not so easy to get good asymmetrical play against the Symmetrical! Certainly, my recommendation (in Chess for Zebras) of 6...Qd7!? intending ...Bxc3 is probably too ambitious:

Meanwhile, Bosboom - Harika sees 1.c4 c5 2 a3!?:

which is a reminder of how much fun it can be to start the creative process as early as move two, but also an idea to be taken seriously, especially if you are not averse to being material down for intangible compensation.


Devereux - Rowson is theoretically quite important, because to my mind it, along with the supporting games, suggests that after 1.Nf3 d5 2 c4 d4 the logical 3.e3 is probably not White's best move:

Bosboom - Giri This involves a line that is relatively unfamiliar to me, but I included it because this early Nh4 idea strikes me as quite important, and fairly troublesome for Black.

Réti/Reversed Benoni

In Kosten - Luther Tony follows his own theoretical advice in Dangerous Weapons: Flank Openings, and shows why his particular article in that book was well worthy of the book's title.

I hope you enjoy. I'll be back soon with the January update. Jonathan


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