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Most of the openings we look at have a lengthy history behind them. Sometimes it's important to remember that in the long run the latest discoveries aren't necessarily as important as the older lines from which they arose. That is, the very importance of a new move derives from the fact that the theory of the supporting lines leading up to it is reliable. So if an older variation that was supposed to gain an advantage is found wanting, it may be irrelevant to pursue your new move unless that variation can be patched up.

Several of the games featured in this month's columns contain theoretical surveys of the opening with a number of older examples. The notes can be rather dense but I hope that they give you a better overview and a stronger context than individual games can.

This month we again have an interesting contribution for the E-mailbag.

Download PGN of February '05 Flank Openings games



Let me begin with a fun example from a world not normally entered into by the elites. When's the last time you travelled through From's Gambit territory? GM Kotronias is unafraid to walk that terrain, even taking on a variation as Black that is of marginal soundness. Remember that anyone who plays 1.f4 and plays From's Gambit (as opposed to switching to a King's Gambit by 1.f4 e5 2.e4) is going to know a lot about the theory.

In Rendle - Kotronias, Gibraltar Masters 2005, we get a wild struggle resulting from the theoretical line 1.f4 e5 2.fxe5 d6 3.exd6 Bxd6 4.Nf3 g5 5.g3 g4 6.Nh4 Ne7 7.d4 Nbc6 8.c3 Ng6 9.Nxg6 hxg6 10.Qd3 Bf5 11.e4 Qe7 12.Bg2 0-0-0:

English Opening


1...Nf6 & others

I want to keep looking at the Mikenas System 1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 e6 3.e4, not only because it has become popular again but because once 2.Nc3 is played 3.e4 is the only good way that an English Opening player can avoid the Nimzo Indian (3.d4 Bb4) or the Queen's Gambit (3.d4 d5 or 3.Nf3 d5). You can play 2.Nf3 or 2.g3 and head for some kind of Reti but by doing so you eliminate a lot of options.

In Ghaem Maghami-Azarov, Aeroflot Open Moscow 2005, two high-rated players test out an older line in the Mikenas. I will try to give a pretty deep survey of the theory because it may become essential to know it if 7.Nf3 e5 falls by the wayside and 7.d4 becomes the move again (this may already have happened). The key line goes 1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 e6 3.e4 d5 4.e5 d4 5.exf6 dxc3 6.bxc3 Qxf6 7.d4 c5 8.Nf3 cxd4 9.Bg5 Qf5:

I've managed to sneak in one of my own efforts, Watson - Millar, Buena Park 1995, for the edification of the readership (or for my own egotistical reasons?). Actually, it is quite relevant for the assessment of Black's most solid line with 1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 e6 3.e4 d5 4.e5 d4 5.exf6 dxc3 6.bxc3 Qxf6 7.Nf3 c5 8.d4:

In the notes, a very recent game between two lower-rated players illustrates some other themes.


Nikolaev - Cyborowski, Krakow 2004 features the old but ever-popular line with White playing d3 versus a King's Indian. It is still of great interest. Here Black's system includes the move ...Nc6. If White is going to give up his bishop pair by Bg5 and Bxf6 he needs to establish a positional bind.

That doesn't happen in this game.

The game Kosikov - Solomaha, Kiev UKR 2005 proceeded 1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.g3 Bg7 4.Bg2 0-0 5.0-0 d6 6.Nc3 e5 7.d3 Nbd7:

Here we see the same line without ...Nc6. Normally Black plays some combination of ...c6, Re8, and ...h6 here. This game shows an independent plan that has enjoyed some success for Black but probably favours White with perfect play.

The 4.e3 variation of the Four Knights main line is still a regular visitor to tournament play even though its flame has dimmed at the top levels. But there are still issues to resolve. In Stuart - Lin, Aukland 2005 a standard position was reached after 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.e3 Bb4 5.Qc2 Bxc3 6.Qxc3 Qe7 7.a3 d5 8.d4 exd4 9.Nxd4 Nxd4 10.Qxd4:

Logical play leads to equality when things take a tragic turn for Black.

4.g3 Bb4 always tops the charts in the Four Knights English. In Anastasian - Sadvakasov, Aeroflot Open Moscow 2005 we see how easily Black's activity can express itself when White opens the position. As so often the early opening of lines favours Black's two knights: 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.g3 Bb4 5.Bg2 0-0 6.0-0 e4 7.Ne1 Re8 8.Nc2 Bxc3 9.dxc3 h6:

A wonderful positional and then tactical game results.

Elwert - Tieman, 18th WChCorr 2004 tests a highly theoretical line. This takes place in a correspondence game between two world-class players, so it's worth taking note of! 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.g3 Bb4 5.Bg2 0-0 6.0-0 e4 7.Ng5 Bxc3 8.bxc3 Re8 9.f3 e3 10.d3 d5:


John Donaldson brought to my attention a particular position from the old Main Line of the Symmetrical Variation. It can only be arrived at when White delays 0-0, in this case by 1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.d4 cxd4 7.Nxd4 Nxd4 8.Qxd4 0-0 9.c5:

Here's the starting point of the variation, used successfully by Sergio Giardelli of Argentina and a few others. We'll look at some of the themes and important games in Giardelli - Lipiniks, Asu 2003.


Please feel free to share any of your thoughts with me, whatever they are, suggestions, criticisms, etc. Drop me a line at the Flank Openings Forum, or subscribers can write directly to

Till next month, John