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This month's selection includes mostly small improvements over theory rather than blockbuster refutations. A few of them, however, are important enough to send players looking elsewhere for ways to play.

This month we received a number of very good questions and contributions for the E-mailbag.

Download PGN of January '05 Flank Openings games


English Opening


1...Nf6 & others

We have only one game in this section. Just when the theory of the Mikenas Variation (1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 e6 3.e4) was beginning to go in a single direction (however unclear - see the previous column), we realise that some of the old lines are still unresolved.

In Korchnoi - P Nielsen, Drammen 2005 we look at the possibilities after 1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 e6 3.e4 d5 4.cxd5 exd5 5.e5 Ne4, concentrating upon 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Bb5:

White has more chances for advantage than is generally acknowledged. This is an under-explored line.


After 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 d6 3.Nf3 f5 4.d4 e4 5.Ng5 (arising in this game via 1.d4 d6 2.c4 e5 3.Nf3 e4 4.Ng5 f5 5.Nc3), White has never seriously challenged the validity of 5...c6:

In Skembris - Lazic, Verona 2005 Black chooses this flexible 5th move and equalises easily with good counterchances. An excellent weapon for the second player.

In Korchnoi - Stefanova, Norway 2005 the old man tackles the reversed Dragon one more time: 1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 e5 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.g3 d5 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.Bg2 Nb6 7.Rb1!?

If nothing else this sidesteps 7.0-0 Be7 8.Rb1 g5!? White tries to get the queenside pawns rolling as early as possible, but this has an artificial feel and the results haven't been particularly good. In spite of a poor start Korchnoi eventually prevails.

I have already examined 1.c4 e5 2.g3 c6 3.d4 Bb4+ 4.Bd2 Bxd2+ 5.Qxd2 d6 6.Nc3 Nf6 7.Bg2 0-0 8.e3. In Gonzalez Zamora- Estrada Nieto, Torre Mem Yucatan 2004 White tries the alternative 8.e4 and succeeds nicely.

I don't think that this achieves much when viewed objectively, but check out the notes.


An important line that is virtually forced for Black if he wants to avoid other troubles is: 1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nc6 4.g3 d5 5.d4 e6 6.cxd5 Nxd5 7.Bg2 cxd4 8 Nxd4 Nxc3 9.bxc3 Nxd4 10.Qxd4 Qxd4 11.cxd4 Bb4+ 12.Bd2 Bxd2+ 13.Kxd2 Ke7 14.Rhc1 Rd8:

This position has generally been considered drawish after some temporary inconvenience for Black. In Van Wely - J Polgar, Wijk aan Zee 2005, Van Wely plays a move that I believe causes more serious problems.

Theory travels rapidly. In the November column I discussed the game P Nielsen - Lautier, Spain 2004, in which White uncorked a novel pawn sacrifice in a well-known variation. In Roktim - Kunte, Visakhaptnam 2004 the idea was repeated and the players followed the stem game into the middlegame.

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.g3 c5 4.c4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Qb6 6.Bg2 Nc6 7.Nb3 Ne5 8.c5 Bxc5 9.Nxc5 Qxc5 10.0-0 0-0:

White hopes that his bishop pair and central pressure will compensate for pawn. In both games the resulting positions can only be described as 'unclear'.

A rather important if somewhat technical Symmetrical English appears in the game Thiede - Cox, EUCup 19th Rethymnon 2003. This was brought to our attention by Franck Steenbekkers, who points out that the game challenges White's best opportunity in one of the oldest "Pure Symmetrical" variations: 1.g3 c5 2.c4 Nc6 3.Bg2 g6 4.Nc3 Bg7 (or 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 10.Nf3 e5. In his Dynamic English book, Tony Kosten made a strong case for the underrated move 11.d4:

Steenbekkers follows the game and discusses Black's improvement. He believes that Black equalises in the game and suggests earlier options.

Morozevich - Van Wely, Wijk aan Zee 2005 illustrates how harmless White's play tends to be in the d3/e4 lines versus a Hedgehog setup. The game went 1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 c5 3.g3 e6 4.Nf3 b6 5.e4 Bb7 6.d3 Nc6 7.Bg2 d6 8.0-0 a6 9.d4 cxd4 10.Nxd4 Rc8:

By the time White had played d4, Black has already organized an ideal piece placement.

Other Flank Openings

The attempt to enter a Slav or Caro-Kann versus 1.c4 by 1...c6 leaves White one independent possibility that should be considered by all English Opening players. In Serper - Hahn, US Championship San Diego 2004, White succeeds with a system to which no certain antidote has been found:

1.c4 c6 2.e4 d5 3.cxd5 cxd5 4.exd5 Nf6 5.Qa4+ Bd7 6.Qb3:

This position has scored overwhelmingly for White. I try to suggest some ideas to salvage Black's play.

Minasian - Zvjaginsev, Petrosian Mem Internet ICC 2004 shows just how difficult it is for White to progress in a Reti/Benoni Reversed situation when Black has played ...e5 and ...d5-d4, and then played ...Nc6 without ...c5. The play went 1.g3 e5 2.Bg2 d5 3.d3 g6 4.c4 d4 5.Nf3 Bg7 6.0-0 Nc6:

Zvjaginsev tried to expand on the queenside via the move b4. It may be that White has to play a very early e3 in these lines in order to try for the advantage.


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