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I've been inspired by Tony's accurate observation that I'm not dealing much with the irregular openings (and yes, I have even played the Dunst myself!). So I thought I'd start with some games with Bird's Opening, subject of a recent book by Tim Taylor. The section on the From's Gambit is sadly convincing for White, by the way. Taylor practiced what he preached in recent tournaments, with below-average results, but as most authors will tell you, it's very hard to play something that you've just written about.

Then, lacking the usual game played by Tony, I was forced to turn to some games by other strong players employing the English Opening. I see no particular pattern forming in terms of fads or favourites, but there has been plenty of action.


Download PGN of June '06 Flank Openings games

Bird's Opening

In Taylor - Golod, Las Vegas 2006, Black doesn't mind taking on doubled pawns to get ...e5 in. White's pieces are apparently too passively placed to meet this idea:

Considering the course of the game, maybe White has to activate his pieces by means of a pawn sacrifice. Otherwise the opening of the e-file and White's weakness on e3 are too serious.

Things go better for White in Taylor - Fontaine, Las Vegas 2006, with White's position having a sort of Hedgehog property: anything too ambitious by Black can rebound against him. But that's about all to be said for White because as far as I can see he can't undertake much. Even though Black cooperates to some extent here, the whole setup seems excessively defensive.

Fontaine tried 11...d4 here, when maybe he should just hang around and prepare a bit longer.

Danielsen - Ismagambetov, Turin 2006 had an even better idea (in my opinion): play the Leningrad Dutch Reversed. It's more active! Having looked at this before, I don't think that White's extra tempo is worth much (the Leningrad is mostly reactive); nevertheless, his position has to be fine, and the imbalance keeps things interesting:

After lengthy manoeuvring, White finally plays 19.e5 here, to good effect.

Symmetrical English (1...c5)

A very innocent-looking Symmetrical English goes downhill fast when Black plays slowly and forgets to develop. Lautier - Zhang Zhong, Turin 2006 gets to this position:

The simple 11.c5! Qc7 12.cxd6 Qxd6 gets Black stuck in a pin that forces crucial concessions.

We return to a main-line Hedgehog in Kengis - Thesing, Bundesliga 2006. White plays a position that we've seen many times before in a straightforward way and gains an advantage. This makes me wonder what else Black can do and I therefore take a closer look at move orders.

King's English (1...e5)

After 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 Nc6, White tries the old Nimzowitsch move 4.e4!? in Bu Xiangzhi-Bacrot, Turin 2006. White fails to make any progress against the simple plan of ...Bg4/...Bxf3, securing the weak d4-square for Black's pieces:

White's stereotyped attack with g4-g5 will be hard to achieve, and just in case White manages to create a little chaos on that side of the board, Black runs away by ...Kf7-e7.

Nogueiras - Harikrishna, Turin 2006 witnessed a temporary pawn sacrifice on c7:

With all of Black's development and White's shaky pawn this may well be okay, but I'd like to see White play a3 and d3 right away.

In the following position from Istratescu - Berkes, Hungary 2006, two bishops and space should win if Black doesn't act quickly:

To that end he should have tried 16...d5. Instead, 16...Rh8 17.b5 Nd4 18.f4!? was played when Black's position soon fell apart.

In Ivanchuk - Aronian, Turin 2006, Black tries to establish a traditional pawn chain centre, but White cuts him off:

White's next is 13 d5!?, when the game turns around the weakness and strength of the pawn on e4.

English with 1...Nf6 and 1...e6

The 4.Qa4+ GrÜnfeld continues to do well, although in the hands of Lev Psakhis it looks like a 19th-century opening. Amazingly, in Psakhis - Lujan, San Marino 2006, Psakhis repeats his stunt from two months ago, in which we saw him give up his queen for three pieces and a pawn. This time it's for three pieces and two pawns, against an opponent with no weaknesses! A tribute to his tenacity (and the two bishops).

Black to move. Can this be real?

Berkes - Balogh, Hungary 2006 features a mini-combination that nets a clear advantage and, shortly thereafter, a win:

White played 12.exd4! and everything is under control.

Finally, the 4-move sequence 1.c4 e6 2.Nc3 Bb4 3.Qb3 c5!? 4.a3 Ba5?! has occurred so many times that I thought I'd give it a diagram:

It's an old trick that Black fell for again in M Gurevich-Kurajica, Turin 2006, played between a 2643 and a 2548! White plays 5.Ne4 with threats of Nxc5 and Qg3. Black should try to recover his composure and play 5...Qc7, taking on the worse game but not losing material, as in Georgiev, K - Adla, D from last year. Instead Kurajica gave up the c-pawn with 5...Nf6 and got nothing real for it.


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