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In this column I feature a few systems that should appeal to the dynamically-inclined English Opening/Reti player. It's certainly more fun to blast away than settle for Rb1, a3, and b4 every time you sit down, or for that matter g3, Bg2, e4, Nge2 and 0-0. Not that those lines don't have their own charms, but mixing in some fireworks is healthy for all of us. My analysis tends to be a little dense in these lines, which are truly unresolved.

We'll also look at the usual positional variations. In few of these lines has the theory truly settled down, so there's plenty to think about.

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

Download PGN of March '05 Flank Openings games


English Opening


English Symmetrical 1...c5

Let's start with the moves 1.c4 c5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 and now the hyperactive 5.e4!?:

This dynamic choice, played by Paco Vallejo and several other strong players, addresses an important move-order problem. Most English Opening players are not thrilled with the variation 5.g3 Nc6 6.Bg2 g6 (6...Nc7 is the messy Rubinstein Variation) 7.0-0 Bg7. And the natural 5.d4 allows if nothing else 5...Nxc3 6.bxc3 g6 leading to a Grünfeld or Grünfeld-like position. There are even further options such as 5...e6. So 5.e4 should be investigated by all players of an active bent.

By far the most critical and important line is 5...Nb4. Then 6.Bc4 Nd3+ 7.Ke2 Nf4+ 8.Kf1 Ne6 has a long and controversial history. This position has never been resolved and all kinds of new things are still being discovered. IM Dave Vigorito has become a great expert on the Nimzowitsch System and an advocate for the White pieces. White can play many moves at this point such as 9.d3, 9.b4!?, and 9.h4!?, but Vigorito prefers to return to the old line 9.Ne5.

This move leads to unbelievable complications. In Vigorito - Mikhalevski, Los Angeles 2003, I look at 9...Nd7?, 9...Qd4, 9...Nc6, and the enormously complicated 9...g6.

The move leading to the craziest play of all is 9...Qd6!?, when the main line with 10.f4 is surveyed using the game Horn - Trauth, Riva del Garda 2004 as an outline:

I've devoted a lot of space to the details of these variations and tried to define exactly where they stand at present. As usual, no one really knows!

Let's move on to a less radical variation: d3 and e4 versus the Hedgehog. Here's a standard position:

White's formation is generally held to be harmless but it puts the opponent on his own. Here our fearless Webmaster Tony Kosten plays a pretty game which illustrates again the power of the g4-g5 expansion. That advance seems to be happening in nearly every opening these days. See Kosten - Van der Linden, Nottingham 2005.

English 1...e5

With the move 3.Bb5 being so popular after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6, it's interesting to take a look at the reversed position:

This comes from 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.g3 Bb4. I wrote about this variation 25 years ago and little has changed. In the game Miezes-H Olsen, Dianalund 2005, Black gains equality and even a small advantage following the plan of ...Nbd7 and ...a6. White might learn something from this when he plays the Rossolimo (3.Bb5).

Below is a position that has been played at least hundreds of times, including games by world champions. I'm not sure why the pawn sacrifice employed by Black in Roca - Peralta, Pinamar 2005 has hardly ever been played:

Here Peralta played 9...f4! . Can it be so simple? I have appended a lot of analysis and still can't find anything wrong. This could be a major find.

English 1...Nf6

In Ionov - Klimov White plays an Anti-Gruenfeld line that is often resorted to by 1.c4 players: 1.c4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Qa4+:

I'm not sure that Black has found the way to full equality here.

Often lower-rated players will play the automatic moves Nc3, g3, Bg2, e4, and Nge2 versus both Symmetric and King's Indian formations. Contin - Sabia, Montecatini Terme 2005 shows an interesting method of fighting against White's plan when Black employs a King's Indian formation.

Pelletier - Skalkotas, Acropolis 2005 is an example of how White can gain an advantage in the 1 c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 e6 3.Nf3 Bb4 line, although it's mainly Black's choice of setups that is suspect.

Here Black tried to escape from his usual difficulties by means of the speculative 8...e5!?. His decision didn't turn out well.

Reti and Other Flank Openings

There is a typical trick that arises in a Reti (I guess that I should say 'Reversed Franco-Benoni' in this case) and some other openings. It arises when Black doesn't play ...a5 to stop the queenside thrust b4:

Tony looked at this line before, with conclusions that I think were a bit overoptimistic for Black. I analyse that game in my notes. The game Blatny - Ricaurte Lopez, Salinas 2005 seems to show that White is the one with the more positive prospects. Still, Black manages to keep the damage to a minimum until he misses something.

Kosten - Brochet, Le Mans 2004 isn't that compelling in and of itself but deals with a move of unclear theoretical status: 1.Nf3 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.e3 Be6!?. This is an unusual defence that Tony treats very rudely with the sequence 4.Ng5!? Bd5 5.e4:

White wins quickly with an attack that truly represents The Dynamic English. But there's definitely more to investigate before abandoning 3...Be6.

Matamoros Franco-Suba, Malaga 2005 tests one of White's disruptive ideas versus the solid Slav: 1.c4 Nf6 2.g3 c6 3.Bg2 d5 4.Nf3 e6 5.0-0!? dxc4:

The move orders are important, to say the least, and Black finds a way to exploit White's early a4 and Qc2.


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