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Since last month's update we have seen the conclusion of the tournaments in Morelia-Linares, Moscow (Aeroflot Open) and Capelle la Grande, the beginning of the traditional blind/rapid tournament in Monaco and the Karpov tournament in Poikovsky along with a bunch of fascinating games in leagues all over Europe. This month we will have a look at some of the developments from the most important tournaments, along with some interesting ideas that caught my eye.

I should also add that the book that I have been co-writing with American IM John Donaldson, A Strategic Opening Repertoire for White, is now very close to going to the printers. For those who are familiar with the first edition, it is more along the same vein, a presentation of ideas through complete annotated games. Compared to the first edition, there will be considerably more games, more verbal explanations, more analysis, more game references and more improvements over existing theory, which overall amounts to many more pages of chess. The repertoire suggestions are, generally speaking, the same as in the first edition: the English Opening, Catalan, Réti, lines against the King's Indian, Queen's Indian, Grünfeld Indian and Dutch set-ups. That should be sufficient promotion for now.

Download PGN of March '07 Flank Openings games

Réti Opening

In the Réti Opening proper, one of Black's lesser used options is the one to take on c4 immediately after 1 Nf3 d5 2 c4, by 2...dxc4. This takes the play in a completely different direction from what White is really aiming for when playing the Réti Opening. With the Queen's Gambit Accepted becoming more and more popular, it is important to have a considered answer to these lines:

In Tomashevsky - Ganguly White presents a set-up which has been remarkably successful in the few outings it has had, White has won all the games in my database. The idea is similar to that of a Queen's Gambit Accepted, but White refrains from d2-d4 for a while, even permanently. So while Black may think that a transposition is imminent, and therefore plays according to standard Queen's Gambit Accepted guidelines, White has another set-up in reserve. White can obviously still enter the Queen's Gambit Accepted if he so desires, and should keep an eye open for a possible favourable transposition.

English: Pseudo Grünfeld

Last month, we examined two games (and several more in the notes) from Wijk aan Zee in the 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 Nc3 d5 4 Qa4+ Anti-Grünfeld:

This line as now been examined further in a couple of top-level clashes. In Topalov - Svidler and Tkachiev - Sutovsky the players followed a path laid out by Gelfand-Svidler, Moscow 2006 (see the notes to Tkachiev-Sutovsky), 4...Bd7 5 Qb3 dxc4 6 Qxc4 a6 7 d4 b5 8 Qb3 c5 9 dxc5 Bg7 10 e4 0-0 11 Be2 Bc6 12 e5 Nfd7 13 Be3 Nxe5 14 Nxe5 Bxe5:

and here Topalov played 15 Rd1, while Tkachiev went for 15 0-0. Both games ended in draws, but there is still plenty of room for new ideas to be explored in this line, and I expect we will see more of it soon.

English: Anti-Hedgehog

The first topic of discussion this month is a relatively rare line, which, like many other lines in the English, can be reached in a couple ways, for example 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 e4 Bb7 5 d3 c5 6 g3 Be7 7 Bg2 0-0 8 0-0 d6, or, as in our topical game Conquest - Cox, 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 Nc3 e6 4 g3 b6 5 e4 Bb7 6 d3 d6 7 Bg2 Be7 8 0-0 0-0. This line has, as mentioned in the annotations to the game, always struck me as an annoying line for Black to face when playing the Hedgehog because it doesn't look anything like the lines Black normally gets to play in the Hedgehog. In this game, White repeats an idea which was used by Morozevich back in 2003, 9 Ng5!?:

but hasn't been used since; however, since White again won with it, we may see more games in this line.

King's English with ...e5

In the game Kanep - Sammalvuo Black came up with an interesting novelty in the Four Knights Fianchetto, after 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e5 3 g3 Bb4 4 Bg2 0-0 5 Nf3 Re8 6 0-0 e4 7 Nd4 Nc6 8 Nc2 Bxc3 9 bxc3 d5 10 cxd5 Qxd5 11 d4, playing 11...Qc4!?:

Previously only 11...Qh5 had been tried, usually with equality as a result, but the new idea pretty much rocked White's boat so much that he immediately ended up in a bind, which Black never let go of. A beautiful positional effort from the Finnish International Master.

Symmetrical English

In Topalov - Carlsen Black went for a Hedgehog, Topalov responded with the popular 7 Re1, which Carlsen met with 7...d5:

This is considered slightly better for White, but rather than aiming for the slight edge promised to White after 8 cxd5 Nxd5 (or 8...exd5 9 d4, transposing to the Queen's Indian) 9 e4 Nxc3 (or 9...Nb4 10 d4 cxd4 11 Nxd4) 10 bxc3 0-0 11 d4, Topalov tried the very rare 8 d4, which so far has failed to produce an advantage for White, yet Topalov had some interesting ideas that deserve a look.

The line 1 c4 c5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 Nc3 d5 4 cxd5 Nxd5 5 d4 cxd4 6 Qxd4 Nxc3 7 Qxc3 Nc6 8 e4 e6:

always struck me as somewhat tame prior to writing my book on the Symmetrical English, but then it dawned on me that Black actually has a great deal of problems to solve, in particular the development of the kingside along with White's pressure along the open central files. Despite its odd location on c3, White's queen is quite safe, and when threatened can usually just sidestep the threats by moving to e3, d3 or even e5. In Schlosser - Rotstein we will take a look at the popular 9 a3!?.

In the Pure Symmetrical: 1 c4 c5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 g3 g6 4 Bg2 Bg7 5 0-0 0-0 6 Nc3 Nc6 7 d4 cxd4 8 Nxd4 Nxd4 9 Qxd4 d6, the game Jobava - Tomashevsky developed in an interesting fashion. Tomashevsky, a young Russian Grandmaster who plays the English Opening very frequently as White, went for a line that is considered clearly inferior for Black, 10 Qd3 a6 11 Be3 Ng4 12 Bd4 Ne5 13 Qd1:

and now not the main line move 13...Rb8, but 13...Be6, which for decades has been thought to lead to a clear advantage for White. I still think Black has some serious problems to solve, but Black did present some interesting ideas.


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, Carsten