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This time around I will take a look at some recent games from the Wijk aan Zee and Morelia/Linares tournaments, both of which saw some interesting games in the English Opening.
The winners in our New Year's competition are:
Julian Chan, Michael Stevenson, Peter Poncin, and Jonathan Hecht.
Congratulations to all of you, you should receive a signed copy of the book in the mail shortly.
Now on to the games...

Download PGN of March '08 Flank Openings games

Réti Opening

In the January update we had a look at 1 Nf3 d5 2 c4 e6 3 g3 Nf6 4 Bg2 dxc4 5 Qc2 Qd5!?, which appears to offer White decent chances. This time around we will have a look at a slightly different version of this variation 1 c4 e6 2 Nf3 d5 3 g3 dxc4 4 Qa4+:

This is normally not considered particularly dangerous for Black after 4...Nd7 5 Qxc4 a6 6 Bg2 b5 7 Qc2 Bb7 8 a4. Indeed in our main game Gashimov - Luther, Black has very few problems and could in fact have played for a win, but instead settled for a draw. For players of the white pieces I draw your attention to White's 10th move alternatives, which offer White some interesting possibilities.


Wijk aan Zee clearly wasn't the best performance for neither player in our next game, Gelfand - Eljanov, which saw the line 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3 6 Qxc3 b6 7 e3 Bb7 8 b4 d6 9 Bb2 Nbd7 10 Be2 c5 being tested:

Gelfand played a new 15th move though it seems like almost every side line prior to his novelty offered him excellent chances as well. Nevertheless, it was a powerful performance that clearly illustrates Black's problems in this variation. In next month's update we will again take a look at 6...d6, which appears to a very good and much less known alternative.

King's English

We have several entries in this category this month. The first comes in the game Aronian - Shirov from Morelia/Linares, where Shirov wheeled out his old favourite 1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 Bb4. The players continued down the established main line 3 Nd5 Be7 4 d4 d6 5 e4 Nf6 6 Nxe7 Qxe7 7 f3 Nh5:

and now after 8 Be3 (as my annotations indicates, White should seriously consider giving preference to 8 Ne2 instead), Shirov played his novelty 8...f5!?. Matters are not entirely clear, and this will will need to be tested further to establish a more complete evaluation of its merits. Due to this line being covered relatively sparsely in the past, I have given fairly extensive coverage of the alternatives on move 7 for Black and move 8 for White.

In Carlsen - Topalov (also from Morelia/Linares), White repeated Morozevich's opening from our October 2007 update: 1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 Nf3 Nc6 4 d3 d5 5 cxd5 Nxd5 6 e4:

but here Topalov went queenside with 6...Nb6 rather than Grischuk's 6...Nf6. In this game, White had opportunities at move 10 and 11 to keep the balance, but instead choose a risky continuation, which appears to leave Black with the better chances. Nevertheless, in time trouble things went completely wrong for Topalov.

Something considerably more main line stuff was seen in Aronian - Topalov (Morelia/Linares), where the players played the Reversed Dragon Variation with 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e5 3 Nf3 Nc6 4 g3 d5 5 cxd5 Nxd5 6 Bg2 Nb6 7 0-0 Be7 8 a3 0-0 9 b4 Be6 10 Rb1 f6 11 d3 Nd4 12 Nd2 c6 13 Nde4 Nd5 14 e3:

The theory considers this line to be approximately equal, but I find White's chances to be slightly preferable, though this game was more of a complicated battle where the advantage went back and forth several times.

Symmetrical English: Hedgehog

In Kasparov's book on the Opening Revolution in the 1970s, he mentioned a book on the Hedgehog written by the Russian Grandmaster Sergei Shipov. After some searching I managed to find it. Although it is entirely in Russian, of which I understand a little, but certainly not everything, I have been very impressed by the amount of work that Shipov has put into this book. For those of you who are interested in the Hedgehog, it may be a worthwhile investment as it contains almost 550 pages on this popular variation.

The Hedgehog can be arrived at in many ways, but the most common is 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 c5 4 g3 b6 5 Bg2 Bb7 6 0-0 Be7 7 d4 cxd4 8 Qxd4 d6, and now the game Kramnik - Carlsen saw White try the nowadays quite rare 9 Rd1 a6 10 Ng5:

Black should be okay in this line, but Black has to know his stuff. This line hasn't been examined in detail before on this webpage, so I have taken a look at some of the alternatives to the moves played in the main game, and found a lot of improvements over accepted theory. Carlsen played a new 16th move, which seems to be an improvement over the previously played 16...Qa8.

Symmetrical English: Pure Symmetrical

The Pure Symmetrical is one of the more popular lines in all of the Symmetrical English complex, but it is also difficult to play for Black, and even more difficult if you play for a win, which is often necessary in open tournaments. Though not particularly good in the opinion of either me or the previous hosts of this Flank Opening section, the variation 1 c4 c5 2 Nc3 Nc6 3 g3 g6 4 Bg2 Bg7 5 Nf3 Nf6 6 0-0 0-0 7 d4 cxd4 8 Nxd4 Ng4 is seen quite often these days:

In the game Bologan - Grigoriants from the Aeroflot open, White managed to claim a small advantage from the opening, but by no means anything serious.

Bye, Carsten


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