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I'm International Master John Watson and I'll be substituting for Tony Kosten this month. I've played many flank openings over the years, particularly the English Opening, and of course we all have to play against them.

With the obsessive development of theory for many variations stemming from 1.e4 and 1.d4, it may well be time for masters to return their attention to these openings, which offer more possibilities for original play at an early stage.

I have chosen games from the three main English Opening categories, and have put also looked at the Reti Opening and its variants. There were 2 games with the Réti in the just-concluded Russian Super-Championship, and it has struck me recently that the Réti complex may have the most unexplored byways of any 'regular' opening. Nigel Davies' recent book Easy Guide to the Réti provides a good introduction for the average as well as advanced player.

Download PGN of November '04 Flank Openings games


English Opening



[A20]: Tony has provided readers with the most extensive treatment available anywhere about his favourite system with 1.c4 e5 2.g3. If you look back over his games from this column for the last few years you will notice that he has had some trouble in finding any advantage for White in the variation 2...Nf6 3.Bg2 c6 4.d4 Bb4+ 5.Bd2 Bxd2+ 6.Qxd2 d6:

I like the fact that White has gained some time here, but the game Matamoros Franco- Belkhodja from the recent Olympiad in Calvia indicates that White is still looking for a plan.

[A26]: Two of the world's strong juniors contested the English Opening in Yudin - Stellwagen from the under-18 section of the World Youth Championship in Greece. The battleground was the venerable field of the old system in which White plays d3 versus a King's Indian formation:

The theoretical verdict is unclear.

[A27]: Ghaem Maghami-Agdestein from the Olympiad shows that even lines of the 3...f5 English where White exchanges queens and has no weaknesses are not so innocent as they might seem. Black as well as White can hope to exploit the unbalanced positions that result.


[A30]: The Hedgehog receives a real test in Kengis - Lutz, also from the 2004 Olympiad. Kengis shows that White's old-fashioned line still has some bite.

[A30]: Morozevich - Grischuk from the Russian Championship in Moscow 2004 is a short and relatively simple demonstration of how Black can equalise against 7.Re1 in the Double Fianchetto system.

The lesson is that White must play more aggressively if he expects anything.

[A32]: Nielsen - Lautier played in Sanxenxo in the Spanish Teams League is a fascinating example of an early pawn sacrifice for lasting positional pressure, in this case featuring the bishop pair. Nielsen's move livens up what has been a deadly dull variation.


The Réti Opening and associated openings (perhaps best described as the 'Réti complex') regularly produces positions that are unlike any others in normal opening theory.

[A09]: Morozevich is experimenting with this complex of variations, and in Morozevich - Svidler from the Russian Championship in Moscow, he reaches a position on move 7 that is unlike any that I've seen:

White should have kept a small but definite advantage.

[A13]: Korotylev - Timofeev from Moscow is an example of a setup and sequence of moves that has always been around but under the radar of most theoreticians.

The idea of which can be played from several similar positions. It involves as many as 7 pawns moves out of the first 8 moves!

[A14]: A very interesting game in spite of the mismatch between opponents was Wunder - Bunzmann, Bad Wiessee 2004. With a few seemingly harmless and unexceptional moves White gains an overwhelming game right out of the opening. Playing Black, the higher-rated Bunzmann (2544) doesn't seem to have made a mistake, which demonstrates how practical a system the Réti is for those disinclined to tackle masses of theory.


Please feel free to share any of your thoughts with Tony, whatever they are, suggestions, criticisms (just the polite ones, please), etc. Drop him a line at the Flank Openings Forum, or subscribers can write directly to

Till next month, John