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This month's batch is an eclectic one. To begin with, it features a variety of Symmetrical English games, none of which resemble each other and none that remain remotely Symmetrical! That 1.c4 c5 still carries with it a drawish reputation has little to do with its actual character. Rather, it is a result of grandmaster motivations, that is, their propensity to use it as a vehicle for short draws that are implicitly agreed upon.

Two of the three 1.c4 e5 games have to do with currently popular defensive systems, and one is a brief examination of highly theoretical main line. There follows a 1.c4 Nf6 line that deviates from the norm and provides an attractive imbalance. We finish with a less investigated-line of the Nimzowitsch-Larsen Attack, again deserving attention. Nothing here is drawish.

Incidentally, two leading GMs are proponents of the English this time around: Aronin and Ivanchuk. The latter is beginning to play around with the English Opening again, and I'll give at least one more game of his next month.

Download PGN of November '05 Flank Openings games


Symmetrical English 1...c5

The variation in Filippov - Yemelin, Kazan 2005 is considered deadly dull and has been used by Black to achieve many a top-level draw. Indeed theory gives White no significant advantage (if any at all). But if White were better it would shake up some move orders and decisions in the Symmetrical English. Running in the background, my computer engine came up with a bizarre idea that at the very least would make life more interesting, and probably difficult for Black:

Here 12.Nd4 Ne8 is given by theory and equalises rapidly. HiArcs "discovered" 12.Nc7!? Rb8 13.Rg1! intending g4-g5. Not as silly as it may look.

Harikrishna - Sutovsky, Essent Hoogeveen 2005 features a wild line that has always been considered bad for White. Two 2650+ players slug it out in old-fashioned style. I wonder how much of this was prepared?

Here Harikrishna went back to the old move 7.d6!?. Considered bad for years, it holds up here and opens up new questions.

Cobb - Cvitan, Saint Vincent 2005 rehashes the variation 1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 e5 4.e3. It's important to note that if White plays 1.c4 c5 2.Nf3, Black must play 2...Nc6 if he wants to get ...e5 in. This leads to the critical position after 4...Nf6 5.d4 cxd4 6.exd4 e4:

If White can show an advantage in this position it might answer reader Torben Klink's question regarding the ...c5, ...e5 setup: "Is this Black system really still so frustrating to counter and, if so, are there any more elegant ways around it, for example, by allowing certain move orders which might not be so satisfying for Black?"

The big boys like to play with the Double Fianchetto variation, in which Black plays a Hedgehog with ...g6 instead of ...e6. Names like Kasparov, Karpov, Kramnik, Anand, and Topalov are associated with this line, partly because both sides think that it is relatively safe. It turns out that there are plenty of opportunities for both sides.

Aronian - Kramnik, St Vincent 2005 was pretty interesting, but mainly I've tried to give the reader an overview of the most important moves.

Most everyone is playing 13...Rc7 these days. White seems to retain a small advantage; in particular the idea of Bh3xd7 is noteworthy.

Our regular contributor Maik Naundorf sends us yet another game with a line for White that doesn't seem to be going away. Here we revisit our old February 2005 column by examining an early deviation in the old main-line Symmetrical English. The game is Naundorf - Preuss, Ruhrgebiet 2005.

Black plays inaccurately and grants White a significant advantage. Still, one feels that the result of the opening should be equality assuming correct play.

English 1...e5

The 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.g3 Nd4!? variation of the English Opening is still disputed. I've never understood why Black would play so passively, but in general he has done okay. Aronian - Gelfand, Saint Vincent 2005 tests what is becoming a main line:

Here Aronian leaps forward with 9.g4!, planning g5, h4-h5 and general kingside mayhem. Unlike earlier games, however, this one sees Gelfand managing to neutralize the attack. There are plenty of options of course.

M Marin-Fluvia Poyatos, Barcelona 2005 reached the following standard position:

Marin does a brilliant job of crawling forward and squeezing Black, not the least based upon the restricted position of the bishop on b6.

In the E-mailbag section I've placed three games contributed by new subscriber Jose Soza. All of those are in the Reversed Dragon system. He also submits a game with a theoretical main line of 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.g3. Here is the diagram after 12...c6:

Readers may recognise this position from a Kasparov-Karpov World Championship battle and several subsequent ones. I've presented the older game Jensen - Soza, Zonal Latinoamericano 2002, which is basically a long theoretical line, with his notes and one of mine. I include the game because it seems to illustrate that Black can hold his own (contrary to some theoretical opinions).

English 1...Nf6

You always wonder why these top GMs (in this case 2700+) don't play the sort of unbalanced line that arises in Ivanchuk - Bologan, Saint Vincent 2005. There's practically no theory, and the best man tends to win. Interestingly, Ivanchuk has played varieties of the English Opening recently.

White converted a small edge resulting from an original treatment of this position.

Other Flank Openings

Turning to an infrequently-played opening that perhaps deserves more attention, Julio Alberto González writes: "I am a ChessPublishing subscriber. I write from Argentina. I attach a game commented in Spanish... I think that it is an interesting game with the Nimzo-Larsen Attack".

The game is Mellado Triviño- Vallejo Pons, Calvia 2005. I've put in selected and severely abbreviated notes of Julio's. This involves a translation from the Spanish - forgive me if I've introduced errors but I think the gist of it is there.

This type of position is not unheard of but I rather like White's chances.


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