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Hello and welcome to this month's update in which I've found a potpourri of ideas in the English Opening with 1...e5. Let's start out with an idea from Levon Aronian who is probably the leading exponent of this opening right now. Like many strong players he evidently enjoys the opportunity to use his own mind rather than follow well trodden paths.

Download PGN of November '09 Flank Openings games

King's English

In his game against Shirov in Bilboa just recently, we see Aronian search out less well trodden paths from the outset with his use of the move 7.b3. And on move 10 he prevents the idea of ...Qd7 followed by ...Bh3 with 10.h3:

It seems that this is a 'theoretical novelty', see Aronian - Shirov.

Of course White can also play with Nc3 which gets into some very well studied lines:

I found a couple of interesting games with this, Malakhov - Sargissian and Bischoff - Ruck.

In Malakhov - Sargissian Black came up with the interesting new move 12...Nd4, which sacrifices a pawn to reach a position in which the extra pawn looks meaningless:

White can certainly try to win but his efforts in this game eventually proved fruitless.

Bischoff - Ruck also featured a novelty with ...Nd4 in a different line and on move 11. This time it was rather less successful with Bischoff getting the more comfortable game and providing an object lesson in how to play the English.

Aronian's 10.h3 reminds me of something; moves of the rook pawns seem to have been all the rage in the last few decades starting with Kasparov's 4.a3 against the Queen's Indian then the Chebanenko Slav (1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 a6). Perhaps the search for 'something new' got people questioning the old values about the importance of time in the opening. Time is important, but it's good not to be too dogmatic about it.

It's not surprising to see some rooks pawn pushes in flank openings since the relatively slow nature of the game diminishes the importance of a tempo. A good example is the line 1.c4 e5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 h6!?:

just waiting for 4.Nc3 before playing 4...Bb4. This is what happened in Buhmann - Balogh with White getting nowhere fast and then taking rather too many risks in his attempts to demonstrate some 'initiative'.

After Gurevich lost famously to Anand in a game analysed earlier here at, you'd expect him to have something ready for 3...h6 the next time round. In fact he repeated his quiet 4.d3 against Malakhov, presumably with some improvement in mind had his opponent followed Anand's earlier example. As it happens Malakhov varied straight away with 4...Bc5 and after some less than accurate play (I didn't like his 5...a6) found himself on the receiving end of a technical grind, see Gurevich - Malakhov.

If anything I'm rather more enamoured with White's rook pawn move from Galkin - Alsina in which 2.a3!? was played:

Essentially this gives him a Sicilian Defence with a useful extra tempo, though its value may not be that great after Black's sensible 3...c6. But anyway I think this represents an interesting option for players who want to throw their opponents on their own resources.

Compared to this Morozevich's's 4.d3 (vs Gelfand) is positively mainstream and we end up with a known line of the Sicilian Scheveningen with colours reversed. As a Sicilian/English player my sympathies tend to be with the White side, but Morozevich never seemed to get very far.

Finally this month the game Markowski - Krasenkov covers a subject I examined in my September update (Krasenkov's 5...e4 can transpose into the line 1.c4 e5 2.g3 c6 3.d4 e4). White gets nothing from the opening, but I find it interesting that Markowski evidently prefers the early commitment of his bishop to g2 rather than face things like 1.c4 e5 2.g3 c6 3.d4 exd4 4.Qxd4 Nf6 5.Bg2 Na6. I don't do it this way myself.

That's all for this time, see you next month! Nigel


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