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As always, leading players are resorting to the Symmetrical English more often than 1...e5 or ...Nf6 systems, although that perception is skewed by the number of games in which 1...Nf6 transposes into d-pawn games when White plays d4 soon thereafter

Download PGN of October '06 Flank Openings games

Symmetrical English with ...c5

In the Symmetrical, some older positions are receiving new tests:

For example, this critical position has been contested for years, with practical results favouring White but an approximate theoretical advantage for Black. In Cabrilo - Kasan, Belgrade 2006, White chooses 9 Bd2 here and gains an advantage. I think that this is White's best approach to the position. He wins a quick and convincing game in tactical style.

In this month's batch we have two more successes for the Botvinnik System (e4/d3/c4 centre with Nc3/g3/Bg2), one for White and one for Black (with colours reversed, of course). In Delchev - Jakovenko, Feugen 2006, Black tries to save a tempo on main lines, by omitting ...h6. He succeeds when White foregoes Ng5 and develops normally.

For the next three moves White could try to exploit Black's move order by Ng5. Whether or not that helps matters is unclear but I suspect that it was a good idea.

In any case, Black achieves his usual promising position and White's overambitious subsequent queenside play does him in as he gets a piece trapped in an unusual way.

The Botvinnik setup again produces a nagging edge, this time for White, in Felgaer - Berrocal, Sants 2006. I have to admit that this almost brainless set of moves for White has enormous practical value.

Objectively, it's really not so bad for Black and I've tried to indicate better ways for him to handle this type of position. As it goes, however, White plays the usual moves and stands much better, He brings home the point after giving his opponent some opportunities. In general, some new ideas are needed against the Botvinnik.

The opening in Archangelsky - Brodsky, Hoogeveen (Essent Open) 2006 is an example of how to equalise easily against a common anti-Benoni Symmetrical English (without Nc3). I couldn't resist showing Black's beautiful handling of the two bishops.

This is an interesting position because White's minor pieces look excellent and Black's c-pawn could be a problem. But already the bishop pair is a balancing factor, and later Brodsky demonstrates their strength.

English with 1...Nf6

As mentioned, we don't see the majority of games that begin with 1 c4 Nf6 because White chooses to play d4 on one of the following moves. A common exception is when Black plays 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e6 and White chooses to play 3 e4 (the Mikenas) or 3 Nf3. We haven't seen many of the latter instances because, again, Black heads for a Queen's Gambit via 3...d5 or a type of Symmetrical English structure after 3...c5. Another older system that has generally served him well is 3...Bb4. Then we expect White to emerge with a small advantage (he usually gains the two bishops) but nothing out of the ordinary.

Take this position from Werle - Willemze in the just-concluded Essent Open in Hoogeveen, after 10 bxc3:

Black's plan has been to trade off his dark-squared bishop in order to assert himself in the centre. Now he should play 10...e5! and free his c8-bishop, with equality. Instead, he decentralises his knight and waits a few moves before playing ...e5, by which time White has got his pieces well-placed for kingside action. Then the two bishops and mobile pawns outweigh Black's queenside attack and he wins by direct attack.

As usual, I'll include an example of the Mikenas 'anti-Nimzo' System. The game Ramesa - Ljubicic, Omis 2006 tests the main, main line of 3 e4 c5, involving a gambit used by Kasparov and many top players. In fact, Black usually avoids it.

Few players would want to play Black in this optically awful position, and yet he seems to stand satisfactorily after 20...Qf7.

I keep forgetting that the English Defence (1...b6), which is a defence against 1 c4 and not 1 d4 (with occasional exceptions), is officially part of the Daring Defences domain. With the hope that Glenn will forgive me, I won't waste the notes that I've written, with the promise to be more careful in the future. Anyway, the game M Gurevich-Clemens, Hoogeveen (Essent Open) 2006, featured the somewhat unusual plan with ...g6 and ...Bg7:

Instead of 8 Nf3 or 8 Nh3 (played previously), Gurevich played the simple 8 Rb1! and gained the advantage

King's English with ...e5

Students are always asking why, if the Sicilian Defence is so good, doesn't White play it against 1...e5 ? You would think that this would be a good idea when Black follows up with ...Nf6 and 3...d5. One problem is that the Sicilian Defence, like so many others, gains its winning reputation from variations in which White goes all out to attack or at least gain an advantage. If, in the English Opening case, Black is content to play more modestly, then it will be difficult for White to gain the upper hand. The good news is that both sides can play for a win in the double-edged play that follows.

In this position from Bischoff - Pert, Liverpool 2006, Black has the handy move 10...Bf5, which is equal (as I show). Instead, Black tries for direct attack and over-presses.

Finally, the game Prohaszka - Vitor, Budapest 2006 features a variation that has always held up for Black, at least in theoretical terms. Against an early Nf3, Black gets away with ...e4 followed by ...f5, a Dutch-like formation that is terribly hard to crack:

Here it would look as though 8...g5 were weakening, yet it also helps to restrict White's pieces. Even the move 9...f4 can be on the cards after 9 0-0, because of the trick 10 fxe4? g4. In this game Black achieves equality when he wins a pawn for limited compensation, but things go awry when he fails to develop quickly enough and gets his king trapped in the centre.


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