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The English and Reti Openings can produce games that are slow in developing (although not always!), yet they also generate more varied and unexplored positions than the normal 1.e4 and 1.d4 openings. There are two main issues that hold the popularity of the English and Reti in check: (a) a higher number of variations produce technical and sometimes dry positions; (b) the less explored and even unpredictable nature of the play may not appeal to someone who cherishes the security of his openings that operate within a narrower range. This month's selection shows that play in the English and Reti can be complex and exciting, depending upon the players' level of ambition. It's interesting that some of the main lines of the Reti can get a little out of Black's control when he tries to simplify, and in this month's examples he slips outside of drawing range by doing so. Again, some of the resulting positions are more technical than combinational, particularly in the early stages of the game. This will probably appeal to players who are positionally-oriented and yet don't mind games that require original play.
As an experiment, I have limited the games this month to those in which the opponents' average ELO is 2400 or above. Still, there are plenty of mistakes!

Download PGN of September '06 Flank Openings games

King's English (1...e5)

Colin - Libiszewski, Besancon 2006 features a very fashionable line, 1.c4 e5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 h6:

The mighty 3...h6 has been played by leading players for a few years now. As with so many modern ideas, it's a useful waiting move that depends upon White to commit to a particular formation before reacting. White wants to find a setup which exploits the loss of time that 3...h6 represents. This is not easy, but White tries something non-transpositional that gives him the advantage and eventually the point in an instructive and well-played game.

In Van Wely-Tiviakov, Dutch Championship (Hilversum) 2006, we once again see two top grandmasters test the new 'main line' of the Reversed Dragon. It's beginning to look like Black has no real problems here, especially with White's queen on c2:

Here Black played the odd-looking 16...Nh6!? in order to transfer his knight to f7! Somehow it is extremely well-placed there. Tiviakov is an expert in these positions and went on to win.

In another Reversed Dragon it's refreshing to see White set up with b3 and Bb2 instead of a3 and b4. In Georgiev - Dzagnidze, Istanbul 2006, the play became intense and fascinating after 12...h6:

In this position White played the remarkable 13.Nb1!, intending to play Rxc6 after almost any response!

We've seen the position before that arises after 14...Bg4 in the English Main Line with Zaitsev's 9...e3!?:

It's still completely unresolved, and in Gulko - Korneev, Montreal 2006, Black comes up with an original treatment of a key position which had previously been troublesome. It is quite effective, and at a critical moment he misses a probable win. Korneev's idea looks both sound and interesting.

Symmetrical English with 1...c5

In Bischoff- G Jones, Liverpool 2006, we see the anti-Benoni variation of the English Opening, which usually arises via 1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4. This takes on further importance because it can come from the Benoni order 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.Nf3 cxd4 4.Nxd4 (as in the game). Jones essayed upon the gambit 4...e5 5.Nb5 d5 6.cxd5 Bc5, and the players arrived at the main line position after 8...e4:

It would be extremely interesting to see how a leading grandmaster would treat this position. It's been around for many years, and as far as I can see from theory and practice, Black stands quite satisfactorily. The game, which becomes very exciting, only reaffirms that.

In Bauer - Timofeev, San Sebastian 2006 we see the Rubinstein Defence in the Symmetrical English: 1.c4 c5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.g3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Bg2 Nc7. This variation has gone up and down in popularity over the years, but is still a sound choice. White played the unusual 6.Qa4+, when I think that Black ought to offer a pawn via 6...Bd7 7.Qb3 Nc6! Instead he played 6...Qd7 7.Qxd7+ Nxd7 and fell into an inferior position. Here is the position after 10...Ne6:

Here White played the unsubtle 11.Nb5! a6 12.Na7, won the two bishops, and gained a substantial edge. His position was near-winning when he committed a few inaccuracies and let Black off the hook.

Réti Opening

Our first Reti Opening is Djuric - Drazic, Zlatibor 2006. In an apparently innocuous variation, the moves Qc2 and ...a6 have been inserted by comparison with the main line.

We've seen this happen many times before in the Reti and English Openings: Black heads towards simplification and a draw, blind to the concessions that he's making along the way. Here he played 10...Nxc3?! 11.Qxc3 Bf6 12.Qc2 Bxb2 13.Qxb2, and suddenly it's clear that White has a real advantage based upon his better bishop and centre.

Kveinys - Ejsmont, Ustron 2006 features a popular Reti anti-Slav (or anti-Semi-Slav) setup that quite a few top grandmasters have played around with. White's position has no targets, and he forces Black to solve the problem of his c8 bishop without recourse to the ...dxc4 and ...b5 plan in other Semi-Slavs. Also, his pieces potentially aim at Black's kingside:

In the game the opponents reach a position analogous to a main Semi-Slav line, with the major difference that Black can hardly move without making concessions! White won nicely and showed excellent technique throughout.

The same opening was also seen in Socko - Ejsmont, Ustron 2006. After two more moves, Socko decided upon the eccentric-looking 9.Rg1!?:

Typical of modern chess! White doesn't merely want to attack by g4-g5, but also to gain space for its own sake. A struggle between centre and flank ensued, full of interesting opportunities and mistakes.


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