Flank Openings: 5 Reasons To Try Them

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Flank openings are a popular opening system in chess. It’s a good choice for beginners as they are quite solid.
It’s also a good opening for experienced players, with a lot of interesting possibilities and sharp tactical lines.
The more you play it, the more you will find new ways to use this opening system. In this article, I will give you 5 good reasons to try flank openings.

WHAT ARE OPENINGS?

An opening is a move or a sequence of moves that occur at the earliest stages of a chess game. Openings can transpose from one to the other. The word “opening” itself is the earliest phase in chess.

CATEGORY OF OPENINGS

There are six categories of openings namely:

  • Opening(main) such as Spanish Opening and English Opening.
  • Defense such as Philidor Defense and Sicilian Defense.
  • Gambit such as Queen’s Gambit and Danish gambit.
  • Game such as Scotch game and Vienna Game.
  • System such as London System and Colle System.
  • Attack such as Stonewall Attack and Bird-Larsen Attack.

ESSENCE OF OPENINGS

Openings are an inevitable phase of every chess game and the following highlights its importance;

Foundation of other phases

The middlegame and endgame are the complementary stages of a chess game. They both depend on the opening as the game can end in the opening if a side plays carelessly. In short, the opening is the foundation of the middle game and end game.

Balance in defense and attack

Development is a strategy that progresses in all stages of a chess game. Attacking and defending depend on how well a side is developed. A player would attack and defend with less difficulty. In conclusion, a good opening provides a long-term setup for a player in a game.

To fit player’s style

Several openings exist to serve their unique purposes. Every chess player has his unique style of play and hence, chooses openings that fit it. Some even say that how a person plays chess reflects his personality. Players that like simplification go for open games through openings like Petrov’s defense, whereas players that fancy complexity, tend to go for closed games like the London System.

WHAT ARE FLANK OPENINGS?

These are openings where the earliest moves do not emerge from either of the center files(c and d files). Flank openings are fairly popular, and they are not interchangeable with irregular openings. White usually determines this class of openings.

TYPES OF FLANK OPENINGS

There are several types of flank openings in use today by several chess players. The following are five of the most common flank openings today:

English opening


It is not just the most popular flank opening but also one of the popular chess openings generally. It is the opening move 1.c4 with the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings(ECO) of A10. Unofficial World Champion Howard Staunton founded it.

Reti opening


It is 1. Nf3 with ECO A04. It is also the Zukertort Opening.

Benko opening


It is 1.g3. The Benko Opening is also the King’s Fianchetto Opening, Hungarian Opening, and Barcza opening. The ECO is A00 and it was founded by American-Hungarian Legend Pal Benko.

Others include;

Larsen opening

Flank opening


It is 1. b3 and founded by Danish Grandmaster Bent Larsen with ECO A01.

Bird’s opening


It is characterized by 1.f4. Its ECO is A02.

REASONS TO PLAY FLANK OPENINGS

To catch opponents by surprise

To an extent, relying on common and expected knowledge can be risky. Many chess players encounter opponents that often play 1.e4 or 1.e5. However, making a move such as 1.g3 could catch them by surprise as many might not be familiar with the lines. They might even fall into a trap that secures an easy win.

To enhance critical thinking

Flank openings are avoided due to their more complex nature, and gutsy players are advised to give it a shot. Perhaps, learning such a new opening repertoire might unlock a form of improvement for certain players. Flank openings have a high probability of becoming closed games, and closed games require a little bit more critical thinking. Closed games allow players to showcase their creativity which would boost their awareness of the board.

To step out of one’s comfort zone

Stepping out of one’s comfort zone is one sure-fire way to improve in anything. It enhances a player’s curiosity level that in turn, boosts creativity. Flank openings can be quite tasking, and their toughness will supply the necessary pressure to form a formidable chess player.

To embrace versatility

A versatile player is good in common openings, as well as flank openings. Versatile players are tough to face because they tend to adjust to whatever one throws at them. You play the Bird’s opening, they’re in key! The Reti? They’re spot on! English? A norm! In summary, a player able to flow with flank openings would easily develop the required adaptability skills to take on a variety of opening classifications and maybe even unorthodox openings!

To stand out as a unique player

Many chess players of all levels—whether beginner, intermediate or advanced—play openings that are centered around the e and d files because of the common strategy of controlling the center. One is bound to stand out if they know how to play flank openings and deploy them often, . Being a standout player might even inspire others to study your unique style of play and improve themselves.
However, try not to be too outstanding with this class of openings or you might spend hours explaining why your repertoire is so effective!

SUCCESSFUL DEPLOYMENT OF FLANK OPENINGS

Owen V Steinitz (1-0)

The first official world champion, Wilhelm Steinitz, fell to a flank opening by John Owen in the 1862 BCA Grand Tourney. This game proves the effectiveness of the popular English opening.

Fischer V Lapiken (1-0)

This is a fine example of the Reti Opening as former world champion Bobby Fischer crushed his opponent in just 19 moves. Bobby Fischer with a trademark sac on move 15 to throw his opponent off balance. The sac initiated a combination that saw a minor piece loss en prise. The game was played in the 1956 US Open.

Ju Wenjun V S Melia (1-0)

The Bird’s opening was successfully deployed by current(as at time of writing) women World Champion, Ju Wenjun in the 2017 World Blitz Women Championships. The situational pin on move 15 gave Ju the opening she needed to break through Salome’s defence.

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