To the casual observer it might look as if I’m a serious advocate of Flank Openings (1.c4, 1.Nf3, 1.g3 and others). I’ve used them since I was a teenager, presented DVDs on the English, King’s Indian Attack and 1.g3 and have authored a book on the Reti Opening. As if that wasn’t enough I currently update the Flank Openings section at Chesspublishing.com. So it may surprise the reader that I recommend caution before amateurs adopt them.
The advantages seem obvious, you get to ‘avoid theory’ and have a chess game to play instead. But there is a major issue for many players in that the positions can be difficult to understand because the pawn structures are not clearly defined. In order to play them well you must constantly bear in mind possible clarifications into positions in which the structure has been defined. But for this one needs a rich experience of regular positions first.
Accordingly Flank Openings are best suited to highly experienced players with a broad knowledge of chess positions but who have little inclination to study more direct openings. So many older Grandmasters turn to them in the twilight of their careers and will be able to outfox less experienced opponents.
On the other hand they don’t suit newcomers or relatively inexperienced players because they just won’t understand what they’re aiming for. They’d be better off developing their game with either 1.e4 or 1.d4.