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Know Your Chess Openings: The Dutch Defense

The Netherlands is one of the most popular nations on the globe, thanks to its illustrious citizens. The Dutch have legends in popular sports such as Johan Cruyff for football, Richard Krajicek for Tennis and of course, Max Euwe for Chess. The Dutch Defense is an increasingly common option for Black. If you’ve been hearing of this opening and don’t know what it’s about, you’ve reached the right page!

Dutch Legend and former FIDE President, Max Euwe

The Dutch Defense looks like a version of the Sicilian Defense of the Queen’s pawn opening. Its opening moves starts with 1.d4 f5. It carries the same idea as the Sicilian Defense—preventing White from dominating the center using the flank pawns. This opening was brought to the light by Elias Stein, a Dutch chess master.

1.d4 d5

Dutch Defense (Sicilian Defense wannabe)

This is the main line for the Dutch Defense.

The Dutch Defense has three major variations. They are:

1. Leningrad Dutch Variation

Leningrad Variation.

Black forms a good defensive structure in this variation. White appears to be in control of the center, and as we’ve demonstrated in past analysis, this doesn’t count for much as we would soon show in this piece.
The opening line that enkindles this variation goes:
1.d4 f5
2.c4 Nf6
3.Nf3 g6
4.g3 Bg7
5.Bg2 0-0
6.0-0 d6

Take a closer look at this position. Does it remind you of a certain Indian Defense? You guessed it! It looks like the King’s Indian Defense! The only difference is the f pawn which is less advanced than the f6 Knight.

This variation of the Dutch is considered too risky for major use by World Champions, but you can give it a go to throw your opponent off balance. It requires a decent level of preparation as Black can prey on the fact that White might not be expecting this reply.

2. Stonewall Formation Variation

This variation has been a nightmare to many players that love to play an open game. It’s one of the most aggressive options for Black. If executed successfully, Black can be assured of attacking options to rock White’s boat.
The line that begets the Stonewall Formation of the Dutch Defense is;
1.d4 f5

2.g3 Nf6

3.Bg2 d5

4.Nf3 e6

5.0-0 Bd6

6.d4 d6

Firmness of the Stonewall Formation.

The d4 and f4 pawns give a new meaning to “control of the center”. There always seems to be an attacking route regardless of the style White opts to play. If you’re playing White against the Stonewall Formation, you should look for fierce attacking moves rather than trying to create a “fortress”. That plan might backfire quite quickly.

The zig-zag formation of the c6, d5, e6, and f5 pawns gives Black a good defensive structure. This is probably where it gets its name “Stonewall” from. Black castles Kingside and prepares to launch deadly attacks on wherever White castles.

A good position for development and attacks.

The Knight on f6 prepares to migrate to the e4 square to present itself as a threatening outpost if the d and f pawns have been advanced. The f8 to a3 diagonal also appears to be in firm control by Black’s dark-squared Bishop.

White’s attempt to block the Bishop’s path with c5 is an anticipated move that will further relinquish some tempo to Black.

3. Ilyin-Zhenevsky Variation

Classical/Ilyin-Zhenevsky Variation.

This variation was introduced by Alexander Ilyin-Zhenevsky. Its conservative approach is probably one reason why it is not too popular among players. This variation opens with the following moves;
1.d4 f5
2.c4 Nf6
3.g3 e6
4.Bg2 Be7
5.Nf3 0-0
6.0-0 d6

It appears like Black has not only relinquished control of the center to White but has seemingly also limited his attacking option. 7.Nc3 Qe8 is one of the best continuations Black could hope for with this variation. The 7…Qe8 move leaves White guessing what part of the board the Queen aims to develop.

A mistake by White makes life easier for Black.

Black can hope for an 8.Qb3 move which would almost certainly cost White the game if Black proceeds with care. Without reliance on the 8.Qb3 move, the Queen on e8 can support attacks through pawns on both Kingside and Queenside.

Furthermore, the Ilyin-Zhenevsky variation is another good option to consider if a player is bent on dribbling through the lines White must have prepared.

Other variations include;

The Karlsbad Variation

Leningrad, Karlsbad Variation.

This variation is a line under the more popular Leningrad Variation of the Dutch Defense.

It goes 1.d4 f5 2.g3 g6 3.Bg2 Bg7 and instead of the typical 4.g3 move, White plays Nh3—a move that gives the position flashing resemblance with the Ammonia Opening. The move doesn’t exactly pose an attacking threat, and its only notable advantage is the tendency to surprise the opponent.

The Blackburne Variation

Blackburne Variation

It appears just like the Karlsbad Variation and carries a similar essence through 4.Nh3. The major difference between the two variations is the absence of the Kingside fianchetto for both sides in the Karlsbad Variation. Instead of developing a Bishop Fianchetto, Black went for a developed Knight on f6.

There are other variations like the Staunton Gambit where White continues with 2.e4, Hopton Attack, and Raphael Variation.

Successful deployments

Valentin Arbakov Vs Vladimir Kramnik 0-1, GMA Qualifier 1989

Former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik. Image: bestofchess.com

Former World Champion, Vladimir Kramnik brilliantly demonstrated the use of the Leningrad Variation of the Dutch Defense. In this game, he successfully subdued the attacks of Russian Grand Master Valentin Arbakov who is popular for winning the Moscow City Chess Championships in 1981.

Ernst Gruenfeld Vs Carlos Torre 0-1, Baden-Baden 1925

Carlos Torre. Image: chesshistory.com

Gruenfeld’s legendary status did not prevent him from being mauled by Carlos Torre who employed the use of the fierce Stonewall Attack. The game lasted just 13 moves as Gruenfeld’s desperate attempt to repel the intruding e4 Knight quickly backfired. A Knight sacrifice presented an inevitable mate in 2 moves.

Joseph Blackburne Vs Wilhelm Steinitz 0-1, 1862

Austrian World Champion (first) Wilhelm Steinitz. Image: Fine Art America

First official World Champion, Wilhelm Steinitz and the Staunton Gambit of the Dutch Defense was a love story greater than Twilight. He brilliantly created an open file to tame Joseph Blackburne in this 19-move game.

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