Well, it's that time of year again! It's supposed to be summer, people took off to go on holiday, and for Belgium that means that on highways you have to slalom your way home from work past Dutch holidaymakers and their caravans. This reminded me of many camping holidays, and the fact that my wife and I always joke about how difficult it is to avoid the Dutch when you like camping in Southern-Europe. It happened to us once that we hiked for 4 hours to the top of a mountain in Austria, without seeing anyone on the way, only to find a Dutch family having a picnic on the summit... With chess it is not much different it seems. Every time I play 1.d4 in an attempt to be original by deviating from 1.e4, my opponents seem to like to play 1....f5 these days. What's up with the Dutch?
First of all, it makes sense that this opening is called the Dutch defense. Some people claim that this was named after a French guy called Elias Stein, who lived in The Netherlands in the 18th century and liked to meet 1.d4 with 1.... f5, but that seems inaccurate. After all, black's play with 1.... f5 and then e6 or g6 (or both!) seems to resemble the pitching of a tent... in the Leningrad often followed by building a nice picnic table with c6 and d6 - a typical hobby of the Dutch! In the picture you'll find a typical main-line Dutch and you'll see what I mean. Daddy drinks Heineken in his tent, a bit cramped still, but he'll be trying to get a royal size tent by playing e5 in the near future. Not that easy to play against, as usually the opponent feels much more at home in the ensuing play than the foreign traveller that just stumbles upon this opening... It's probably the white play that doesn't make that much sense. Why would we let the Dutch set up their camp site as they please? There are many fun ways to interfere from the start of the game. Last week when behind a Dutch caravan on a highway near Antwerp I though of a couple of them.
Option one: Bringing religion to the camp site
A variation I have always liked to play against the Dutch defense is 2.Bg5. Statistics are good for white and I wonder if the average Dutch player is prepared to get a lecture from the white bishop on move two. In any case, the game is not at all following the usual path. As black in the Dutch defense, there is a lot of work to do on campsite preparation. Before you leave home, hours should be spent on checking the caravan or the tent, and especially if you are into "Leningrad dynamism" many hours will have been spent on positions after 1.d4 - f5, 2.Nf3 and the white kingside fianchetto. So if you as white deviate, disappointing your opponent, you have a psychological advantage from move 2. Most likely black will follow up with 2.... h6, since 2...g6. 3. Nd2 - Bg7, 4. e4 - fxe4, 5. Nxe4 seems to give white too much play. After 2.h6 I just like to play the following variation:
The Dutch camper has declined your invitation to listen to your Bishop's words of wisdom, and tries to drive him off, but you'll have a serious advantage when the Bishop-hunt is taken this far. Black's position is compromised due to the threat of Qh5 mate. Of course black has better ways to play to this position, one of them being to play c5 instead of g5... use your game explorer and find out!
Option two: Pitching a bigger tent yourself
If you don't pay attention, it is easy to be overrun by Dutch tourists. You leave camp in the morning for a nice all day hike only to find out that an enthusiastic holidaymaker pitched a tent within a meter of yours when you come back home... It can be regarded anti-social, but the best way to avoid these situations is by clearly stating which part of the pitch is yours. In chess terms, 2.e4 seems to do that trick. If the From is playable against the Bird, the Staunton-gambit should be more than playable against the Dutch! There is little to remember and the main line, with black playing reasonable moves goes as follows:
Not bad at all if you consider that this takes white about 5 minutes to prepare! the Staunton is an easy easy weapon for those who like to have a go against a weakened kingside without running too much risk. This could be an early end of the holiday of your Dutch adversary! Obviously, there is some more theory to look at, but it shouldn't take you more than the time of one summer BBQ to figure out this gambit.
There also are some other ways to get friendly with the Dutch camper but they all involve pawn sacrifices and kingside weaknesses. 2. g4 and 2.h3 are some examples. Those moves don't seem too promising for white, but there is one other option. If recent behaviour on your camping really upset you, you can try throwing in wife and kids in an attempt to have the game go your way.
Option three: Sending in wife and kids
Here you basically send your wife out to distract your neighbour, while you have your kiddo do the damage. It probably is a dodgy approach if your opponent knows what he is doing, but hey, who cares, you're on holiday and just trying to have some fun. The game will become very unclear, and many ways of play are possible but the following variation is interesting, and should give white some advantage:
Well, that is about it. Don't take all of this serious, I just wanted to show you some of the interesting ways to play against the Dutch defense. And maybe for the record... the Dutch are not that bad to encounter on holidays, they're actually a lot of fun. Just steer clear of their Heineken beer!