Chess Openings: Dutch Defense

| 12 | Opening Theory

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Category – Semi Closed Game 

Opening Move Sequence – 1 d4 f5

ECO CodesA80 to A99 

This opening was advocated in a book published in 1789 in The Hague, Netherlands, hence the name Dutch Defense. The author Elias Stein was of Alsatian origin. According to him, f5 was the best possible response to 1.d4. However, Dutch is not quite popular at the master level of chess at present time. It was popular during middle of twentieth century. For instance, the 1951 World championship match between then Champion Mikhail Botvinnik and challenger, David Bronstein, featured several Dutch opening games. Other famous players in history have used it with success as well. On the other hand, it never became one of the favorite replies to 1.d4 due to certain weakness inherent in it.  

Dutch Defense is classed among Semi Closed Games that start with 1.d4 without the reply 2…d4. However, unlike most payable Semi Closed Games, it does not fall under Indian systems which start with moves 1.d4 Nf6, 2.c4. Variations in Dutch Defense are categorized under the ECO codes A80 to A99. 

Moves and Variations

1 d4 f5 

The move 1…f5 by Black makes a strong claim on central square e4. Black also aims to prepare a possible King-side attack during the middle game by that move. There are, however, down sides for Black. 1…f5 enfeeble the Black’s own King-side. This move, unlike other available moves (d5, c5, and others), does not contribute to rapid development of Black’s pieces. Such development is a main principle of classical chess opening theory.   

In the continuation of Dutch Defense, White will usually fianchetto the Bishop on f1 to g2. Black in turn may follow suit with …g6 and then Bg7, fianchettoing the Bishop. The variation where this happens is called Leningrad Dutch Variation. In other variations Black will move the Bishop on f8 with Be7, Bd6 (after playing d5) or Bb4. Bb4 is played if White plays c4 before castling, putting pressure on the exposed White King.   

A possible continuation in Dutch Defense will proceed; 2.g3 Nf6, 3.Bg2 e6, 4.Nf3 (the move 4.Nh3!? is possibility with the aim of moving the Knight to f4 and then to d3 in order to take control of e5. This is important in case Black adapts the Stonewall Variation) Be7, 5.0-0 0-0, 6.c4. At this point Black can select 6…d5 (Stonewall Variation) or 6...d6, (Iljin-Zhenevsky System, also called Fluid System). The latter variation is not common in present day tournaments.   

A more combative White player can select other alternative variations by selecting a move other than 2.g3. These include 2.Nc3 d5, 3.Bg5, 2.Bg5, and 2.e4!? Novice players should look out for the trap of 2.Bg5 h6, 3.Bh4 g5, 4.Bg3 (4.e4!? can also be played) f4?, 5.e3 fxg3??, 6.Qh5 mate. 

2.e4 is called Staunton Gambit. Though once a potent variation, nowadays most games played under it give both sides even chances according to tournament statistics. Statistics, however, are limited due to the rarity of this variation in tournament games and should not be considered conclusive.   

White can also try several gambit variations using g4. The questionable Korchnoi's Variation, for instance, has the moves 2 h3!?, and 3g!?

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