Striking with the "Dutch Lance"!

Mar 4, 2013, 9:00 PM |

For those who don't know what the Dutch Defense is, it's an opening for black against white's common opening 1.d4. It's a versatile opening, with similar ideas to the Sicilian and other flank-pawn openings. The variation of the Dutch that I play is the Leningrad Variation.

As some players will note, this variation looks like it has some serious drawbacks for black. Black's development is slow, the king is exposed through the a2-g8 diagonal, white seems to have a dominating control over the center, and black's entire queenside is still sleeping! Well, these are all true, but let's take a look at what can happen if black's pieces are allowed to wake from their slumber:

Experienced King's Indian Defense players should salivate at the idea of such an early e7-e5 advance. That's one of the reasons why the Leningrad is so effective; it's a KID opening but with extra tempo (because the f6-knight is developed after the f-pawn moves forward)! Of course, the e7-e5 break isn't the only reason why this opening is playable; even if white doesn't allow e7-e5, black still has a pretty solid position.

Now, you ask, what's the "Dutch Lance"? Is it e7-e5? Nope, but that's a good guess. If you peeked ahead in the game diagram above, you'll notice another (!!) decisive pawn advance. Don't you just love the Leningrad now?

So we've seen a great example of how to exploit the strategies of your opening to gain a great middlegame advantage. Unfortunately, because of my opponent's resignation, I was unable to show how to convert the material advantage to a win, but that may be for another day.

This post has covered a lot; we started from a brief introduction of the Dutch Defense (specifically the Leningrad variation), and proceeded to show important pawn breaks for black (e7-e5) and for white (e3-e4 or e2-e4).

To me, this knowledge of pawn breaks and opposing strategies is what opening theory is. I don't think many people memorize line after line. It's more important to understand openings in terms of "objectives". For example, an objective for black in the leningrad is to be able to push e7-e5. Subsequently, white's objective is to stop this advance and prepare his own e3-e4 break. This is a lot easier than remembering d4, c4, g3, Bg2, etc. which seems to be just a string of random moves on paper, but are actually focused on a single goal (which can be easily demonstrated on a board). Many other openings have their own "objectives", which need to be understood in order to master an opening.

Of course, at ratings below 1800, tactics will still decide the match (assuming both sides can spot them), but having a little bit more knowledge about the opening can give you an early lead.

Constructive comments on my analysis are always welcome!

Also, I will take suggestions for what my next post should be about in the comments section below. I usually play the sicilian against white's 1.e4 (accelerated variation), the dutch against white's 1.d4, and the queen's gambit (1.d4 d5 2.c4) as white. I might continue on opening theory or showcase some tactical themes. Good luck on the chessboard!