Dutch Defense

1.d4 f5

The Dutch Defense might look like a reverse version of the Sicilian (1.e4 c5) - since both moves use a wing-pawn to mechanically prevent the creation of the 'perfect pawn center' by White. But due to the king positions, the Dutch is very different. 1...f5 gains space on the kingside at the expense of some weaknesses.

Starting Position

The Dutch Defense traditionally begins 1.d4 f5. Black sometimes plays 1...e6 followed by 2...f5 in order to avoid the Staunton Gambit.


  • Original
  • Creates imbalanced yet flexible positions
  • Less common, so opponents won't be as prepared for it


  • Early ...f5 exposes the Black king
  • A well-prepared opponent can cause difficulties
  • White gains central space


The course of a typical Dutch Defense game is largely defined by Black's pawn structure. A fianchetto on the kingside with a pawn on d6 is the Leningrad; the c6-d5-e6-f5 structure is the Stonewall; and d6-e6-f5 is the hallmark of the Classical Dutch.

There are also a couple of important sidelines by White to know.

Leningrad Variation

The Leningrad Variation is characterized by Black fianchettoing the dark-squared bishop and playing ...d6 to develop the light-squared bishop. The key position can be reached by several move orders, most commonly 1.d4 f5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 g6 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.O-O O-O 6.c4 d6. White often plays d5 at some point to control the hole created on e6 when Black plays both ...d6 and ...f5.

Stonewall Formation

Even though the Leningrad is more common, perhaps no variation is more associated with the Dutch than the Stonewall, where Black tries to lock down the e4 square to occupy it with a knight and spearhead a kingside attack.

Once again several move orders are possible, for example 1.d4 f5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 e6 4.c4 d5 5.Nf3 c6.

The most classic example of a Stonewall where Black plays the knight to e4 and wins on the kingside was this game from Savielly Tartakower against Geza Maroczy in 1922. (Both players earned the title of grandmaster when it was officially introduced in 1950.)

Classical Dutch

When Black neither fianchettoes on the kingside nor plays ...c6 and ...d5 it is considered the classical line, usually beginning with the move order 1.d4 f5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Nf3 e6 4.c4 Be7 (instead of 4...d5).

Hopton Attack

The Hopton Attack is simply 2.Bg5 on move two, with White's idea being to eliminate Black's knight when it moves to f6, so that it can't later jump to e4 as in the Stonewall.

This variation is also important because it introduces the possibility of a trap that every Dutch Defense player should know: 1.d4 f5 2.Bg5 h6 3.Bh4 g5 4.Bg3 f4 5.e3 fxg3?? 6.Qh5#. Black can easily avoid the trap by not trying to win the bishop, which is a plan that is doomed to fail, and focusing on development instead. The trap is still a good example of how 1...f5 is a somewhat weakening move.

Staunton Gambit

The Staunton Gambit, 2.e4, used to be thought to lead to a very strong attack for White, to the point where Black started to play 1...e6 and 2...f5 to avoid it.

Even though the gambit doesn't score well for White anymore, Black might still want to avoid it; the main idea of the Dutch is to attack the kingside, and so Black can get uncomfortable when White tries to do so instead.

However, in the 1...e6 move order Black must be prepared for 2.e4 anyway, when the game has transposed into the French Defense.


Unlike several openings, the Dutch doesn't have a clear philosophical origin or a period of exceptional popularity. For centuries now it's been a somewhat offbeat but ever-present way for Black to meet 1.d4.

Paul Morphy often played it on those rare occasions he faced a 1.d4 opening. Of the official world champions GM Mikhail Botvinnik is best known for employing it.

The heyday for the opening was probably the 1920s, when Tartakower won the game above and Alexander Alekhine (in 1922) and GM Miguel Najdorf (1929) also scored famous Dutch Defense victories.

Learn The Dutch Defense

Learn The Dutch Defense

Learn the main lines and key ideas in the Dutch Defense.
24 min
10 Challenges
Top Players