Wednesday 22 June 2005

Archive: UNCUT! 39

The Sean Marsh Chess Column
*Column 39*
* *June 2005* *

New Adventures in the Dutch!

Dear Readers,

A recent thread in the forum, regarding various aspects of the Dutch Defence, brought some memories back to me of how I became involved in this interesting – yet very demanding – opening. So I thought I’d bore you all with them….

I was first able to watch top-quality players in the early 1980s. I’d started to play in the local league for Guisborough and would go along to the Middlesbrough and Redcar chess clubs just to watch games and matches in progress.
It was interesting to see what openings the top players were adopting. Most were the usual suspects, with the Sicilian, Spanish and King’s Indian all clearly in evidence. Younger players were keen to adopt the Centre Counter with 2…Nf6, long before the current trend, under the guidance of junior coach Stuart Morgan. U-11 British Champion Jason Glass had modelled the unusual opening into an extremely potent weapon. However, lesser-known openings were few and far between.

At around the same time, I bought a copy of Botvinnik’s ‘100 Selected Games’, which is an excellent selection of well-annotated games from the early part of the great champions’ career. Several of the games that attracted my attention on the first read-through featured the Stonewall Variation of the Dutch Defence, culminating in typical Kingside attacks.

Flohr – Botvinnik, 1933

The 10th game of a very famous 12 game match; Botvinnik completed his recovery from –2 and went on to tie the match, drawing the last two games.

Yudovich – Botvinnik, Leningrad Championship 1934
With this final round victory, Botvinnik secured a decisive half-point lead over his rivals.

Steiner – Botvinnik Groningen 1946

Botvinnik won this famous tournament by half a point and put himself well and truly on the path to the World Championship.

The age of the games, in conjunction with the fact that I didn’t see any local top players using the Dutch, convinced me that such ideas were outmoded. My opinion changed when I set about watching some games in the Open section of the Middlesbrough Congress in between my own games There, before my very eyes, was a classic example of a Stonewall Dutch, with Kingside pawns charging down the board in the Botvinnik style! Black won; the game impressed me and I felt I had to take a much closer look at the Dutch Defence.

RJ Harding v Norman Stephenson
Middlesbrough Open 1984

Every other week I used to pop along to Redcar Library, which was noted for its amazing number of chess books. This was due to the fact that Ray Hyde, a member of Redcar chess club, worked at the library and was therefore able to fill up the shelves to his heart’s content. Before Ray left the area there were three shelves full of high-quality chess books. I used to take out four of them every fortnight and plumb their depths for chess wisdom. Shortly after the Middlesbrough Congress I went along to find a book on the Stonewall Dutch. The closest I could find was a book on ‘The Leningrad Dutch’ by Tim Harding, so I took up that defence instead.

I tired to learn enough variations to enable me to unleash it as soon as possible. My chance came in a county match. This was at a time when to play 1…f5 was considered an extremely risky venture and I remember getting some funny looks from players either side of me. Nevertheless, the game was drawn after a sharp struggle and as my opponent was graded in the mid-180s – and I was still in the 150s - I saw this a very successful Dutch debut.

D. Firth v SM
Cleveland v Yorkshire 1984

Black is fine here. White forced the draw with 22 Bxg6 hxg6 23 Qxg6+ Kh8 ½-½

I kept playing the Leningrad Dutch against all the closed openings (1 Nf3, 1 c4 and 1 d4). Opponents usually confessed afterwards that they hated playing against it.

Eventually I was able to broaden the repertoire a bit when I got hold of a book on ‘The Classical Dutch’ (including the Stonewall) by Bellin. The various forms of the Dutch served me well but there were the inevitable setbacks.

As I got to know more the local players I discovered that the Dutch was slightly more popular than I initially thought. Richard Hall, David Wise and Ernie Lazenby were all extremely successful with its various forms.

Shortly after that period, I dropped out of local chess for 10 years. When I returned I had to cobble together an opening repertoire after years of disuse. The Stonewall Dutch was one of the old weapons I successfully dusted off and, playing it against all-comers, had great success.

The Foxy Openings video on the subject (now on DVD, of course) by GM Nigel Davies was particularly useful and in my opinion is one of the very best of the whole range.

I suppose the pinnacle of its successful outings was a game against the man who had (inadvertently) inspired me to play it.

Norman Stephenson v SM
County Championship 1999

Times change, people change; several years have now passed since I played my last Dutch A painful defeat to David Wise in the final round of the county championship, which meant that once again the title had eluded me, put me off it for a while and I went in search of other weapons against 1 d4. I also lost my inspirational video on the opening ('lost' as in 'foolishly lent out', never to be seen again) so preparation was more difficult.

Anyone thinking of taking up the Stonewall might care to take on board two observations. Firstly, things have moved on just a little since Botvinnik’s time. Back then, it was considered vitally important that the Black Queen slipped to e8 and then out to h5 to take part in the big attack against the White King. Now there is a more subtle approach, with Black playing Bd6 instead of Be7 and following up with Qe7 (to prevent - or at least delay – the exchange of dark-squared Bishops by an b2-b3 and Ba3).

Secondly, Black players must investigate the critical line leading to this position….

….which is currently giving Black some difficult problems to solve, and is the one which David Wise played against me in the aforementioned game.

Since then, there has been a rash of new books on the various forms of the Dutch and it seems only a matter of time before I am tempted to try it again.

Adventures with the Dutch come in two colours. As White I had a fair bit of success with the highly unusual 1 d4 f5 2 Qd3!?, which isn’t as ridiculous as it looks.

The basic idea is to meet 2 …e6 or 2 …g6 with 3 e4 fxe4 4 Qxe4 Nf6 5 Qh4! when White can build up a fast attack with Bh6/g5, Bd3 etc. Traditionalists would be appalled by such an early Queen move, but there is no denying it has its merits. Black’s best reply is undoubtedly 2 …d5, persuading White not to play 3 e4, but then the first player can switch to another gambit with 3 g4, and Black now has a reduced number of ways to meet this idea. For example, plans with …d6 and …e5 are ruled out. I also tinkered with the move order on occasion, varying with 2 g4 and even 2 h3 with 3 g4 to follow, all in conjunction with a slightly delayed Qd3.

SM - I. Robertson
Irvine Open 1994

When it all goes well, White can develop a very strong attack just out of the opening. It should come as no surprise that White played 11 Rxh5! in this position (1-0, 23)

SM - G. Murphy
Durham Quickplay Championship 1999

It is clear that after just 13 moves White has a wonderful position (1-0, 21).

The idea is also playable as Black against certain variations of the Bird Opening, eg. 1 f4 d5 2 b3?! Qd6!? and 3 …e5, when b3 might end up being superfluous at best. Anyway, it’s certainly food for thought and my winning percentage with 2 Qd3 is very high. Why not give it a try, especially at Quickplay?

Have fun with your new adventures in the Dutch!

Sean Marsh
June 2005

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