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This month I've been looking at some recent games in the Dutch Defence. In particular I have focused on an early Rf1-e1 in the Leningrad, when the timing of an eventual e2-e4 is then an important issue. There are a couple of games involving the strongest computers Lc0 and Stockfish (totalling more than 250 moves!) which also involve the Dutch. Although computer chess is 'different' at times (that is, to the way you and I would play) we can still learn a great deal about the engines' decisions.
I've had more time recently (believe it or not!) to examine some comments on the Forum, and I've tried to clarify some queries. I've also added some thoughts of my own concerning some lines that are being covered in recent books. So, even if you can't yet play face-to-face with a human opponent, there is always plenty to keep you occupied and primed-to-return with ChessPublishing!

Download PGN of June ’20 Daring Defences games

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Featured Dutch Defence games:

Dutch Defence 2.Bg5 g6 3.e3 [A80]

In Budisavljevic, L - Kazakouski, V White settles for the calm 3.e3 whereas in many ChessPublishing columns I've mainly been concerned with the sharper lines. Here, although the latter part of the opening proved to be somewhat better for White, Black has various ways to improve.

The simplest being 10...Nc6 in the diagram position, rather than the artificial-looking 10...Bd7. Later on, Black gradually got himself back onto level terms and might even have had the better of the draw at the end.

Dutch, Staunton Gambit 2.e4 fxe4 3. Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 g6 5.Bc4 [A83]

The first of the Lc0 - Stockfish marathons featured an amazing piece sacrifice that illustrates how these incredible machines are taking chess to another level. Diagram after 15...Qc5:

How many tournament players would opt for 16.f5!! at this point? Not many, I bet. Furthermore, on an ordinary computer a run-of-the-mill engine will assess this as 'advantage to Black'. However, Lc0 and Stockfish are stronger and observe that Black has long-term difficulties. OK, it took White another 110 moves to win, but that's just a detail. The piece sacrifice is frankly amazing and does seem to be sound.

I have made a few observations about the opening phase, but as this is such a rare line I'm not sure that it will have much practical relevance except for those who dabble with the Staunton Gambit with either colour.

Dutch Leningrad 7.Nc3 Qe8 8.Re1 [A87]

The second Lc0 - Stockfish is even longer at 135 moves! White had a pull out of the opening but then Lc0 was pegged back to a fairly equal simplified late middlegame. Although he managed to again generate a small advantage much later, this time it was of only nominal significance.

As to the opening, here Re1 with e2-e4 works quite well once Black has his queen on e8 and plays with an early ...e5. But it's probably more accurate to play with 8...Qf7 rather than 8...e5.

Dutch Leningrad 7.Nc3 c6 8.Re1 Na6 9.e4 [A88]

In this version of the Leningrad it's not news that, following 8.Re1 Na6, the break 9.e4 is premature. In Arkell, K - Shabalov, A Black obtained a good opening and was able to squeeze out an endgame win. Although 9.e4 isn't catastrophic it seems that after 9...Nxe4 10.Nxe4 fxe4 11.Rxe4 Bf5 the best that he can hope for is equality with 12.Re2! rather than 12.Re1, but this is for the record as White really needs to seek an alternative at move nine to hope for any advantage.

Dutch Leningrad 7.Nc3 c6 8.Re1 Na6 9.b3 Qc7 [A88]

In Enchev, I - Moussard, J after 8.Re1 Na6 there occurred 9.b3 Qc7 and only now 10.e4:

Again Black obtains a good game with quick piece development combined with ...e5, so it looks as if the e2-e4 break is still too early at this point. So White should instead develop his dark-squared bishop first, for example with 10.Ba3 and hold back with the e-pawn for now.

Dutch Leningrad 7.Nc3 c6 8.d5 e5 9.dxe6 Bxe6 10.Qd3 [A88]

In Sargsyan, S - Jumabayev, R Black played an unusual line, but was notably able to obtain a good game.

Here 10...Nbd7 was played, a move that had only been featured seriously in this column about twenty years ago! Direct responses with 11.Ng5 and 11.Qxd6 don't seem that effective, so 11.Bf4 seems normal, and then 11...d5!? (very rare, although Mamedyarov played it once, but not successfully) 12.Ng5 but then Jumabayev had an even bigger surprise up his sleeve. He unleashed a novelty 12...Nc5 which seems to have confused Sargsyan and even led to an early pull for Black. This could have been home preparation because it holds only by a thread, but seems to lead to full equality in my opinion in any case.

Forum thoughts:

Benko Gambit 5.e3 e6 [A57]

Grigor Grigorov has come out with some ideas for White against the Benko Gambit based on 5.e3. So these require a closer look.

Here, in Modern White Benko repertoire I've examined some thoughts about the counter 5...e6

Benko to Blumenfeld is just a brief note here to emphasize how close these ...e6 lines can resemble the Blumenfeld. Indeed it can transpose in certain cases.

Benko Gambit 5.e3 axb5 6.Bxb5 Qa5+ [A57]

The response 5...axb5 6.Bxb5 Qa5+ looks reasonable to me. Black fared badly in a 'high-ranking' e-mail game, as mentioned on the Forum (and in general he has struggled from the diagram position):

Instead of 11...Nb4, I suggest the improvement 11...Be7 which seems to just about resolve Black's problems, but only if one is willing to follow deep down into a line that has been tested in some other 'equally high-ranking' e-mail encounters.

Dutch 2.Nc3 d5 [A80]

The continuation 3.Bf4 a6 with the intention of an early ...c5 has actually been played quite frequently and even Carlsen has had it with Black. I even discussed it in a recent update. However, on the Forum a reader pointed out a game of his that had since put him off repeating this whole line with Black. Well, my answer is that he has been too pessimistic about Black's chances, as you can see in my analysis.

Here I suggest 11...Qe7! with ...Rd8 to come, see Dutch 2.Nc3.

I can't help but quote Agdestein here about Black throwing down a challenge to his opponent: "OK, you have complete control of e5, but so what?".

Albin Counter Gambit 5.a3 Be6 [D08]

The question here is whether the line with 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.a3 Be6 is playable for Black or not. On the Forum it was pointed out that Luc Henris had improved on Boris Avrukh's antidote, but since then the Israeli GM has come up with a more challenging option for White, and one that any Albin aficionado (who wants to play with ...Be6) needs to take into account. White has indeed scored well after 6.Nbd2 Nge7 7.b4:

so this suggests that Black has problems here, see Albin Counter Gambit 5.a3 Be6.

Grünfeld 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.h4 [D90]

This variation has become quite popular, as can be judged by me highlighting it on several occasions in recent years. This time, in h4 Grünfeld, I've mainly been concerned with some general explanations and pointing the reader into various directions depending on his style or ambitions! I've also examined the surprisingly popular 5...c5 which might be tempting for some, but I don't really believe it. So I recommend either 5...c6 (for solidity and avoidance of sharp theory) or 5...dxc4 (for those happy with complications).

Grünfeld 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bg5 [D91]

Efstratios Grivas is recommending this variation for White in a new book, so I decided that it was worth taking a closer look, in Grivas Grünfeld. I think that Black should reply with ...dxc4, either on move five or seven. So 5...Ne4 or 5...Ne4 6.Bh4 Nxc3 7.bxc3 dxc4 are my recommendations, as I'm not that happy with Black's game if he instead sticks to the main line with 7...c5 etc.

Be careful to get some preparation in now, you'll soon find that because of Grivas's influence this line will soon become popular again with White, mark my words!

Till next month, Glenn Flear

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