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Dutch Sidelines [A80]
In Game One White opts for 2.Nc3 and 3.Bg5 followed by Bxf6, a well-known system. This plan, based on saddling Black with an inferior structure, has fallen somewhat out of fashion, probably because Black's resources are now quite well understood. The game itself reflects the potential for the bishop pair, that is when the centre opens up, but naturally the difference is often in the details.
Critical here is 11.0-0 (rather than 11.Nb2), as played by Akobian in the notes, but I think that Black can avoid problems by then reacting with 11...b6.
In Game Two Radjabov plays Bg5 with Nf3. He is not necessarily aiming for Bxf6, just comfortable development, plus the bonus of forcing Black out of any preparation. In reply, Van Wely opts for a Stonewall set-up, and soon shows his willingness to trade dark-squared bishops.
Obviously, this isn't everyone's cup of tea with Black, but I think that most would agree that his shell was tough to crack.
All hell broke loose in the final few moves of the game, when Radjabov (at first) seized a tactical opportunity, but then lost his way. The final move of the game was a blunder, but Van Wely (with less than a minute remaining) accepted a draw, not having seen that he was winning!
b2-b4 versus Leningrad [A81]
In Game Three Bartel outplays his lower-rated opponent where White tried 7.b4:
Although pushing forwards on the queenside is a typical white plan at various stages, I haven't previously looked at 7.b4. In the archives, you'll find many examples where White plays this move even earlier, when the recommended reaction may be different, so compare!
In the notes, I have mentioned various Black plans, and as usual in the Leningrad there is scope for individual interpretation. Even so, Bartel's games are often worth a particularly close examination, as he seems to know what he is doing.
7 Nc3 c6 Leningrad [A88]
Games 4 and 5 feature Hikaru Nakamura playing the Leningrad twice in Wijk aan Zee. In the second round of that event, Levon Aronian was able to beat the American with 8.Qb3, which Nakamura had already faced in 2009:
The queen frees up the d1-square for the rook, while inviting Black to spend a tempo on ...Kh8. Black's best defence isn't that clear, but Nakamura's approach certainly seemed playable. Indeed, in Game 4 I don't think White had any advantage out of the opening.
Later on, the World No.2 won by grinding Black down, with the material imbalance of 'rook and minor piece against queen and inferior pawn structure'.
Four rounds later, in our Game 5, there was a happier outcome for Nakamura who won after Gelfand made a serious error at the end. These standard Leningrad positions in the middlegame where White has the bishop pair (but no concrete way of demonstrating any advantage), are ideal if you like frustrating your opponent!
Perhaps the only reason that the 7...c6 version of the Leningrad isn't more popular, is that it's sometimes considered to be more 'negative' and less 'dynamic' than 7...Qe8. A question of taste!
Dutch with Nh3 and ...Bb4+ [A90]
In Game Six I was quite impressed with Konstantin Landa's preparation, as his manoeuvre Q-b3-a3 certainly created problems for the experienced Predrag Nikolic. Nikolic likes dropping his bishop back to c7, but here it cost too much time and he was soon clearly worse.
However, I have suggested a possible improvement on move 7, which may take away most of the sting from Landa's novelty:
This time it was the queen that beat the pieces (see game 5 for the opposite outcome), but in both cases the player who had the weaker king was the one in trouble.
In the diagram we have a key position in the Stonewall. Boris Avrukh has recently recommended this with White, Viktor Moskalenko on the other hand is happy with Black. In Game 7 Kevin Spraggett plays the 'traditional' ...Bd7-e8 manoeuvre, but this may not be Black's best. Make up your own opinion after playing through the notes, where you'll find some interesting novelties, many of them Moskalenko's.
Frankly, the Stonewall Dutch isn't known for being at the cutting-edge of new theoretical developments, but this particular variation is getting close attention, at least 'in theory'. In the game, neither player opted for the critical lines, and the middlegame turned out to be fairly balanced.
Game Eight also features one of White's most popular development plans, where he plays b3:
Here, as is so often the case, Black isn't keen on and thus avoids the exchange of dark-squared bishops. Just as in the previous game the first player opted for c4-c5, guaranteeing White more space. However, it's then difficult to put Black's centre under much pressure. Illya Nyzhnyk was nevertheless able to play the classical centre break e3-e4, which was met by ...f5-f4 leading to double-edged play. In time trouble, Lazaro Bruzon Batista blundered, thus bringing a tense struggle to a dramatic conclusion.
In Game 9 Matthew Sadler employs the Stonewall with his bishop on the less-vaunted e7. As this is the second time recently, we can assume this was intentional! Towards the end of the opening he continued with ...Bf6, and then ...Ne4-d6, demonstrating that the more modest development of his king's bishop has its points.
He perhaps didn't follow-up quite as precisely as he could have done, and ended up with a rather passive game, but it wasn't easy for Danielian to break down the English GM's defences. Another quality of the Stonewall! Later on, the complications even started to look good for Black, but Danielian managed to find a way to ensure that she was able to share the spoils.
Classical Fluid Centre 7...Qe8 [A97]
Hikaru Nakamura's third Dutch in the recent Wijk aan Zee event was the 'Classical' version. It's extremely rare to see a pair of 2750-pluses have a game in this variation. Indeed, in ten years of updates I can't remember seeing another example! In Game 10 the American No.1 demonstrated some nice ideas and was able to gradually negate White's advantage. However, one's over-riding impression is that Black has to be careful to play in such a way, and that generating 'active counterplay' may not be particularly easy at this level in the Classical Dutch. It isn't necessarily that easy in other openings either, of course!
Till next month, Glenn Flear
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