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This month it's time for a Dutch special. The Leningrad is perhaps the most common modern way of handling an early ...f5, so there are plenty of examples, but there are some other notable games from alternative set-ups. We start for example with one featuring 2.Nc3 which is typically used to avoid the Leningrad.

Download PGN of March '15 Daring Defences games

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Dutch 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 Bg5 d5 [A80]

In Game One Sergei Volkov employs a plan involving an early queen sortie:

The idea is to delay the bishop's development for a move or two. The bishop could always go to the standard d3-square, but in the featured game Volkov prefers b5. The reasoning being that the pressure along the a4-e8 diagonal could create some discomfort in the black camp.

Later, in the actual game, Black threw caution to the wind and went for activity on the other wing at the cost of a pawn or two. It even came close to working, but with hindsight it looks too optimistic. The notes suggest some less risky ways of handling the black pieces.

Leningrad 7...Qe8 8 d5 a5 [A87]

All the seven games in this month's column feature ...Qe8 or ...c6, or both!

The following position can be found in Game Two after 12...c6:

White now continued with 13.b4 which is considered as dubious in a recent book on this opening (The Leningrad Dutch, Malaniuk & Marusenko, Chess Stars 2014).

So Black should have been doing fine after this, and indeed was up to a certain point. However, the middlegame that followed turned out to be quite tricky and Esipenko (2271) managed to turn the tables on a player 400 rating points higher.

b3 and Bb2 vs Leningrad [A87]

In Game Three White opted for an early b2-b3 with Bb2, which is a practical approach against the Leningrad, as it aims to counter Black's long diagonal pressure.

In the notes, you'll see some examples where White fianchettos this bishop whilst avoiding c2-c4 (then the c4-square can be used by one of White's pieces, such as a knight).

In the main game, involving c2-c4, Laznicka showed how to solidly prepare for ...e5 (...c6, ...Qc7, ...Bd7, ...Rae8). A model plan, as opposed to those cases where Black goes for a quick ...e7-e5 with limited support, which can be a delicate affair with White's bishop already on b2.

Leningrad 7...Qe8 8 d5 Na6 [A87]

In Game Four the following typical looking position arose after 12.b4:

Here Predojevic played 12...Nxb4, a temporary piece sacrifice that seems to give Black at least equality. Definitely a theme to look out for in both this and a key analogous position (without the preliminary 11.dxc6 bxc6).

In the game Black soon obtained a decisive advantage, but White had a couple of possible improvements on move 14.

Whatever the ultimate conclusion, this tactical shot certainly makes one of White's main plans less attractive, that is from the first player's point of view.

Leningrad 7...Qe8 8 Nd5 [A87]

In Game Five White met 7...Qe8 with the radical 8.Nd5, which changes the character of the game after 8...Nxd5 9.cxd5. White's doubled d-pawns certainly cramp Black, but are prone to coming under attack:

Many authors advise Black to continue with 9...Nd7 followed by ...Nb6, with ...c6 in mind. However the immediate 9...c6 is also examined in the notes.

In the game, Black preferred 9...Qb5 (activating whilst attacking the d5-pawn) to which White replied 10.Qc2, daring his opponent to capture on d5. A complex struggle resulted in which both sides had their chances.

Leningrad 7...c6 [A88]

In Game 6 Neelotpal opted for 8.Qb3 when pressure down the a2-g8 diagonal can be a nuisance for Black. The game reached the following position a few moves later after 12.Bb2:

Here Black has two good moves: 12...Qf7 and 12...Be6, both of which attack the undefended c4-pawn. However, Bartel unfortunately chose a third way 12...e5? and got into hot water after 13.dxe5 dxe5 14.Qa5!, as in the game Korchnoi-Dolmatov, from 1999.

The whole game was a tough fight with Black coming back from the brink, only to lose his way again just before move 40.

In Game 7 Wojtaszek came up with a new move which I think deserves a diagram:

The Polish GM's 12.Ng5! has the point that by retaining a pair of knights on the board White has more chances of an edge. Later, Caruana opted for a complex counter-attacking plan on the kingside, which cost him a key pawn. This was probably playable, but required a precise follow-up, whereas the solid alternative I've suggested on move 22 looks easier to navigate.

I wasn't present, but time trouble seems to have cost Caruana dear. He essentially let things slip with a series of inaccurate moves just before the time control.

In Game 8 Khismatullin obtained a good opening and then lost his way, just as he did in Game 2. However he redeemed himself with a nice rook sacrifice to earn the full point.

In this example, Black prepared ...e5 with ...c6, and ...Qc7. However it's worth noting that the additional moves ...a5 and ...Na6 were part of the process. They keep White relatively quiet on the queenside and enable Black to have access to either c5 or b4 (for the knight) once play opens up.

Stonewall with b3 [A90]

This month there is only one game in the Stonewall, but as it features Anand and Carlsen, then it's worth a close look. In Game 9 Carlsen left his bishop on c8 and pushed his a-pawn, which is a low-risk way of disrupting White's queenside:

My feeling is that Black was perfectly OK after the opening. Soon after, Anand did obtain the bishop pair and logically sought to open up the centre, to which Carlsen cheekily grabbed the a2-pawn.

Computer analysis suggests that the game was poised close to equality when Anand blundered.

Classical 7...Qe8 8 Qd3 [A97]

The final game (Game 10 Olszewski-Piorun) involves the Classical variation with Black's 7...Qe8 being met by the unusual 8.Qd3:

There are a few differences with 8.Qc2, but in both cases White shows his intention of playing a quick e2-e4. The game continued with 8...Qh5, which isn't bad, but I prefer 8...Nc6, as you'll see in the notes.

In the middlegame, White had queen and pawn for three minor pieces, but wasn't able to find a convincing way to develop his advantage. In fact White's victory only came about because Black took some risks, probably as he too had positive ambitions about his chances.

In fact a number of games this month ebbed and flowed, one of the joys and dangers of the Dutch Defence...for both sides!

Till next month, Glenn Flear

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