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Dutch Defence - 2.Bg5 g6 [A80]
The variation with 2.B-g5 and (when Black aims for a Leningrad set-up with ...g6) the aggressive h4 follow-up remains popular. I always felt this was difficult to handle for Black, but recent games suggest that it may not be that easy for White either. In Game one Black comes out victorious in Rusev-Pruijssers, but even in the early skirmishes he was holding his own.
So the quick Qd3 with 0-0-0 and e4 in mind, is not without risk for the first player:
Leningrad with 5.Bf4 [A85]
Aronian recently tried this line out twice, against Carlsen and Kamsky. This variation may be rare these days, but it has been played many times over the years. White tries to combine some aspects of the London System (bishop on f4) with extra central control (with c4):
The antidote seems to be to opt for ...Nc6, rather than ...c6 and ...Nbd7. I quite like the way Kamsky handled Black's position in Game 2. He obtained a solid enough game and even a dangerous initiative later on.
Leningrad with 7...Qe8 8.b3 e5 [A87]
In Game 3 I have reviewed the theory of the line with 8.b3 e5 9.dxe5 dxe5:
In turns out that the obvious 10.Ba3 doesn't really trouble Black at all. In the notes, you'll see that I've paid special attention to 10.e4 Nc6 11.Nd5, which remains critical, although there haven't been any real developments in recent years.
In this game Black obtained the advantage (almost effortlessly), but let White slip out with a perpetual. A shame, but there is always a risk that one's king will eventually be exposed when playing a Leningrad!
Leningrad with 7...c6 [A88]
The Leningrad with ...c6 has been making a revival and is now the height of fashion. The recognition that the trade of White's d-pawn for Black's e-pawn doesn't lead to any white opening advantage has stimulated this trend.
There has been an extraordinary interest in 8.Rb1 of recent, against which 8...a5 seems to be effective:
Such a natural move (White prepares b2-b4, Black restrains this), but one that took time to establish itself.
Game 4 enables us to conclude that 9.d5 e5 10.dxe6 Bxe6 11.Bf4 doesn't give White anything except problems! In fact (in the main game) White was soon struggling, although he was probably quite close to holding the endgame.
The notes suggest that 9.Qb3 isn't particularly worrying either.
In Game 5 Sargissian prefers to keep the tension with 11.b3, leading to a typical example with this pawn structure. Countless examples of this type of middlegame have convinced me that Black is fine if he (first of all) patiently covers his soft spots, and then (only when the conditions are right) later seeks active counterplay.
Anton Guijarro does this to perfection, that is until the win was close and then he gradually let it slip. He missed two wins, one with the attack, and a second one late on in the rook endgame.
If White opts for 8.Qc2, then Black's best response could be 8...Na6. This is illustrated in Game 6, where Filippov, playing Black, gained central control and was able to win with direct kingside attack. Romanov wasn't put off by this reverse and played 8.Qc2 again, but must have been ready with a possible improvement. Check out my suggestions on moves 10 and 11. Nevertheless, even there I would be happy with Black, so 8.Qc2 doesn't seem to be a big problem.
Game 7 is a real masterclass courtesy of Boris Gelfand. The previous World Championship Challenger regularly opts for 8.b3, but hasn't always been as successful as here. The main conclusion from his encounter with Filippov is that Kamsky's 11...cxd5 may not be such a good idea, as Gelfand's 'slow but sure' approach seems hard to meet.
My advice is to seek improvements on either moves 8 (8...Na6 is a reasonable alternative, see Gelfand-Ponomariov), 10 (10...e5 has done well), or 11 (11...Qe8, to avoid the problems of the game). In any case, it seems that allowing the white knight into c6 is asking for trouble!
Leningrad with 7...Qe8 8.d5 [A87]
The opening sequence in Game 8 could arise from either the 7...c6 or the 7...Qe8 move order:
In this game I have been mainly interested in the white plan of placing the queen on the a-file. Does this disrupt Black's harmony on the queenside, or does it leave the most powerful white piece side-lined? Maybe it's simplistic to give a far-reaching conclusion, so I will dodge the question and suggest that you refer to the game and notes. In the game, White's queen proved to be rather poorly-placed and Black obtained the advantage, with White desperately seeking enough compensation for the pawn. A tough fight which seems to have ended in a time scramble, so the last few moves and even the result should be taken with a pinch of salt.
Stonewall Dutch 6.Bf4 [A90]
Against the Stonewall Maxime Vachier-Lagrave plays the cunning 6.Bf4 in Game 9:
Black can then continue with the intended ...Bd6, as was played in the actual game. He plays a sort of typical Stonewall, but without dark-squared bishops. Otherwise 6...Be7 is acceptable, albeit a shade passive. The examples here are often from years gone by.
The main point of 6.Bf4 is to take Black out of his comfort zone, and it worked! However, I think that Black would have been OK if he had traded queens, as White obtained lasting pressure which justified his enterprising exchange sacrifice. Vachier-Lagrave kept control, but for ordinary mortals it was still rather messy.
Definitely something for Stonewall fans to think about.
Stonewall Dutch with 7...Nc6 [A93]
In Game 10 Narciso Dublan is successful with the '...Nc6-Stonewall'. This system is perhaps a little less-flexible than the mainstream '...c6-Stonewall', but isn't so bad:
What should White do? The plan with B-a3 (trading bishops) is reasonable enough and leaves White with 'a shade of an edge'. Black doesn't necessarily need his c-pawn in play, so the knight can stay for a long period on c6 (until Black is fully mobilized, for example), as the steed doesn't get in the way.
In the featured game White played with B-b2. Black's counterplay with ...a4 (to create a concession or two) is noteworthy, and Ftacnik's attempts to open lines with e4 just rebounded on him.
Till next month, Glenn Flear
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