The Dutch Defense is a Queen’s Pawn Opening beginning with the moves 1. d4 f5
Black immediately creates an imbalance in the position and takes the important e4 square under control.
While exposing the “King’s Short diagonal” by moving the f-pawn so early may seem to be a violation of Opening Principles, black may hope to seek a kingside attack later in the game with the help of this pawn. The Dutch Defense remains a popular option for players who want to play aggressively.
In this article, we’ll examine some of the popular continuations and variations of the Dutch Defense and consider options for both players.
In the Leningrad variation of the Dutch Defense, black fianchettos the dark-squared bishop. From g7, this bishop will not only be a good defender of the king, but also an active piece on the long diagonal.
The game may proceed 1. d4 f5 2. c4 Nf6 3. g3 g6 4. Bg2 Bg7 5. Nc3 0-0 6. Nf3 d6 7. 0-0 Qe8
Black prepares to play …e5, when they will have a menacing kingside pawn mass.
This fianchetto set-up from white is quite popular against the Dutch Defense. The g2 bishop helps protect white’s king against black’s possible kingside aggression, and this bishop would possible be blunted by the f5 pawn if it were instead to develop to d3.
Here, white often discourages black from playing …e5 with 8. d5 (intending to take en-passant if black plays 8…e5), but now black can change plans and play 8…a5
Black stops white from expanding on the queenside with b4, and intends to head for the weakened c5 square with their knight.
Both sides have some alternative options – for example, sometimes black will play 8…Na6 immediately without playing …a5, and sometimes black will spend a tempo to play …c6 earlier in the game to discourage white from playing d5. In any case, the game remains highly imbalanced!
In the Stonewall variation of the Dutch Defense, black plays …d5 in the opening and secures a tight grip of the e4 square. A possible example is 1. d4 f5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 e6 4. Nf3 d5 5. c4 c6
Black’s rigid pawn structure has advantages and disadvantages. It’s nice to be able to control the e4 square (which could find itself home to a black knight after a later …Ne4), and black could seek to use their space to seek a kingside attack.
But black has permanently weakened the e5 square, which could find itself home to a white knight later in the game. Black’s light-squared bishop is also heavily restricted by all of black’s central pawns. Black may try to rectify this with the maneuver …Bd7-e8-h5 in the middlegame, but this takes three moves!
After 6. 0-0 Bd7, white often plays 7. b3:
This is a common plan against the “Stonewall” pawn structure. White is trying to exchange off black’s good bishop by playing Ba3, leaving black with only the “bad” bishop on c8.
After 7…Qe7, white can renew the threat of exchanging bishops with 8. a4. The following line is quite instructive: 8…a5 9. Ba3 Bxa3 10. Nxa3 0-0 11. Nc2 b6 12. Nce1! Bb7 13. Nd3 Na6
After the exchange of bishops, white embarks on a long journey to bring the queenside knight to d3, where it eyes the weakened e5 square.
Black can’t prevent white from establishing a knight on e5, but has used the meantime to finish up development. After 14. Nfe5 c5, the “bad” bishop isn’t so bad after all since the long diagonal will likely open up, and the game is roughly equal.
White also has other ways to take on the Dutch Defense. One combative approach is the pawn sacrifice 2. e4!?
After 2…fxe4 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5:
White threatens to regain the pawn by exchanging off the f6 knight and recapturing on e4.
4…e6 is covered in the video above – the resulting position bears a surprising resemblance to a line of the French Defense!
The main move is 4…Nc6, and the game may continue 5. d5 Ne5 6. Qd4 Ng6 7. Bxf6 exf6 8. Nxe4 f5 9. Ng3 g6 10. 0-0-0 Bh6+ 11. f4 0-0
Now that black has castled, the dark-squared bishop can drop back to the long diagonal and kick away the white queen with …Bg7 in the near future. Black has scored quite well in this line!
The Dutch Defense is an exciting opening where black breaks the symmetry from move one. Both sides will have their chances in the dynamic positions that result. If you’re looking for a hard-fought battle, the Dutch Defense might be for you.
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