Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Dutch steps in the English opening part 2

6 years have passed already since I published part 1 on this blog. As I recently made some interesting discoveries, I thought this would be good to share in a follow-up. Besides I see many theoretical developments speeding up lately in a lot of openings which should be linked to the ever increasing strength of the engines. In 2015 I already forecast this effect in the article computers achieve autonomy. I notice in the last couple of years a clear progress in the domain of opening-strategy of the top-engines. Computers are able to find more often the right ideas also in openings which don't involve much tactics. They start to find critical setups. I expect in the next years we will see the impact of this in master-practice. A number of strategically dubious openings will almost completely disappear.

Indeed the Dutch defense should be categorized under the dubious openings. Till now I managed to fill the gaps but it becomes harder and harder. By the way it is not only the frequency of the problems but also the magnitude. I believe it is unwise to ignore and hope nobody would play those annoying lines on the board against you. For sure such narrow view will hamper the own development. The future of the Dutch opening is dark. So some people will wonder why I keep playing this opening and don't study something new immediately. On the other hand I don't think it matters a lot for my career if I play another year the Dutch. I am almost 43 so there isn't much reason for creating big changes suddenly.

In the article to analyze using the computer part 3 I gave a hint already by telling that I studied the classical Dutch. At that time I didn't go into details of why and what I eventually concluded. Today a year later I am willing to share my analysis as information has already been leaking. Let us start where we ended last time. Since 2012 I answered 1.c4 f5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.g3 e6 4.Bg2 every-time with Be7 which maintained the option to choose between d6 or d5 dependent of how white would continue. I played 10 official games with it. I never found the resulting positions easy in this opening but it was the last game played in the 6th round of Open Leuven 2017 against the Belgian IM Stefan Docx which broke the system.
[Event "Open Leuven 6de ronde"] [Date "2017.??.??"] [White "Docx, S."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A10"] [WhiteElo "2410"] [BlackElo "2283"] [PlyCount "105"] [Round "?"] [Site "?"] [CurrentPosition "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"] 1.Nf3 f5 2.c4 Nf6 3.g3 e6 4.Bg2 Be7 5.O-O O-O 6.Nc3 { (In the Christmas-tournament of 2016 d3 was played by Stefan against me but this is more critical.) } 6...d5 { (Stefan recommended after the game to investigate instead the classical Dutch but I didn't like it. The Russian grandmaster Evgeny Gleizerov played several times c6 in this position but I don't see full equality against optimal play of white.) } 7.cxd5 { (I already encountered d3 and d4 but Stefan had prepared this much more dangerous continuation at home.) } 7...exd5 8.e3 c6 9.b3 Ne4!? { (Probably Bd6 is a bit more solid but does not fully equalize.) } 10.Bb2 Bf6 11.Qc1 { (This special and strong move has been played before in 2011 by the Bulgarian grandmaster Alexander Delchev.  Very likely Stefan knew that game.) } 11...Nd7 12.Ne2 Bxb2 13.Qxb2 Qf6 14.Rab1 a5 15.Rfc1 Qxb2 16.Rxb2 Ndf6 17.d3 Nd6 18.Ned4?! { (White has a very comfortable position but I think a plan with Nf4 is richer.) } 18...Bd7 19.a4 g6 20.b4 axb4?! { (The automatic choice but the ultra-sharp Rfc8 looks better.) } ( 20...Rfc8! 21.Ne5 axb4 22.Rxb4 c5! 23.Rb6 cxd4 24.Rxc8+ Nxc8 25.Rxf6 Bc6 $13 ) 21.Rxb4 Rfc8 22.Nb3 Rc7 23.Nfd4 Nfe8 24.Nc5 Kf7 25.Rb6 Ra7 26.Rcb1?! { (I expected rather white planning a5. The engines confirm this as they prefer slightly Ra1 and Ndb3.) } 26...Ke7 27.h4 Bc8 28.Re1 Nf6 29.Rb4 Bd7 30.Bf3 Nc8? { (I underestimate the consequences of the next white move but I was tired of waiting while my time was running out. Nc8 prepares b6 followed up with c5 which would give me a lot of counterplay. However I am never getting this working in the game. Better was just to stay calm and wait with Be8 as white has no direct break-through.) } 31.e4 dxe4 32.dxe4 fxe4 33.Bxe4 Kf7 34.Nf3 Ne7 35.h5 gxh5?! { (Whites last strong move explodes the position. Low on time I don't manage to find anymore the best defense.) } ( 35...Kg8! 36.Ne5 Be8 37.Ne6! Rc8 38.Rb3 Bf7 39.Rf3 Bxe6 40.Rxf6 $16 ) 36.Ng5+ Kg8 37.Bxh7+ Nxh7 38.Rxe7 Nxg5 39.Nxd7 b5 40.Nf6+ Kf8 41.Rxc7 Rxc7 42.axb5 Rb7 { (First I wanted to resign but then I noticed this extra possibility to continue the fight.) } 43.b6 Ke7 44.Nxh5 c5 45.Rb1 Kd6 46.f4 Ne4 47.g4 c4 48.g5 c3 49.g6 Ke6 50.Re1 Kf5 51.g7 Nf6 52.Re5+ { (My last hope was Nxf6 which allows black to draw thanks to the intermediate-move Rxg7.) } 52...Kg6 53.Rg5+ { (I defended well after a failed opening but this was insufficient to stop the clever play of Stefan.) } 1-0
Whites opening-advantage is not big. However black can't neutralize it. Besides black has zero counterplay so this means a very long and difficult defense for maximum a half point. It is no surprise that I failed to achieve the draw in the game. It is normal to defend a bit in a game with black but equality should be reachable.

The classical Dutch is the most obvious solution but after several weeks of analysis, I didn't like it. The correctness of the opening is currently under discussion. It is also not just 1 line which bothers me but several critical lines are annoying. Finally it looked absurd to swap one dubious opening with another one.

All my work wasn't a waste of time as I was able to help my student Sterre Dauw to prepare for a critical game in the Flemish youth-championship category -18 which he won. In the 5th round he met the Belgian FM Jasper Beukema, his strongest rival and specialist of the classical Dutch. Sterre asked me if I knew an interesting anti-dote which I obviously did. At chesspub that idea was already mentioned but in practice it is rather unknown as was the case for Jasper.
[Event "Vlaams Jeugdkampioenschap -18"] [Date "2019.??.??"] [Round "5"] [White "Dauw, S."] [Black "Beukema, J."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A96"] [WhiteElo "2189"] [BlackElo "2277"] [PlyCount "71"] [Site "?"] [CurrentPosition "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"] 1.d4 { (The Big Database 2019 has no games of Sterre with 1.d4.) } 1...f5 { (Jasper chooses not so often anymore for the Dutch as he knows it is risky. On the other hand it doesn't look wrong to play it against somebody with almost no experience with 1.d4. The Dutch can be interesting to create more winning chances.) } 2.c4 e6 3.g3 Nf6 4.Bg2 Be7 5.Nc3 O-O 6.Nf3 d6 7.O-O Ne4 8.Nxe4 fxe4 9.Ne1 d5 10.Be3 { (This move is ignored in the books but we see that white scores 87,5% in mastergames with an overscore of +200 elo.) } 10...Nc6 11.Rc1 Bf6 12.f3 dxc4 13.Rxc4 Ne5 { (Our 5 minutes of preparation ended here. White has a comfortable advantage.) } 14.Rc1 exf3 15.Nxf3 Nxf3+ { (Jasper proposed a draw but Sterre realized this is his best try to become champion.) } 16.Bxf3 c6 17.Qd2 $14 { (The Spanish IM Sergio Estremera Panos chose in 2012 for the stronger Be4 and won easily against the Dutch FM Jaap Vogels.) } 17...Bd7 18.b4 Be8 19.b5 cxb5 20.Bxb7 Rb8 21.Be4 Bg6 22.Bxg6 hxg6 23.Rc5 Rb7 24.Qd3 a6? $18 25.Qxg6 Rd7 26.Qe4 Re8 27.Rh5 Rd5 28.Qh7+ Kf7 29.Rh6?! $16 Rf5 30.Qg6+?! $14 Kg8? $18 31.Qh7+?! $16 Kf7 32.Qg6+?! $14 Kg8? $18 33.Rd1 Rd5 34.Rh5? $14 Bxd4? $18 35.Bxd4 e5 36.Rf1 1-0
There are a number of errors in the game but we can't deny that white has a clear edge out of the opening which black never was able to fully neutralize. Jasper already alternates the classical Dutch with other openings but I think it is smarter to just ditch the opening at least in serious games.

Maybe Jasper should once consult his older brother and IM Stefan as he is a specialist of the Leningrad. The Leningrad is the most reliable opening in the family of the Dutch. It also has the advantage that you can play it against a wide range of white setups which does include the English opening contrary to other Dutch lines.

In 2012 I wasn't ready yet to use the Leningrad. Today I don't have a choice anymore if I still want to play the Dutch against the English opening. Meanwhile I already tried it out twice in standard-games. My most recent one was played in the last round of Open Leuven 2018. After the game my opponent Marc Kocur told me that he plays the Leningrad himself already for years which explains why I didn't get an easy position from the opening.
[Event "Open Leuven 7de ronde"] [Date "2018.??.??"] [White "Kocur, M."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A86"] [WhiteElo "1900"] [BlackElo "2290"] [PlyCount "88"] [Round "?"] [Site "?"] [CurrentPosition "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"] 1.g3 f5 2.Bg2 Nf6 3.c4 g6 4.Nc3 Bg7 5.d4 { (Earlier this year Sigiswald Barbier tried d3 against me. My opponent Marc Kocur has played the Lenigrad several years so knows what is tricky for black.) } 5...O-O 6.Nh3 d6 7.Nf4 c6 { (In Malaniuk's book 'The Leningrad Dutch' the move c6 is recommended without any comments but I find the alternatives e6,e5 and Na6 more attractive after having made some extensive analysis.) } 8.d5 e5 9.dxe6 Na6?! { (I again follow the recommendation from the book of Malaniuk but I don't find it fun.) } ( 9...Qe7! 10.O-O Bxe6! 11.Nxe6 Qxe6 12.Bf4!? Qxc4 13.Qxd6 $13 { (This line is rejected in Malaniuk's book but that is not a fair evaluation compared to the move played in the game.) } ) 10.h4 { (0-0 is more popular but h4 is more difficult for black.) } 10...Ng4 { (Also this is recommended by Malaniuk although I couldn't remember it during the game. Nevertheless maybe Nc5 should be considered with slightly less problems for black.) } ( 10...Nc5!? 11.h5 gxh5!? 12.Qc2! Qe8!? 13.Bf3! Bxe6 14.Be3 Ng4 15.Bxc5 dxc5 16.Rxh5!? { (Or first Kg2 and then Rxh5.) } 16...Ne5 17.Kf1 Rd8 18.Kg2 $14 ) 11.e4 Nc5 12.exf5 $146 { (Malianuk thinks white needs to seek equality here but this move is just better for white.) } 12...gxf5 13.O-O { (The best engines are showing the strong novelty Qc2 after some calculations. I also found that idea via the Let's check database so I am not the first looking at this move.) } ( 13.Nh5?! { (In the game I feared Ng5 but the engine finds a way to get dangerous counterplay for black.) } 13...Bxe6 14.Nxg7 Bxc4 15.Qd4 Ne5 16.b3 Qf6 17.Kd1 Qxg7 18.bxc4 Ne6 $11 { [%eval -26,30] } ) 13...Nxe6? { (After a transposition we get back in a line which Malaniuk considers equal wrongly.) } ( 13...Bxe6! 14.Nxe6!? Nxe6 15.Ne2 Qf6! 16.Rb1 Ne5 $13 ) 14.Nxe6? { (The refutation is not easy except for a computer.) } ( 14.Nce2! Re8!? 15.Rb1! Qe7!? 16.b3 a5 $16 ) 14...Bxe6 15.Bg5 Qd7 16.Re1?! { (It is not easy for white to find the right moves but Marc did tell me that he considered the stronger c5 during the game.) } 16...Rfe8 17.Bf4?! { (White likes aggression but this just increases the difficulties.) } ( 17.Bf1! Ne5 18.Na4 h6 19.Bf4 Rad8 20.Rc1 $15 ) 17...Bxc4 18.Rxe8+ Rxe8 19.Bxd6 Rd8 20.Bc5 { (Bf4 was not played but for the wrong reason.) } ( 20.Bf4!? Bd4? { (I had planned this move but it throws away the big advantage.) } 21.Bd5+ { (We both missed this spectacular interference. However it is not finished yet as now black sacrifices the queen.) } 21...Qxd5 22.Nxd5 Bxf2+ 23.Kg2 Bxd5+ 24.Kh3 Bd4 25.Qc2 Nf2+ 26.Kh2 $11 { [%eval 0,66] } ) 20...b6 21.Qxd7 Rxd7 22.Ba3?! { (This is way too passive. Bxc6 is necessary to defend.) } ( 22.Bxc6! Rd3! ( 22...Rc7? 23.Nd5 Rxc6 24.Ne7+ Kf7 25.Nxc6 bxc5 { (Marc admitted later that he misjugded this position.) } 26.Rc1 Bd3 27.Rxc5 Bxb2 28.f3 $11 { [%eval 8,37] } ) 23.Be3 Nxe3 24.fxe3 Rxe3 $17 ) 22...Rd2 23.Bf1 Bxf1 24.Rxf1 Nxf2 { (There are several roads to Rome. I don't take always the quickest one but the win never is jeopardized anymore.) } 25.Re1 c5 26.Nb5 a6 27.Nd6 Nh3+ 28.Kh1 Rxd6 29.Kg2 Nf4+ 30.gxf4 Rd2+ 31.Kf3 Kf7 32.Ke3 Rh2 33.Rd1 Bd4+ 34.Kf3 Rxh4 35.Kg3 Rg4+ 36.Kf3 Rg1 37.Rd2 Re1 38.Rd3 Ke6 39.b4 Kd5 40.bxc5 bxc5 41.Bb2 Rf1+ 42.Kg3 Ke4 43.Rb3 Rg1+ 44.Kh2 Rb1 0-1
I had definitely troubles in the opening. I clearly miss experience. Nevertheless it is a relieve to play this kind of dynamic chess compared to e.g. the stonewall. Although I regularly lose control, this is much more fun. Theoretically this still looks reasonable. Anyway this is likely the final step in the Dutch defense against the English opening.


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