Friday, February 21, 2020

The expert part 3

Already in 2013 I wrote on this blog that the Dutch is a dubious opening as white has a large choice of possibilities to test black see a dutch gambit part 2. I didn't mean at that time the opening was refuted. Just white has much more options compared with more solid/safe openings to play something dangerous which means you need to study many more different type of lines as black.

However last month Sim Maerevoet wrote in ideas part 2 that nowadays there exist multiple systems against the Dutch which do give an advantage to white so practically closing the opening. You just need to make a serious analysis and black is toasted. Unfortunately I am getting more and more convinced Sim is right. The last couple of months I only was repairing broken lines of the Dutch. Especially by analyzing with the new engine lc0 many persistent problems have occurred in the Dutch. Lc0 continuously finds holes in my old analysis which previously let me believe those lines were playable.

It seems just a matter of time that I will have to stop playing the Dutch opening in standard games. Sim is not yet using lc0 but I do know many other masters already do. Computers achieve autonomy has clearly gained speed again. The Dutch is with the back against the wall but other risky openings are doing even worse. In the interclubs the Belgian FM Frederic Verduyn complained about the bankruptcy of chess due to the engines. I don't want to be so negative but we will have to adopt our play or will lose (a lot of) ratingpoints.

This can be by playing other openings but also by selecting tournaments in which preparations are less likely. Besides I notice many standard tournaments nowadays prefer to play multiple games per day. The time available to prepare is limited to a minimum. This happened for example in the last round of Open Leuven 2019 in which the pairings were announced less than a half hour before the start of the round.

This lack of preparation-time becomes even more clear in rapid or blitz-tournaments. It is very rare that somebody will prepare in such tournaments for somebody specific. This allows you to play some not fully correct openings and get away with it. Sim responded to me that one of the advantages of the Dutch is that finding good moves for black is easy but I don't agree with this assessment. In my first years with the Dutch I experienced multiple miniatures (defeats in less that 20 moves with black). However playing the Dutch non stop for 25 years lets it look to the outside-world that life is simple for black. In the last 2 years I clearly benefited of this advantage in the rapidtournaments which I participated. I only lost 1 game with the Dutch but won countless others even against some titled players like IM Tom Piceu, FM Sim Maerevoet, FM Warre De Waele, FM Sterre Dauw (my student has just climbed above me on the fide-list)....

In part 1 and part 2 I have demonstrated that it is nowadays impossible to compete against a computer-preparation by specializing in 1 opening. In this article I wanted to show the other side of the medal so being an expert isn't fully useless either. Having good knowledge about the pawn-structures is valuable but also knowing the typical piece-maneuvers is, as noticed by Sim in his most recent article. Below attack against the king in the Sicilian Dragon is probably one of the most well-known opening/middlegame themes of chess but there still exist players not familiar with it.
[Event "Open Gent 1st round"] [Site "?"] [Date "2014"] [Round "?"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Thuijls, H"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B77"] [WhiteElo "2333"] [BlackElo "1830"] [PlyCount "35"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 g6 5. Nc3 Bg7 6. Be3 Nf6 7. Bc4 O-O 8. Bb3 d6 9. f3 Bd7 10. Qd2 Nxd4 11. Bxd4 a6 12. O-O-O Rc8 13. h4 {(Maybe black played before only the Dragon against lower rated players. Nevertheless it is very awkward that a + 1800 rated player is not familiar with the standard king-attack which I executed in this game.)} 13... h5 14. g4 hxg4 15. h5 Nxh5 16. Bxg7 Kxg7 17. Rxh5 gxh5 18. Qg5+ {(I wasn't aware of it during the game but this complete game has been played before at least a couple of times.)} (18. Qg5+ Kh8 19. Qxh5+ Kg7 20. Qg5+ Kh8 21. Rh1#) 1-0
After the game I found in the mega-database the exact same game twice more.

At the other side of the spectrum of known themes stands probably below example which I discovered by analyzing my game against Jan Rogiers and which I published fully already here on this blog see the hyper modern french.
[Event "Analysis"] [Site "?"] [Date "2016"] [Round "?"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Rogiers, J"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C11"] [WhiteElo "2283"] [BlackElo "2130"] [PlyCount "33"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Be7 7. Be3 O-O 8. dxc5 Bxc5 9. Qd3 Qb6 10. Ng5 f5 11. Nxd5 Qxb2 12. Bxc5 Qxa1+ 13. Kf2 Nxc5 14. Ne7+ {(White is a rook down but has a surprising combination.)} 14... Kh8 15. Nf7+ {(White can try to inverse the sequence to make it even more beautiful but then black can postpone mate.)} (15. Qd8 Ne4+ 16. Kg1 Rxd8 {(Black can sacrifice a full queen with Qd4 avoiding immediate mate.)} 17. Nf7#) 15... Rxf7 16. Qd8+ Rf8 17. Qxf8# 1-0
In the rapid-tournament of Gent (24th of November 2019) I didn't miss the chance to execute the same very peculiar theme in my game against Robert Decruyenaere. We played the same opening but a somewhat different line. As the theme pops up very late in the game and the positions are looking totally different, I do wonder if it is just a coincidence. I assume this theme has popped up in other openings too so readers are invited to share if they have encountered something similar already.
[Event "Analysis"] [Site "?"] [Date "2019"] [Round "?"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Decruyenaere, R"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C11"] [WhiteElo "2302"] [BlackElo "1932"] [PlyCount "55"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. Be3 Be7 8. Qd2 b6 9. Bb5 Qc7 10. O-O-O O-O 11. Bxc6 Qxc6 12. f5 Bb7 13. Rhf1 f6 14. fxe6 Qxe6 15. dxc5 Bxc5 16. Bxc5 Nxc5 17. exf6 Rxf6 18. Nxd5 Rff8 19. Rfe1 Qg4 20. Qd4 Qxd4 21. Rxd4 Rad8 22. Ne7+ {(Before Open Leuven I had checked my analysis of my game against Jan Rogiers so naturally I couldn't miss this theme even if this is only a rapid-game with little time left on the clock.)} 22... Kh8 23. Rxd8 Rxd8 24. Ne5 Rf8 25. Rd1 Bxg2 {(In the game Robbert saw the clue of my idea but the position is obviously also won for me after his g6.)} (25... g6 26. N7xg6+ hxg6 27. Nxg6+ Kg8 28. Nxf8 Kxf8 +-) 26. Nf7+ {(Here too Rd8 is possible but again then it is no forced mate.)} (26. Rd8 Rxd8 {(With g6 and sacrificing a full rook black can postpone mate.)} 27. Nf7#) 26... Rxf7 27. Rd8+ Rf8 28. Rxf8# 1-0
So experience exists in different shapes and formats. I am surely not exaggerating that my +25 years of experience with the Dutch is much more than just knowing by heart some opening-moves. That is also why I find it so hard to dish the Dutch. I wrote above that it is a matter of time but I am not in a hurry. Our national youth-coach Arben Dardha said in a recent interview about his son Daniel that time is precious. Indeed time flies for our youth as once they become adults, it will be increasingly difficult to make further progress. Once you are 43 like myself then this isn't an issue anymore. There are still some lines in the Dutch which I like to investigate closer. Only after I did that then I will be mentally ready to close the big book of the Dutch opening.



  1. When speaking about the Dutch, one should not forget that from Black's perspective there are three main systems: the Leningrad, the Classical and the Stonewall. Leaving engines aside (no-one stands a chance against an engine) I don't think the Dutch has been refuted in human play. As a white player, for instance, you can't be expected to be well versed in the three main systems. So you can't really run the risk to take on the Dutch when you don't know which of the three main systems your opponent is going to choose. As a result many white players opt for a treatment with an early Nc3 or b3, sometimes even the Staunton gambit, in the same way that many white players flee into the Rossolimo or the Alapin when faced with the Sicilian. In this way they can build up a repertoire with a minimum of effort. It suffices to study a limited number of analysed model games by top players to avoid all the intricacies of the three separate systems mentioned above. Only when as White you are sure your opponent stubbornly sticks to the same main system time and time again, can you take the risk of preparing something special in that line. All this doesn't mean that as Black you should despair, however. I think the best option is to steer away from the most fashionable lines because those are the ones most white players will know best. As an example I would mention the Belyavsky treatment against ...Bd6 in the Stonewall, with White playing Bf4. A thorough study of this opening by White makes the line virtually unplayable for Black. So Black does best to try something else, bearing in mind Korchnoy's old maxim: 'All that is forgotten is new'. In this way it's a good thing to buy new books and online courses if only to know which systems are hot and which are not and then to plump for the ones that are not hot. The basic rule is always that the best opening for you is the one your opponent is least familiar with!

    1. I think it is not that hard nowadays for a professional player to create a refutation for any of the 3 main systems of the Dutch. Recently Giri Anish made a very interesting remark about engines in a Dutch interview:
      "10 years ago you needed 10 days to make a deep analysis of a position. 2 years ago it costed 2 days. Nowadays you only need half hour to get the right answer."

      Now you could of course argue that I never play against the caliber of +2700. However I do play against +2400 players and they use exactly the same tools and also work hard at chess so very often finding the same answers.

      Finally I could of course reserve the Dutch against people lower rated but this kind of playing purely for the result is not something I like. I have better and more interesting things to do than gaining easy points by tricking unsuspected players.

  2. Hello, Thanks for a great blog. What is your definition of 'refutation'? I have recently started to play and study the Dutch and have been enjoying the exciting games I am getting. I don't mind being slightly worse if I have counterplay but I would not like to be clearly worse or playing for two results(loss or draw).
    Could you share where you think a refutation might exist in Leningrad with 7...c6.
    I am aware of the positions that you mentioned on ChessPub as being wrongly evaluated in some books but are there other more important problems?

    1. If I don't have a clear drawing line and I only suffer then I call the line refuted. I recently analyzed some lines in which Stockfish and Leela still manage to draw after very long defenses often by bailing out to rook endgames with a pawn less but that would be complete nonsense to play voluntarily.

      I just returned home from a big open tournament in France where I tried for the first time the Leningrad with c6. It was a very eventful draw against a 2450 rated player see

      I expect that the Leningrad with 7...c6 is the last stand. I'm planning to write an article about 7...Qe8 which I consider refuted. I had a short talk with the French grandmaster Adrien Demuth after our draw in the final round and he thinks even 7...c6 is too risky to play always so he just uses it in 1/4 games against specific opponents. In his book there are several lines resulting in some advantage for white. As I still want to play the line for some time, I prefer not to help my future opponents. :)

  3. Thanks for the feedback. That was an interesting game you played. Looks like you were OK for most of it. I'm curious how much was pregame prep? Most tourneys that I play, I only know my opponent a few minutes before the round starts.
    I wonder what defense to 1.d4 offers more winning chances? I know that when Kramnik had to try to win as black against Leko in the world championship he chose the Benoni. The problem with that is white doesn't have to play d5. Maybe the Grunfeld. Who knows:)

    1. Till move 10 I knew it without prep. The prep went 4 moves further so till move 14. I regretted afterwards that I stopped the prep that early as there exists a correspondence game played in 2018 which reveals which critical moves black should play next. I underestimated the complexity of the line in my prep but I was also forced to spend time of the prep at several other lines.

      You could use a statistical approach to know which defense offers more winning chances. It is perfectly possible to make an openingbook with a database and get the win/draw/loss percentage per opening. Still this doesn't take into account your personal style/qualities/experience which definitely has a much bigger impact than just some numbercrunching.

      The Grunfeld is the preferred opening of my son against d4. He scores heavily with it even against 200 points higher rated players but he is only 1700 elo.

  4. Thanks for your time. I appreciate it.