The Dutch Defense, characterized by the move order 1.d4 f5, stands as one of the more intriguing, if not contentious, opening strategies in chess literature.
Named after the region of its origin, this defense is built upon a bold, aggressive pawn move that shapes the character of the game.
Move Order of the Dutch Defense
The Dutch Defense is initiated by Black in response to 1.d4 by White.
The defense is characterized by the move 1…f5, which can lead to unique positional play and interesting imbalances early in the game.
The idea of moving the f-pawn to f5 is to control the e4 square and deter White from easily dominating the center.
Theory, Strategy and Purpose of the Dutch Defense
The theory and strategy of the Dutch Defense revolve around the ability to counter White’s control of the center.
The initial pawn move to f5 not only disrupts White’s central control but also prepares for the eventual development of Black’s pieces.
The main purpose is to launch a powerful kingside attack, facilitated by the f5 pawn break.
This defense can also transition into other opening systems, creating a versatile range of possibilities for Black.
Variations of the Dutch Defense
There are fourmain variations in the Dutch Defense: the Stonewall, the Leningrad, the Classical variation, and the Raphael variation.
The Stonewall Variation is characterized by Black setting up a solid, rigid pawn structure with pawns on d5, e6, and f5.
This variation aims for a slow and strategic middlegame, often leading to complex positional battles.
In the Leningrad Variation, Black fianchettoes their king’s bishop with moves like …g6 and …Bg7.
This variation is often associated with a more dynamic, tactical approach to the game, combining kingside attacks with a strong, flexible pawn structure.
The Classical Variation involves Black developing their knight to f6, offering a more traditional setup and balanced play.
It often leads to a more controlled and strategic middlegame with both sides vying for control of the center.
The Raphael Variation involves white developing their knight to c3.
Under this setup, an example line might include:
2… d5 3. Bg5 Nf6 4. Bxf6 exf6 5. h4 g6 6. e3 Be6 7. Bd3 Qd7 8. Nce2 Bd6 9. c3 Nc6 10. Nf3 O-O-O 11. Nf4 Bf7 12. Qa4 a6 13. b4 Kb8 14. Kd1 Rhg8 15. b5 Na7
Those with experience in the 1. d4 f5 2. Nc3 line include Hikaru Nakamura, Gata Kamsky, Savielly Tartakower, and Victor Korchnoi.
The Raphael Variation has seen mixed popularity throughout the years.
It saw a resurgence in the mid-80 and early-90s, but has largely fallen out of favor as a less accurate way to play the Dutch Defense relative to other variations, like the standard 2. Nf3.
Evaluation of Dutch Defense
The Dutch Defense is generally evaluated at around +0.70 to +0.80 for white.
Theory & Continuation Lines of Dutch Defense
Below we have some common theory and continuation lines from the Dutch Defense starting move order 1.d4 f5 that you would see at the highest level of play.
2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 e6 4. Nh3 d5 5. c4 Bd6 6. Nf4 O-O 7. cxd5 Bxf4 8. Bxf4 Nxd5 9. O-O Nxf4 10. gxf4 Nc6 11. e3 Kh8 12. Nd2
2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 d5 4. Nh3 e6 5. c4 Be7 6. O-O O-O 7. e3 Bd6 8. Nd2 c6 9. Nf4 Qe7 10. b3 Bd7 11. Nf3 Be8 12. Bb2
2. g3 Nf6 3. c4 e6 4. Nf3 Be7 5. Nc3 O-O 6. Bg2 d5 7. O-O c6 8. b3 Bd6 9. e3 Bd7 10. Ne2 Be8 11. Nf4 Bxf4 12. exf4 Bh5 13. Qc2 Bxf3 14. Bxf3
2. g3 Nf6 3. Nf3 e6 4. c4 Be7 5. Nc3 Ne4 6. Bg2 d5 7. Qc2 c6 8. O-O Nd7 9. b3 O-O 10. e3 Nxc3 11. Qxc3 a5 12. Bb2 Bd6 13. Qc2 Nf6 14. Ne5 Bd7 15. a4 Be8
2… e6 3. g3 Nf6 4. Nf3 Be7 5. Bg2 d5 6. Nc3 c6 7. b3 Nbd7 8. O-O Ne4 9. Bb2 O-O 10. e3 a5 11. Qc2 Nxc3 12. Qxc3 Bd6 13. a4
2… e6 3. g3 Nf6 4. Nf3 Be7 5. Bg2 d5 6. Nc3 Ne4 7. Qc2 c6 8. Bf4 Nd7 9. Rd1 O-O 10. O-O a5 11. Nxe4 fxe4 12. Ne5 Nxe5 13. Bxe5 Bf6 14. Bxf6 gxf6
2… Nf6 3. Nf3 e6 4. g3 Be7 5. Bg2 d5 6. Nc3 Ne4 7. Qc2 c6 8. Bf4 Nd7 9. Rd1 O-O 10. O-O a5 11. Nxe4 fxe4 12. Ne5 Bg5 13. Nxd7 Bxd7 14. Be5 Bf6 15. Bxf6 Rxf6 16. f3
2… Nf6 3. Nf3 e6 4. g3 Be7 5. Bg2 d5 6. Nc3 c6 7. Qc2 Ne4 8. O-O Nd7 9. Ne1 Ndf6 10. c5 b6 11. Nd3 bxc5 12. Nxe4 dxe4 13. Nxc5 Qxd4
2… g6 3. e3 Bg7 4. c3 Nh6 5. Nd2 Nf7 6. Bh4 O-O 7. f4 Qe8 8. Ngf3 Kh8 9. Qb3 d6
2… g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. Nf3 Nf6 5. e3 d5 6. Bf4 c6 7. Bd3 O-O 8. O-O Nbd7 9. h3 Nh5 10. Ne2 Qe8 11. Bh2 e5 12. dxe5 Nxe5
2… g6 3. e3 Bg7 4. Nc3 c6 5. Nf3 Nf6 6. Bd3 O-O 7. O-O a5 8. Re1 d5 9. Ne2 Ne4 10. Bh4 Be6 11. c3 a4 12. Nf4 Bf7
2… g6 3. e3 Bg7 4. Nc3 c6 5. Nf3 Nf6 6. Bd3 O-O 7. O-O d5 8. Ne2 Ne4 9. Bf4 Be6 10. Be5 Bf6 11. b3 Nd7 12. Bxf6 exf6 13. Nd2 Kh8 14. c4
What is the best counter to the Dutch Defense?
The best counter to the Dutch Defense is generally considered 2. g3. 2. c5 is also good. Both are +0.70 to +0.80 for white.
2. Bg5 is an underrated but effective response (+0.60 to +0.70 for white) to the Dutch Defense as well and could surprise your opponent.
Let’s look at some other variations of the Dutch Defense:
A80 Dutch Defense without 2.c4 (A84–A99), 2.e4 (A82–A83), 2.g3 (A81)
In this variation, White doesn’t choose to fight immediately for the center by pushing c4 or e4, or try to fianchetto with g3.
Rather, White focuses on developing pieces and maintaining a solid pawn structure.
Korchnoi Attack 2.h3
In the Korchnoi Attack, White plays 2.h3, preparing to control the g4 square.
This variation, named after the famous Grandmaster Viktor Korchnoi, takes a slightly more unorthodox approach in response to the Dutch Defense, focusing on securing kingside pawn structure and preparing for a later assault on Black’s position.
A81 Dutch Defense 2.g3
In the A81 variation, White prepares to fianchetto their bishop on g2.
The fianchetto setup can provide a solid structure that supports a central pawn push and, simultaneously, prepares to challenge the f5 pawn, a key asset in Black’s strategy.
A82 Dutch, Staunton Gambit 2.e4
The Staunton Gambit is an aggressive attempt to undermine Black’s control over the e4 square by challenging it directly.
In this gambit, White sacrifices a pawn in order to speed up development and to open lines for their pieces.
Balogh Defence 2…d6
In the Balogh Defence, Black responds to the Staunton Gambit by defending the f5 pawn with 2…d6, solidifying their pawn structure and preparing to develop their light-squared bishop.
Staunton Gambit Accepted 2…fxe4 (without 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 (A83))
In this line, Black accepts the gambit and captures the pawn on e4, leading to an asymmetrical and dynamic position.
This can often lead to sharp, tactical battles as both sides strive for early piece activity and kingside control.
A83 Dutch, Staunton Gambit, Staunton’s line 2.e4 fxe4 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5
In the main line of the Staunton Gambit, White develops the knight to c3 and the bishop to g5, aiming to quickly recover the sacrificed pawn and exert pressure on Black’s position.
Black’s task here is to weather the storm of White’s aggression, develop pieces effectively, and utilize the extra pawn.
A84 Dutch Defence 2.c4 (without 2…Nf6 3.Nc3 (A85), 2…Nf6 3.g3 (A86–A99))
In the A84 variation, White plays 2.c4, aiming for a broad pawn center and looking to limit Black’s options for counterplay.
This allows for a more controlled, strategic battle as opposed to some of the wilder variations of the Dutch Defense.
A85 Dutch with 2.c4 Nf6 3.Nc3
The A85 variation sees White choosing to continue the fight for the center by developing the knight to c3.
This allows for quicker development and control over the center, putting more pressure on Black’s setup.
A86 Dutch with 2.c4 Nf6 3.g3 (without 3…g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.Nf3 (A87) and 3…e6 4.Bg2 (A90–A99))
In the A86 variation, White plays 2.c4 and 3.g3, preparing for a fianchetto setup.
This variation combines center control with a solid, flexible structure, aiming to undermine Black’s early f5 thrust and challenge the control over the central squares.
It’s a more reserved, strategic approach to the Dutch Defense.
A87 Dutch, Leningrad, Main Variation 2.c4 Nf6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.Nf3
In the A87 variation, the Leningrad Dutch, both players opt for a more hypermodern setup with a focus on long-term piece positioning rather than immediate pawn clashes.
Black aims to fianchetto their bishop on g7, while White does the same on g2.
This variation leads to less volatile, more strategic battles with an emphasis on piece maneuvering and slow buildup.
A88 Dutch, Leningrad, Main Variation with 5…0-0 6.0-0 d6 7.Nc3 c6
The A88 variation continues from the Leningrad setup.
After both sides castle, White advances with 7.Nc3, continuing development and preparing to stake a claim in the center.
The c6 move by Black provides support to the d5 square and prepares for potential expansion on the queenside.
A89 Dutch, Leningrad, Main Variation with 5…0-0 6.0-0 d6 7.Nc3 Nc6
In the A89 variation, instead of pushing their pawn to c6, Black chooses to develop their knight to c6.
This allows for faster piece development, and, in some cases, more aggressive possibilities.
The move also directly pressures the d4 square and potentially prepares for an e5 pawn break.
A90 Dutch Defence 2.c4 Nf6 3.g3 e6 4.Bg2
The A90 variation of the Dutch Defense leans towards the Classical Dutch setup.
The move 3…e6 provides support to the d5 square and prepares to develop the dark square bishop.
In response, White chooses a flexible setup with 4.Bg2, aiming to control the center and maintain a solid structure.
A91 Dutch Defence 2.c4 Nf6 3.g3 e6 4.Bg2 Be7
The A91 variation extends from the A90 variation, with Black choosing to develop their bishop to e7.
This move is flexible and prepares for a future castle.
The bishop also potentially supports the advance of the d5 pawn, challenging White’s central control.
A92 Dutch Defence 2.c4 Nf6 3.g3 e6 4.Bg2 Be7 5.Nf3 0-0
In the A92 variation, Black chooses to castle after the development of White’s knight.
This solidifies Black’s kingside and gets the king to safety early in the game.
This line leads to slower, strategic middlegames with a focus on pawn structure, piece maneuvering, and positional considerations.
A93 Dutch, Stonewall, Botvinnik Variation 2.c4 Nf6 3.g3 e6 4.Bg2 Be7 5.Nf3 0-0 6.0-0 d5 7.b3
In the A93 Dutch Stonewall, named after the solid pawn structure Black adopts, White pursues a hypermodern approach, opting to control the center with pieces rather than pawns.
The Botvinnik Variation, named after former World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik, sees White preparing to fianchetto their queen’s bishop with 7.b3, a move that aims to undermine the solidity of Black’s Stonewall setup.
A94 Dutch, Stonewall with 6.0-0 d5.7.b3 c6 8.Ba3
The A94 variation extends the Botvinnik Variation with 8.Ba3, directly challenging Black’s dark square bishop.
This often leads to exchanges that can open lines for both sides, contributing to a dynamic and fluid game where both players must remain cautious of potential tactics.
A95 Dutch, Stonewall with 6.0-0 d5.7.Nc3 c6
In the A95 variation, instead of fianchettoing the queen’s bishop, White opts for 7.Nc3, providing more central support and potentially preparing for e4.
The move also facilitates better coordination of White’s pieces, leading to a well-integrated setup that can respond to a variety of Black’s plans.
A96 Dutch, Classical Variation 2.c4 Nf6 3.g3 e6 4.Bg2 Be7 5.Nf3 0-0 6.0-0 d6
The A96 variation sees Black adopting a Classical Dutch setup with 6…d6.
This formation is less committal than the Stonewall setup and retains flexibility for the middlegame.
White maintains a fluid pawn structure and focuses on harmonious piece development.
A97 Dutch, Ilyin–Genevsky Variation 7.Nc3 Qe8
In the A97 Ilyin-Genevsky Variation, named after the Russian chess player Alexander Ilyin-Genevsky, Black employs 7…Qe8, a quiet-looking move with aggressive intentions.
It prepares for a potential pawn storm on the kingside with moves like …e5, …Qh5 and …Ng4.
This is a highly tactical variation where precise move order and calculation are crucial.
A98 Dutch, Ilyin–Genevsky Variation with 7.Nc3 Qe8 8.Qc2
The A98 variation follows the A97 line but includes the move 8.Qc2 by White.
The queen on c2 supports a potential center push with e4, potentially defends the c4 pawn, and keeps an eye on the h7 square, aiming to deter Black’s ambitious kingside pawn advance.
A99 Dutch, Ilyin–Genevsky Variation with 7.Nc3 Qe8 8.b3
In the A99 variation, White prefers 8.b3 over 8.Qc2.
With 8.b3, White prepares to fianchetto the queen’s bishop to increase pressure on the e5 square and to contest the long diagonal.
This move also solidifies the pawn structure and prepares for a slow maneuvering battle against Black’s intended pawn storm.
History of the Dutch Defense
The Dutch Defense has a rich history dating back to the 18th century.
It gained its name from the frequent use by Dutch players in the early part of the 20th century.
World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik used the Dutch Defense in several important games, which significantly contributed to its popularity.
The defense, though not as commonly seen as openings like the Indian Defense, has remained a viable and respected part of chess opening theory.
Is the Dutch Defense Good for Beginners or Intermediates?
The Dutch Defense can be an interesting choice for both beginners and intermediate players.
For beginners, it offers an introduction to a range of tactical and strategic concepts, such as pawn structure, piece development, and kingside attacks.
Intermediate players can delve deeper into the nuanced variations and sub-variations, developing an understanding of the complexities and subtleties involved in this opening.
However, it’s worth noting that the Dutch Defense requires a level of risk-taking and tactical alertness which may not be suitable for every player.
How Often the Dutch Defense Is Played at the Grandmaster Level
While the Dutch Defense is not the most common opening seen at the grandmaster level, it is by no means rare.
It is often utilized as a surprise weapon to disrupt an opponent’s preparation.
Prominent grandmasters, including Magnus Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura, and Simon Williams, have used the Dutch Defense in high-level play, demonstrating its potential and viability even at the topmost level of competitive chess.
The Dutch Defense in Chess, Do’s and Don’ts by GM Simon Williams
FAQs – Dutch Defense
1. What is the Dutch Defense in chess?
The Dutch Defense is a chess opening characterized by the move 1…f5 in reply to 1.d4.
It is a relatively uncommon but fully valid defense strategy that can lead to highly complex, tactical positions.
The main idea is to control the e4-square and later attack in the center or prepare a kingside attack.
2. What are the main variations of the Dutch Defense?
The main variations of the Dutch Defense are the Classical Dutch, Leningrad Dutch, and Stonewall Dutch.
The Classical Dutch is characterized by the move 2…e6, intending to develop the kingside pieces, particularly the knight to f6.
The Leningrad Dutch is characterized by 2…g6, intending to fianchetto the bishop, often leading to sharper play.
The Stonewall Dutch is characterized by a pawn structure of pawns on d5, e6, f5, and c6, forming a ‘stone wall’ that can be very hard to breach.
3. Is the Dutch Defense a reliable opening choice for Black?
The Dutch Defense is a double-edged sword. It provides Black with dynamic counter-attacking chances, but at the same time, it can be risky due to the weakening of Black’s kingside.
For players who are comfortable in complex, imbalanced positions and who are well-prepared theoretically, it can be a reliable opening choice.
However, it requires careful handling and good understanding of the resulting middlegame positions.
4. Why is 1…f5 considered to weaken Black’s position?
The move 1…f5 exposes the king’s diagonal, potentially making it vulnerable to checks and attacks, particularly from the white queen or bishop.
It also weakens the e6-square and restricts the natural development of Black’s kingside knight.
However, these weaknesses can be mitigated with careful play and proper pawn structure management.
5. How should White respond to the Dutch Defense?
White has many possible responses to the Dutch Defense.
The two most common responses are 2.c4, supporting the center and preparing to develop the queenside knight, and 2.Nf3, developing a knight to a good square and preparing for an early e4 if possible.
In both cases, White often aims to exploit the weaknesses created by Black’s first move and seeks to establish strong central control.
6. Are there any famous games that feature the Dutch Defense?
Yes, many famous games have featured the Dutch Defense. One of the most notable examples is the game Botvinnik vs. Alekhine, AVRO 1938, in which the then future World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik defeated the reigning World Champion Alexander Alekhine.
Another example is the game between Bent Larsen and Bobby Fischer in the Portoroz Interzonal 1958, where Larsen used the Dutch Defense to defeat Fischer.
7. What are some recommended books or resources for studying the Dutch Defense?
Some of the highly recommended books for studying the Dutch Defense include “The Classical Dutch” by Simon Williams, “Dutch Stonewall” by Jacob Aagaard, and “The Leningrad Dutch” by Neil McDonald.