Andrew Martin: ABC of the Leningrad Dutch

by ChessBase
2/4/2015 – Do you have "strong nerves and a thirst for battle"? And are you looking for a good answer to 1.d4? Try the Leningrad Dutch! Andrew Martin, experienced coach, commentator, and popular ChessBase author, shows the basic ideas of this interesting, sharp and double-edged opening, which is dangerous for both sides but in which you score if you know your way.

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Andrew Martin: "The ABC of the Leningrad Dutch": A review

By Rory McCluckie

With both Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura employing the Leningrad Dutch over the past few months, it's more than likely that the opening will attract a number of new adherents this year. As evidenced by the World Champion's fate in his recent 1...f5 experiment, however (he lost to Radoslaw Wojtaszek at Wijk aan Zee), Black can easily, and quickly, get into trouble. Andrew Martin's The ABC of the Leningrad Dutch sets out to guide the new player through this “monumental clash of ideas”, while providing a thorough grounding in the opening's principles. To all those who might have been inspired by its illustrious practitioners of late, this is an ideal introduction to a complicated set-up demanding “strong nerves and a thirst for battle”.

To whet the appetite, Martin begins with three games selected specifically to show the potential offered to Black by the Leningrad system. They're well chosen. A swift demolition by Kevin Spraggett illustrates how White can get into difficulties with a misplaced Bishop, while Leontiev – Rychagov provides a tantalizing example of how unclear play can become for both sides. Loek Van Wely, meanwhile, is the unhappy victim in a game highlighting the danger involved in energetic, dynamic activity by the first player.

 These are followed by the general strategic ideas both sides should be operating on the basis of. The straightforward presentation of these – a five-minute segment each, with a handful of plans enumerated – is an excellent way to be introduced to any set of ideas. For many average chess players, the expansion of an opening repertoire is a slow process that usually involves learning moves weeks or months before learning the reasons for those moves. Martin – an experienced trainer in his own right – lets no such thing occur. The concepts are simple to follow and clearly explained, the result being that the viewer immediately obtains a core set of ideas which are referred to and tested throughout the DVD.

Flirting with the Leningrad Dutch: World Champion Magnus Carlsen

For a considerable amount of time, the centre of that core is the move 7...c6 – a seemingly modest manoeuvre that possesses the twin benefits of being both “flexible and solid”, thus providing a perfect option for those learning the Leningrad for the first time. It also has the benefit of being easy to understand. This, again, is an important point that Martin rightly values in relation to the prospective audience. The key to becoming proficient in most fields is a solid grounding in basic principles, and knowing why certain moves are played is one way to achieve such a grounding in chess. There are other moves, he concedes, and ones that will fit with the system just as well. But 7...c6 boasts the advantage of being clearly apprehensible; it blunts White's fianchettoed Bishop on g2, it keeps possibilities of a Kingside attack open (with ...Qe8,...h6,...g5,...Qh5!? etc.) while also maintaining Queenside options for the time being. What's not to like?

Experienced coach and presenter: Andrew Martin

Very little, it seems. And that remains the case even when the main lines arrive. Martin takes the viewer through a series of possible replies to a black system employing 7...c6, all of which, he claims, fail to give White the upper hand. Whether or not the possibilities covered are theoretically exhaustive, it certainly feels that way, with every section following a game from the past and providing an illustration of Black's options against the respective White systems.

It's true that, at some points, it can feel as though there is a slightly misleading impression given by the cascade of Leningrad victories here, with Martin admitting that a lot of the material shows “Black's position in its best light”. This is ultimately offset, however, by the objective treatment of the illustrative games; crossroads in the play are clearly marked and it's made plain when events balance precariously between being better for one side or the other. In short, it's an immersive experience, full of detailed analysis, and one that yields three major impressions as the minutes pass.

The first is that the DVD offers extensive re-watch potential. There's an impressive wealth of material covered here, and the volume is such that the aspiring Leningrad player will simply have to revisit most sections to solidify the concepts in his or her mind. The second is the combative nature of the opening. With each passing segment, the introductory claims about the Leningrad Dutch yielding a fighting game prove more and more believable; from pawn storms on the kingside to wandering Knights and the devastating power of the g7 Bishop, the potential to inflict damage on your opponent's position, and vice versa, is huge – the need to know how to navigate its various pitfalls even greater. Thirdly, Andrew Martin's facility as a guide through the opening's myriad complications is commendable. His experience as a trainer is clear; he's fluent and pacey but never at the expense of important information, and he has the invaluable tendency (invaluable to the average player, at least) of not assuming knowledge or perceptive abilities on the part of his audience. To have him conclude a line or idea that might have become obvious to a stronger player is a great advantage to the weaker – it lends a sense of continuity to the presentation and gives the student a notion of completeness that shouldn't be underestimated.

Likes aggressive play, likes to win, likes the Leningrad: Hikaru Nakamura

These three characteristics are consistently on show throughout. The latter stages of the DVD feature lines that stray from the paths Black can commonly expect, with Martin covering eventualities such as an early Nh3, or even an h4 pawn advance by his opponent. These round out the experience, lending it an air of comprehensiveness and ensure the prospective Leningrad player is at least aware of the more outlandish possibilities he or she is likely to meet. Those addressed, The ABC of the Leningrad Dutch amounts to a thoroughgoing introduction to the opening that reaches far beyond the basic treatment suggested by its title. Whether inspired by the world's best, or simply the desire to breathe fresh life into a stagnating repertoire, this is an engaging, detailed and accessible work that will meet the needs of a range of players.


Andrew Martin:
The ABC of the Leningrad Dutch

€22.68 without VAT (for Customers outside the EU)
$25.99 (without VAT)

This DVD can be be downloaded directly from the Internet, that way sparing you the few days needed for it to arrive by post.

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About the author

Rory McCluckie is an amateur player and freelance writer from Manchester, England. He currently resides in Montreal.

Reports about chess: tournaments, championships, portraits, interviews, World Championships, product launches and more.


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