Summertime Training – the Classical Dutch

7/7/2012 – 'Yes, it is that time of year when many of us are thinking of outdoor activities, but with chess being so portable these days why not consider a trainer to take along with you?' writes Seven Dowd in Chess Cafe. He recommends Andrew Martin's The ABC of the Classical Dutch, which he give five out of six stars. 'When you reach the end of your journey there will be masters waiting to teach you!'

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Andrew Martin:
The ABC of the Classical Dutch

Review by Steven B. Dowd

ABC of the Classical Dutch (DVD) by Andrew Martin, ChessBase, Playing time: 3 hours 45 min. $29.95 (Chesscafe Price: $24.95)

This is another well-produced trainer, but to be fully armed in the Ruy Lopez, Martin's two other DVDs will round out your repertoire: ABC of the Ruy Lopez and the Spanish Exchange Variation.

Andrew Martin is one of my favorite presenters. He always approaches a topic with enthusiasm. On this trainer, after a rather pragmatic introduction, his next two sections consist of "Black getting pounded" and a "cautionary tale" so you can see what not to do in this opening! You won't even see the main line of the repertoire until the fourteenth game of the thirty-three presented. The Classical Dutch is one of those openings that doesn't enjoy a great reputation at the highest levels. Yet, there is no refutation in sight, and it has been adopted by all kinds of uncompromising players. The Dutch player is a combinative one, willing to play for complications and the win from the get-go. The Dutch is an unbalancing opening, and the Classical Dutch demands accurate play on both sides.

Here is an example of how things can go wrong for White. He has already let the opening get away from him, and his careless approach to the middlegame will lose.

[Event "Novi Sad"] [Site "Novi Sad"] [Date "1974.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Notaros, Krasoje"] [Black "Maric, Rudolf"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A96"] [PlyCount "60"] [EventDate "1974.10.13"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "15"] [EventCountry "YUG"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "1998.11.10"] 1. Nf3 f5 2. c4 Nf6 3. Nc3 e6 4. g3 Be7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. O-O d6 7. d4 a5 8. Re1 Ne4 9. Nxe4 fxe4 10. Nd2 d5 11. f3 exf3 12. Nxf3 c5 13. cxd5 exd5 14. Be3 c4 15. Ne5 Nc6 16. Nxc6 bxc6 {Black's small but persistent advantage is rather obvious. White should try 17.Bd2 or 17.Bf4 here, but tries instead to break up the queenside pawn structure.} 17. b3 c3 {Accurate play in a wide open position, according to Martin.} ({Of course, Black could have played} 17... Bb4 ) ({or} 17... Ba6 {with advantage as well.}) 18. Qc1 Qb6 19. Rd1 ({The best way to get off of the "skewer line" was probably} 19. Rf1) 19... Bg4 20. Bf1 Qb4 21. Rd3 c2 22. Qxc2 Bf5 23. Qxc6 Bxd3 24. Qxd5+ Kh8 {The engines think White is still OK here. Yet, he is lost in less than ten moves. White's decision to give up the exchange for some pawns was not a good one; Black's activity is long-term, White's, short-term. That is a common theme in this opening; play good moves until White's opening advantage dissipates, and then counterattack.} 25. exd3 Bf6 26. Rc1 Rae8 27. Rc4 Qe1 28. Bf2 $2 (28. Bf4 { should hold for awhile, anyway, although it still looks hopeless in the long run. Now White is lost.}) 28... Qd2 29. Qg2 Bg5 30. d5 Rxf2 0-1

The reason I show this game fragment, and why Martin includes it as the first Black success, is that it represents just one of the many positions that can arise in the Classical Dutch once things "open up." You have to exercise a certain "flexibility of thought" in the Classical Dutch, Martin later notes, giving it a certain appeal to those who like to innovate over-the-board.

The main repertoire line features GM Simon Williams, who is a consistent proponent of the Classical Dutch. Although Martin calls 7...Ne4, a relatively new move, it was advocated by Williams as early as 2003. The idea behind 7...Ne4 is to exchange a set of minor pieces, then going for the ...e5 break with Bf6 and Nc6. The traditional Classical Dutch moves of ...a5 and ...Qe8 are held in reserve. White's choices are mainly to take the knight or play various queen moves, with 8.Qc2 the main line.

Here is a great fighting game by Williams, against a world class-GM, that illustrates his "cold-blooded approach":

[Event "Reykjavik op 22nd"] [Site "Reykjavik"] [Date "2006.03.07"] [Round "2"] [White "Sokolov, Ivan"] [Black "Williams, Simon Kim"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A96"] [WhiteElo "2689"] [BlackElo "2452"] [PlyCount "74"] [EventDate "2006.03.06"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "ISL"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "2006.05.09"] 1. d4 e6 2. c4 f5 3. g3 Nf6 4. Bg2 Be7 5. Nf3 O-O 6. O-O d6 7. Nc3 Ne4 8. Bd2 { This looks like one of those passive moves you get from rank beginners, almost a Stümperzug, so if a GM of Sokolov's stature plays it, there must be a point. Indeed, he plans to get in a quick d5. Both players have left conventional paths already.} Nc6 9. d5 Nxd2 10. Nxd2 {Black has the bishop-pair, but White has greater freedom of movement. It is going to be a battle. White now turns to natural moves; they don't get him very far.} Ne5 11. e3 ({White can try} 11. dxe6 {here, hoping to take advantage of the long diagonal for the bishop, but after} c6 $1 {blunting the bishop, Black is slightly better. It looks to me like the experiment has failed, and White has to fight for equality.}) 11... c6 12. b4 Bf6 13. Qc2 Bd7 14. Rad1 a5 15. b5 {Gains space but also opens lines for Black pieces.} cxd5 16. cxd5 Rc8 {The immediate tactical threat is, of course, 17...Rxc3.} 17. Ndb1 Bxb5 {White has tried to conduct the early middlegame with solid moves, but this approach has failed. So he tries an exchange sacrifice that gives him practical chances. If such imbalanced games as this one do not appeal to you, the Classical Dutch with ...Ne4 is perhaps one opening you should not try!} 18. dxe6 Bxf1 19. Kxf1 Kh8 {One of those moves that shows Williams has a good assessment potential for this type of position - he removes his king from any potential light-squared difficulties.} 20. Bxb7 Rc7 21. Qb3 a4 {A tactical deflection and, according to Martin, a "bamboozling" move.} 22. Nxa4 Qe8 23. Nbc3 Qh5 24. Bg2 Nf3 25. Bxf3 Qxf3 26. Qd5 Qh5 27. Qxd6 Rfc8 {A position that is hard to evaluate and may even now be slightly better for White.} 28. Kg2 h6 {In a "confused position" Black removes the possibility of a back-rank mate.} 29. Nb5 Rc2 30. Nb6 f4 {Evidence that time-trouble must have affected this game, as the immediate 30...Qe2 would have won.} 31. exf4 Qe2 32. Rf1 Qe4+ 33. Kg1 Rxf2 34. Rxf2 Rc1+ 35. Rf1 Rc2 36. Qd5 Qe2 37. Qh1 Qe3+ {A brilliant game no doubt, but also one riddled by mistakes, as expected from a hard-fought OTB battle.} 0-1

When I tried to conduct my usual evaluation of the opening through online games, nearly everyone avoided the Classical Dutch! You can interpret that two ways: "people hate to face this opening, so I am going to take it up!"; or "if all my opponents avoid it, I will just end up in some crazy sideline, so I will stick with my standard openings!"

Upon viewing the DVD, I felt very comfortable in my knowledge of the repertoire: get a set of minor pieces off the board, strive for an ...e5-break, and watch out for an e4-break by White, or alternately, a break on the queenside. What really attracted me is that the play is active the whole time.

This DVD is an excellent introduction to the Classical Dutch and Martin is an excellent teacher. Nevertheless, he stresses that to really learn the repertoire (and all the ways White can avoid the Classical Dutch), you will need to get a book or two on the opening and immerse yourself in a database of games. It is a great DVD to consider if you are thinking about playing the opening, and if not, you will still learn something about counterattacking chess in general

My assessment of this product: Great (five out of six stars)

Sample lecture: Andrew Martin – The ABC of the Classical Dutch

Andrew David Martin (born 18th May 1957 in West Ham, London) is an English chess player with the title of International Master. He has won various national and international tournaments and has been playing for years in the Four Nations Chess League, at present (July 2009) for Wood Green Hilsmark Kingfisher, previously for the Camberley Chess Club. Martin received his IM title in1984. He earned his first grandmaster norm in the British Championship of 1997 in Brighton. Martin was a commentator on the chess world championship between Kasparov and Kramnik in 2000.

On the 21st February 2004 Martin set a new world record for simultaneous chess. He faced 321 chess players at the same time. His result was: 294 wins, 26 draws and only one loss. Martin is known as a professional chess teacher and head trainer of the English youth team. He trains eight schools (Yateley Manor, Aldro, Millfield, Sunningdale, Waverley School, St Michael’s Sandhurst, Wellington College, Salesian College). Martin is a chess columnist, an author of chess books and the author of various instructional videos. He was the publisher of the series Trends Publications. Martin lives in Sandhurst, England, is married and the father of two daughters and two sons. His present Elo rating is 2423 (as of July 2009).

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