Saturday, November 17, 2007

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 now what?

I'm in doubt.
You probably have noticed that the games I show you are always very sharp. At our club however, there is a great contingent of players who consider me to be a very passive and careful player. That are the ones who play 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 with white against me.

In the past I have tried the following against this:

The classical Dutch.
This opening is very slow, with a lot of pawn moves (f5, e6, d6, b6) leading to an awful lot of manoeuvring. Tried it for years because Euwe recommended it. So boring that I quit chessplaying for 20 years.

The Leningrad Dutch.
I couldn't handle all the holes in my position like g5, f6, e6 and the vulnerable diagonal a2-g8

The Kings Indian.
Although I had actually considerable success with it, I never felt at home in the crampy positions that I reached. After a few years of trying, I abandoned it.

The Pirc.
Even crampier than the KID and a whole bunch of theory to learn.

The Benko gambit.
I would really love to play this, but 98% of my opponents deviate early from the 5 moves you need and where the book starts.

(Modern) Benoni.
I dabbled around for two years with c5 to lure my opponent into a Benko gambit via move order tricks. To no avail.

The Döry.
1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.c4 Ne4 followed by f5. A transposition to a bad Dutch defense.

The Fajarowitsch variation of the Budapest gambit.
I'm pretty succesful with this, but it works only with the move order 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 Ne4. Knight f3 by white rules out blacks e5.

Nimzo-, Bogo-, Queens-Indian defense.
The past year I have dabbled around with this. I actually settled for the QID. But the QID is used to sit the game dead until your opponent makes a mistake. The opponents who play Nf3 and d4 are mostly lower rated than me. What they tend to do is sitting the game dead themselves, waiting until I start the action. But with the QID you can't be the first who comes into action. If you open a diagonal for your own bishop, you open it at the same time for your opponents bishop. I'm used to openings with which I can punish passivity. But the QID simply doesn't allow that. Last friday at the club I ended up in time trouble against a 200 points lower rated opponent and lost.

What must I do? Leave the QID? What else? In desperation I fired up 6 cc-games with the Albin Counter gambit. Which isn't as bad as it's reputation, giving the new outings of Morozewitsch lately.


  1. I had the same problem QID & nimzo, and went to KID but was somewhat clueless with it, getting cramped etc. -then I found leningrad dutch, which had everything I was seeking at that time. attacking kingside (I wanted to learn to play with open kingside), the awesome 'KID bishop' without the cramping, loads of tactics (with the king attack), and it has the 'rarity plus' going for it as well. all in all, leningrad felt like a successfull KID attack without the cramped beginning.

    then I ran into danielsen's polar bear, and saw how it/leningrad really should be played, and I've been playing both since that, with quite good results.

  2. Maybe I should look again at the Leningrad. I never looked real deep into it and after all, I have grown the past 5 years.

    It took quite some time before I realized that the "Pulabia Sytem" was the "Polar Bear System" with Icelandic accent.

  3. Davies new book Gambiteer II has great coverage of the Albin. I am just starting to use it now. He also has a full chapter on if white tries to avoid it with 2. Nf3. The Albin seems fun and sharp and takes things out of the usual d4 doldrums.

    I gave up on the Leningrad Dutch after about three days playing around with it. But in experienced hands it is a great weapon, or so I'm told. One superficial reason I gave up on it is because all of the books I had assumed white would play in book for many moves, and didn't cover alternative but very common lines. I hate that.

    The first half of the book is how to play the Ruy as black. I won't worry about that for now :)

  4. A good opening that suits you should fit like a glove. The GPA delayed for instance only costed me 3 evenings to learn the idea's and to play it with confidence. But systems like the QID are not at all that clear and every line seems to resemble other lines and it remains absolutely vague what to play when.

    On the one hand it is good to play a style that is not your own since it enriches your play. But on the other hand when the learning curve continues to be a horizontal line, one must change.

  5. I hate when people play that set up. I always seem to have trouble figuring out what to do with the c8 bishop. I too have tried QID, but I still end out with the bishop not doing much.

  6. Is your problem only with 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3, or also with 2. c4 from white?

    If you don't have a problem with the 2. c4 move order, play your usual system except you find the right time to play ... b5. This is what a guy I play with rated about 1850 has learned to do against me. I make sure I play my 1. d4 openings in many different ways, but for a while I would delay the move c4 and he would get crummy positions against me. Eventually he looked up in a databse that he can play ... b5 if I fail to play c4.

  7. Polly,
    The point is that I don't understand the QID. And then every variation looks the same so I can't even learn the variations by heart.

    This signals that there is something to learn that would enhance my play considerably. But it is so alien to me that I'm clueless in what direction to look.

  8. Loomis,
    I don't quite understand. Against d4 c4 I play the Fajarowitsch:
    1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 Ne4

  9. There is also the English Defense. A defense directed against either 1.d4 or 1.c4. Move order depends on what your opponent plays first. If 1.d4 one should play 1...e6. If 1.c4 one should play 1...b6. The opening has very good results. Nothing unsound about it or whatever. Only problem is that if you employ it against 1.d4, you have to be ready to meet 2.e4. There's also a wiki entry on it but that only covers 1.d4.

  10. 2 ...c5
    Note that none of the links are active in this page but it is enought to give you the idea. I think this would suit what I think is your style. At least, it suits mine. :)

    The link is temporary and may be removed in the future...

  11. Glenn,
    I dabbled around for two years with c5 to lure my opponent into a Benko gambit via move order tricks. To no avail.

    At the time I couldn't find good bookknowledge about the move, so who knows. I will check it out. After all I'm much stronger now.

  12. WW,
    I'm checking out the Polar Bear. At first sight it seems a rather slow system with a lot of pawn moves. As is often a problem with the dutch defense. GM Danielsen approach doesn't seem very systematic.

    But I try to look at it as an accelerated KID. Do you have more information on the Leningrad? How do you play it?

  13. Sorry, I didn't read carefully enough to see that you're playing the Budapest against 1. d4. Sure enough you can't play that at all against 1. d4 2. Nf3.

  14. Tempo: The Starting Out series on the Dutch is great as an introduction, and when you want to go deeper, understanding key themes and building your repertoire, Leningrad System by GM Kindermann is the best I've been able to find.

  15. After 2. ...c5 you don't have to go for a Benko but if that is what you want and your opponent obliges that's cool. But if not, it is still an active but slightly off-beat opening that has done well in practice.

    Emphasis on active. Of course, compared to the QID anything is...

    At the link provided earlier I took a few shortcuts; you can click through to see all of the game scores (but they won't replay in your browser) and there is no pgn download.

  16. Played my first Albin countergambit today. Fun game!

    Incidentally, I have both books SP mentions (Starting out and Kindermann's treatise). I gave up on the Dutch when, in my first two games with it my opponents played moves that weren't in the books, I wasn't sure how to handle it, and I decided to go for something a little more mainstream. First back to QGD (not much prep needed for that), but now with Davies the Albin, which feels good.

    One nice thing about the Albin is only two or three main branches.

  17. yes, polar bear is a bit slow starter. but it picks up speed after that. and it doesn't have that dead fish quality like nimzo and QID do (in my patzer-opinion). another minus is that it's very easy to play against with natural moves, and most people will find the first few moves even in blitz, and even if they're low-rated.

    but you get very nice positions, and there's always possibilities. and we're also not really expecting an easy swindle of a win from our opponent now, are we. :) you're out of theory by move 7 at the latest, and then it's a case of who knows that type of position better. which should of course be you, at least after a while.

    I'm playing one against a 2270 on rhp right now, and it really makes him think. I've seen all of his moves so far many, many times before, so I don't even have to think much yet. for now, I'm doing very well against him, and might even be up for an upset win. (yeah, dream on WW :D )

    and it's always a shock for your opponents when you actually push the kingside, in both leningrad & polar bear. because as we all 'know' that 'can't be done'. :)

    some of the early problems for me came against ...Bg4, but as IM andrew martin said about the same against leningrad: "it's just a move" and you actually often gain 2-3 tempo's and a lethal pawn storm (or even wood) for it. same thing with Ng4 which threatens a nasty fork on e3 or f2, but that's also not a problem once you know what you're doing.

    against 1.f4 e5 gambit I struggled at first, but once I got used to it, it became very easy.

    1.f4 f5 is just murder for black after 2.e4. oh, and you do get to play KG and sicilian GPA every now and then as well, which is a plus I presume? :)

    what else? oh yeah, after you get e4 in (which is the thing to do for both polar bear & leningrad), saccing the f-pawn on f5 (against g6) gives often a very nice attack.

    my leningrad stuff comes mostly from andrew martin's 2 foxy dvds for leningrad & anti-leningrads. I think they were very helpful for getting up to speed. and almost all of it is applicaple to polar bear as well.

    for a disclaimer: I can't say that I knew either openings very well yet, but I've played about 500-1000 blitz games with them. and although I'm a crappy blitzer, in CC the ideas have worked very well (so far). I thought I'd mention that so you'll get a better idea how much salt you should be taking with this 'advice'. :)

    the danielsen blitz games have been a huge resource for me. he gives the ideas in a nutshell, so you get familiar with what's on the menu. I've gone them through 3 times so far, and intend to continue grinding it in.

  18. doesn't 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.c4 Ne4 transpose into a decent Nimzo as opposed to a "bad dutch"

    e.g. 4.Nc3 Bb4 5.Qc2 f5 etc?

    1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 Ne4 5.Nf3 f5 etc?