Thursday, November 29, 2007

Understanding the Leningrad Dutch


The Leningrad Dutch with reversed colors = a variation of Birds opening = Polar Bear
The Bird has a terrible reputation. According to GM Henrik Danielsen that is caused by the fact that there is no reliable theory about the Bird available. He has found new lines, which make it a strong system. This system, which he plays with both black and white, he has called the Polar Bear. Possibly because the opening is slow and strong. From now on I use the term Polar Bear for both black and white.

Beyond this specific opening.
The research of this opening will yield results that can be used outside this opening in two ways. First the pawn structure bears resemblance with both the KID and the closed Sicilian. A good understanding of the Polar Bear will be of great value of understanding those openings.
Second it is a positional opening pur sang. Study of this opening will help me to grasp positional ideas in general.

Before the main position.
I fired up about 20 cc-games with the Polar Bear System with both white and black. The main position as showed in the diagram below is surprisingly often reached. This means that he who knows how to play this position has the best chances to win. The deviations I have encountered so far are well manageable and don't look equal to the main line usually. That is a big plus. It will take some time to find your way in attempts to deviate early but that looks doable.

The main position.
See diagram

Black to move.

From a gambiteer's point of view, white looks a little worse in the position above. He has played an incredible amount of pawnmoves, giving the initial advantage away, he has less space while 3 of his pawns have moved only one square forward and the knight on a3 looks somewhat offside. The development of Bc1 and Ra1 looks a bit problematic.
While playing this position though, there seem to be hidden resources in it. A position like this is ruled by positional themes. That forces the concrete move order and variations a bit to the background. You must know what is going on positionally. It took me quite some time to get an idea where the hidden power of this position originates. I'm sure there is much more to learn, but this is a primal attempt to formulate a few ideas.

White has less space. According to Seirawan, a lack of space is only a problem when you have a lot of pieces which want to make use of it. By placing a knight on a3 and a bishop on the flank white has enough space in the center for manoeuvring the rest of his pieces. The pawns of white restrict the opponent's pieces much better. Blacks pawns only prevent Nc4 and Nd4
The white pawns prevent Nb4, Nd4, Ne4, and render the moves Na5 and Nh5 as useless from an immediate attacking point of view. The long diagonal for white is already pretty soft while its black counterpart bites on granite.

Whites goal in this position is to play e4. He can play Qc2, Qe1 and Qa4 to assist e4 and he can play Nh4, Ng5 or Nd2 to do the same. So usually white can achieve e4 at will. If white manage to do so, there arises a very important position. e4 and f4 form a mobile pawn duo that act as a lid on a can. By removing that lid, all of a sudden white can add 5 extra pieces to the equation.
f5, often played as a pawn sac, frees bishop c1 and rook f1.
exd5 frees bishop g2 and rook a1-e1 (that's why Qc2 is the best way to force e4)

Bf4 can under certain conditions work together with Nb5 or Nc4. If black decides to close the center, white can use his kingside pawns for an assault on the black king, since the white king is often quite safe at h1.

You can find more theory of this position given in a nutshell here and here.


  1. Great metaphor "bites on granite". Love that.

    I love the way you break the position down...a real passion for chess comes through.

  2. I was thinking of Maintaining a page with Chess Blogger information, that way if we play on FICS etc. or visit a Blogger's city we can meet up
    [if we want to :) ]

    The first step is to decide what to include:

    Blog Name:
    Real name: (optional)
    Blogger Country:
    Blogger City:

    Handles :

    what else?

    Rating : (optional)


    Please email response to : iwijetunge[at]yahoo[dot]com

    Getting to 2000

  3. Nice breakdown Tempo. I've never heard or read much about this system, but it actually looks like the kind of position I would be comfortable with as black.

  4. GT2000,
    I appreciate your initiative, but I prefer to stay incognito on the sites where I play. This is to prevent competition. Competition kills study. I play cc-games just for study reasons. With competition I don't feel free to experiment.

  5. I like the polar bear = slow and strong, I had never thought of it that way before.

    I always though the pawn structure was supposed to look like a polar bear. In your diagram, if you move the white pawn from e2 to e4 you have a large bulging white mass, like a polar bear. I suppose we should ask GM Danielsen where he go the name.

  6. Tempo. I am thinking of taking up the leningrad dutch myself. On the Polar Bear site, does GM Denielson provide coverage only for White (as the Polar Bear) or does he also talk about the Leningrad Dutch for Black?


  7. Bill,
    the 110 recorded blitzgames provide sufficient coverage of the black side IMO

  8. Tempo, do you know if somebody has transferred the Danielsen's blitzgames to pgn?

    (btw, I did it for the "Polar Bear System" section videos)


  9. DBT,
    I don't know. I have filtered all black games of Danielsen from a database and loaded it into Bookup.

    at least the following blitz videos show the Leningrad with black: #106 #76 #63-65 #60-62. There must be more.

  10. please share the

    1. I like this opening and have done with it. On the other hand the form's gambit gives me fits! I do not like pawn takes pawn I would rather play d3 as a second move. Any ideas on this?

    2. Have a look at

      I choose. Sometimes I transpose to a kings gambit, or I take the pawn on e5. But I never take the second pawn on d6. 1.f4 e5 2.fxe5 d6 3.e4 is perfectly playable.