Book Review: Moskalenko on the Dutch
Saturday, March 22, 2014 at 5:36PM
Dennis Monokroussos in Book Reviews, Dutch Defense, Openings, Viktor Moskalenko

Viktor Moskalenko, The Diamond Dutch: Strategic Ideas & Powerful Weapons (New in Chess, 2014). 271 pp., $29.95/ €26.95. Reviewed by Dennis Monokroussos.

[N.B. This review will soon be published in Chess Today as well, but as both Chess Today and the publishers independently sent me copies of the book (and I don't even play the Dutch!) it seemed appropriate to post it here as well.]

Viktor Moskalenko has written some of the most interesting opening books over the past six years or so, and he’s showing no signs of letting up. He is a very entertaining writer, but more importantly, his creativity is not restricted to his writing; he is a creative contributor to the theory of the openings he writes about. After books on the Budapest Gambit, the French and the Pirc (plus a book on method that included some interesting opening analysis) he turns his attention to the Dutch.

Remarkably, he covers all three major branches of the Dutch: the Stonewall (characterized by Black pawns on c6, d5, e6 and f5), the Classical (sometimes called the Ilyin-Zhenevsky, which arises with Black’s center pawns on d6 and e6), and the Leningrad (Black plays …d6 and fianchettos the king’s bishop). There is also a substantial chapter on various anti-Dutch lines like the Staunton Gambit, the Improved Lisitsyn Gambit (and its unimproved namesake) and some minor lines before paying more careful attention to 2.Nc3 and 2.Bg5.

One really gets a bit of everything, and this benefits both sides. Dutch slayers get to see the spread of options and may find something they like, and Moskalenko offers them some specific repertoire choices as well. Those who play or adopt the Dutch benefit even more. They’ll learn the full range of options available to them, which offers them some variety. Moreover, there are possibilities for one Dutch line to transmogrify into another (in particular, the Classical structure can become either a Stonewall or a Leningrad, or at least akin to them), so they will be able to handle the transitions.

Moskalenko makes the book as user-friendly as possible, with little stories, highlighted tactics, transpositional subtleties and other helpful tidbits that help the reader orient himself to what’s important and to interesting and original ideas. His preferred format is the complete game model, but he doesn’t waste space covering the post-theoretical part of the game in great detail. Each chapter has a substantial introduction, and Moskalenko is quite “talky” in general, which is very helpful to the reader orienting his way around this opening.

So there is a lot to like about the book’s format. What about the content? As the author is a solid professional who plays both sides of the Dutch, one would expect good things. He doesn’t mention the recent White repertoire books by Schandorff, Kaufman or Watson, so I decided to have a look to see what he offers against their suggestions. In the interest of space I’ll only make comparisons with the last two authors’ works.

Let’s start with Watson and his recommendation of 2.Nc3. Moskalenko examines both 2…Nf6 and 2…d5 in some detail, and seems at the end to prefer 2…Nf6. Watson meets this with 3.Bf4, which is much less usual than 3.Bg5 – so unusual, in fact, that Moskalenko doesn’t cover it. It’s an odd-looking move and seemingly out of the spirit of 2.Nc3. The point is that White meets 2…Nf6 with 3.Bg5, aiming to swap on f6 and harm Black’s pawn structure, while if 2…d5 White then plays 3.Bf4 now that the diagonal is open. So 2…Nf6 3.Bf4 seems clueless at first glance (assuming of course that Black doesn’t play 3…d5), but Watson has some interesting ideas. A small bibliographical omission here, but one that may be relevant at the club level where Watson is especially popular.

On now to Kaufman and 2.Bg5. (This is also Schandorff’s recommendation.) Moskalenko’s chapter conclusion suggests the following: French and Stonewall players should play 1…e6, Leningrad players should use 2…g6, and the risky line 2…h6 3.Bh4 g5 4.e4 is playable for Black after 4…Bg7 and 4…Nf6, but he has his doubts about 4…Rh7. Let’s see how his conclusions about 2…h6 and 2…g6 fare against Schandorff and Kaufman. On 2…h6, Kaufman prefers 3.Bh4 g5 4.e3, and now both Kaufman and Moskalenko continue 4…Nf6 5.Bg3 d6 6.h4 Rg8 7.hxg5 hxg5 8.Nc3 e6 before their move-orders vary. Moskalenko, citing Kasparov-Illescas, Dos Hermanas 1996, continues 9.f3 Qe7 10.Qd2 Nc6 11.0-0-0 Bd7 12.e4, while Kaufman’s move order is 9.Qd2 Qe7 10.0-0-0 Nc6 11.f3 Bd7 12.e4. Kaufman stops here (without citing the game) and writes that “White’s development, pawn center, and control of the open file give him a clear advantage”. Moskalenko disagrees, continuing 12…fxe4(“!”) 13.fxe4 0-0-0 and says that while “White still has some pressure”, it can be said that “in general Black has solved his main problem (his king’s position) and he has also consolidated his troops.” Illescas had to suffer a while, but he drew his prestigious opponent.

However, Moskalenko likes 9.Qd2, and after 9…Qe7 10.0-0-0 Nc6 suggests that White can try 11.Bc4 instead of 11.f3, threatening d5. He examines 10…a6 in some depth, suggesting that White has an edge in the game Gurevich-Illescas, Sanxeno tt 2004 although Black in turn might improve with 17…Qf7, with the idea 18.Nh3 Be7.

Now to 2…g6. Their primary intersection point comes after 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.h4 h6 5.Bf4 Nf6 6.e3 d6 7.Qf3 0-0 8.Bc4+ e6 9.Nge2. Kaufman stops here, writing that “White has more active pieces and can choose to castle on either side with a safer king in either case”. Moskalenko appreciates the danger here and thinks 8.Bc4+ is a “weapon”, as opposed to 8.0-0-0 as he himself unsuccessfully played against Bonafede in Hoogeveen 2010. His analysis (after 9.Nge2) continues 9…Nc6 10.a3, and now he suggests 10…Qe8 as an improvement over 10…Kh7?, played in Fressinet-Kindermann, Bundesliga 2002. The problem with the latter move was 11.Bg5!, allowing the “useless” bishop to re-employ and then swap on f6.

Another important sideline arises against the Leningrad Dutch: 1.d4 f5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.c4 g6 4.Nc3 Bg7 5.Bf4, used by Armenian players like Hrant Melkumyan and, most prominently, Levon Aronian. White’s best, as given by Moskalenko, is 5…d6 6.e3 Nc6 7.Be2 0-0 8.Bg3 h6 9.0-0 Nh5 (Aronian-Kamsky, St. Louis 2013) 10.Bh4! g5 11.d5! Na5 12.Nd4, with a slight advantage for White according to Alejandro Ramirez, writing on Good for White, but what is Black to do? (Perhaps play the Stonewall instead, which is Moskalenko’s preferred Dutch.)

Anyway, the book is a fascinating collection of analyses of the Dutch Defense, and I can’t imagine why any Dutch player would want to do without it. More attention to repertoire books and the potentially important and influential line used by Aronian would have improved the work, I think, but it’s highly recommended all the same.

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