Last Friday I asked for an assessment of this position
and I'm pleased to say the post generated a number of helpful (to me) responses.
The diagram is in fact a theoretical position from a Dutch Defence sideline. I found it after looking at the mainline of the Classical Dutch that begins
1. d4 f5, 2. c4 Nf6, 3. Nf3 e6, 4. g3 Be7, 5. Bg2 0-0, 6. 0-0 d6, 7. Nc3.
It seemed to me that the three options for Black that are usually suggested at this point,
could all be considered to contravene fairly basic opening principles. Are we not generally taught to avoid developing our queen or moving the same piece twice while ensuring pawn moves either add to our control of the centre or open lines for piece development?
Looking at the position afresh it seemed to me that getting the queenside pieces out with 7. ... Nc6
was much more natural and began to explore why this move wasn't thought to be a sensible idea.
Neil McDonald's Starting Out: The Dutch Defence (Everyman 2004 - mentioned here) doesn't mention 7. ... Nc6 at all - perhaps not surprisingly given the introductory/generalist nature of that book - but I was able to find some analysis in Simon Williams' more specialist Play the Classical Dutch (Gambit 2003).
Williams gives the queen's knight move a "?!" and suggests the following sequence*:-
8. d5 Ne5, 9. Nd4 Nxc4, 10. Nxe6 Bxe6, 11. dxe6 c6, 12. Qd3 d5, 13. Qxf5 Bb4, 14. Qc2 ("! +=" - SW) Qe8, 15. Bh3 Bxc3 16. Qxc3 Qh5, 17. Kg2 Ne4 18. Qe1
and thus we reach the puzzle position which Williams thought was clearly better for White.
Leaving aside the rather curious change in assessment between moves 14 and 18 it wasn't clear at all to me that the first player was better here so I decided to consult our esteemed readership on the matter. I can't say the responses helped me understand why White should have the advantage but they certainly generated a fair few ideas I hadn't previously considered.
What's the moral of all this? I can't say I'm completely sure. That we shouldn't take opening theory at face value? - possibly. That I spend too much time worrying about openings? - probably.
I still don't know what I really feel about 7. ... Nc6, maybe it's OK(ish) maybe it isn't, but I think I learned something from the experience anyway. By looking at the possibility of moving the queen's knight on move seven I began to consider White's advance d4-d5 - a common theme in these lines - in a little more depth and I've now got a stronger grasp not only on why ideally Black would like to be able to respond with ... e6-e5 but also the difference it makes if Black has already been able to double White's pawns with ... B(orN)xc3/bxc3.
Perhaps to get anywhere near an understanding of chess we have to understand what isn't played as much as what is?
* There are variations along the way that we shall ignore for today ...
9. ... exd5 ("?" leading to "White is better")
10. dxe6 ("+=")
13. ... Ne4 ("?!" leading to "Black has no play for his lost pawn")
16. bxc3 ("?" leading to "=+")