The Van’t Kruijs is a chess opening that starts with 1.e3. It is considered an uncommon opening and is not preferred among the top players due to its passive nature. Van’t Kruijs Opening took its name from a Dutch master who lived in the 1800s.
Winning Percentages on Both Sides
Master Games Statistics
|Victory for White
|Victory for Black
Statistics from 95 Million Amateur Games
|Victory for White
|Victory for Black
Key ideas of Van’t Kruijs Opening
1.e3 mainly seeks to be flexible and wait for Black’s first move. Depending on the opponent’s approach, White can choose the set-up and pawn structure they desire. Objectively, it is considered a passive approach due to the lack of activity in the center. Games can transition to Queen’s Gambit or Caro-Kann types of setups if both sides play accordingly. Black usually equalizes early, and the nature of the positions is typically positional and requires expertise due to the lack of a specific plan.
Popular Black’s responses
Against this flexible move, Black has many responses.
The 1…e5 line often transitions to equal games with symmetrical pawn structures.
The 1…d5 variation often allows both tactical and positional play and many setups can be created.
The 1…Nf6 line allows Black to stay flexible, and games can either be hypermodern or transition to the 1…e5 or 1…d5.
The 1…g6 variation often allows White to control the center, while Black strikes back after fianchetto their f8-Bishop on g7-square.
This occurs with 1…e5. This move is the top choice among amateur players and aims to take control of the center. White usually plays 2.d4 and strikes to e4-pawn. White can also choose another path and play 2.c4, intending to stop Black’s expansion in the middle of the board.
If White chooses 2.d4, Black usually captures the d4-pawn (2…exd4), and after White recaptures with the e-pawn (3.dxe4), the game transitions to a symmetrical game (3…d5). Both sides can then develop their pieces normally without any dynamics in the early game.
One sample move order from here could be 4.Nf3 (improving the Knight), 4…Nf6, 5.Bd3 (Bishop usually intends to scope on the ‘b1-h7’ diagonal), 5…Bd6, 6.h3 (stopping Bg4 ideas), 6…O-O, 7. O-O, and 7…Nbd7.
The resulting position would be fairly equal, and both sides would seek to take control of the only open file, the e-file.
If White chooses 2.c4, Black usually continues developing by playing 2…Nf6 (aİming to take control of the d5-square). The nature of these games is generally positional, and games can be closed if the e-pawns are fixed.
One sample line from here could be 3.Nc3 (stopping the d5-pawn advancement), 3…Bb4 (aiming to double White’s pawn structure), 4.Nge2 (reinforcing the c3-Knight), 4…O-O, 5.a3 (kicking the b4-Bishop), 5…Be7 (saving the Bishop and avoiding the opponent to take the Bishop pair), 6.d4 exd4, and 7…Nxd4.
The resulting position would be asymmetrical in terms of pawn structure. White usually seeks to put pressure on the d-file, as the semi-open file favors them. Black typically expands in the Queenside or gets rid of the d-pawn by playing d5.
This line starts with 1…d5. One aim of this move is to enter a Queen’s Gambit type of setup where the d-pawns are fixed once White plays 2.d4. White usually plays 2.d4 and aims for c4 in the next move. White can choose various set-ups, as the game is not tactically concerning for both parties.
One sample line after 2.d4 could be 2…c5 (undermining White’s pawn structure), 3.Nf3 cxd4, and 4.exd4. Once this position is reached, the game resembles the exchange variations of the Caro-Kann Defense. The game then can continue with 4…Nc6 5.Bd3, 5…Bg4 (pinning the f3-Knight), 6.c3 (preventing 6…Nxd4), 6…Qc7 (stopping Bf4), 7.Nbd2 e6 8. O-O, 8…Bd6 (aiming for Bxh2), and 9.h3.
The resulting position would be open for a fierce fight. Black can castle Queenside and create a pawn storm on Kingside by pushing f-, g-, and h-pawns. Black can also castle on the Kingside and start a minority attack on the long side by going a6-b5-b4 to undermine White’s pawn structures. Depending on the Black’s castling, White establishes a plan. a4 is usually a considerable move to take the necessary measures to act against Black’s Queenside castling. If Black castles on the long side, White needs to act fast and create their pawn storm by pushing a-, b-, and c-pawns to open up files. If Black castles on the short side, White usually assaults the Kingside, typically with moves like Re1, Ne5, and f4.
One sample line after 2…Nc6 could be 3.Nf3 (stopping e5-pawn push), 3…Bg4 (pinning the f3-Knight), 4.Be2 (breaking the pin), 4…Nf6, 5.h3 (kicking the g4-Bishop), 5…Bxf3 6.Bxf3, and 6…e5. Here, White should not take the e-pawn but play for a potential pawn break with c4 later. To do that, White can castle (7. O-O) on the short side, and after Black expands on the center with 7…e4, White can retreat with the Bishop (8. Be2) and play 9.c4. The overextended pawns in the resulting position would be problematic for Black, as c6-Knight would be misplaced due to the inability to reinforce the d5-pawn with c6-pawn.
This line begins after Black goes for the flexible 1…Nf6. This move does not open Black’s cards, and Black can have several plans depending on White’s second move. White usually either plays d4 or goes for b3, and fianchettos the f1-Bishop on b2-square.
The lines played with 2.d4 would be similar to those we analyzed in the previous sections, as Black usually plays Nf6. Hence, we will focus on 2.b3 continuations in the section.
After White does for 2.b3, Black has many responses. Usually, Black seeks to neutralize White’s dominance on the ‘a1-h8’ diagonal by fianchettoing their Bishop on g7. 2…c5 is a common move to stop White’s expansion in the center. This also allows Black’s b8-Knight to develop on c6 without preventing the c-pawn from being blocked. One sample line from here could be 3.Bb2, 3…g6 (Black seeks to fianchetto the f8-Bishop on g7-square), 4.Nf3 Bg7, 5.c4 (White fixes the c-pawns to prevent Black’s Queenside expansion), 5…Nc6, 6.d4 (trying to establish a robust control over the middle), 6…cxd4 7.Nxd4 O-O, and 8.Be2.
The resulting position would be versatile in terms of ideas. Black can exchange the Knights on d4-square, and White can capture in many ways. Black typically plays d5 and opens up the c8-Bishop’s scope. Both sides need to be cautious of the ‘a1-h8’ diagonal. The unprotected b2-Bishop must be protected to prevent possible tactics on this diagonal.
This line starts with 1…g6. Similar to the move order we previously analyzed, Black seeks to fianchetto the f8-Bishop on g7-square.
White typically plays 2.d4 and expands in the center. After Black develops the f8-Bishop on g7 (2…Bg7), White can continue their development with 3.c4.
Although Black hasn’t moved any pieces in the center, Black is still in the game because this hypermodern approach allows Black to strike at White’s advanced center. The nature of these games can be similar to King’s Indian Defense, where Black plays d6 and chooses what kind of setup they want.
One sample line after 3…Nf6 could be 4.Nf3, 4…d6 (this move is typical in Black’s setup), 5.Nc3 O-O, 6.Bd3 (quickly developing pieces), 6…Nbd7 (allowing the options to be flexible), 7.Qc2, 7…e5, 8.O-O, and 8…c6.
The resulting position contains many nuances, depending on what kind of pawn structure is reached. If the central pawns are fixed and the game is closed, Black typically creates a pawn storm on the short side by playing f5-f4. A position where Black assaults on the Kingside would be tactical and White would need to make their counterattack on the long side.
If the d4-pawn is exchanged for the e5-pawn, the nature of the game transitions to a positional battle, where both sides maneuver their pieces to the ideal squares and slowly outplay their opponent.
Pros and Cons of the Van’t Kruijs Opening
|This opening is a good choice for players familiar with flexible opening.
|1.e3 is considered a passive move and does not contain an immediate ambition during the early stages of the game.
|White can create many set-ups and learn many responses, depending on Black’s approach.
|Black can claim the center if White stays too passive.
|The nature of the game often favors the better player due to the lack of tactical battles.
|These games often require a deep understanding of positional play.
|Despite being unpopular, the first move does not give all the initiative to the opponent.
|Black equalizes right after White’s first move.
Traps in Van’t Kruijs Opening
This trap begins after Black responds with 1…d5. Then, White goes for 2.d4, and Black plays 2…c5. Then, Wihte develops the g1-Knight to f3 (3.Nf3), and exchanges occur on the d4-square (3…cxd4 and 4.exd4). Then, Black improves the b8-Knight to c6 (4…Nc6), and White develops the f1-Bishop to d3 (5.Bd3). Black plays 5…Bg4 and pins the f3-Knight. Here, White sets up a trap and castles (6. O-O). If Black takes the d4-pawn with the Knight (6…Nxd4), White can sacrifice their Queen and play 7.Nxd4. After Black captures White’s Queen (7…Bxd1), 8.Bb5+ wins the Black Queen with a tempo and then captures the d1-Bishop, being a piece up.
The Van’t Kruijs chess opening is often played for its flexible nature and can transition to more common variations played in d4- and c4-openings. It may be hard to prepare against this opening, as it is quite uncommon at a high level. It often requires an understanding of pawn structure elements and pawn break ideas.
Is the Van’t Kruijs good opening?
The Van’t Kruijs Opening is unconventional and less common. It’s flexible but doesn’t emphasize central control, making it less effective for standard play but interesting for unique positions.
Should beginners play Van’t Kruijs Opening?
Beginners are usually advised to start with central-control openings (like 1.e4 or 1.d4). While the Van’t Kruijs is less standard, it can be fun and encourage creative play, offering a different learning experience.