Thursday, May 31, 2007

Ghost Books?

One of my favorite chess authors from the eighties is Robert Bellin. Among his books that I read and enjoyed were:
  • The Classical Dutch, Batsford 1977
  • Queen's Pawn, Veresov System, Batsford 1983
  • Trompowski Opening and Torre Attack, Batsford 1984
  • Test Your Positional Play, Batsford 1985 (with Pietro Ponzetto)
  • Winning With the Dutch, Batsford 1990

So when I saw that Batsford announced a book "London System Repertoire" by him - first for January 2005, then for February and finally for June, I worried about competition. But although it is still advertized by Amazon, it now doesn't seem likely to ever appear (or will it be re-launched when Batsford feels my London book is aging?).

Now when planning a book on the Dutch Stonewall, there again are books that have been announced for some time and then seriously delayed. First I noticed a Batsford book by Collins with the title "An Attacking Repertoire for Black", which proposes a repertoire based on the French and Stonewall defences:

It was announced for August and later September 2006 and now it's said to be expected August 2007. Will it ever appear?

Then I saw that Quality Chess announced two updates by Aagaard of his Everyman book Dutch Stonewall; one in Swedish and one in German. The Swedish version appears to have been canceled but the German book is still announced to be published in May.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Dutch Stonewall

It now seems clear that my next book project will be on the Dutch Stonewall. No contracts or written agreements are yet in place, so details must wait, but it seems that my co-author will be one of the real experts.

The Stonewall was the height of fashion in the late eighties and early nineties. It featured in the repertoire of many top players, including Kramnik, Short, Ivanchuk, Bareev, Jussupow, Dolmatov and Agdestein. The main discovery was that Black could develop his bishop to d6, rather than to e7 as Botwinnik had done in the fifties.

This position, normally arising from the move-order 1.d4 e6 2.Nf3 f5 3.g3 Nf6 4.Bg2 d5 5.0-0 Bd6 6.c4 c6, became the main focus of the debate:

Black has weaknesses but he also has a solid position, space and an easy plan for development. Quite frequently Black will be able to generate a kingside attack.

Obviously White too has his chances. They may even be slightly preferable but that's the nature of chess.

White's two main continuations are 7.b3, planning to exchange dark-squared bishops with Ba3, and 7.Bf4, which achieves an immediate exchange of bishops at the price of a slight weakening of his kingside.

It's not clear why the Stonewall's popularity slowly declined. To some extent it may have been a question of fashion's whims. Also many of the original aficionados retired from competitive chess or at least became less active on the tournament scene. But this doesn't seem to completely explain the development.

For the moment my theory is that the Dutch Stonewall declined in popularity because the French defence did the same. The Dutch defence (or rather counter-attack) is much easier to play if you can confidently meet 1.d4 with 1...e6, but that's only an option if you don't fear 2.e4. So one of the main goals of the book must be to show that 1.d4 f5 is a perfectly valid move-order.

Sunday, May 27, 2007


For the last few weeks I have only been able to log in to this blog very sporadically. Today I spent more than one hour trying to get in, changing security settings, privacy settings, pop-up blocking etc. Finally I succeeded by using Mozilla Firefox rather than IE. I hope this will work tomorrow too.

Worthy of Study

I am happy to note that so far all reviewers have been quite kind to our book on the Ruy Lopez. However, that doesn't prevent me feeling misunderstood at times. When Silman says that he cannot recommend the Zaitzev for anyone under 2200 he in a sense is right. A 1600 player will not have much practical use of opening analysis starting around move 20 for several reasons - most obviously because most opponents will deviate from the mainline long before.

But not all chess study should be concerned about immediate and practical use. Sometimes you have to stretch your mind in order to become a better chess player. One way to do that is really deep study of a well chosen middle game position.

This position arises after the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3 Bb7 10.d4 Re8 11.Nbd2 Bf8 12.a4 h6 13.Bc2 exd4 14.cxd4 Nb4 15.Bb1 c5 16.d5 Nd7 17.Ra3 f5 18.Nh2 Nf6.

While it is not easy to say how this position should best be handled, a few other aspects can be established quite quickly:

  • It's an unbalanced position where the plans of both players can be stated quite certainly.
  • The play will soon become quite concrete and tactical - the kind of play where you can find good moves by hard work, even if your positional understanding isn't very sophisticated.
  • If you understand how to play this position, you will also understand a lot of the position after Black's 17th move, and you will probably be able to find a good move even if White should surprise you with something other than 18.Nh2.
  • It's a position that has been played and commented upon by some of the worlds' top players.
  • Even if your chances of reaching the position are fairly modest, they are better than a randomly selected position from a grandmaster game.
To sum it up: This is an ideal position for self-study.