What makes a strong player, and how can you best improve your playing strength?
Opinions vary and there obviously are more than one ingredient. However, most authorities agree that one essential requirement is to understand a certain number of positions and games really well. This is the main message of two interesting books:
It goes without saying that knowing a certain number of games related to your opening repertoire is a particularly important part of your chess education. This obviously is one of the ideas behind the 'Illustrative Games' concept which dominates modern opening books.
'Win with the Stonewall Dutch' offers 64 illustrative games which are all quite close to the book's recommended repertoire for Black. However, there of course are many other games containing useful Stonewall ideas which don't quite fit into our recommended repertoire.
Among the 59 games listed in Ziyatdinov's book there is a Stonewall game that didn't make it to our Stonewall book but deserves to be studied. Myself I first saw it in Reti's 'Die Meisters des Schachbretts':
Maroczy - Tartakower, Teplitz Schoenau 1922
1.d4 e6 2.c4 f5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.a3?!
This is a little too slow. Black will not play ...Bb4 as long as White can meet it with e3 and Nge2.
Our Stonewall book concentrates on lines with ...Bd6 rather than ...Be7.
The Dutch is normally more attractive for Black when White avoids the g3 systems - partly because he can more easily develop his queenside but also because White's kingside tends to be more vulnerable.
5...0–0 6.Bd3 d5
The Stonewall formation. Also development with ...b6 is quite attractive against early e3 lines.
This too generally is a part of the Stonewall set-up. In this position it may not be strictly necessary but Black is preparing to redeploy his bishop to d6.
This is a part of the ancient attacking plan formerly associated with the Stonewall. Black starts attacking on the kingside with a knight, a bishop, two major pieces and possibly a couple of pawns while his queenside is left dormant.
This is the best position for Black's dark-squared bishop once White's exchanging options Bf4 or Ba3 have been eliminated. The loss of a tempo has little significance because of White's slow mobilization.
10.b3 Nd7 11.Bb2 (Dia)
This is a fairly typical Stonewall position with e3 rather than g3.
This is the old-fashioned Stonewall attack. Black goes directly for the king, leaving his queenside pieces undeveloped.
12.Rfe1 Rh6 13.g3 Qf6 14.Bf1 g5
The g-pawn is an important attacking unit. The weaknesses left behind are not important if Black can just keep his initiative going.
15.Rad1 g4 16.Nxe4 fxe4 17.Nd2 (Dia)
If White can only find the time to play Bg2 and Nf1 his kingside will be quite safe and he will be ready to attack the queenside.
If Black had been better mobilized this would have been a standard sacrifice, hardly worth a diagram.
18.Kxh2 Qxf2+ 19.Kh1
Black now has no forcing follow up to his rook sacrifice. What makes the game remarkable is how he now quietly goes on completing his queenside development. White is free to reorganize his defence but seems unable to find a satisfactory plan. It would have been interesting to see what a Karpov or Petrosian would have come up with but Rybka's evaluation of '=+ (-0.44)' may well be correct (and in any case indicates that modern software is capable of appreciating positional compensation).
19...Qxg3 20.Re2 Nf6 transposes.
20.Re2 Qxg3 21.Nb1 Nh5 22.Qd2 Bd7 23.Rf2 Qh4+ 24.Kg1 Bg3 (Dia)
Finally it seems clear that Black must have more than compensation for his material investment.
Rybka gives 25.Rg2 Rf8 26.Nc3 Rf3 27.Bc1 Ng7 =+.
25...Bxf2+ 26.Qxf2 g3 27.Qg2 Rf8
Black has got his material back without giving up his attack. White is lost.
28.Be1 Rxf1+ 29.Kxf1 e5 30.Kg1 Bg4 31.Bxg3 Nxg3 32.Re1 Nf5 33.Qf2 Qg5 34.dxe5 Bf3+ 35.Kf1 Ng3+ 0–1