Thursday, December 4, 2008

Leif Erlend Plays the Stonewall

During the eighties and nineties most Norwegian top players played the Dutch Stonewall. Headed by Agdestein, the GMs Djurhuus, Gausel, Tisdall and Østenstad, as well as some of the IMs and promising juniors all collected experience in this solid but unbalancing system. During the chess Olympiad in Dresden not only Carlsen but also another Norwegian GM took up the tradition:

Frhat - L.Johannessen, Olympiad Dresden 2008
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3
With 3.Nc3 White gets some extra options against the Triangle set-up as well as against the Queen's Gambit Declined.

Via a slightly different move-order Johannessen arrives at the same position as Magnus got against Rowson. This is among Black's sharper options against 1.d4 as he may now consider capturing the c-pawn and try to keep it. Was this team preparation for the Norwegian boys?
Rowson preferred 4.e3 after which Magnus went for the Stonewall with 4...Bd6 and 5...f5 anyway. Would 4.Qc2 have lead to the same reaction?
Now it's a Stonewall structure. With White's knight already committed to f3, some quite critical lines with Nh3 are eliminated.
5.Bg2 Nf6
Just as Magnus, Leif Erlend avoids the attempts to give the position an independent twist with the ...Qf6 idea.
6.0–0 Bd6 7.b3
7.Bf4 is the principal alternative.
This is one of the three or four main branches of the Stonewall and quite deeply investigated by strong Grandmasters. Although this as far as I know is Leif Erlend's first Stonewall game, he wasn't totally unprepared as he has been reviewing a copy of our manuscript for 'Win with the Stonewall Dutch'. I also think he got some advise from Simen Agdestein before the game - at least that's the impression I got when I had a few words with him on Tuesday.
This is among the easier systems for Black to equalize against but possibly among the harder to play for a win against.
8...a5 9.Ba3 b6 10.Qc1

From this square the White queen can go to:
- a3, offering a queen exchange
- b2, fighting for control over e5
- f4, (as in the game) offering a change of pawn structure.
10...Bb7 11.Bxd6 Qxd6 12.Qf4!?
This seems to be a new move if not a new idea. Now we get a pawn structure normally arising from an exchange of bishops on f4. White gets total control over e5 but relatively few active possibilities.
a) 12.Na3 0–0 13.Nc2 Na6 14.Nce1 Nb4 15.Nd3 c5 16.Rd1 Rac8 17.Qb2 Ne4 18.Rac1 ½–½ Ustianovich-Hermanov, Lvov 2003.
b) 12.Nbd2 Nbd7 13.Qb2 0–0 14.Rac1 Rac8 15.Rfd1 f4 16.Ne5 fxg3 17.hxg3 Qe7 18.Nd3 Ng4 19.Nf3 Ba6 20.Qd2 h6 21.Bh3 Ndf6 22.Nf4 Ne4 23.Qe1 Rxf4 24.gxf4 Ngxf2 25.Bg2 ½–½ Donaldson-Herder, Vancouver 2000.
c) 12.Qa3 and now:
c1) 12...Ke7 13.Qb2 Rc8 14.Nbd2 Na6 15.Ne5 Rc7 16.h3 Kf8 17.g4 Kg8 18.e3 Rf8 = Yedidia-Vaisser, France 1996.
c2) 12...c5 13.cxd5 exd5 14.Nc3 Nc6 15.Qc1 0–0 16.Rd1 Nb4 17.Qf4 Qxf4 18.gxf4 Ne4 = Brito Garcia-Ulibin, Benasque 1992.
12...Qxf4 13.gxf4 Na6 14.Nbd2 Ke7 15.Rfc1 Rac8 16.e3 Rhd8 17.cxd5 (Dia)

This is very sound and very equal. If Black is playing for more than a draw, 17...exd5 probably had to be tested. There is very little direct risk involved as White has no realistic target and no pawn breaks. But if Black plays for ...c5 or ...g5 White will get his share of the play.
18.Ne5 Nb4 19.Bf1 Rg8 20.Bb5 Kd6
This is roughly as good as any other move but there is an implicit draw offer. Normal (verbal) draw offers were only allowed after move 30.
21.Nf7+ Ke7 22.Ne5 Kd6 23.Nf7+ Ke7 24.Ne5 ½–½


Leif E. Johannessen said...

Thanks, Sverre! The Stonewall was something of a Norwegian speciality in Dresden, the highlight being Magnus' terrific win over Rowson. Of course Simen was working hard behind the scenes to prepare us for it. Together with your copy naturally:) Actually, after my game in the last round Simen suggested 17...exd5! as a way to play for a win with Black. His idea was to transfer the f6-knight to e6 (Ne8-c7/g7-e6), then preparing both ...c5 and ...g5 to undermine a white knight on e5. As the pawn is not doing much on e6 anyway, 17...exd5 might actually be the more logical choice, despite its theoretical status. Of course this whole line is very harmless for Black. White's pawn structure is extremely rigid in the structure after Bf4 ...Bxf4 gxf4. He basically has no pawn breaks at all, and has to rely on piece play alone.

Sverre Johnsen said...

Hello Leif,

Nice to see you drop by occasionally!