Thursday, December 10, 2009

Two More Stonewall Reviews

Yesterday I noticed two more reviews of 'Win with the Stonewall Dutch' on the net:

Donaldson's review focuses more on the opening than on the book. That happened all the time with 'Win with the London System' with a lot of reviewers stating that the book was fine but the subject boring. Fortunately Donaldson likes the Stonewall and quotes Kramnik's endorsing but slightly dated statements in Dvoretsky's 'Positional Chess'.

I found Peter Heine Nielsen's review very interesting. The great Dane is generally considered one of the best prepared GMs around. He has not been playing a lot lately but being a second for Anand and Carlsen is not less prestigious than some tournament wins. He points out that the Stonewall to some extent a Norwegian specialty and is of course right. All the early Norwegian GMs (Agdestein, Gausel, Djurhuus, Tisdall and Østenstad) played it regularly in the late eighties and early nineties (usually in combination with the French) and I think the main reason its popularity slowly declined in Norway was the fact that most of these players got less active on the tournament circuit.
Below you can see the original text (in danish) and my attempted translation.

En fremragende bog. Ud over forfatterne fungerer Leif Erlend Johannessen som rådgiver, og Simen Agdestein har skrevet forord og været involveret i kapitlerne med illustrerende partier. Agdestein selv har haft stor succes med den hollandske stonewall og beskriver godt de typiske planer. Stonewall er en strategisk åbning med stor dybde, og netop derfor har en af bogens forfattere, Ivar Bern brugt den med succes i kskak, hvor han vandt VM-titlen.

An outstanding book. In addition to the authors, Leif Erlend Johannessen has been an advisor and Simen Agdestein has written a preface and been involved in the chapters with illustrative games. Agdestein has had great success with the Dutch Stonewall himself and describes the typical plans well. The Stonewall is a strategical opening with great depth and exactly for this reason one of the authors - Ivar Bern - has used it successfully in correspondence chess where he won the World Championship.

Computerne tror oftest på Hvid, men forstår ikke altid de atypiske stillinger, hvor Sort måske har optisk svage felter og en dårlig løber, men i virkeligheden står udmærket. Ikke blot rehabiliterer de en undervurderet åbning, men de gør det med inspirerende kapitler bakket op med personlige erfaringer fra førende eksperter. Og selv om de vedkender sig deres inspiration fra Jens Kristiansens berømte artikel om åbningen her i Skakbladet, fornemmer man, at her videreformidles en slags fælles norsk skakforståelse.

The computers normally prefer White but don't always understand the atypical positions where Black has optical pawn weaknesses and a poor bishop but in reality has an excellent position. Not only do the authors rehabilitate an underestimated opening - they even do so by means of inspiring chapters supported by the personal experiences of leading experts. And although they admit being inspired by Jens Kristiansen's famous article on the opening here - in the 'Skakbladet' - you can sense that they are conveying a kind of common Norwegian chess perception.

Peter Heine Nielsen

Friday, December 4, 2009

Block with the Rook

I am not sure how the publishing companies reason about the matter, but as an author it seems an obvious advantage to be able to build on other authors' analysis; that is to have a recent work on your subject available. In order to do so, you need in practical terms to publish your work 3-4 months later than your competitor. This may seem a lot but you must calculate at least six weeks for typesetting and printing and you will frequently need one week to get hold of a newly published book.

I have for some time been curious about what Everyman would offer in their Dangerous Weapons: The Dutch: Dazzle your Opponent! Some of the answer is now available as downloadable pdf-files at their website.

I was not very surprised by their suggestions of 1.d4 f5 2.Nh3!? and 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.h3!? as weapons for White. While it was obviously impossible to devote much attention to these lines in 'Win with the Stonewall Dutch', I noted that both lines had some sting while researching the book. The Everyman team probably will poke some holes in our very limited coverage of these lines but that's the nature of chess analysis (and I doubt that either of the lines will become very popular at master level).

More of a surprise was their suggestion of 1.d4 f5 2.Bg5 h6 3.Bh4 g5 4.e4 Rh7!? (Dia) for Black.

In our Stonewall book we decided to recommend 2...g6 as it seemed less theoretically volatile, so in this line there is no overlap between the books. However, in the forthcoming revised edition of Summerscale's 'A Killer Chess Opening Repertoire' we recommend exactly this line for White.

Before agreeing to update the Summerscale book I set the condition that if it turned out that his 2.Bg5 analysis was getting shaky, I would replace his analysis with something less tactical (4.e3/4.Bg3 and 3.Bf4!? were the obvious candidates). However, I could find no major problem with his recommendation of 4.e4 and sent Gambit a manuscript based on 4.e4, including some analysis on 4...Rh7 (which Summerscale didn't mention in his original book). My conclusion (based on Rybka 3.0 and a friend who for some time hoped that 4...Rh7 solved all Black's problems in the 2.Bg5 variation) was that 4...Rh7 was close to lost for Black.

Now I must say I am a bit anxious to see what Williams' 21 pages of analysis offer. Unless I am very unlucky I will have his analysis available for the final proof-reading stage of the Killer book. In the meantime, here is a game that Williams needs to improve upon in his analysis:

Daniel Gormall - Simon Williams
EU Union Ch (Liverpool) 2006

1.d4 f5 2.Bg5 h6 3.Bh4 g5 4.e4 Rh7 5.Qh5+ Rf7 6.Nf3 
6.Bxg5 hxg5 7.Nf3 probably is less exact. Black was somewhat better after 7...Nf6 8.Qg6 Nxe4 9.Ne5 Nd6 10.Be2 e6 11.Bh5 Qe7 in Alzate-Rodi, Buenos Aires 2005.
6...Nf6 7.Qg6 Nc6 8.Bxg5!?
8.Bc4 seems promising.
8...fxe4 9.Ne5 Nxe5 10.dxe5 hxg5 11.exf6 exf6
11...e6 may be better. The chances after 12.Nd2 Qxf6 13.Qxf6 Rxf6 14.Nxe4 Rf5 15.Bd3 Bg7 16.c3 was roughly equal in Kharitonov-Gajewski San Agustin 2003.
12.Nc3 Bb4 13.0–0–0 Bxc3 (Dia)

This seems to secure White the better chances.
14...Bxb2+ 15.Kxb2 Qe7 16.h4! d5?! 17.Bxd5 Qe5+ 18.c3 Be6 19.Bxe6 1–0

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Original Killer Repertoire

Do you know the original 'A Killer Chess Opening Repertoire'? It used to be one of my favorite chess opening books and when Gambit asked whether I was interested in updating it, I jumped at the opportunity.
The original work was a fairly slim volume at 144 pages. It has been out of print for some time now and as usual that causes the price offers on Amazon and e-Bay to skyrocket. I would expect that trend to be reversed or at least reduced by the arrival of the revised edition but you never know. There will almost certainly be someone who swear by the original edition and find all additions to detract from the book's value.

So in order to prepare myself for the coming slaughter, I went searching for internet reviews of the 1998 edition. I seemed to remember a review by a GM on the British Chess Federation's website but was unable to find it. I was also unable to find any review of the book at Silman's large depository so I ended up with a surprising meagre catch:
  • The most interesting find probably was this review by Baburin at Chess Cafe.
  • Niggemann offers a review in German by Thomas Schian in Rochade Europa. See below for a translation.
  • The information at Amazon - and in particular the reviews - is always interesting. The reviews cannot always be trusted - sometimes there seem to be organized campaigns - but frequently you get an impression of the quality of a work.
In his book 'A Killer Chess Opening Repertoire' the English GM Summerscale presents an interesting, unusual, aggressive and rather complete opening repertoire for White. The initial moves are 1.d4 and 2.Nf3. Against the Grünfeld and the King's Indian Summerscale offers the Barry Attack (1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Bf4 Bg7 5.e3), against the Pirc and Modern defences he recommends 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Be3. Here he also examins variations without ...Nf6 for Black. The Queen's Gambit is avoided by means of the Colle-Zukertort set-up (1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 g6 3.e3 e6 4.Bd3 c5 5.b3). Of course Summerscale also discusses various Anti-Colle systems. Then follows a chapter on the Queen's Indian (1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.e3 b6 4.Bd3 Bb7 5.0-0 c5 6.c4), the Benoni (1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 c5 3.d5 e6 4.Nc3) as well as the Dutch (1.d4 f5 2.Bg5). In the final chapter various sidelines are examined.

The offered repertoire parts fit well together and make a rather complete repertoire. The killer repertoire contains relatively few theoretical variations. Nevertheless there no doubt are books that treat some of the lines in more detail. This may also be the reason why Summerscale only recommends his own book for players rated up to 2000 Elo. All taken into account the book offers White an unusual but yet correct and aggressive repertoire for the price of 45 Deutsche Mark. However, you will need some basic English reading skills in order to understand Summerscale's explanations.

Thomas Schian, Rochade Europa 04/99

My apologies for neglecting this blog for the past couple of months. I first had a very busy October and then was a bit apatic in November. I now plan to resume blogging as normal.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Another German Stonewall Review

I noticed that Schachversand Niggemann now quotes Schachwelt's review of "Win with the Stonewall Dutch" (in German). Schackwelt appears to be a new German language chess magazin that started up in September this year. They also offer an "Issue 0" from August 2009 as a free download. As far as I can see this must be an excellent buy for anyone who can read German.

I can't find any way to link directly to Niggemann's review page, so I give the text below with my attempt at a translation.

Ein Repertoire aus schwarzer Sicht behandelt "Win with the Stonewall Dutch". Das Autorengespann besteht aus Sverre Johnsen (ELO 2171), Ivar Bern (ELO 2328, IM und Fernschachweltmeister) sowie GM Simen Agdestein. Die beiden letztgenannten sind jeweils auch mit einigen eigenen Partien vertreten. Die Idee das Wissen von ein oder zwei starken Spielern zu nutzen und einen enthusiastischen Amateur die Fleißarbeit machen zu lassen ist reizvoll und war schon in "Win with London System" ganz erfolgreich. Im Vorwort wird dargestellt, wer für welche Themen verantwortlich war. Allerdings bleibt es an manchen Stellen trotzdem unklar, wessen Meinung man bei "I" oder "We" jetzt liest, oder ob es sich etwa um die Meinung des Amateurs aufgrund einer Engine-Beurteilung handelt.

A repertoire from Black’s point of view is what "Win with the Stonewall Dutch” offers. The author team consists of Sverre Johnsen (Elo 2171), Ivar Bern (Elo 2328, IM and Correspondence Chess World Champion and GM Simen Agdestein. The two last ones are represented by some of their own games. The idea to utilize the knowledge of one or two strong players by making an enthusiastic amateur do the hard labour is beautiful and was quite successful already in "Win with London System". In the preface it’s made clear who was responsible for the different subjects. Nevertheless there are several places were it’s unclear whose opinion is expressed by “I” or “We” and whether it is the opinion of an amateur based on a computer evaluation.

Nach drei einführenden Partien folgt die Theorie in 12 Kapiteln. Sieben davon behandeln weiße Aufbauten mit g3, zwei Kapitel weiße Aufbauten ohne g3. In zwei weiteren wird auf weiße Abweichungen im zweiten Zug (2. Sc3, 2. Lg5, 2. e4, 2. g4) eingegangen. Das letzte Kapitel behandelt weiße Aufbauten ohne d4, in denen der Stonewall-Aufbau als kritisch gilt. Beginnt Schwarz mit der Zugfolge 1. d4 e6, kann er sich die letzten drei Kapitel sparen, muss aber dann mit 2. e4 (Übergang zu Französisch) rechnen. Jedes Kapitel beinhaltet: Eine Übersicht über die Partien, Kommentierte Musterpartien, eine Übungsaufgabe, sowie eine Theorie-Übersicht. Den Kern bilden kommentierte Partien, in denen Schachwissen rund um die Eröffnung vermittelt wird. Die Autoren legen dabei vor allem Wert auf das Verständnis und gehen trotzdem auf Feinheiten z.B. bzgl. der Zugfolge ein. Das gelingt sehr gut, jedoch ist eine Menge Arbeit erforderlich. Meistens werden eine oder mehrere Möglichkeiten für Schwarz vorgestellt. Die Hauptempfehlung steckt in den Musterpartien, teilweise aber auch in der Theorie-Übersicht oder gar in der Besprechung der Übungsaufgabe. Wer sich jedoch die Mühe macht, wird die entstehenden Strukturen besser verstehen, so dass das Buch durchaus auch für den Weißspieler interessant ist.

After three introductory games the theory follows in 12 chapters. Seven of these treat white set-ups with g3, two chapters are on white set-ups without g3. In two further chapters White’s second move deviations (2 Nc3, 2 Bg5, 2 e4, 2 g4) are examined. The last chapter takes care of set-ups where White doesn’t play d4, in which the Stonewall is considered critical. If Black uses the move-order 1.d4 e6 he can save himself the last three chapters but must be prepared for 2.e4 and the French defence. Each chapter contains: An overview of the games; annotated illustrative games; an exercise and a theoretical survey. The games are the core around which the chess knowledge is communicated. The authors primarily emphasize understanding but nevertheless go into details regarding – for instance – move-orders. This succeeds very well but requires an effort by the reader. Mostly one or more alternatives are offered for Black. Mostly the main recommendation can be found in the illustrative games but occasionally also in the theoretical survey or even in the comments to the exercises. Anyone who invests the required work will gain a better understanding of the occurring structures, making the book an interesting option even for those playing the white side.

Mit freundlicher Genehmigung
Prof. Dr. Matthias Willems, Schachwelt 1/2009

This entry was updated November 20th 2009.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Stonewall Omissions III

In the long and somewhat tangled Chess Publishing Forum thread on our Stonewall book, there is a question about move-orders in the 2.Nc3 line: How should Black react to 1.d4 f5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bg5 d5 4.e3!? (Dia), planning a delayed capture on f6 and possibly saving a tempo by keeping the bishop on f1 (planning to meet ...Na6 with Bf1xa6 rather than Bd3xa6).

This question is justified as the move 4.e3 is not even mentioned in our book. It has been played quite frequently but doesn't seem to have much independent significance against our suggested plan of action. After the consistent 4...c6 I would think that White's best try for an edge is transposing back to 4.Bxf6 lines with 5.Bxf6 exf6 6.Qf3 g6. However, there are a few independent tries:
This is TalJechin's main suggestion. As far as I can see (I am having some minor problems with my ChessBase installation) the move is untested. It indeed makes some sense as the queen quite often goes to f3 in the 4.Bxf6 lines. However, the queen move isn't highly evaluated by Rybka and seems to fail achieving anything for quite concrete reasons (given below).
Other tries are:
a) After 5.Bd3 Na6, 6.Bxf6 or 6.Bxa6, probably transposing to lines covered in the book appears best as 6.Qf3 Ne4! looks strong.
b) 5.h3 looks very slow. However, after 5...Na6 6.Bxa6 actually gains a tempo over some lines where White plays Bf1-d3xa6, so Black may prefer 5...Qa5!?, hoping to use the ...Ba3 trick suggested elsewhere in the book after 6.Bxf6 exf6.
c) Other moves like 5.Nf3, 5.Nh3, or 5.Qd2 are certainly possible but I fail to see any clear idea behind them.
I am not convinced that 5...Qa5!? 6.Bxf6 exf6 7.O-O-O b5!? 8.Bxb5!? is quite as strong as Rybka thinks it is. But why go deeply into lines like that when the active knight move looks so simple and strong?
After 6.h4, 6...Qb6 looks stronger than the immediate capture on c3.
Also 6...dxe4 7.Qh3 Qa5+ 8.c3 Be6, planning ...Bf7 and ...h6 looks OK.
7.Qg3 Qa5+ 8.c3 Bf5 (Dia)

The position is quite interesting but I think it's already possible to conclude that Black is fine as he has more space and is not behind in development.

So, is this an omission?
Yes, probably it is. Foreseeing that a reader would be curious about the untested 5.Qf3 and related lines would have been quite difficult. But there should at least have been a sentence saying something like 'After 4.e3 c6, White probably has nothing better than 5.Bxf6, transposing back to our main line'.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Check Chess Check

I am still too busy for any substantial blog entries. However, this time I am very pleased to refer to another site. The Chess Check site which seems to be based on their monthly Chess Check e-zine was brought to my attention by Gambit's infopage on 'The Ruy Lopez: a Guide for Black', which quoted John Lee Shaw's review of that book. I enjoyed the review, which had a nice personal touch, as well as the rest of their e-zine.

I already look forward to their October Issue which is planned for October 31st!

Addendum November 2nd
I am happy to note that the October issue was delivered on time and seems to be another enjoyable publication.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Five Stars from Carsten Hansen

In his October book review at Chess Cafe, Carsten Hansen gives five stars (out of five possible) to 'Win with the Stonewall Dutch'. I shall not give lengthy quotations as it's all available online but I can't resist duplicating his conclusion:

This book is incredibly well-written and it makes the theory of this opening extremely accessible. The authors are honest and objective in their appraisal of the individual lines, which makes the book a perfect tool for the study of this fascinating opening. If you have not already bought this book, it is time to do so now. For those who need a new weapon against 1 d4, this book makes an excellent case for it to be the Stonewall Dutch.

My assessment of this book: *****

As this in my opinion was the voice of the last of the major chess book reviewers, I will not be holding my breath for any more reviews. But if I should stumble upon any more, I most likely will mention it in this blog. 
In a week or two I probably will take up my normal (irregular) blogging again - hopefully with some analytical content.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Future of Kung Fu Chess

I never intended this blog to be just a collection of reviews and references to other sites. But for another two weeks I don't expect to have much time available. Therefore I today refer my readers to the excellent Streetham & Brixton blog which has some news on Kung Fu chess, which is one of the relatively few chess variants I enjoy. Apparently Tempest is the place to go for Kung Fu Chess enthusiasts.

It may not be an easy game to implement, but in my opinion Kung Fu chess deserves a place on at least one of the major servers (like ICC, Playchess or FICS). Or - on second thought - maybe that is turning the argument on its head? Maybe I should wish Tempest good luck in their attempts to become a major chess server?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Flear Reviews Win with the Stonewall Dutch

I am not sure who is the most influential online chess book reviewer. John Watson and Jeremy Silman are two hot candidates with Carsten Hansen as a possible contender. However, for paper based reviews I am quite convinced that Glenn Flear who writes the review section of New in Chess' Yearbooks must top the list. Therefore I was very happy to see him recommend 'Win with the Stonewall Dutch' in Yearbook 92. He opens his review, which takes up almost an entire page, charmingly modest:
"Although I have been covering the Stonewall Dutch for for several years, I don't claim to really understand it that well. This book could be exactly what I need to bring my erudiation up to shape!"

Flear then goes on quoting and referring to Agdestein's foreword concluding this part of his review as follows:
"The theory is sufficient detailed for anyone wanting to know what has happened before but, unlike many lines which can be worked out at home, the Stonewall is 'an opening for those who like to fight there and then'. An ideal choice for players with limited memory capacity but great fighting spirit!"

There follows some more kind words about the book's disposition and content before he sums up:
"Highly revealing and a definite for anyone who doesn't really comprehend the Stonewall Dutch, which means (be honest now!) just about everyone."

All I can do in return is recommending Yearbook 92. In my opinion the review section is worth the price of the book alone. And as added bonuses there are 33 theoretical surveys, Sosonko's Corner and the Forum. Definitely a must buy!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Nothing but Praise from Watson

I was very pleased to see Watson's recent reviews at The Week in Chess. Not only does he give 'Win with the Stonewall Dutch' unconditional praise, but he adds weight to his evaluation by stating that 'The Dutch has been a part of my recent writing (Mastering the Chess Openings again), and I got a chance to look at this book closely.'

As a special bonus Watson on the subject of the Ruy Lopez returns to my previous book with Leif Johannessen, 'The Ruy Lopez: a Guide for Black'. I take the liberty to lift the relevant text from his lengthy review:

In an earlier column I reviewed Sverre Johnsen's & Leif Johannessen's The Ruy Lopez: A Guide For Black, which promotes the Zaitsev Variation: 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. That book is a complete repertoire after the move 3...a6, that is, it includes solutions to the Exchange Variation and White's alternatives from moves 4-10. I consider it the best 'Ruy Lopez for Black' book in general, because in addition to great theoretical detail and a good choice of variations (see below), it has a huge amount of material on ideas and themes, strategy in the Ruy, and how to prepare and practice openings.

I have nothing to add!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

More Norwegian Stonewall Reviews

There is a new Norwegian review of 'Win with Stonewall Dutch' at Nettavisen's chess pages.
There also was a review in the new issue (4/2009) of 'Norsk Sjakkblad'.
Unfortunately I am extremely pressed for time these days so I will not attempt to quote, translate or comment on these for some days.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dutch - Open Games

There have been some analytical reactions to 'Win with the Stonewall Dutch' and I am planning to at least briefly comment on most of them and offer some analysis if relevant. However, I am still quite busy so I must deal with them slowly and one by one. Today I will look at what I believe must be one of the simpler issues.

A reader on the Chess Publishing forum thinks that in Lesson 12 after the moves 1.Nf3 f5 2.d3 Nc6 3.d4!? e6 we should have dealt with the move 4.d5 (Dia). For the context I should mention that this position is discussed in Exercise 12 where the student is supposed to analyse the line independently, then check his analysis with a computer program and finally consult our suggested solution.

To my surprise I see that 4.d5 was originally suggested by a poster I have reason to believe is a fairly strong player. Yet I humbly disagree and assume the move was suggested somewhat light-heartedly - possibly for the fun of playing 2.d3, 3.d4 and 4.d5. That kind of fun can occasionally work well in closed positions. But in this case the Dutch leads to relatively open play.

In my opinion 4.d5 might reasonably have been discussed in some detail if it had belonged in an earlier lesson. However, after having dealt in some details with the comparable line 1.d4 e6 2.Nf3 f5 3.d5 (Dia) in Lesson 9, (where we opine that 3.d5 is unlikely to be a threat to Black's opening as it violates basic opening principles) I honestly don't think that this should be necessary. Black's extra tempo somewhat reduces his number of options but should not at all be difficult to use in a positive way.

Exercise 9 dealt with the highly tactical line 3...exd5 4.Qxd5 d6 5.Ng5 Qe7 6.Nxh7 (Dia)

Here Black has an important choice between 6...c6 7.Qb3 Rxh7 8.Qxg8 Rh4 as in an interesting game by Miles and 6...Rxh7 7.Qxg8 Rh4 8.Qb3 Nc6! as in a more recent game by Jussupow.

Having studied these positions it should be clear to any student that 4.d5 is, frankly speaking, a quite poor move. The main point is that after 3./4. d5 Black has the option to open the centre, reaching a kind of position where the pawn structure and even the number of pawns is of less importance than piece activity and direct tactical threats. As a result Black, as any analysis engine can confirm, has not one but a number of ways to reach a satisfactory position.

a) Rybka 3 likes the gambit line 5...Nf6!? 6.Qxf5 d5 7.Qd3 Bc5 and thinks that Black has full compensation. I am not sure that all programs will agree as some are very materialistic but most humans will find that Black has clearly the better practical chances here.
b) If you don't like sacrificing pawns 5...Bb4+ 6.c3 Nge7 7.Qd3 Bc5 is a simple way to complete development and reach a fully satisfactory position. Rybka considers that White is very slightly better here but I cannot really see why.
c) 5...d6 probably is even stronger. Black threatens to develop with tempo on White's exposed queen and 6.Ng5 (which is critical in the parallel position with Black's knight still on b8) is meaningless for at least two reasons:

c1) 6...Qf6 looks strong as the consistent 7.Nxh7? (Dia) loses to the slightly surprising 7...Qd4!.

c2) For practical purposes 6...Qe7 (Dia) may be even stronger as White may be tempted into 7.Nxh7 (what else?) 7...Be6 8.Qb5 0–0–0 9.Nxf8 Rxf8 when Black has more than compensation for his pawn. Rybka says '=+ (-0.34)' at search depth 14 but I suspect that White is lost.
White obviously should look for alternative 6th moves, but then Black will follow up with 6...Nf6 and e.g. 7...g6 and a very comfortable Leningrad position.
This analysis is based on my own evaluations, supported by some Rybka input, and I have not consulted my co-author who was the book's analytical authority.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Stonewall Reviewed in Norwegian

The national Norwegian television company NRK has a story and a review of 'Win with the Stonewall Dutch' in their sports section today. I am too busy right now but maybe I in the near future - as a service for non-Norwegian readers - will attempt a translation of the conclusion.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Stonewall Omissions II

While the more or less 'professional' reviewers have all been very kind to 'Win with the Stonewall Dutch', there have been some critical remarks by what may possibly be called 'Dutch enthusiasts'. I will have a look at one of these reviews which can be found at Chess Publishing Forum.

In the thread 'New Book - Win with the Stonewall Dutch' a poster called 'Ametanoitos' in post #18 starts a debate. I will not go into analytical details as I think the analysis provided mostly speaks for itself. I will rather comment on his points from an author's viewpoint.

  • Ametanoitos doesn't trust our recommendation 1.d4 e6 2.Nf3 f5 3.d5 Bb4+ 4.c3 Bd6 because in his notebook he some years ago wrote 'Do not trust the ...Bd6 idea'. He doesn't remember his exact analysis but found that following some suggestions that were recommended as leading to equality (in some other books) didn't quite equalize against natural moves. So he instead decided to go for 3...d6.

Well, a book cannot reasonably be expected to agree with every reader's preferences. 3...Bb4+ has been by recommended by various books and played repeatedly by Dutch specialists Gleizerov, Ulibin and Simons so it doesn't seem likely it's that bad.

  • On page 168 we say that 1.d4 f5 2.Nf3 e6 3.Bg5 Be7 4.h4 'looks unsound and is likely to backfire after 4...Nf6.' Ametanoitos claims that 'this is not as bad as they say' and gives some examples demonstrating that the line can be quite dangerous but none of them with our recommendation 5.Nc3 Ne4.
Firstly I must say that our comment wasn't meant to be a total condemnation of the line. In my vocabulary there is a difference between 'looks' and 'is'. I would be surprised if this line offers White an advantage against sensible play but I have been surprised before. More importantly I again fail to see how this can be a weakness of the book. I will admit that we in addition to 6.Nxe4 might well have added the game Gohlil-Keitlinghaus, 2nd Bundesliga 2002 which continued 6.Qd3 d5 7.Qe3. However, there is always a matter of space and the line doesn't look frightening. I honestly think you should be able to reach a playable position against such a line without any concrete preparation.

Then Ametanoitos moves on to a main variation: 1.d4 f5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.g3 e6 4.Bg2 d5 5.0–0 Bd6 6.c4 c6 7.Qc2!?:

  • Firstly he is not satisfied with our 'recommendation' 7...Nbd7, offering the game Taimanov- Lisitsin, Leningrad 1949 which continued 8.cxd5 cxd5 9.Nc3 a6 10.Bf4 Bxf4 11.gxf4 0–0 12.Na4 with a quite clear advantage to White.
Well, I must agree that the position after 12.Na4 is not pleasant for Black and that the reader deserves guidance. It's a bit strange that we overlooked this game even if it's a bit old. Most likely we missed it because the game begun 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 c6 4.Qc2 Nd7 5.g3 Bd6 6.Bg2 f5 7.0–0 Ngf6 thus only merging with our repertoire in the last minute. Another possibility is that we sorted the games according to rating and forgot to check for 'pre-Elo' games - that happens from time to time.

Then it must be pointed out that 7...Nbd7 isn't strictly a 'recommendation'. Rather we point out that this is how Black could respond if he prefers to leave his king in the centre against Bf4 lines (which White may still enter). With this basic premise in mind I will suggest that 11...b5!? is a very natural try for Black. Actually, after allowing Rybka chew on the position until it reaches 18 plys' depth it has 11...b5 on top ahead of 11...0-0 with the evaluation '= (0.23)'. That may not be ideal for Black but it's the kind of positions you sometimes have to be content with playing Black. Maybe I in a future entry will elaborate on the value (or lack of so) of these Rybka or Fritz evaluations.

  • Next Ametanoitos is unhappy that we after our recommendation 7...0-0 doesn't mention Cox' suggestion in 'Starting Out: 1.d4', 8.Ne5!?.

I Plead Guilty!

This line should have been covered. I don't really know how we missed it but must assume I got too carried away mapping possible transpositions between 7.Qc2, 7.Nc3 and 7.Bg5 and missed some independent lines.

As can be seen from our bibliography, Cox' book wasn't among our sources. My chess library is quite extensive (3/4 of it has been deported to my parents' home for space reasons) but it doesn't contain that book and I didn't really consider buying it for the sake of writing this Dutch book. That may have been a mistake as I have been informed that the book is quite good. Nevertheless, this is not a sufficient explanation as there have been 42 games played, some of them with strong white players and with well known Stonewall experts on Black's side (Vaisser among others).

That being said, I am not really impressed by the move's pure chess qualities. In this position Rybka is greatly helped by its inability to understand the concept of 'consistency' and happily suggest 8...c5! (Dia) with what seems like instant equality.

As you can see for yourself this is just the start of the debate on the forum. I will follow up with another entry or two but not really enter the analytical discussion.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Killer Chess Opening Repertoire on the Loose

Gambit Publishing has now released their coming titles for the winter. There are quite a few interesting looking books on the horizon.

To me, the most interesting one is an update of Aaron Summerscale's classic ' A Killer Chess Opening Repertoire' which is scheduled for March 2010. I can honestly say I was surprised to see my name listed as a co-author as my task just was to bring this 11 years old book up to date. However, in retrospect Gambit's decision seems the only reasonable one. The book has been quite heavily updated and it would not have been fair to mr. Summerscale to list him as sole author.

Another surprise was that the book - as the only one on their new list - will be in Gambit's small format (A5 - 210x145 mm). I have no idea why this decision was made but it must somehow be related to the fact that even after the update the book is relatively light weight.

I am again pleased with the cover which certainly must be another Wolff Morrow creation. His style is quite recognizable and the theme fits the title quite nicely.

My apologies to everybody waiting for blogs with an analytical content - be it the Stonewall or the Noteboom. I am working but I am working slowly and the days go by.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

More Stonewall Reviews

Some more Stonewall reviews for the archive:

Jeremy Silman - author of 'How to Reassess Your Chess' - is probably right when claiming to have the greatest online collection of chess book reviews. I always follow his (and his staff's) reviews as they usually are quite detailed and well written. However, if I hadn't been alerted by an e-mail from my publishers, this time he might have stayed under my radar for some days by adding a review of our Stonewall book just one day his other August reviews. There may at this site also be another review of our book by John Donaldson as indicated on Gambit's infopage. I have however been unable to locate this review.

Chessvibes has a growing collection of reviews. Some of them are slightly controversial (see 'Play 1.b3) but all seem fair and well thought out by a reviewer who really has worked with the books in question. This time Arne Moll considers 'Win with the Stonewall Dutch' together with a few other books: Openings, openings, openings. As far as I can see his review is very favourable. He points out that there are some very complicated move-order issues in the variation 1.d4 f5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 e6 4.c4 and that he had trouble following our explanations. This is not strange, as this really is a complex issue. For practical purposes this may not be too much to worry about as:
  1. 4...d5 is quite playable for Black and the book gives what I believe is sufficient guidance even if Black should be move-ordered into the lines resulting from this move-order.
  2. Following 4...c6, White will mostly play either 5.Nh3 when Black can play for ...d6 and ...e5 or 5.Nf3, leading to positions considered after the move-order 4.Nf3.
Below the review is a quite interesting discussion where readers discuss whether those playing unusual openings really want to read thick tomes on their favorites.

There is also a review in Dutch by Gerard Rill at the chess shop 'De beste zet'. Written Dutch is relatively easy to understand for a Norwegian who can also read German (spoken Dutch is something entirely different!) but I am not sure I understand everything. Below follows an attempt to translate his conclusion:

Is there then nothing negative to remark about this book? Actually I can think of only one thing: the old masters of the Dutch are not taken into consideration. In order to understand the Dutch not only the current stand of theory is important but also how it was developed, for instance during the games of the World Championship match between Botwinnik and Bronstein in 1951.

Finally: To whom can I recommend this book? Firstly naturally to all French players. Further to black players who enjoy immediately going for the throat of White's king after 1.d4. Against weak opposition this certainly produces surprisingly quick results. But especially it can be recommended to everyone who like to play openings where understanding is more important than memorization.
Good luck with it!

Alas, when it comes to details and single words I must admit that this is all guesswork based on similarities. For instance I am quite confident that 'het begrip van de stelling' must mean 'understanding of the position'. I am not equally sure that 'hoofd hoeft te leren' means 'emptying your head' (and - assuming that this is correct - that this in turn means memorizing) but it seems quite likely. Maybe someone who actually knows the language can correct me?

Addendum August 14th
I did some changes and corrections to the translation above in order to reflect the comments by Shrek below and an e-mail from IM Gerard Welling. It's still not a word by word translation (never a good idea) but now probably a little closer to the meaning.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Elburg on Win with the Stonewall Dutch

I am for the moment struggling with the Noteboom and some Stonewall lines and just note in passing that another review of 'Win with the Stonewall Dutch' has appeared. This time it's John Elburg - a little early with his reviews of August 1st. His review is positive (as they almost always are - even for quite poor books) and contains some useful information for potential buyers. Unfortunately he this time has missed the fact that Ivar Bern is a co-author (mentioning only Sverre Johnsen and Simen Agdestein). It's a pity that Elburg's command of the English language is lacking to the extent that it will be hard to find a complete sentence to quote. My guess is that Gambit on the book's info page will go for:
Conclusion: A very important reference work of the Dutch Stonewall!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Stonewall Omissions I

So far all reviews of 'Win with the Stonewall Dutch' have been very positive. Nevertheless some readers - presumably experienced Dutch players - have expressed disappointment that some lines have been omitted or received insufficient coverage. Some of these reactions are in my opinion very well founded while others appear a bit strange. I will return to the specifics in later entries (my brain is in holyday mode and I don't have a lot of Internet access). However, first I would like to share some thoughts and information about how the size and content of a book is decided.

Our contract with Gambit for 'Win with the Stonewall Dutch' specified that the book should be 192-208 B5 (= large format) pages. This was what the publishers considered the ideal size, taking the intended audience and the book's retail price into account (contrary to what some theory buffs may believe a bigger book may well sell less).

What we actually delivered was the maximum 208 pages plus a little more as we also fully spent the extra 10% that one of Gambit's staff informed us could normally be squeezed in by typographic means. This we did despite knowing perfectly well that the effect might be crowded pages considerably less inviting to the eye than a more spacious lay-out. Thankfully, the result instead was a great looking book of 223 pages. A good deal for the customer but probably not so great for Gambit Publishing who no doubt had to pay extra for printing these extra pages with no possibility to raise their announced price.

My message? Well, just pointing out that in order to add something to the (already oversized) book, we would have had to deduct something too. I am well aware that this could have been done without the book suffering greatly but must say that I am quite fond of what we decided to keep.

Monday, July 20, 2009

First English Reviews

During the week-end there appeared two reviews of 'Win with the Stonewall Dutch'. I'm fairly busy now and they both speak for themselves so I just note that they both are positive and contain very little if any criticism and give the links:

There are also some comments that come quite close to a review at Thomas Johansson's chess book page (this page opens an ad and at least one pop-up). I will return to this as it raises some questions that deserve to be answered.

I will also eventually have a look at some of the questions raised in this thread at Chess Publishing discussion forum.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Stonewall Reviewed

Another Stonewall review in German is available at Freechess.Info. This review too is very positive. However, curiously it seems more enthusiastic about the Stonewall Defence than about the book. Well, as a matter of fact choosing a fitting subject IS an important part of writing a good book and the Stonewall has a lot of good qualities.

As this still is an English language blog I will attempt another translation (Red = German; Green = English):

Der Stonewall ist schon eine fabelhafte Eröffnung!

Als Nachziehender baut man sich mittels der immer gleichen Anfangszüge c6, d5, e6, f5 nebst Sf6 auf. Anschließend noch flugs den Läufer auf d6 manövriert, kurze Rochade und ab geht die Luzi (wie zum Beispiel in der Partie GLÜCKSBERG - M. NAJDORF Warschau 1935: 1.d4 f5 2.c4 Sf6 3.Sc3 e6 4.Sf3 d5 5.e3 c6 6.Ld3 Ld6 7.0-0 0-0 8.Se2? Sbd7 9.Sg5? L:h2+ 10.Kh1 Sg4 11.f4 De8 12.g3 Dh5 13.Kg2 Lg1 14.S:g1 Dh2+ 15.Kf3 e5! 16.d:e5 Sd:e5+ 17.f:e5 S:e5+ 18.Kf4 Sg6+ 19.Kf3 f4 20.e:f4 Lg4+ 21.K:g4 Se5+ 22.f:e5 h5 0-1 ).

The Stonewall is a marvellous opening!

Black always sets up the same formation: c6, d5, e6, f5 and Nf6. Then the bishop goes to d6, short castling and off we go (as for instance the game Glücksberg-Najdorf, Warsaw 1935).

Damit die Anwendung des Stonewalls in der Praxis nicht wie das Hornberger Schießen ausgeht (1564 kündigte der Herzog von Württemberg seinen Besuch in Hornberg an. Ein Wächter sollte den Gast per Hornsignal voranmelden, damit man zur Begrüßung Böller- und Kanonendonner abfeuern konnte. Zweimal gab er jedoch falschen Alarm. Als der hohe Gast dann wirklich kam, hatten die Hornberger buchstäblich "ihr Pulver verschossen", und so begrüßten sie den Herzog mit einem lauten "Piff-paff" aus tausend Männerkehlen.) haben Sverre Johnson (sic.), Ivar Bern und Simen Adgestein (sic.) das vor mir liegende Buch geschrieben. Es befasst sich aus der Sicht des Schwarzen mit dieser Eröffnung, die bereits Botwinnik regelmäßig anzuwenden pflegte und die im Repertoire führender Großmeister (Short, Dreev, Moskalenko) zu finden ist.

In order to prevent the practical use of of the Stonewall from outcomes as in the "Hornberg shooting" - a German saying for all bullets being shot elsewhere - Sverre Johnsen, Ivar Bern and Simen Agdestein have written the book which lies in front of me. It examins from Black's viewpoint this opening which already Botwinnik played regularly and which is in the repertoire of leading contemporary grandmasters like Short, Dreev and Moskalenko.

In 12 Kapiteln und mehr als 60 ausgewählten Musterpartien + zusätzlicher theoretischer Übersichten führen die Autoren den Leser an eine leicht zu erlernende Eröffnung heran. In der Tat ist die schwarze Strategie entwaffnend einfach als auch brandgefährlich! In jedem Kapitel gibt es mehrere kommentierte Partien die auf Besonderheiten und wichtige Haupt- und Nebenvarianten hinweisen.

The authors introduce the reader to an easy-to-learn opening in 12 chapters and more than 60 selected Illustrative games and additional theoretical overviews. Black's strategy is actually as simple as it's dangerous! In every chapter there are several annotated games which point out important features as well as main- and sub-variations.

Geschriebenes Wort und Analyse sind wohltuend ausgewogen und strapazieren den Leser nicht unnötig mit ellenlangen Variantenverästelungen. Neueste Entwicklungen wurden genauso berücksichtigt wie vergleichbare Publikationen, ebenso wurden die angefertigten Analysen sorgfältig geprüft und von diversen Engines „abgesegnet“. Im Grunde genommen ist dieses Buch ein komplettes Schwarzrepertoire gegen alles außer 1.e4, die Autoren geben Empfehlungen gegen 1.d4, 1.c4, 1.Sf3 und 1.b3/1.g3.

The prose as well as the analysis are comfortingly well balanced and don't bother the reader unnecessarily with overly long variations. Recent developments as well as comparable publications are taken into account. The resulting variations are carefully tested and checked by various computer engines. The authors give recommendations against 1.d4, 1.c4, 1.Nf3 and 1.b3/1.g3 so in reality this is a complete black repertoire for everything except 1.e4.

Für wen ist das Buch zu empfehlen?
- Für Spieler mit wenig Zeit für das Eröffnungsstudium da im Stonewall das Wissen um Pläne und Strategien wichtiger ist als einzelne Züge.
- Für Spieler, die mit Schwarz um die Initiative kämpfen wollen ohne unnötige Risiken einzugehen.
- Für Spieler, die schon lange auf der Suche nach einem vernünftigen Schwarzrepertoire gegen alles außer 1.e4 sind.
Wie gesagt, der Stonewall ist eine fabelhafte Eröffnung.
Das Buch ist übrigens auch fabelhaft und deswegen ein Daumen hoch von meiner Seite!

For who can this book be recommended?
- For players with little time for opening preparation, as in the Stonewall understanding of plans and strategies is more important than single moves.
- For playes who like to seize the initiative with Black without taking unnecessary risks.
- For players who for a long time have been looking for an opening against everything except 1.e4.
As already said: The Stonewall is a marvellous opening.
The book is incidentally also marvellous and I give it thumbs up!

I hope this translation is not too far off the mark. The text contains some idioms that are unfamiliar to me and help from the readers would be appreciated!

Updated July the 15th:
I have adjusted the translation based on some feed-back from Stephan Busemann. Thanks!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

First Stonewall Review

I was expecting John Elburg to be first before British Chess Magazine. But it turned out that Deutscher Fernschachbund (BdF) - the German Correspondence Chess Federation was the first to deliver a regular review of our Stonewall book. The reviewer is very positive (even though he has some reservations regarding the subject. As it's in German here is an attempt to translate (Red = German, Green = English):

Schachbücher aus der Feder von Fernschachspielern sind rar. Dies gilt besonders, wenn der Autor zu den besten in der Welt zählen soll. So ist bei "Win with the Stonewall Dutch" beim Namen der Verfasser ein erstes Ausrufezeichen zu setzen, denn Co-Autor ist Ivar Bern, 17. Fernschach-Weltmeister. Mitverfasser ist Sverre Johnsen, Simen Agdestein hat ebenfalls beigetragen. Die hochgesteckte Erwartung in die Qualität des Werkes, besonders in seine Akkuratesse, wird dann aber beim Lesen des Rückentextes auf die Probe gestellt. Man hat es tatsächlich geschafft, den Namen Ivar Berns in Ivan Bern zu verstümmeln.

Chess books from the pen of correspondence chess players are rare। This is in particular so if the author is among the best in the world. This is the case with " Win with the Stonewall Dutch". The names of the authors earn a first exclamation mark, because the 17. correspondence chess world champion - Ivar Bern - is a co-author. The other co-author is Sverre Johnsen and Simen Agdestein has likewise contributed. However, the high expectations to the quality of the work - in particular its accuracy - are challenged when reading the back text of the book which succeeds in mutilating the name Ivar Bern into Ivan Bern.

Das Material zum holländischen Stonewall aber wird dann sehr solide dargestellt. 64 Partien, fünf davon vom Ex-Weltmeister selbst gespielt (+4, -0, =1). Mit den zwei weiteren Fernschachpartien beträgt deren Anteil insgesamt mehr als zehn Prozent.

The material on the Dutch Stonewall, however, is presented very solidly. Out of 64 games, five are by the Ex-World Champion (+4, -0, =1). Together with two further correspondence games this category altogether totals more than ten per cent.

Der Aufbau der insgesamt 12 Kapitel mutet etwas ungewöhnlich an. Den Anfang macht eine ultra-kurze Übersicht ("Lesson Overview") zum jeweiligen Thema. Dieser folgen mehrere ausführlich kommentierte Partien. Auffälig an diesen Partien ist, dass die Autoren so etwas wie ein FAQ-System eingearbeitet haben. So wie man es von derartigen Systemen kennt, erscheint im Text ein "Q" (für "Question", = Frage) und eine Fragestellung aus der Warte des Lesers, beides kursiv gedruckt. Mal geht es dabei um allgemeine Dinge zum System, dann um spezifische Stellungsfragen und dann wieder um Pläne, Einschätzungen etc. Die Antwort wird jeweils unmittelbar gegeben. Den Partien sowie der diesen nachgestellten Zusammenfassung der aus ihnen abzuleitenden Erkenntnisse schließt sich eine dem Leser gestellte Übung an. Nun erst, das Kapitel abschließend, wird die Theorie in allgemeiner Form dargestellt.

Die Kapitel haben folgende Inhalte:

The structure of the altogether 12 chapters is somewhat unfamiliar. An ultra short overview ('Lesson Overview') introduces the respective topics. These are followed by several games annotated in detail. What is peculiar is that in these games the authors have included something reminding of a FAQ system. As you may recognize from similar systems in the text there appears a "Q" (="Question") and then a question from the viewpoint of a reader, both in italics. Sometimes the question concerns the system in general, at other places specific position or plans, evaluations etc. In each case the answer is directly given. The games and the subsequent summaries of the insights derived from them are followed by exercises for the reader. Only then, closing the chapter, the theory in general form is offered.

The chapters have the following contents:

1. 7. b3: Einführung
2. Das kritische 7. b3 De7 8. Se5!
3. 7. Dc2, 7. Sc3 und seltene 7. Züge
4. 7. Lf4
5. Abspiele mit einem verspäteten Lf4
6. Frühe Abweichungen
7. 4. c4 mit Sh3
8. 2. c4: Abspiele ohne Fianchetto
9. 2. Sf3: Abspiele ohne Fianchetto
10. 2. Sc3 und 2. Lg5
11. Staunton-Gambit und seltene zweite Züge
12. 1. c4, 1. Sf3 und 1. g3.

{translation of the Table of Content}

Den Abschluss des Werkes bilden die Lösungen auf die Übungen in den einzelnen Kapiteln, ein Varianten- und ein Spielerverzeichnis.

The book concludes with the solution to the exercizes from the previous chapters and indexes of variations and players.

Die abschließende Einschätzung des Rezensenten zum Werk soll in dessen eigenen FAQ-Stil erfolgen: F: Sind Sie der Ansicht, dass dieses Buch zum Kauf empfohlen werden kann? Ja, dieser Ansicht bin ich. Es gibt einen umfassenden Überblick über den holländischen Stonewall und zeichnet sich durch einen genügenden Tiefgang aus. Wenn der Partieerfolg des Lesers ausbleiben sollte, wird dies an dessen eigenen Fehlern und vielleicht auch dem nicht ganz gesunden Eröffnungssystem liegen, nicht aber an "Win with the Stonewall Dutch".

The reviewer's concluding evaluation of the work will be in its own FAQ style:
Q: Is it your opinion that this book can be recommended to buy? Yes, this is my opinion. The book offers a comprehensive overview over the Dutch Stonewall and is also sufficiently deep. If the reader isn't happy with his results, he must blame his own mistakes or a opening system that may not be completely sound, but not " Win with the Stonewall Dutch".

I am not entirely happy with this translation so quite likely I will try to improve it one of the first days.

Updated July the 15th and July the 24th:
I adjusted the translation based on some feed-back from Stephan Busemann on the 15th of July and again on the 24th due to his explanation. Thanks!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Repertoire Choices and Consistency

Sometimes interesting thoughts and debates deserving to be read 'get hidden' in the comments to old entries. In this blog entry one anonymous reader (it's hard to say how many of the 'Anonymous' are the same poster) is generally very positive to our book. However, he points out a missing move-order option and some related challenges.

Dealing with transpositional options is an eternal challenge for repertoire books. A good repertoire may well be inconsistent if you in a certain position have a choice between a move X that will lead to a position you have to face anyway (by transposition) and a move Y which may be better but takes some effort to analyse. Going for move X is rational as it saves you some labour but in chess your first priority should be to play the best move.

Whether you should go for the independent option (Y) or not, must depend on at least three factors:

  • How satisfied are you with the positions resulting from move X?

  • How much better can move Y really be?

  • How complicated are the variations following move Y?
Anonymous' main point occurs after the first moves of the mainline 1.d4 f5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 e6 4.Nf3 d5 5.0-0 Bd6 6.c4 c6: (Dia)

Here we mention 7.b3 Qe7 and now:
- 8.Bb2 (when play may continue 8...b6 9.Ne5) and
- 8.Ne5 (when 8...0-0 9.Bb2 b6 is a possibility).

However, there also is a related possibility:

- 7.Ne5 0-0 8.b3!? (when 8...Qe7 9.Bb2 b6 transposes to the lines above).

We agree that this is a natural move, and although it is very rare and not tested in high-level encounters, it deserved a mention. An author should not only look at what has been played by strong players but also scan the position for other 'normal looking moves', trying to foresee what his readers may wonder at.

The anonymous reader concludes that in order to have a consistent repertoire against all of White's various combinations of b3 and Ne5, it's necessary to play ...b6 lines against all of them. I disagree with that conclusion. A completely ...b6 based solution is certainly possible, and fully recommended if you trust your analysis after 7.b3 Qe7 8.Ne5 0-0 9.Bb2 b6!? 10.cxd5 exd5. However, this line is based on untested analysis and it's also possible to meet each of the three lines with a specific reply, even if only one of them involves an early ...b6:
a) 7.b3 Qe7 8.Bb2 b6 9.Ne5 Bb7! which has for a long time been considered fine for Black.
b) 7.b3 Qe7 8.Ne5 0-0 9.Bb2 Nbd7!? planning ...a5 (as Moskalenko does).
c) 7.Ne5 0-0 8.b3 Nbd7(!), securing an edge in development and planning ...dxc4 followed ...e5.

As a matter of fact, even if I am tempted to go for the ...b6 solutions, against line c) I would seriously consider 8...Nbd7 as it seems strategically simpler.

Lessons to be learned
  • Being 'too consistent' - trying to transpose whenever possible - may cost you some advantageous options.

  • Transpositions rarely are just transpositions; normally there is a trade of options. You stop some options and allow others.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Noteboom RAM

For several reasons (which I may disclose later) I have become interested in the Noteboom variation. The variation can occur from several move-orders but one of the more common is 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c6 4.Nf3 dxc4 5.a4 Bb4 6.e3 b5 7.Bd2 a5 8.axb5 Bxc3 9.Bxc3 cxb5 10.b3 Bb7 11.bxc4 b4: (Dia)
The position is extremely unbalanced and it looks like a position where a lot of RAM will be very useful. I suspect that objectively White is at least somwhat better. But in order to make use of his chances he must know what he is doing. Black scores very well in my database - probably because in most games he is the more experienced Noteboom player.

I am no expert on the line but would like to collect some essential games and annotate them on this blog. My annotations will mainly be based on van der Vorm and van der Werf's out-of-print monograph and Rybka's output.

Some candidate games so far are:
  • Kasparov-Tyomkin, Tel Aviv (sim) 1994 and
  • Oei-Van Wissen, Leeuwarden open 1993, illustrating White’s attacking possibilities supported by his huge pawn centre.
  • Lin Weiguo-Stangl, Beijing 1995, illustrating the power of Black’s connected queenside passers.
  • Thieme-Van der Worm, Leidschendam 1994, showing why White should be careful meeting ...e5 with dxe5.
Could any readers help me with more (or better) candidate games - in particular recent ones with at least one strong player involved?

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Stonewall Has Reached Norway

Finally I got my hands on a physical copy of 'Win With the Stonewall Dutch'!

It arrived in the mail today together with 12 other copies and looked exactly as well as I had hoped. Wolff Morrow's artwork on the cover adds considerably to the first impression. There's a tournament in my club so it didn't take me long to get rid of most of the copies. Now I have one for my own library and one for my mother's collection.

I have not yet had the time to check with our correction list but it seems that almost all of our last minute additions made it to the print files. Thanks to editor Graham Burgess and type-setter Petra Nunn!

I was not so happy to spot 3 typos. Fortunately they were all fairly minor and none of them will confuse the reader or influence his repertoire or understanding in any way. I have an agreement with Gambit not to publish any updates or corrections to the book so I will not disclose them now. However, one of them is quite annoying so I will ask the publishers to correct it in an entry here (in a suitable context). One of the typos was missed by all proof reading eyes. Another I believe made it to the printer outside the normal proof-reading process. The third and most annoying one probably crept into the book as a result of the proof-reading/final checking.

Monday, June 15, 2009

More Stonewall RAM

The Maroczy-Tartakower game was excluded from our Stonewall book mainly because it didn't really match our recommended repertoire. Today's game might have made it had it been in the databases (or had my memory been a bit more consistent). I only remembered it when annotating Tartakower's brilliancy. The reason it is missing in BigBase/MegaBase may be that the game information is unreliable. Different sources offer different years and different spellings for White's name. As for tournament/event I have no idea.

Glinksberg - Najdorf
Warsaw 1928

1.d4 f5 2.c4 Nf6 3.Nc3 e6 4.Nf3 d5?!
4...Bb4 is fine for Black.

As mentioned elsewhere 5.Bf4 is very good for White.

Black can more safely reach this position from the move-order 4.e3 d5 5.Nf3 c6.

6.Bd3 Bd6 7.0–0 0–0 (Dia)
This position is fairly attractive for Black who has won a number of short games.

This move has been criticized but probably wrongly so as Beliavsky has played it recently. Our book only mentions 8.b3 and 8.Qc2. Another option is 8.Ne5, planning the stodgy counter-Stonewall with 9.f4.

A more recent game went 8...Ne4 9.Ne1 b6 10.f3 Nf6 11.cxd5 cxd5 12.Bd2 Qd7 13.Rc1 Ba6 14.Qb3 Rc8 15.Rxc8+ Qxc8 16.Bb4 Bc4 17.Qa3 Bxb4 18.Qxb4 Nc6 and Black was fine in Beliavsky-Vydeslaver, Kallithea 2008. It is symptomatic that Beliavsky couldn't win against his presumably weaker opponent.

9.Ng5? Bxh2+!
This isn't quite as simple as it seems. Black must have calculated quite far or trusted that the neccessary resources would present themselves as play developed.

The obvious point was 10.Kxh2? Ng4+ and Black wins an important pawn. Now he threatens to trap the bishop with g3 as well as Nxe6.

10...Ng4 11.f4 Qe8 12.g3 Qh5 13.Kg2 (Dia)
White is now ready to pick up the bishop with moves like Nf3 and Rh1.
13...Bg1! 14.Nxg1
Any other capture loses immediately.
14...Qh2+ 15.Kf3 e5!
This is the key to Black's combination. The threat is ...e4 so White has no choice.

16.dxe5 Ndxe5+!
Remarkably Black succeeds in sacrificing all his minor pieces in this game which has been called 'The Polish Evergreen' (or Immortal or something like it).
17.fxe5 Nxe5+ 18.Kf4 Ng6+ 19.Kf3 (Dia)

In early calculations it may have been reassuring for Black to have a draw as a back-up. But does he actually have anything more than a repetition?
This obviously lets the light-squared bishop into the game. What's less obvious is that the rook too joins the attack.
20.exf4 Bg4+! 21.Kxg4 Ne5+! 22.fxe5 h5# 1–0

Lesson to be Learned:
Never underestimate Black's light-squared bishop in the Stonewall.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Another Stonewall Extract

I am scanning the web for reviews of our new Stonewall book. So far I have found nothing, and I don't really expect anything resembling a review for a couple of weeks yet. Nevertheless there turned up something interesting.

For some weeks now, Gambit has offered a pdf extract from 'Win with the Stonewall Dutch'. Today I noticed that Niggemann offers another extract from the book. I have not figured out how to link directly to the relevant page but if you go to their homepage, then choose Online-Shop and Neuigkeiten, scroll down to the Stonewall book, click it and then choose 'Katalog', you will find my entire Preface. The text is a bit confusing as there are first two paragraphs from the publisher's blurb and then my text starts without any heading or explanation. The extract from the Preface starts with the sentence: 'I have for a long time been fascinated and mystified by the Stonewall Dutch'.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Silly Little Move

From time to time I add another small chapter to my Veresov manuscript. Whether it will ever become a chess book I have no idea. One deciding factor will be the analytical conclusion of some critical lines. However, occasionally I start looking at moves that really don't belong in a serious chess book. That's when I turn to this blog.

A couple of days ago I started looking at 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Bg5 Nbd7 4.a3?!. (Dia)
The reason I even noticed the possibility was Giddins' very readable 'How to Build Your Chess Opening Repertoire' in which he mentions the line 4.f4!? e6 5.a3!?, a speciality of British correspondence expert A.M. Steward.

4.a3 appears a silly move but after 4...c5 5.dxc5 it’s not at all clear that Black can win his pawn back. The position arising after 4...e6 5.e4 (5.f4 transposes to Steward's line) 5...dxe4 6.Nxe4 Be7 7.Nxf6+ Bxf6 8.Bxf6 Qxf6 (Dia) must be worse for White than similar French lines (Burn and Rubinstein) but may still be somewhat easier to play for White:

a) 9.Qd2 c5 10.Nf3 0–0 11.0–0–0 cxd4 12.Qxd4 Qxd4 13.Rxd4 += Schinzel-Pinkas, Bydgoszcz 1976.
b) 9.Nf3 0–0 10.Qe2 (10.Be2 e5! is at least equal for Black) 10...c5 11.0–0–0 cxd4 12.Rxd4 e5 13.Rd2 Re8 14.Qe3 a6 15.Be2 Qe7 16.Bc4 h6 17.Re1 += Schweber-Quinteros, Villa Martelli 1996.

Whether you find such positions attractive or not is to some extent a matter of taste. From a practical viewpoint it must be taken into account that some black players may dislike them. Quite possibly Black must look into the untested 4...c6 or 4...h6 if he is looking for a more interesting path to equality.

Rubbish? I honestly don't know, but now I can with a clear conscience exclude these lines from my manuscript!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Another Step Forward

Today I noticed that 'Win with the Stonewall Dutch' has been promoted from 'Forthcoming Books' to 'New Gambit Chess Books'. There is no more information about distribution in Europe and the US, but I assume that will be added soon.
I really look forward to holding it my hands. Not only because I love books - and my own in particular - but also because I am curious how much of our last minute additions actually made it into the book.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Stonewall RAM

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.
7.Nf3 c6
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.
8.0–0 Ne4
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.
9.Qc2 Bd6
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
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

Friday, May 22, 2009

Win with the 3...Qd6 Scandinavian

I am currently recovering from an apathetic period following the completion of our Stonewall book and am starting to consider what may be a fitting next book project. One interesting subject is the Scandinavian (1.e4 d5) and in particular the 3...Qd6 variation. There are some thoughts on this line in the comments to this entry. But I am still not convinced it will stand thorough top-level testing.

1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qd6!? (Dia)

In recent years this seems to overshadow the old mainline 3...Qa5. Quite recently there has been a second edition of Michael Melts' 'Scandinavian Defense: The Dynamic 3...Qd6'. The book is a treasure chest containing an enormous amount of well organized information on the line and lots of independent analysis. Unfortunately it's also very hard to navigate and contains very little prose or guidance except for a few introductory chapters.

4.d4 Nf6

For some minor (possibly insignificant) reasons I prefer 4...a6 - usually followed by 5...Nf6.


5.g3!? is an alternative move-order with some independent ideas.


I find this a much more attractive move than ...c6. Black may follow up with ...Nc6, ...Bg4 and 0-0-0 but also ...b5, ...Bb7 and ...e6.


This seems to be the new mainline. White not only makes ...b5 less attractive but also prepares Bf4.

6...Bg4 7.Bg2

7.h3 is another important option.

7...Nc6 8.0–0

Black also needs to prepare for the immediate 8.d5.

8...0–0–0 9.d5!?

Again the immediate 9.Bf4 must be considered.

9...Ne5! (Dia)

This is Melts recommendation (Game 18, page 151, line B2e2d2!) and indeed the move is starting to look forced:

a) 9...Nxd5 10.Nxd5 Qxd5 11.Qxd5 Rxd5 12.Ng5 of Lakos-R.Perez, Ortigueira 2002 is entirely unattractive for Black.

b) 9...Nb4 is a more optimistic approach, forcing White to choose between a repetition and complications. Unfortunately the complications seem close to winning for White: 10.h3 Bh5 11.Bf4 Qc5 12.Be3 Qd6 13.Qe2! Nbxd5 14.Nxd5 Nxd5 15.Rad1! Qf6 and White has a pleasant choice:

b1) 16.Bd4 Qe6 17.Qxe6+ fxe6 18.Be5 Bxf3 19.Bxf3 c6 20.Bg4 Nc7 21.Rxd8+ Kxd8 22.Rd1+ +- Ibarra Jerez-Trent, Chalkidiki 2003.

b2) 16.c4 Nxe3 (16...Nb4 17.Rxd8+ Kxd8 18.Rd1+ Kc8 19.Qd2 Qd6 20.Qe1 Qf6 21.g4 Qxb2 22.Rb1 +- Humphrey-Aplin, Kuala Lumpur 2006) 17.Rxd8+ Kxd8 18.Qxe3 c6 19.g4 Bg6 20.Qb6+ Kc8 21.Rd1 e5 22.Nxe5 +- Rasik-Antoniewski, Czechia 2006.


The queen sacrifice 10.Nxe5!? is enterprising but on closer scrutiny doesn't seem too terrifying:

a) 10...Qxe5 11.f3 Be6 12.Re1 Qf5 13.f4 Qg6 14.Re5 Bf5 = Ninov-Panbukchian, Pleven 2005.

b) 10...Bxd1 11.Nxf7 Bxc2 12.Nxd6+ exd6 13.Re1 Re8 14.Be3 g6 15.Rac1 Bf5 16.Ne2 Bg7 17.Nd4 Ng4 18.Nxf5 gxf5 = Ragger-Nikolov, Kranj 2004.

10...Nxf3+ 11.Bxf3 Bxf3 12.Qxf3 e5 13.dxe6 Qxe6 14.Bg5 (Dia)

This seems to be the crucial position. Black has tried a number of different moves but none seem to give full equality:

a) 14...Qc6 15.Qxc6 bxc6 16.Bxf6 gxf6 17.Rad1 Bb4 18.Ne2 Bd2 19.Kg2 += Rasch-Aepfler, Germany 2007.

b) 14...h6 15.Rfe1 Qb6 16.Nd5 (16.Bxf6 Qxf6 17.Qxf6 gxf6 18.Re4 Bc5 19.Rae1 Rd2 20.R1e2 Rxe2 21.Rxe2 Bd4 22.Re7 Bxc3 23.bxc3 += Tukhaev-Vasiliev, Evpatoria 2006) 16...Rxd5 17.Bxf6 Qc6 18.c4 Rd6 19.Qxc6 Rxc6 20.Re8+ Kd7 21.Rd8+ Ke6 22.Bc3 +/- Mardell-Brandt, Taby 2007.

d) 14...Bd6 15.Rfe1 Be5 16.Ne4 (16.Re2 Rde8 17.Rae1 Nd7 18.Bf4 f6 19.Qe3 g5 20.Bxe5 Nxe5 = Stiri-Dounis, Athens 2007; 16.Bf4 Nd7 17.Nd5 f6 18.c4 g5 19.Bd2 h5 20.Ba5 Qg4 = Williams-Hamad, Turin 2006) 16...Rhe8 17.Nc5 Qd5 18.Qxd5 Rxd5 19.Bxf6 gxf6 20.Nd3 Re6 21.f4 Bd6 22.Rad1 += Huerga Leache-Garcia Paolicchi, La Massana 2008.

c) 14...Bb4 15.Rfe1 Qb6 16.Bxf6 gxf6 17.Nd5 (is 17.Rfe1 better?) 17...Rxd5 18.Qxd5 Bxe1 19.Rxe1 Qxb2 20.Qxf7 Kb8 = Pesotsky-Bazarov, Lipetsk 2008.

e) 14...h5 15.Bxf6 (15.Rfe1 Qg4 16.Qxg4+ hxg4 17.Ne4 Nxe4 18.Rxe4 f6 = Sedina-Danielian, Elista 2004) 15...Qxf6 16.Qxf6 gxf6 17.Rad1 Bd6 (17...Bc5 18.Ne4 Be7 19.Rfe1 Rhe8 20.Nc3 c6 21.Rxd8+ Kxd8 22.Kg2) 18.Nd5 h4 19.Kg2 Rh5 20.b3 b5 21.Rfe1 += Fernando-Galego, Vila Real 2005.

Preliminary conclusion:

This line may attract a (semi) professional player who feels confident that he can hold a draw against well prepared opponents in one of the lines after 14.Bg5. However, for the average club player (who represents the main segment of chess book buyers) defending a slightly inferior endgame like this for several dozens of moves sounds like a nightmare and will not be a good selling point.