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.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Win with the Stonewall Dutch Finally Completed

Exactly one week ago I sent a final minor correction (one single letter actually) to Gambit Publishing and now our book is at the printers. The total number of corrections were considerable:
  • 126 corrections/additions - including some references to recent games.
  • 20 suggestions for how to make room for those changes that required more space.
  • 8 suggestions/questions, mainly regarding the English language.
  • 5 replies to the editor regarding information given in the manuscript.
It will be interesting to see how many of our changes will be included. From my perspective as an author it seems that Gambit tends to be on the restrictive side. But I suppose that from a publisher's point of view they may well consider themselves generous with last minute amendments.

Updated information on the book can be found at Gambit's information page for the book. The book will be 224 B5 pages (not 208 as previously announced) and will be available in June. I have no inside information about printing time but my guess would be quite early in June.

There is a pdf-sample available for download. There, in addition to some pages from Lesson 4, the Table of Content can be found:

4 Symbols
4 Bibliography
5 Preface
6 Foreword
8 Stonewall Invitation
15 Lesson 1 7 b3: Introduction
36 Lesson 2 The Critical 7 b3 Qe7 8 Ne5!
54 Lesson 3 7 Qc2, 7 Nc3 and Rare 7th Moves
67 Lesson 4 7 Bf4
89 Lesson 5 Lines with a Delayed Bf4
100 Lesson 6 Early Deviations
117 Lesson 7 4 c4 with Nh3
145 Lesson 8 2 c4: Non-Fianchetto Lines
156 Lesson 9 2 Nf3: Non-Fianchetto Lines
169 Lesson 10 2 Nc3 and 2 Bg5
183 Lesson 11 The Staunton Gambit and Rare 2nd Moves
195 Lesson 12 1 c4, 1 Nf3 and 1 g3
211 Solutions to Exercises
222 Index of Variations
223 Index of Players