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!


calvin amari said...

Having had it shipped from the UK to the US prior to the book's release here, and having spent a few concentrated days with it, my impressions are very favorable indeed. The content is sound. The helpful textual commentary is consistant throughout. The organization, both with respect to the layout of each chapter as well as the efforts to harmonize what was a joint project by three contributors, is strong.

The book feels just the opposite of the typical opening manual rush-job -- the countless examples where it seems that the author has gathered just about enough theoretical content to merit a book length treatment but then rushes to the finish line with little consideration given to the best manner to present the material. (Why should chess books be different than other nonfiction writing where the writing process is MOSTLY about the steps that come after the author is in possession of the factual content?)

Sometimes I think that all opening books would be better, more useful, and certainly more slender, if all the theoretical analysis after about move 14 or 15 was omitted. At that point the authors could review the trajectory of the game to that point, give an evaluation of the resulting position, offer recommended general plans and, if necessary, warnings about potential vulnerabilities. For 99% of chess players, particularly with respect to less than routine openings such as the Stonewall Dutch, any attempt by authors to add to theory after 15 moves - let alone moves will beyond move 20 - is solely an academic exercise.

Notwithstanding this view, I also appreciate that opening books like this one that follow the enitire course of representative games are useful even if much of the analysis beyond some early point in the game has little to do with the principal objective. To some degree, Win with the Stonewall Dutch provides the best of both worlds by providing a more limited "Theory" review at the end of each chapter.

One of the great strengths of this book, I think, is the chapters in the middle on the less critical lines where White does not play g3 and Bg2. These chapters have at least equal practical application for most players and objectively are not bad for White. Indeed much of the theory results in a slight edge for White (although nothing special). The fact that the top 20 players in the world may be less likely to enter these lines (although Karpov often did) makes little difference to mere mortals.

The practical persective acknowledged in those chapters on the non-g3 lines is perhaps lacking in the Staunton Gambit coverage. I am not sure I am fully satisfied with the general advise to go headlong into the main lines of the Staunton Gambit(and related 2.g4 lines). From a practical club player's perspective, if you do not as White face the Dutch often, you can always play 1. e4 or 1. g4, in which case you then need to know nothing else. Black on the other hand needs to know the entirety of the content of the subject book. Hence White is quite likely to have the upper hand in theoretical knowledge and experience. Maybe that's just life - the benefit of the White pieces that can't be denied - but it would be nice if Win with the Stonewall offered some basic continuation for Black that de-fanged the gambit and took White out of book, or at least took White out of the wide open style game he seeks. This would be useful even if, from a theoretical perspective, Black is not doing his absolute best to press for an immediate edge. While such an approach would be less useful for someone like co-author Bern, a corespondence specialist, it would certainy come in handy for most readers.

In addition to everything else, I think that the attempt to create an author-reader virtual dialog on this site is terrific. Indeed, it would also be great if the site provided basic (non-annotated, of course) PGN links to the games in the book to facilitate faster reading.

Anonymous said...

PGNs of the games in the books would be a great idea! Using chessbase rather than a board would cut my reading time in half and also give me the ability to explore additional sidelines not covered by the notes. In addition, it will invite readers to visit this blog on a regular basis.

Sverre Johnsen said...

Dear Calvin,

Thanks for your feed-back!

I am glad you liked the book. It's nice to see that someone reads the book the way we intended it. Clearly the book's structure has its advantages and its disadvantages. Some users who already are familiar with the Dutch Stonewall apparently try to read it as a traditional opening manual and find it annoying to have to jump back and forth between the games (where most of the information is located) and the theory section (for the missing lines).

As for providing the main games in pgn I can easily see that this would be useful, and I doubt it would decrease the book's sales figures. However, I know that Gambit Publishing at least once has denied a website to provide pgn files with unannotated gamescores from their books. This may seem unnecessary strict but I assume this is part of their general copyright policy. After all it may be hard to draw a line if you start following this path; if bare gamescores are OK, what about games with only symbols (!,?, += etc.)? What about some wordless variations?

I will not pursue this option myself. I assume that Gambit Publishing has considered the option and rejected it. However, if you contact the company and convince them that this is a good idea, it will take me less than a day to provide pgn-files with the games for downloading on this blog (or possibly on a separate web-page). You will find Gambit's contact information at their website:

Anonymous said...

Why would you even need to ask? It could not be more clear that basic game scores are not subject to copyright and no one needs permission to reproduce or post them. Just because they presumably paid you and your colaborators to annotate selected games, how does Gambit Publishing possibly claim any intellectual property rights over the game scores produced by other players years ago? This is absurd. Is Chessbase for example impinging on Gambit Publishing's copyright for including the subject games in their database? Even game selections, assuming annotations and commentary are excluded, are not subject to copyright. Anyone can pull the games in your book off Chessbase and post them on some public site (as many have done on, for example, with game selections from numerous books). No "permission" is needed under any construct of the the law anywhere in the world - period. If you choose not to provide the the convenience of PGNs and offer the benefits that "Anonymous" aluded to above, that is simply your choice.

Sverre Johnsen said...

This link: should give you an indication that matters are not as simple as you seem to think.

It's quite possible that I would win a lawsuit if I insisted to publish the bare scoresheets but I prefer not to relate to my publisher through a lawyer.

Anonymous said...

Apparently this suggests to you that the standard for Gambit Books is different than it is for all other publishers in the world ... and that your obligations to Gambit are more important than your regard for your readers. Thanks alot.