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.