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.


Mike Thomas said...

Here is a (mostly) favorable review that I found at

Sverre Johnsen said...

Thank you!

I will not follow the Amazon reviews closely on this blog. They obviously are of interest (and I read them with interest) but there quite likely will be lot of strange reviews as the readers will have very mixed qualifications and motives. As some reader commented elsewhere, some authors and publishing companies even seem to fabricate their own Amazon reviews.

This review is almost identical to the one on Amazon UK with an added comment on the unavailability of a pgn-collection of the main games (and a star deducted - assumingly because of this inconvenience).

Mr. Amari may well be right that this is not a wise decision by Gambit and that they may have problems enforcing their policy legally. Nevertheless I find it funny to make such a fuss about such a minor task. If you have a standard database it will take you maybe 30 seconds to find the relevant game and somewhere between 30 minutes and 3 hours to study it properly. If you find this a 'remarkable inconvenience' you clearly was not around in the good old days when opening study involved notebooks and ringbinders.

I would also point out that this blog is not primarily an attempt to interact with Stonewall readers (or any of my other books). That possibility is a nice bonus and I appreciate all constructive feed-back. However, my blog is first and foremost a way for me to share my thoughts on chess.

Shrek said...

Your assumptions concerning the dutch language are correct. "Uit het hoofd leren" means memorizing. Translated it matches the expression "learning by heart".

The fact that the review was written by someone who was sceptical about the stonewall but after reading the book ends up playing it is also a nice compliment.

Anonymous said...

If you recall, the calvin amari review was first published in the comments here, prior to their publication on either amazon site.

To say that the inconveniences created by Gambit Publishing's stance on these matters does not compare with the tedious efforts of days of old is so hardly an argument at all. The fact of the matter is that a book may be, for whatever reason, a preferable format for the authors/publishers, it often is not the ideal format for readers of the detailed content, who can cover games and variations faster and with more accuracy in a conputer-based format. If you pardon the pun, efforts (large or small, effectual or otherwise) to so hinder the tools available to consumers who have shelled out their money to buy the book speaks volumes.

Sverre Johnsen said...

Yes, I recognized the review.

Of course you should work with the games on a PC as well as on an old-fashioned chess board.

I can see that it may be a useful exercize to occasinally work your way through a game by keeping the position in your head (supported by the diagrams). However, trying to work seriously with a game or an exercize this way is close to impossible for most players. And when it comes to tactics it will always be useful to have the aid of a computer (except for training purposes).

So by all means - find the games and create your Stonewall database with your own analysis.

Sverre Johnsen said...

Thanks Shrek!

Nice to hear that I got it mostly right!

I must however admit that I thought 'leren' was related to the German 'leer' (= empty) and not the more obvious 'lernen/lehren' (= teach/learn) or the corresponding Norwegian word 'lære' (laere). But obviously I was mainly looking for some expression contrasting 'understanding'.