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'.


Anonymous said...

There is a reply at


Sverre Johnsen said...

It's a bit surprising to see you still think that the authors don't play 1...f5. Even reading the 14 page introduction (Stonewall Invitation) would have been sufficient to establish that Bern and Agdestein play that move-order (admittedly Agdestein previously preferred 1...e6).

Finding out my preferred move-order would require a little more investigation (and be of considerably less interest) but there are some games on this blog, for instance these two:
* Bjørn Haveland-Sverre Johnsen, Thailand Open 2009 (
* Juniel Hutapea-Sv.Johnsen
Thailand Open 2009 (
* Uehara-Sverre Johnsen
Thailand Open 2009 (

Anonymous said...

I bought the book yesterday after having read some very favourable reviews. Even the bookstore owner (IM Välkesalmi) praised the book as soon as I had it in my hands :-)

Sverre Johnsen said...

Well, a bookstore owner has a certain interest in selling books, I would think ;-)

Anyway, good luck with the book and the Stonewall. I hope you will not be disappointed!

Anonymous said...

I saw in one of your comments that you have contacted Gambit publishing about doing a 2nd edition of your London book. Have they agreed to publish a 2nd edition yet? If they have, have they agreed yet to let you cover how Black can occasionally play the London?

In another comment I saw that in the 2nd edition of your London book you said there may be coverage of the exchange Slav for White. In what lines will you be recommending the exchange Slav for White?

Sverre Johnsen said...

I have received a reply from Gambit. As you can see from their list of books ( they have so far never done a complete revision of an opening book (although I am quite sure they have corrected some typos when reprinting). It should therefore be no surprise that they are somewhat sceptical. However, we are now in a dialogue, and I am contemplating my next move.

I hope to include a chapter on the Exchange Slav because it will be easier for White to play the London if he can play lines like 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 c5 3.c3 (which will be a Slav Exchange after 3...cxd4 4.cxd4). It will also make the repertoire more complete as White then can meet 1.d4 c5 with 2.c3, planning Nf3 and Bf4.

Anonymous said...

I'll put in a good word for you and e-mail gambit myself and explain why I think a 2nd edition of Win with the London System would be very worthwhile.

Sverre Johnsen said...

That will be appreciated.

I am quite happy with the first edition as a kind of ground breaking work. But since 2005 there actually has happened quite a lot in the London (bearing in mind that it is normally considered a low maintenance weapon) and now it might be possible to write a fairly definitive work.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm reading your Stonewall book at the moment, and was curious as to what you think about:

1.d4 e6 2.Nf3 f5 3.d5 Nf6 4.dxe6 d5!?, intending to reclaim the pawn. I have found some examples of this line in the database, but don't know if it is objectively good. I have a soft spot for it, as it has given me my one and only GM scalp. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Sverre,

Can you give us an update on your talks with Gambit publishing about doing a 2nd edition of your book Win with the London System? Also, do you know if Kovacevic will be your co-author again?

Sverre Johnsen said...


It would be disrespectful to Gambit Publishing to publish any details on my talks with them regarding an updated version of "Win with the London System". It seems there will be an update but when and how is not clear. It must also be said that Everyman so far has given no more information on their planned London book.

As soon as we have an agreement in place I will ask for Gambit's permission to put some information on this blog. However, as a main rule I leave it to Gambit Publishing to announce their books on their website (

Sverre Johnsen said...


I am looking at 1.d4 e6 2.Nf3 f5 3.d5 Nf6 4.dxe6 d5!? right now. It's an interesting idea, quite in the spirit of the Stonewall. So far the line seems promising but I have mainly been collecting material and done very little analysis. I seem to remember I discarded the move because of 5.Ng5 but that may well have been an insufficient reason.

Quite possibly there will be a blog entry on the line in the near future.