21 September 2018

DVD completed: Stomping White with the Stonewall Defense

I recently finished the DVD "Stomping White with the Stonewall Defense" by GM Eugene Perelshteyn.  I found it to be a complete, if not comprehensive, intro to the Stonewall; the run-time is a little over 2 hours.  In my view, it offers enough of a mix of general ideas and specific suggestions to enable you to start playing it immediately in tournaments and experimenting on your own.  I've looked at other Stonewall resources previously and I would say this DVD is also a good addition to a Stonewall player's library, not just at the "intro" level, with some novel approaches and key concepts clearly explained and illustrated.  (Don't let the "Stomping White..." title mislead you, as it's actually a balanced treatment of the opening that doesn't promise a win for Black.)

One of the practical strengths of the lessons is the repeated presentation of different move-order possibilities to enter the base Stonewall formation (Black pawns on f5/e6/d6/c6, with Nf6 and Bd6 piece developments).  This allows you to strategize and choose which ones may be best suited for your existing repertoire - including the French move-order (1...e6), Queen's Gambit Declined (1...d5 followed by ...e6), Slav and others.  Naturally you can also commit on move one to the Dutch Defense (1...f5), but be careful with that; all of the anti-Dutch lines (like 2. Bg5 and so on) are in play after that, so you may never reach the Stonewall.

GM Perelshteyn typically mentions multiple, equally good plans for Black at critical points, although he will indicate a preference and then go deeper into certain lines.  For example, the primary strategic option he presents is fianchettoing Black's light-square bishop (with ...b6 and ...Bb7) in the main lines, but there are also examples where the alternate plan of ...Bd7-e8-h5 is shown to be strong.

The lessons also emphasize the fact that in the Stonewall, understanding the keys to the different setups / development schemes are usually more important than the move-order.  This reduces the amount of memorization required in terms of sequencing moves, and is a helpful insight in general for the improving player.  For study purposes, however, it may actually be a little more difficult to integrate the Stonewall into your existing computer repertoire database.  I ended up splitting my Dutch Stonewall "games" into two: White fianchetto and White non-fianchetto setups and using more text comments than usual on the ideas involved.

Following is a summary of the chapter contents with some personal commentary.

Chapter 1: Introduction and Fianchetto Systems with Nh3
  • Nh3 development by White (instead of Nf3): GM Perelshteyn does a good job of highlighting possible Black plans and offers a suggested method of taking on White's main ideas: Black should preserve the dark-square bishop, exchange off White's bishop once it lands on f4 by ...Nh5, or - in the case of b3 followed by Ba3 - exchange on a3 and misplace White's knight.
  • I appreciated the expert evaluations and explanations of why particular exchanges and moves worked in this particular setup. Normally Black tries to avoid exchanging off the dark-square bishop, for example, but here specific positional considerations outweigh that general principle when White plays Ba3.  In the other scenario, Black drops back the bishop on d6 to e7 when challenged by Bf4, since the exchange on f4 would in contrast help reposition White's Nh3 to a better square.

Chapter 2: Fianchetto Systems with Nf3
  • GM Perelshteyn prefers the ...b6/Bb7 development in the main line for White that features the development setup b3/Bb2/Qc1/Ba3.  He points out simplifying lines leading to endgame and more complex middlegame possibilities.
  • 8. Bf4 plan for White is also covered; here the exchange is OK, and then he shows the potential power of alternate bishop development for Black (...Bd7-e8-h5/g6)
  • Also shows alternate bishop development in Nc3/Qc2 plan for White, with queenside pawn expansion (Rb1 followed by b4).

Chapter 3: e3 and Nf3 Setups (non-Fianchetto)
  • This chapter demonstrates more classic Stonewall kingside attack ideas, centered around an early ...Ne4 by Black, followed by ...Qf6 and ...g5.  
  • Does a good job of emphasizing the elements of attack and the associated key concepts (control of e5, exchanging with a knight on g3, etc.)

Chapter 4: e3, Bd3 and Nge2 Setups
  • In this setup, White reserves the option of f2-f3 to kick a ...Ne4.
  • White also has different castling options - Bd2 followed by O-O-O is a possibility.
  • GM Perelshteyn recommends quick action by Black on the queenside after castling (O-O), with ...Na6 development, exchanging pawns on c4 then following up with ...b5.  These lines may involve pawn sacrifices, but Black has good compensation.

Chapter 5: Sample game: Kramnik-Anand, Melody Amber 2008
  • This game is particularly interesting for reaching the Stonewall via the Queen's Indian Defense move-order.
  • Black undertakes a thematic attack on the kingside after playing in the center; Anand switched to this strategy after Kramnik committed to a queenside advance.
  • Also notable for Anand's brilliant tactical finish with the queen
  • Below is the (unannotated) game, for those interested in taking a look.

[Event "Amber-rapid 17th"] [Site "Nice"] [Date "2008.03.15"] [Round "1"] [White "Kramnik, Vladimir"] [Black "Anand, Viswanathan"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "E15"] [WhiteElo "2799"] [BlackElo "2799"] [PlyCount "86"] [EventDate "2008.03.15"] [EventType "tourn (rapid)"] [EventRounds "11"] [EventCountry "FRA"] [EventCategory "21"] [SourceTitle "CBM 123 Extra"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "2008.05.06"] [SourceVersion "1"] [SourceVersionDate "2008.05.06"] [SourceQuality "1"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. g3 Ba6 5. b3 Bb4+ 6. Bd2 Be7 7. Bg2 c6 8. Bc3 d5 9. Ne5 Nfd7 10. Nxd7 Nxd7 11. Nd2 O-O 12. O-O f5 13. Rc1 Nf6 14. Bb2 Bd6 15. Nf3 Qe7 16. Ne5 Rac8 17. Nd3 Rfd8 18. Re1 Qe8 19. e3 g5 20. Rc2 g4 21. Qc1 Qe7 22. Rd1 Ne4 23. c5 bxc5 24. dxc5 Bb8 25. Ne5 Ng5 26. Qa1 Nf7 27. Nxf7 Kxf7 28. a4 h5 29. b4 h4 30. b5 Bb7 31. Rdc1 Kg6 32. Be5 Bxe5 33. Qxe5 Qf6 34. Qd4 e5 35. Qb4 hxg3 36. hxg3 Rd7 37. Qa5 Rh8 38. Qxa7 f4 39. exf4 exf4 40. gxf4 Rdh7 41. Qb6 Qxf4 42. bxc6 Qf3 43. cxb7+ Kf5 0-1

Chapter 6: Sample game 2: student game
  • This game, by one of GM Perelshteyn's students, features an early c5 by White, followed by immediate queenside play. Black responds with the classic ...Bd7-e8-h5 plan and builds up on the kingside after locking the queenside and center.
  • It illustrates typical Black attacking themes against a setup that might be used by a club-level opponent.  One of the important lessons is that Black takes the necessary time to build up and does not rush the attack.

Chapter 7: Conclusion
  • Summarizes the overarching ideas: Stonewall pawn formation achieved through various openings - Dutch, Slav, QGD, Triangle formation, French 1...e6; there are various move-order tricks; Black's fianchetto development vs. Bd7-e8-h5 standard plans.

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