06 November 2019

Video completed: The Stonewall Dutch - A Fighting Repertoire against 1.d4

This five-hour ChessBase FritzTrainer from GM Erwin L'Ami is the most thorough video treatment of the Stonewall Dutch that I've come across, as is reflected by the below contents list. I wanted to continue focusing on recent related opening studies and get deeper on the Stonewall ideas, so finally opened the DVD in my chess library.

Normally I'd provide commentary on each section, but doing that for 30 of them would be too much. Instead I'll offer the following summary observations:
  • It starts with a typical intro to the Stonewall, noting the characteristic pawn formation (f5-e6-d5-c6), the standard move 6 position after White fianchettoes the light-square bishop, and stating that the Modern Stonewall (with 6...Bd6 instead of the old ...Be7) is what will be focused on. GM L'Ami does bring some personal perspective, talking about how he has had difficulty facing it as White and commenting on its contemporary relevance, including citing its use by Carlsen at the top level.
  • L'Ami states that the opening is more about ideas than theory (which is a Stonewall trope) and uses the first sections of the video to look at typical maneuvers and ideas. This is actually very helpful rather than being a cop-out, as these ideas do in fact recur over a number of different variations and setups, and it's often a matter of judgment or even just personal preference when to go with them.
  • The introduction of the classic light-square bishop development maneuver (Bd7-e8-h5) is illustrative of this, as L'Ami goes through three different iterations of it in the main line with a dark square bishop exchange, ending with one which illustrates why White is considered better and the bishop plan is not good for Black in that line. He explains that different lines will require different plans for the light-square bishop (classic development, modern fianchetto, or remaining on c8). While this may seem obvious, this is a point that can often be fudged or unclear, and players can get attached to one plan or another in all situations.
  • An examination of the strategic idea of dissolving the Stonewall pawn formation by ...dxc4 followed by ...c5 or ...e5 breaks is very welcome. L'Ami shows examples of where it is objectively best (including a Giri-Carlsen game) and where it is not, although Black obtains practical chances. This underlines the need to play flexibly and not get mentally trapped by preconceived ideas of "always do this" in the Stonewall, which leads to stereotypical plans played by rote.
  • Another typical idea for Black is ...h6 then ...g5, especially useful in lines with a White knight on h3 that will get shut in afterwards. Again it is a matter of timing and whether Black can follow up effectively, taking into account White's ability to disrupt things in the center in reaction. From my own first impressions with the Stonewall, reinforced by the video examples, Black needs to have his pieces reasonably well-developed, at least in comparison with his opponent, before playing this. It was also eye-opening to see this idea played in one game, followed by a Black offensive on the queenside.
  • The examination of the White idea of exchanging cxd5 highlights critical factors such as whether Black can take with the e- or c-pawns (preferably the e-pawn normally) and the weakness on c6 created by ...b6, which White can often exploit on the c-file.
  • In the theory sections, L'Ami does a valuable service by not just presenting a canned repertoire for Black, but running through major options for both sides, including ones that have been tried and found not to work. Some may view this as a waste of time, but deeper, practical opening study needs to identify these points. The lines are also useful to see for when similar positions are encountered, as you then know what not to do, and why.
  • L'Ami concludes that Black has problems in the best lines for White in both 7. b3 and 7. Bf4 variations, so offers a large chunk of theory involving a move-order that avoids these problems by delaying ...c6. This seems to be a popular approach, as reflected in tournament games from the past couple of years. There are some Black resources and moves that L'Ami does not cover in these long variations, though, and his assessment is not necessarily the same as some other GMs in the same lines, so use your own judgment (as always).
  • The Stonewall sideline involving the development of White's light-square bishop to d3 (instead of g2) receives only perfunctory treatment in section 24. On a practical level, at least at the Class level, this way of playing is a lot more prevalent, including when reached by alternative move-orders when White plays an early e3. Many people will develop the knight to f3 instead of e2, and L'Ami literally spends about 10 seconds on this, just concluding that Black is fine. In my serious games playing the Stonewall, although it's a small sample size, only a minority (2 of 7) of them have featured the "main line" bishop fianchetto to g2 by White.
  • No Anti-Dutch lines are covered at all after 1.d4 f5, so Black players will have to find alternate sources for a full Dutch repertoire.
  • Interactive games: the game selections contain a number of useful strategic and tactical points for both White and Black. The second one, Aronian-Tomashevsky, in fact is a non-fianchetto Stonewall, which again underlines the practical utility of spending more time on these positions.
The package includes two very useful databases: "Working base" - which contains all of the theory notes - and an illustrative games database. These resources provide a lot of depth and convenience for further serious Stonewall study, making sure that this will not (or at least should not) just be shelved and forgotten after completion.


01: Introduction [02:55]
02: Typical Manouevres - Bd7-e8-h5 - Video analysis [09:58]
03: Typical Ideas - dxc4 followed by c5 - Video analysis [11:20]
04: Typical Ideas - Bxe5 dxe5 - Video analysis [12:12]
05: Typical Ideas - h6 followed by g5 - Video analysis [08:45]
06: Typical Ideas - cxd5 - Video analysis [11:48]
07: Typical Ideas - c4-c5 - Video analysis [08:21]
Main Line: 1.d4 f5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 e6 4.c4 d5 5.Nf3 c6 6.0-0 Bd6
08: Main Line - various 7th Moves - Video analysis [17:00]
09: Main Line - 7.b3 Qe7 8.Bb2 0-0 - Video analysis [13:02]
10: Main Line - 7.b3 Qe7 8.Bb2 b6 - Video analysis [10:03]
11: Main Line - 7.b3 Qe7 8.Ne5 - Video analysis [17:34]
12: Main Line - 7.b3 0-0 - Video analysis [12:06]
13: Main Line - 7.Bf4 - Video analysis [16:55]
1.d4 f5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 e6 4.c4 d5 5.Nf3 Bd6
14: New move order delaying c6 - 1.d4 f5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 e6 4.c4 d5 5.Nf3 Bd6 - Video analysis [12:39]
15: Main Line - 6.0-0 0-0 7.Qc2 c6 8.Ne5 - Video analysis [10:03]
16: Main Line - 6.0-0 0-0 7.Qc2 c6 8.Nc3 Ne4 and other 8th moves - Video analysis [10:24]
17: Main Line - 6.0-0 0-0 7.Qc2 c6 8.Nc3 Qe7 - Video analysis [10:59]
18: Stonewall - 4.Nh3 or 4.c4 c6 5.Nh3 d6 - Video analysis [08:18]
19: Stonewall - 4.c4 d5 5.Nh3 c6 - Video analysis [08:58]
20: Stonewall - 4.c4 d5 5.Nh3 Bd6 - Video analysis [05:53]
21: Move orders tricks - Video analysis [05:19]
22: Stonewall sidelines - 1.Nf3 - Video analysis [05:44]
23: Stonewall sidelines - 1.d4 f5 2.c4 Nf6 3.Nc3 e6 4.Qc2 - Video analysis [05:41]
24: Stonewall sidelines - 1.d4 f5 2.c4 Nf6 3.Nc3 e6 4.e3 - Video analysis [10:23]
25: Theoretical overview - Video analysis [05:54]
Interactive games
26: Anand,V - Schmittdiel,E [19:53]
27: Aronian,L - Tomashevsky,E [16:51]
28: Anand,V - Carlsen,M [16:44]
29: Vitiugov,N - Agdestein,S [12:18]
30: Outro [01:21]


  1. Thank you very much for this articulate and informative review of the product. It's becoming more and more difficult to find honest (or at least non-paid) reviews of chess books/DVDs and I read all of yours as they reflect very well how we, as club players, may find these resources useful (or not).

  2. I also got L'Ami's video and found it excellent. Although he did not have a great answer to 7.Bf4, I seem to recall.
    But if you play the Stonewall, then you MUST get Nikola Sedlak's new book "Playing the Stonewall Dutch", published by Quality Chess. I like that he uses key games to hang the theory on.
    Sedlak has been hugely successful with the Stonewall and he is a great guide to this underestimated opening.
    (And keep on blogging mate, I love your site!)

    Aussie player.

    1. Thanks for the comment and recommendation. Nice to see that the Sedlak book is out, I remember seeing a preview announcement for it several months ago. So far the best/most useful Stonewall book I possess has been Moskalenko's The Diamond Dutch, which also treats the Leningrad and Classical variations. It makes a significant difference to have an actual practitioner as an openings guide author.


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