Monday, September 3, 2012

The Stonewall Attack by Andrew Soltis

      Soltis begins by stating, “The Stonewall is unique in the realm of chess openings. It is one of the simplest to play and yet it is one of the rarest to be found in tournament-at least on the master level.” And that was the trouble with a book on the Stonewall Attack that I once read by Al Horowitz. As often happens with these kinds of books, the authors only give games where your opponent obligingly falls in with your plans and the authors often ignore refutations and stronger lines in order to prove their point. This is not the case with Soltis.
      Like all of these ‘system openings’, claims to the contrary, you cannot avoid study. In the case of the Stonewall Attack you cannot play it by simply posting your pawns to c3, d4, e3, and f4 and then deploying your pieces in typical Stonewall fashion with Bd3, Nf3-e5, Nbd2, Qe2 or Qf3, O-O, etc. Instead, you have to be willing to play a system of interconnected lines that respond to what your opponent is doing.
      For example, against the King's Indian Defense set-up by Black where it will be difficult to prevent an eventual ...e5 break by Black, you should switch to a Zukertort line with b3 and Bb2, which has a similar goal to the Stonewall in controlling dark squares with the added feature that the dark squared Bishops typically get exchanged later to White's advantage.
      Against an early light-squared Bishop development by Black with 1.d4 d5 2.e3 Bf5, switch to a Queen's Gambit set-up with 3.c4 with the idea of pressuring the weakened light squares on Black's queenside.
      Against a premature...c5 advance by Black, play the position as a Reversed Queen's Gambit Accepted, holding onto the pawn via 1.d4 d5 2.e3 c5!? 3.c3 Nc6 4.dxc5! e6 5.b4 since White can so easily protect the dark squares.
      The Stonewall Attack is characterized by its spearhead of pawns on b2, c3 and d4, with the all-important support pawn, to prevent Black playing e5, on f4. In the accepted sequence of moves f4 may follow or even precede d4. The main objective of the Stonewall Attack is to set up a pawn barrier (the 'wall') on the long diagonal a1-h8 and to funnel every single piece towards a Black king which has castled kingside.
      The good news is that if Black doesn’t know the attacking potential inherent in this opening and just plays reasonable looking moves but ones which allow White to maximize the potential of his pieces, he can quickly fall victim to a smashing attack. Alas, that seems to rarely happen. That’s where preparation comes in.
      Now, when Black knows what’s coming and follows a different defensive plan you have to have options. You have to know which plan to follow, how to adapt a different strategy. In short, you must opt out of the Stonewall.
      In this book Soltis begins by discussing move order. After that he illustrates simple K-side attacks, discusses good vs. bad bishops, Q-side play (yes, sometimes you have to switch play to the other side of the board) and a couple of other ‘small’ details. He then devotes chapters to the Theoretically Best defense, the Traditional Defense and then tells you how to play against the fianchettoe of Black’s B to …g7.
      So, unless you are going to be playing Masters of GMs, the Stonewall Attack can be a dangerous weapon against amateurs if you understand all the nuances. Of course to do that will require putting in some effort and Soltis does a pretty good job giving you the tools.

Stonewall Legacy Series - Group of Videos on the Stonewall
Introduction- 6 min Video
Baltic Defense - 10 min Video
The Baltic Trap 4...Nc6! -5 min Video
Horowitz Defense - 10 min Video
Teichmann Defense - 11 min Video
Mainline with 5....Bd6 -11 min Video
Mainline with 6....Qc7 - 7 min Video
Bg4 Lines - 10 min Video

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1 comment:

  1. I have this book ans well as his on the Giuoco Piano. I like his style. have you ever tread hsi book "Karl Marx Plays Chess? One of the better books on chess just to sit and enjoy the anecdotes.

    Just ordered Chess Secrets: The Giants of Power Play By Neil McDonald. Have you read that one? The samples inspired me enough to order it.