Win With The Stonewall Dutch

Ivar Bern, Sverre Johnsen

Reviewer: Jeremy Silman
223 pages

Throughout most of my early career, the Stonewall Dutch was thought to be inferior due to some fairly straightforward plans based on exchanging the dark-squared Bishops, maneuvering the Knights to f3 and d3 (clamping down on e5), and eventually preparing either queenside expansion and/or a timely e2-e4 advance (after Nf3-e5 and f2-f3).

Then new ideas for Black cropped up, grandmasters like Nigel Short and Simen Agdestein successfully incorporated it into their repertoires, and my idyllic little “the Stonewall sucks” world came crashing down. To make matters even worse, Kramnik wrote a very positive article about the Stonewall in one of Dvoretsky’s books and suddenly the “inferior” opening was a fully respectable weapon, which, fortunately, was a rather rare visitor in serious events.

Since I had no idea how to combat Stonewall lines where Black played ……b6, ……Bb7 and ……c5, I avoided the whole theoretical problem with 2.Nc3 but eventually became disillusioned with it. Then I hopped to 1.d4 f5 2.c4 Nf6 3.Nc3 e6 4.Nf3 d5 5.Bf4 and White is better. I won a couple games with this but finally had to give it up when Stonewall players realized that 4……Bb4 (instead of the poor 4……d5) 5.Qb3 Qe7 offered Black equality.

As you can see, I never successfully solved the “Stonewall problem” (well, I guess my retirement from active play solved it!), so when Win With The Stonewall Dutch appeared in my mailbox I immediately turned to the critical lines so I could see how modern theory has dealt with them. According to this book, it really hasn’t – Black seems fine (equal or, at worst, a microscopic disadvantage with plenty of interesting play) in all lines. Of course, this is a book by and for Stonewall fans, so while the emotional direction clearly tilts in favor of Black (which is to be expected), the analysis seems detailed and fair.

I expect copious, reliable analysis with any opening book from Gambit, but Win With The Stonewall Dutch won me over with its flowing, enjoyable prose, its detailed descriptions of the plans for both sides, its historic discussions, its simple but logical layout which makes it easy to find anything and everything, and its lesson overviews and summaries, which make sure you understand the ideas it’s trying to impart.

As a repertoire book, Win With The Stonewall Dutch doesn’t let you down since it also explores lines where White avoids 2.c4, lines where White doesn’t fianchetto his light-squared Bishop, key sidelines like 2.Nc3 and 2.Bg5, and the Staunton Gambit and other odd 2nd moves.

So the Dutch seems to be an excellent weapon versus 1.d4, but what about 1.c4 or 1.Nf3? Win With The Stonewall Dutch tells you exactly what to do here, too. In other words, it pretty much sets you up with a detailed, sound, and powerful repertoire versus everything except 1.e4.

I think all 1.d4 players will want to own this as it will let them know the latest state of Dutch Stonewall theory and will help them prepare for the most crucial lines. And, of course, this is a must buy for fans of the Stonewall, or for anyone that has toyed with playing it but were not sure about its soundness.

Highly Recommended for players 1600 to Grandmaster!