The Stonewall Dutch chess opening is a provocative choice that seeks to create an imbalance from move one.
We’ve all spent many hours memorizing the mainline moves of our favorite opening. Unfortunately, very often our opponents don’t stick to the script and play a rare sideline by the sixth move.
Perhaps you’ll learn his choice is unsound in your post-game analysis, but what do you do at the board? All that hard work and you are left wondering if it’s a subtle trap?
We’ve all been there but fortunately, there’s a way to prevent it from happening again.
Avoid such painful experiences at the board by devoting your time to understanding your chosen opening. Learn the chess strategies and structures you’re most likely to encounter.
Chess coaches repeat this advice all the time, but often it takes a painful experience at the board for us to accept they’re right.
GM Ron Henley will teach you all you need to know about this exciting defense to 1.d4. You can trust Ron to cover everything!
He was both an analyst and trainer to Karpov in the ‘90s. If a world champion is willing to learn from Ron, then we can surely trust Ron with our opening preparation.
What is the Stonewall Formation?
When you place your pawns on c6, d5, e6, and f5, you have chosen the dependable Stonewall formation, a structure that proves hard for white to breakdown while offering you attacking chances.
This structure can arise from many openings including the Queen’s Gambit Declined (1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c6 4.e3 f5), and the Triangle formation (1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 e6 4.Nf3 f5).
If you play the French Defense, you can meet 1.d4 with 1…e6. This avoids the Staunton Gambit and the anti-Dutch 2.Bg5.
Former world champion Anand even reached it from a Queen’s Indian Defense against Kramnik.
Common Strategies in the Stonewall Dutch
The most popular approach by white is a kingside fianchetto. The Stonewall formation restricts the bishop on g2 while clamping down on the vital e4 square.
Black erects a fortress that gives him good attacking chances on the kingside. Don’t forget about the queenside because, in some variations, black can gain a winning advantage there.
A common piece arrangement for black is to develop his bishop on d6 and queen on e7. The queen supports the e5 advance while adding to the control of b4.
White will often look to expand on the queenside with moves like Rb1 and b4. A common strategy by white is to play b3 and Ba3 to exchange black’s dark-squared bishop.
After black plays …Qe7, white will need to invest more time to accomplish this goal. Often playing Bb2, Qc1, and Ba3.
Black needn’t fear this exchange. In fact, you can make white use a fourth move by not exchanging and making him play Bxd6.
Here is a well-played game by Andrei Kharlov demonstrating that simplifications don’t diminish black’s winning chances.
Another thing to remember is not to rush into developing your bishop on c8. This bishop can get developed on b7 or a6 or make its way to the kingside with Bd7-Be8-Bg6 or Bh5.
Black is advised to play Ne4 and develop the queenside knight to d7. From d7, the knight keeps an eye on the e5 square.
The e5-square is the best outpost for white. A white knight on e5 looks very intimidating, but in this case, looks are deceiving.
What you must always question is the effectiveness and threats your opponent’s pieces pose. A single piece, no matter how intimidating it looks, is unlikely to trouble you.
Black Plays on Both Sides of the Board
Black can seek to restrict white on the queenside by advancing his pawns. Moves like …a5 and …b6 aid the development of the c8 bishop.
In King’s Indian Defense style, black can activate his knight with …Na6 and bring it to c7, where it defends the e6-pawn and eyes d5.
After a5, to prevent the freeing b4, the bishop might get developed on a6. From a6, it attacks both the c4 and e2 pawns.
Black’s clamp on the center allows him to consider attacking the kingside with …Ne4 and g5-g4. Other attacking options include playing
- ..Qf6 to h6 after playing ..h5.
- ..Qe8 and ..Qh5 with a rook swing – ..Rf6-Rg6 or ..Rh6.
- Advancing the h-pawn and doubling rooks in the h-file.
- Sacrificing the bishop on h2 or g3 to open up the white king.
Launching a winning attack on your opponent’s king is always a great feeling. However, a win is a win, so don’t neglect the quieter option of winning with your queenside pawn majority.
White’s Popular Kingside Fianchetto
The development of the white knight in the fianchetto variation will reveal white’s plans.
When white develops the knight on h3, he will invariably play Bf4 hoping to exchange the black bishop on d6. Nh3 allows white to avoid damaging his pawn structure by recapturing with Nxf4.
Black can avoid exchanging bishops by playing …Be7. This retreat might seem like a loss of tempo, but what purpose does the knight on h3 serve?
Later the bishop will often return to d6 after …Nh5 drives the bishop from f4 or captures it.
If white plays Nf3 and Bf4, black can ruin white’s pawn formation by playing …Bxf4.
Remember, black is looking to launch a kingside attack with …g5, and if white has played Nxf4, we are targeting white’s minor piece.
As you can see from the following game the Dutch Stonewall appeals to top attacking players like Teimour Radjabov.
Final Thoughts on the Stonewall Dutch
The Stonewall Dutch provides black with a strong structure and active pieces.
You are adopting a positional approach against 1.d4 that’s both profound and deep. Studying this course will ensure you have a better understanding of this formation than many of your opponents.
There are some fiery characteristics to the Stonewall Dutch that will help you catch your opponents by surprise.
Many a position that appears equal at first glance has gone horribly wrong very fast for white.
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