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I am looking for some advice on the Dutch Stonewall defence, and answers to 1.d4 in general really.
To give the background, I am rated somewhere around 1200 - 1300 on this site, and as white I favour sharp tactical gambit openings like the Kings or Evans. I'm also experimenting with the Danish (the double pawn sacrifice line) but that may be too crazy even for me! :)
As black I am usually content to follow my opponent into any 1.e4 line they care to choose, as I have been working to improve my tactical play and feel I am reasonable in most of those lines. Obviously with my current rating I have a lot to still learn in the open games but against players of my level I do hold my own pretty well in e4 games.
1.d4 is a completely different story. I just don't feel like I have a clear understanding of the positions that can arise from the most common lines (it seems like inevitably 1.d4 will arrive at a QGD line sooner or later LOL)
In pursuit of an answer to 1.d4 I have been playing the Dutch Stonewall defence. It appeals to me because it is relatively simple to learn, as you are simply moving towards a set position, and I was assured that it was a very sharp, tactical defence.
In practice, I have been finding that I seem to end up in extremely positional closed games with all the pieces operating behind firmly locked pawn structures. Is this normal in the Dutch Stonewall or am I playing it wrong?
Ultimately I feel like I am paying the price for knowing the moves of the defence without understanding the deeper reasons behind them. When I play King's Gambit, I know why the knight comes to f3 under the pawn, and I know why the pawn sacrifice is going to claim the centre and generate an attack. I understand that after the gambit has been accepted, castling will put my rook onto a semi open file, saving me a tempo, etc etc... I'm obviously not claiming to be an expert in the KG but I feel like I know what the moves are achieving and so if my opponent goes "off-book" early I can work from these broad principles and arrive at a reasonable plan.
I have no such understanding of the Dutch Stonewall position, and this often leads me to making blind shuffling pieces around behind my pawns in confusion in the hope that my opponents attack will be flawed and I will then be able win through a counter-attack.
Can anyone give me some pointers as to the broader aims of the Dutch Stonewall, or recommend a different defence to 1.d4 that will give me a more e4 feeling game, that I can understand more easily?
The thing with the Dutch is that, yes it does fight for the win from the opening, but it requires very deep understanding of the game from a positional stand point. The game, as you have found out, can become closed and Black usually find itself in a cramped position; not a good thing for a beginner or lower level player that may not be the best in positional games. I fall into this category of not being the best at positional games; it is only recently, by studying and actually playing d4 openings myself that I have developed a little understanding of playing for position rather than always trying for tactics. I have played the Dutch in the past although I think you would be best serve if you search for forum topics on the Dutch as it has been discussed before and probably by player better than myself (so what I can give you is not the best advice). Anyway, you already found out a lot about the Dutch as you have said in your post. Other than knowing it better, you understand that it can lead you to extremely closed position, etc...and that is not to your strengths at the moment. One of two things can be done. 1) Learn to be more positional, or 2) Find another opening that will better serve you right now and learn the Dutch another time. Option 1 takes lots of studying and patience as there's not online help for it; tactics training doesn't usually work on positional play. I can suggest a book that could help you learn the game a little better - The Amateur's Mind by IM Silman. It is the only book I have ever read on chess and it definitely helped me in understanding chess better.
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Eric C: I am pretty open to learning new openings, and am certainly not wedded to the Dutch at all... What answers to 1.d4 would you recommend that might lead to more tactical, open games? (I realise that against d4 there is a limit to how open the game can get, but anything that can avoid the cramped locked pawns that tend to arise from the symmetrical responses would be welcome)
Hammerschlag - Thank you for a highly detailed response. I'm somewhat encouraged to know that I'm not just playing it incorrectly, and that it really does lead to the kind of extremely closed positions I have been finding myself in. In a funny way I've enjoyed my dalliance with the dutch as it certainly produces very different situations to those I am used to, and its been interesting seeing how much variety there is to chess. At times it was played a whole different game!
I'll check out Silman's book, as it sounds right up my street!
Well, the Stonewall shouldn't give you a "cramped" position, not in the center at least. Also, quite often it does give you an aggressive tactical game, especially against players below 1700 or so (2000 in turn-based). If your opponents block the position, then you will be equal and have no problems. Perhaps you could post a couple of your games with the Stonewall so that we could see what the problems are.
Edit: If you think that your position is cramped because your e-pawn is backward, surely the White has the same problem. Also, that pawn is often able to advance later on.
I actually made a post about blacks general ideas in the dutch stonewall a couple of months ago, and because this seems like what your searching for I thought I could copy that post and paste it here. Hopefully this will turn out useful!
Some typical ideas in the stonewall dutch can be:
• Try to go for a kingside attack.
This is blacks general plan in the dutch and can be prepared with moves like:Qe8-h5/g6. A very common queen maneuver in the dutch where the queen swings around to an active place on the kingside.
f4! This is really like the key-break in the dutch in general which is designed to both blast your opponents kingside and increase the mobility of your own pieces, very often this move comes as a sacrifice.
g5-g4 (pawn-storm on the kingside). Is often very possible in the stonewall since you have such great control over the center. Often black playes Kh8 before he playes this idea to prepare a square for the rook on g8 and make the king safer.
• Try to keep your darksquared bishop Since you have placed all your pawns on lightsquares that bishop of course becomes your "good" bishop which defends all the important darksquares you have weakened by placing all your pawns on lightsquares.
• Try to activate your lightsqaured bishop.White's dream in the dutch would be to get an endgame position where black has hes bad lightsquared bishop left blocked by all those pawns and white a knight which would completely dominate the whole board (Good knight vs Bad bishop). Therefore it's often quite important to try and get this bishop into play. It can either be activated with the typical maneuver Bd7-e8-h5 where it often trades it selfs for a knight on f3. Or black activates it by playing b6, c5 (very important strategy to know!) which also gives black more space.
• Have control over e4!The e4 square is very important in the dutch and if white is able to open the position with this move black is most likely going to be worse. Often black sticks a knight into this square which is a very important idea in the dutch. The move Ne4 usually prevents white from achieving hes desired break and also the knight helps in a kingside attack. "If you don't know what to do in the dutch stick a knight into e4, it's very likely that it's the best move on the board!" - GM Neil Mcdonald
I think we'll both agree that pretty much any opening can become closed or open depending on how play continues. However, with 1300s, opening of the position isn't something that happens easily unless they are of mind that comes natural to playing chess, which I find is not most people (I've had to study pretty hard to get to where I am and I am not very high in my opinion). Since he is not positional in nature, if the position becomes so that more positional play is required, he will find himself lost in most instances; having equal positions does not necessarily mean the game will end up in a draw and in most cases at the level of the OP, (and mine) games do not end up drawn & this is why I play for the win every game (and a relatively small number of my games end in draws).
Since most people here have already given you advice, both general and specific, about the Dutch (which I also happen to use as my only response to 1.d4 these days), I’ll be much more general and ask you this all-important (in my opinion anyway) question:
Do you like the Stonewall Dutch?
Your answer to this question should help you determine how much you want to study and whether or not you want to stick with it.
At any level, there will almost always be more to know, more to study, and lots of stuff you still don’t know. It’s really a matter of whether you feel comfortable playing your choice openings. And of course, some openings are “easier” to pick up and play than others. No opening can be really considered “easy”, but I mean that some are more natural while others take practice and time to use effectively. Everyone’s different, but I would say that the Dutch is one of those more unnatural openings to learn. The King’s Gambit (which I also like to play as White) is much more natural in my opinion. Both are aggressive, but one is more natural than the other.
As a final note, it’s probably worth mentioning that 1.d4 tends to lead to closed games, one way or another. That’s the nature of the move, in sharp contrast to 1.e4, which is usually, but not always, open. I can relate to you; I’ve never really liked playing Black against 1.d4. I know every chess player should understand how to play both open and closed positions, but closed positions were just never as fun as open ones! For me, the Dutch is my way of saying, “You’ve taken me out of my comfort zone; now let me take you out of yours!” The Dutch is one way to guarantee that you won’t see a QGD or some sort obscure line of an Indian defense. The drawback to the Dutch is that if you don’t feel at home with it, you might misplay it by playing too passively or playing too aggressively. (In my experience, passivity has been the problem. I don’t think I’ve played Ne4 very often, even though that is quite common in master games. I’m still a work in progress!)
Anyway, good luck! :)
Conzipe, the plans for black are good, but they're not easy to achieve in practice. If white is playing correctly he will be trying to trade off dark squared bishops, probably with Ba3 though maybe with Bf4, and slowly neutralize black's chances then occupy the dark squares. On top of this black always has to consider white central expansion with f3 and e4, especially if a knight is on e4 as f3 wins a tempo. Tactically this can be annoying to achieve, but I think it's more annoying for black because his whole attack relies on e4 never working, every move he plays.
However I don't know that for a fact, I only know a little theory. Although the stonewall is supposed to avoid theory, I actually think that it would be important to know the concrete lines, because most of black's advantages are dynamic in nature, which doesn't mix well with the need to maneouver the pieces in a closed position. The e4 square is just to help the attack, but he can never be totally secure there. He's playing under the clock, and by the time you get the light bishop to h5 white probably owns the dark squares. Therefore I think black should fianchetto and maybe think about an eventual ...c5, with interesting play, though pretty different from a normal stonewall.
I think that the simplest answer to your problem is to play the Q.G.A., which will give you open games in response to 1. d4. Check out the games in a database under ECO D27. I use it all the time. The Stonewall became popular during the 1960s when the Soviet school pushed it, but it's out of fashion these days. And good luck to you!
Yes, if you like sharp tactical openings you should definitely not be playing the Dutch.
Hi! I think ManoWar's advice is good....if I remember correctly, the QGA was used in matches for the World Championship between Botvinnik and Petrosian (1963)...
Be careful with your move order in the Dutch...it seems that in some move orders, White develops his King knight to h3, where it is better suited against the Stonewall...
Here is a nice balanced game where you see both sides carrying out their respective plans....
GM Roman D. has a video covering his Universal System against the Dutch that looks very good for White.
I play the Old Benoni Defense or the Modern Benoni Defense against 1.d4. The Benoni Defense can also lead into the Benko Gambit.
'Dzindzi' is one of the best examples of a crappy author. His books and videos all contain holes large enough for a sumo wrestler to walk through. Often, he dismisses lines too easily, and even more often, he ignores the most critical replies altogether.
His book, 'Chess Openings for White, explained', is so bad that it blew up my trash can after I threw it away, while its companion volume 'Chess Openings for Black, explained', while much better than COFWE, ignores too many sources to give even a half decent coverage of the lines he give. I have seen many misleading titles on opening books over the years, but never have I seen publishers try to sell vomit under the title of one.
You are totally correct that the attacking plan usually doesn't work so well if white playes accurately. As a general rule of thumb you could say that the plan of attacking on the kingside works the best if white chooses a more "passive" setup with hes pawn on e3 rather than on g3 which is often seen at club level. However if white is smart enough to fianchetto hes bishop and play the main line black is probably best of trying to grab space with b6, Bb7, c5 since practice has shown that the attacking plan is not very effective against whites formation.
Trying to trade bishops is a very good plan for white but unfortunately it's quite hard to achieve in a good way if black playes correctly. Probably the best way to execute this plan would be to play b3 in the right moment (when the knight is still on b1) to prepare to exchange bishops with Ba3 which blacks usually stops by playing Qe7 and then really the only good way to trade of bishops for white would be to play a4 then follow up with Ba3 when white manages to trade off blacks all so important darksquared bishop but damages himself a bit in the process.
Also it's very difficult for white to get in the break e4 against the stonewall, the main problem being that white has to move the f3 knight in order to prepare e4 which will first loose control over the e5 square then white usually has to weaken himself somewhat by playing f3 and after that happens black will often break in the center himself with e5 and activate almost all hes pieces in a really good way (black often even playes like Qe8, Nd7 to prepare this break). And sometimes it's bad because the knight looses control over the h4 square which enables blacks queen to swing over there and start some immediate trouble.
Against the classical dutch and "nimzo dutch" it's easier for white to achieve this plan but in the stonewall it's often dubious for white to go for the typical Nd2, f3, e4 plan and is better off trying to trade of stuff, maybe cementing a knight into e5 and start some play on the queenside.
Also in the stonewall there aren't really any "concrete lines" to study it's much more about understanding the positions that arises and key positional themes since neither side has any good way to force early complications. However this is only true for the stonewall, if you play any other dutch system there are a lot of variations where white can immediately try to bash black and therefore you have to learn a lot more. And black actually does very well in a slow maneuvering game in the stonewall.
Also about this e4 square it's not easy at all for white to kick that knight away in a good way and that knight is almost always indirectly completely secure (love this word!) there with the main problem being that f3 is usually just 2 weakening for white. And also black sometimes just puts hes knight into e4 to provoke white to play f3 and weaken hes king slightly and then black trades that e4 knight away and then follows up with things like trying to open the position with e5 will often be quite a good idea when white has weakened hes darksquares.
The plan of Bd7-e8-h5 is of course very slow and therefore has to be very well timed. This whole idea might looks silly but often that bishop will do a very important job of eliminating whites f3 knight which is like a key defender, fianchettoing is often 2 weakening in many positions.
Positionally speaking the stonewall looks awful for black but somehow hes setup makes sense and I believe it's a very valid opening for black and it's actually quite difficult for white to prove any advantage against it with blacks position being so flexible but the only problem is... how to reach the setup in a good way?
For several examples of sparkling attacks in the Stonewall, see this article:
Actually, the way I like to trade bishops for white is to play b2, Bb2, and then Qc1, avoiding a4, though this does take time, but I think it's very well worth it as the bishop is a huge attacking piece.
"Also in the stonewall there aren't really any "concrete lines" to study it's much more about understanding the positions that arises and key positional themes since neither side has any good way to force early complications. However this is only true for the stonewall, if you play any other dutch system there are a lot of variations where white can immediately try to bash black and therefore you have to learn a lot more. And black actually does very well in a slow maneuvering game in the stonewall."
While it's true that there are many positional themes, making it hard to go tactically wrong, I think black does need to try to play dynamically before white neutralizes things or gets play on the queenside, because he's the one who's weak in the long term.
It is precisely because both sides can make such good cases with their plans (one of the hard parts is choosing which one, and when, and in reaction to which plan of your opponent!), that it'd be interesting to see the concrete lines to know whose plan works (better) and who doesn't. I put my money on white, only because of his long term advantages and I get the feeling his position is solid enough to withstand black's play. Maybe I'll look into it one day, try to find out the answer myself. Black does seem to have many resources to keep things unclear. I think I'm just biased because I don't like to base the soundness on one's position on many dynamic ideas (maybe that's not the right term; I know black has to make slow maneouvers but would you agree black is seeking more dynamic short term play compared to white?), I'd prefer to do that with static things like squares, like the one white gets on e5.
The plan of exchanging the bishop via b3, Bb2, Qc1 has been tried before but it has proven to not be very effective for white as black very simply equalizes by playing b6, Bb7, c5 while white is "wasting" time trying to trade bishops, in general the plan of exchanging bishops should give black easy equality.
Also the stonewall is perhaps not as dymanic as you think, black only needs to learn some very simple strategical ideas and choose the right ones at the right moments and even if you choose the wrong plan it's usually not the end of the world, blacks position is unbelievably stubborn despite the ugliness in it. Usually if you choose the right plan, you equalize, if you choose the wrong plan, your gonna be slightly worse. But actually not more than that, which is usually not the case in other dynamic openings.
It's also very hard for white to prove any kind of advantage for white against the stonewall, even Boris Avrukh (author of the amazing books grandmaster repotoire: 1. d4 volume 1 & 2) didn't manage to find a way for white to gain an advantage against the main line in the stonewall. However I think he definitely recommends the most critical line for white which is to go for a quick Rb1, b4-b5 and gives the following summary in the end: "The Stonewall Dutch is often successful for Black in practice, simply because it is a reasonable opening, despite some positional drawbacks. I do not know of a clear-cut path to an advantage for White in the main lines".
Actually I think of the Stonewall as a kind of a 1.d4 French. The Black's positional and tactical ideas are not that complex and don't take a genius to understand, even though some care is needed. Considerably more sophisticated understanding is needed from White to prove any advantage against this. (If all they can do is imitate the Black's setup to block the position and play for a draw, forget it.) I use the Stonewall quite often and with reasonable success I think, although it's not my real beloved against 1. d4, ehem.
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