I’m not really in the habit of plugging chess books, nor authors. But I’m going to make an exception for Victor Moskalenko, well-known author of The Flexible French and most recently Revolutionise Your Chess.
With no time to study chess (and even less time to remember my old theory), it was time for me to start thinking practically about how to survive at the board. I needed a system that wasn’t too susceptible to the latest novelties, that was easy to understand, and that was fresh enough to keep me interested. No mean feat.
Fortunately, in Revolutionise Your Chess, Moskalenko (or “Mister Stonewall”, as I’ve come to view him) sets out his system for playing the Stonewall Dutch as black against virtually any white setup besides 1.e4. After getting inspired, I turned to the new Win With the Stonewall Dutch book by Sverre Johnsen and Ivar Bern (and featuring Simen Agdestein) for a brush-up on theory, and it appeared I’d found my antidote.
It’s one thing to try and learn a new opening from books, of course, but quite another to put it into practice. I did the usual thing of trying out the lines in internet blitz games and then cross-referencing the more painful losses to the books, which gave me something of a feel for the positions. Both books are really exceptional when it comes to explaining the ideas and themes in simple, easy to understand dictation, and after a while, I felt ready to whirl out my new baby in a real contest.
Cue 4NCL, the UK chess league, which held its third and fourth rounds last weekend. I’d been recruited to play for Guildford, the second-best team in the league, for the crucial weekend that featured the derby with number one and hot favourite, Wood Green. My duty as the ring-in foreigner was to beat the weaker guy with white in the first game, and then at least hold the draw with black against my higher rated Wood Green opponent in the second.
Now, the neat thing about the Stonewall Dutch is that, technically, you can play it with white, too. And this way, you even gain a move! It’s a little cowardly, but I decided to whirl out my Stonewall for the very first time against a 2200 with the white pieces in the first match, with some success…
(As you click through the moves, for those that are italicised, my comments should appear in the box under the board.)
Spurred on by this win and brimming with Stonewall confidence, I decided to use my new favourite opening in the critical Sunday match. I was paired with black against English Grandmaster Nick Pert, who almost always opens with 1.d4, so the scene seemed perfect. And, to be fair, I can’t complain about the opening: the game followed almost exactly Moskalenko’s own analysis in his book and, even after I was left on my own, I felt very comfortable and even enthused about my position. So much so, in fact, that instead of just trying to hold the draw, I decided to try and be the team hero and go all-out for the win. Little did I know that my chess, though perhaps ‘revolutionised’, was still susceptible to tragedy…