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Erwin L'Ami teaches the Dutch Stonewall

by Sagar Shah - 01/02/2017

Dutch Stonewall is an underrated opening. Players with the white pieces who play 1.d4 usually do not devote much time to studying the best way to deal with it. It's a positionally dubious system, is what they think. However, the Dutch grandmaster Erwin L'Ami has come out with a ChessBase DVD that will change your opinion about the Stonewall. L'Ami calls it a perfect weapon for a fighting game of chess. IM Sagar Shah, a firm adherent of 1.d4 in his chess career, presents his findings.

There are a few authors whose ChessBase DVDs I do not miss at all costs. One of them is Erwin L'Ami. The reason is simple: a player like Erwin would not record a DVD unless he has something substantial to offer to the chess world. The amount of research that he puts into his work is mammoth. Being an extremely strong player himself and also the second of Anish Giri, Erwin has a reputation to maintain. And thus, I always wait for any new DVDs recorded by him. Many of you might be wondering, how is it that I say all of this with so much confidence?

In 2014 when I was a commentator at the World Juniors, I had an hour long chat with Erwin, who was the coach of the Dutch National Team. (photo: Amruta Mokal)

I played against him at the Dieren Open 2016 on board one in the sixth round (photo: Amruta Mokal)

And I got a good measure of his strength when we analyzed Sandipan's crazy game against Ikonnikov after the Dutch Open ended (photo: Amruta Mokal)

Not to forget, I just like people who are eco-friendly! (photo: Amruta Mokal)

So what's the topic of Erwin's latest DVD for ChessBase?

It's the Dutch Stonewall! With the pawns being on c6-d5-e6 and f5.

The DVD is named as "The Stonewall Dutch - A fighting repertoire against 1.d4

Now, I am a hard core 1.d4 player and I must tell you that my opinion about the Stonewall's merits was quite low. I have a good score against it with white and I feel that Black is clearly weakening his dark squares. One of the games which remains in my mind forever to fight against the Dutch Stonewall is the classic between Shlechter and John.

[Event "Barmen Masters-A"]
[Site "Barmen"]
[Date "1905.08.22"]
[Round "8"]
[White "Schlechter, Carl"]
[Black "John, Walter"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A84"]
[PlyCount "99"]
[EventDate "1905.08.14"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "15"]
[EventCountry "GER"]
[SourceTitle "EXT 2005"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2004.11.15"]
[SourceVersion "1"]
[SourceVersionDate "2004.11.15"]
[SourceQuality "1"]
1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 f5 4. Nf3 c6 5. Bf4 Bd6 6. e3 Nf6 7. Bd3 Qc7 8. g3 O-O
9. O-O Ne4 10. Qb3 Kh8 11. Rac1 Bxf4 12. exf4 Qf7 13. Ne5 Qe7 14. Bxe4 fxe4 15.
f3 exf3 16. Rce1 Qc7 17. Qa3 Kg8 18. Rxf3 Na6 19. b3 Qd8 20. c5 Nc7 21. Qb2 Bd7
22. Qc2 Qe7 23. Ref1 Rae8 24. g4 Bc8 25. Rh3 g6 26. b4 Qf6 27. Rhf3 Re7 28. a4
a6 29. Nd1 Rg7 30. Ne3 Qe7 31. g5 Bd7 32. N3g4 Be8 33. Nh6+ Kh8 34. Qe2 Qd8 35.
Neg4 Bd7 36. Qe5 Ne8 37. Rh3 Qc7 38. Nf6 Qxe5 39. fxe5 Re7 40. Rhf3 Nxf6 41.
Rxf6 Rxf6 42. exf6 Re8 43. Nf7+ Kg8 44. Ne5 Rd8 45. Kg2 Kf8 46. h4 Be8 47. Kf3
Bf7 48. Kf4 Ke8 49. Rb1 Kf8 50. b5 1-0

The plan was so simple. Force Black to take on f4 and then take with exf4. The e-file opens up and the e6 pawn is weak. The knight on e4 can be kicked with f3, while the knight on e5 will be on a good outpost. This looked just so simple! My faith in this system for white increased further when I saw another classic played by Pillsbury against Showalter.

[Event "Nuernberg InternationalesMeisterturnier"]
[Site "Nuremberg"]
[Date "1896.08.05"]
[Round "15"]
[White "Pillsbury, Harry Nelson"]
[Black "Showalter, Jackson Whipps"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A84"]
[PlyCount "105"]
[EventDate "1896.07.20"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "18"]
[EventCountry "GER"]
[SourceTitle "HCL"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "1999.07.01"]
[SourceVersion "2"]
[SourceVersionDate "1999.07.01"]
[SourceQuality "1"]
1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 c6 4. Nf3 f5 5. Bf4 Bd6 6. e3 Nf6 7. Bd3 O-O 8. O-O
Qc7 9. g3 Ne4 10. Rc1 Bxf4 11. exf4 Qb6 12. Qe2 Nd7 13. Rfd1 Ndf6 14. Ne5 Kh8
15. c5 Qc7 16. f3 Nxc3 17. Rxc3 Bd7 18. Nxd7 Nxd7 19. b4 Rf6 20. b5 Rg6 21. Kf2
h5 22. h4 Rf8 23. Rb3 Rf7 24. Rdb1 Qd8 25. bxc6 bxc6 26. Rb7 Qa5 27. R1b3 Rgf6
28. Qb2 Kh7 29. Be2 Nf8 30. Rb8 Ng6 31. Rc8 Rc7 32. Ra8 Rcf7 33. Ra3 Qc7 34.
Ra6 Re7 35. Qa3 Rff7 36. Qb3 Nxf4 37. R6xa7 Qxa7 38. Rxa7 Rxa7 39. gxf4 Rfb7
40. Qe3 Rxa2 41. Qxe6 Rbb2 42. Qxf5+ g6 43. Qf7+ Kh6 44. f5 Rxe2+ 45. Kg3 Rg2+
46. Kf4 gxf5 47. Qf6+ Kh7 48. Qxc6 Rg6 49. Qxd5 Raa6 50. Qd7+ Rg7 51. Qxf5+ Kh6
52. d5 Ra4+ 53. Ke5 1-0

I loved this game so much that I also wrote an article entitled Philosophical side of chess based on one of the positions that arose in Pillsbury vs Showalter.


After a point black players started to realise that this was indeed a potent system for White and started developing their bishop to e7. This was done against me in Porticcio Open 2016 by Ellen Hagesather.

In the above position I played h3 intending the move g4. While the intention was pretty good, my opponent played well and it was only after great fortune that I managed to bring home the full point.


After the game as I was walking towards the dinner room, I bumped into Nils Grandelius. The Swedish GM was playing table tennis. He stopped his game and asked me, "Why h3?! Didn't you see my round one game? h2-h3 is just a loss of tempo! You can directly play g4!"

[Event "Porticcio op 3rd"]
[Site "Grosseto Prugna"]
[Date "2016.06.26"]
[Round "2"]
[White "Grandelius, Nils"]
[Black "Andersen, Alf Roger"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A84"]
[WhiteElo "2643"]
[BlackElo "2124"]
[PlyCount "55"]
[EventDate "2016.06.25"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "FRA"]
[SourceTitle "EXT 2017"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2016.10.25"]
[SourceVersion "1"]
[SourceVersionDate "2016.10.25"]
[SourceQuality "1"]
[TimeControl "5400+30"]
1. c4 e6 2. Nc3 d5 3. d4 f5 4. Bf4 Nf6 5. e3 c6 6. Nf3 Be7 7. Bd3 O-O 8. Qc2
Ne4 9. g4 $1 fxg4 10. Bxe4 (10. Ne5 {Erwin recommends this move.} Nf6 11. O-O-O
$16) 10... dxe4 11. Ne5 c5 12. O-O-O cxd4 13. Rxd4 Qa5 14. Rg1 Bf6 15. Rxe4 Nc6
16. Nxg4 e5 17. Bh6 Bf5 18. Nd5 Bd8 19. Nxe5 Nxe5 20. Bxg7 Nf3 21. Bxf8+ Nxg1
22. Bb4 Bxe4 23. Qxe4 Ne2+ 24. Kd2 Qa4 25. Kxe2 Rc8 26. Qe6+ Kg7 27. Qxc8 Qc2+
28. Bd2 1-0

You can bank on Nils to find the most aggressive idea in any position! (photo: Amruta Mokal)

The first thing I wanted to check when I laid my hands on Erwin L'Ami's DVD was, what had he suggested to this simple White's idea of d4 c4 Nf3 Nc3 and Bf4. I hate it when authors do not consider the most critical option for the opponent. And I was happy to see that Erwin too had the same opinion as me when it came to White's aggressive setup. He gives a good antidote against it with black.

This video was good enough to convince me about the quality of the entire DVD

You need to be flexible in chess. Yes, the DVD is about Stonewall, but when the System doesn't work, you must be ready to adapt. This is what Erwin does well. He suggests the move 4...Bb4 taking the game into some sort of a Nimzo/Queen's Indian territory. Personally I have faced this system as White and have found it much more difficult to crack than 4...d5.


The DVD has good recommendations against the main lines. However, I also like the first six videos which deal with typical ideas and manoeuvres.

The typical ideas and themes is the way in which the DVD begins

Erwin explains how the bishop on d7 is one of Black's biggest problem pieces and how activating it via d7-e8-h5 is a key idea in the opening.

Memorizing theory is good. However, the limitations of it are quite obvious. What if your opponent plays a move that is not covered by the author. And this is quite possible. After all, how much can one cover in four and half hours of video training. In such a scenario, I think learning typical themes and ideas is extremely important. Once you have learnt that the light squared bishop can be activated in this fashion, you can immediately find the best move in the position given below:

What should Black play?

Bd7! with the idea of Be8-g6 or h5 is the best move in the position and this can be easily found if you are well versed with the ideas in the position.


Players who have studied Dutch Stonewall in a good way can use it as a fighting weapon with black pieces. Unlike the Grunfeld or the Slav, the number of forcing lines are less because of the closed nature of the position. This is the reason why I would recommend you to have a close look at Erwin L'Ami's DVD on the Stonewall. For Rs.999/- you might just get an opening weapon that could last a lifetime! 


Buy Erwin L'Ami's Dutch Stonewall DVD from the ChessBase India shop

See all DVDs recorded by Erwin L'Ami in the ChessBase India shop