The Stonewall Attack

A Lecture by NM Yaacov Norowitz (ICC GM)

Former Kenilworth Chess Club regular and National Master Yaacov Norowitz gave a wonderful lecture at the club on May 18, 2006, about the Stonewall Attack. What follows are my notes, in which I have taken some liberties with the order of things and have added some analysis with the help of Fritz.

One of the most important points that Yaacov made is that you cannot play the Stonewall as a tabiya, simply posting your pawns to c3, d4, e3, and f4 and then deploying your pieces in typical Stonewall fashion with Bd3, Nf3-e5, Nbd2, Qe2 or Qf3, O-O, etc. Instead, you have to be willing to play a system of interconnected lines that respond to what your opponent is doing. Here are three examples of how Yaacov changes his strategy to respond to his opponent's play:

As these three lines suggest, Yaacov's "Stonewall System" focuses on issues of light and dark squares in the middlegame, which provides a thematic element to the opening that makes it especially easy to play for those who become familiar with its ideas. That may be one reason it has brought him so much success on ICC, where he currently holds a Super-GM rating of 3280 at 3-minute Blitz!

What follows is a close discussion of The Classical Stonewall (familiar to anyone who read I. A. Horowitz's How to Think Ahead in Chess as a kid), The Anti-King's Indian Zukertort System described above, and then two illustrative games of Yaacov's against GMs in what most consider the critical test of the Stonewall with 1.d4 d5 2.e3 Nf6 3.Bd3 c6 4.Nd2 Bg4 5.Ne2 Nbd7 6.f3 Bh5 7.Nf4 -- the first against GM Alex Stripunsky and the second an ICC victory over current World Champion Veselin Topalov. Those interested in learning more about the line should find a copy of Andy Soltis's "Stonewall Attack."

The Classical Stonewall

Yaacov Norowitz - Analysis [D00]

Yaacov Norowitz Lecture/Kenilworth, NJ USA 2006

The following analysis is meant to illustrate the basic "tabiya" or pattern of the Stonewall.

1. d4 d5 2. e3 c6

a) 2... Bf5 3. c4!

b) 2... Nc6 3. f4 Bf5!? 4. Bd3=


3. Bd3 Nd7 4. f4 Ngf6

4... f6?? 5. Qh5+ g6 6. Qxg6+ hxg6 7. Bxg6#


5. Nd2

White dominates the dark squares with his pawns, preventing Black's desired ...e5 break, but then must defend the light squares with pieces. The Knight at f6 must be kept out of e4, and Nd2 is a precaution, like "bug spray" to keep the black flies out.


5... e6 6. Ngf3 Bd6 7. O-O

Castling is not a cowardly act, says Yaacov. Instead, we should see it as an act of aggression, declaring that "now that the king is safe, we are ready to get down to business."


7... O-O 8. Ne5! c5

This makes ... c6 seem a wasted tempo, but with . .e5 impossible Black must break with ...c5.


9. c3

9... b6

Naturally, Black needs to develop his light-squared Bishop.


10. Qf3!

"More bug spray" is needed to counter-act Black's intended ...Bb7, supporting a potential ...Ne4.

10. g4 Bb7 11. g5?! Ne4!


10... Bb7 11. g4!

Now that the center is secure, White is ready for Kingside action.


11... Qc7

11... Ne8 12. g5 f6?? (12... f5! 13. Qh5) 13. Bxh7+ Kxh7 14. Qh3+ Kg8 15. g6 Rf7 16. Nxf7


12. g5 Ne8

12... Ne4!? 13. Nxe4 dxe4 14. Bxe4 wins a pawn, but Black does break the attack.


13. Bxh7+!

This is the thematic Stonewall Bishop sac. Less clear is 13. Qh3 g6


13... Kxh7 14. Qh5+ Kg8 15. Rf3 g6

15... Bxe5 16. Rh3 f5 17. g6 "and the tomb is sealed."


16. Qh6 Ng7 17. Rh3 Nh5 18. Rxh5 gxh5 19. g6 fxg6 20. Qxg6+ Kh8 21. Qxh5+ Kg7 22. Qg6+ Kh8 23. Qh6+ Kg8 24. Qxe6+ Kg7 25. Nxd7 1-0

[based on Norowitz]

The Anti-KID Zukertort System

Yaacov Norowitz - Analysis [E60]

Yaacov Norowitz Lecture Notes/Kenilworth, NJ USA 2006

1. d4 Nf6 2. e3 g6 3. Nf3

Yaacov mentioned that he switched to this system against KID formations after losing a game to GM Dzindzindashvili with 3. f4?! Bg7 4. Bd3 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. O-O Nbd7 7. Nbd2 (7. e4 e5 8. fxe5 dxe5 9. c3 c5) 7... e5! 8. fxe5 dxe5 9. dxe5 (9. c3 c5) 9... Ng4 , however NM Mark Kernighan pointed out that White is not really busted here after 10. e6! Nxe3!? (10... fxe6 11. Qe1=) 11. Qe2!! Nxf1 12. e7 Nxd2 13. exd8=Q (13. Bxd2!?) 13... Nxf3+ 14. Qxf3 Rxd8


3... Bg7 4. Be2

More flexible than 4. Bd3


4... O-O 5. b3!

The key concept of Yaacov's Zukertort system against the KID is that the dark-squared Bishops are likely to be exchanged at some point along the long-diagonal, creating serious weaknesses in Black's kingside. Though he does not get to play his favorite Stonewall formation, the game still revolves around the dark squares.


5... d6 6. Bb2 Nbd7

7. O-O e5!?

a) 7... c5!? has the advantage of keeping a pawn at e7 to defend the potentially weak f6 square.

b) 7... Re8?! 8. c4 e5 9. dxe5 dxe5 10. Nxe5! Nxe5 11. Qxd8 Rxd8 12. Bxe5


8. dxe5 Ng4 9. c4 Ngxe5 10. Nxe5 Nxe5?!

10... dxe5! makes it harder to exchange the Bishops, though it leaves Black with a less dynamic position.


11. Qd2!

The Queen goes to a dark square in keeping with the theme.


11... Be6 12. Nc3

The idea is to play e4, Nd5, and only then f4! when White will have a strong attack.

Yaacov thought it was premature to play 12. f4!? Ng4 13. Bxg7 Kxg7 14. Bxg4 Bxg4 15. e4


12... Qd7 13. e4 Rad8?! 14. f4 Ng4?!

14... Nc6 15. f5! gxf5 16. exf5 Bxf5 17. Nd5


15. f5!

and White has a winning attack.

Stronger than 15. Bxg4!? Bxg4 16. Nd5


15... gxf5

15... Bh6!? 16. Qe1


16. exf5 Bxf5 17. Nd5 Be6 18. Bxg4 Bxg4 19. Nf6+ Kh8

19... Bxf6 20. Bxf6


20. Qd3 1-0

Illustrative Game One

Yaacov Norowitz - Alex Stripunsky [D00]

NY Masters / Marshall CC/New York, NY USA 2003

1. d4 d5 2. e3 Nf6

The Stonewall is completely underestimated by most opponents, most of whom have not studied it since it is not well represented in theory. The best book on the line is probably Andy Soltis's "Stonewall Attack. " There was also a classic treatment in the beginner's book "How to Think Ahead in Chess."

2... c5 3. c3!? Nc6 4. dxc5! (4. f4!? Bf5 5. dxc5) 4... e6 5. b4 a5 6. Bb5


3. Bd3 c6

a) 3... Nc6!? 4. f4 Nb4 5. Nf3 Nxd3+ 6. cxd3

b) 3... c5 4. c3 Nc6 5. f4 Bg4 6. Nf3


4. Nd2 Bg4

A popular "anti-Stonewall" line, especially at the GM-level. Topalov himself plays it, as we shall see. The Bishop develops with tempo before Black commits to ..e6.

4... e5!? 5. dxe5 Ng4 6. Ngf3 Nd7 7. e6! exchanges a temporary material advantage for a structural plus.


5. Ne2

5. f3 Bh5 6. Ne2 Bg6=


5... Nbd7

Threatening Pe5.


6. f3 Bh5 7. Nf4 Bg6

7... e5 8. Nxh5 Nxh5 9. O-O (9. f4?! Qh4+) 9... Nhf6! (9... Bd6? 10. f4!) (9... exd4?! 10. exd4 Bd6 11. Re1+) 10. c4 and White enjoys the two Bishops as a long-term plus.


8. Nxg6 hxg6

Yaacov paused here for a long discussion about the relative advantage of Bishop versus Knight in terms of square control. He pointed out that this particular exchange gains White greater control of light squares, since the Bishop at d3 is no longer opposed. But for everything you gain you also must give something, and by trading his Knight White surrenders some control over dark squares, which that Knight could help control. Knights may have about 2/ 3 a Bishop's power at controlling squares of one color, but we have to remember that they can also control squares of the opposite color also. Especially in closed positions, that potential square control become important.


9. f4

Stopping the ...e5 break -- and not a moment too soon, since the Knight was prepared to support that break on the dark squares.


9... e6

Black puts his pawns on the opposite color of his Bishop, and the pawns help to control the squares that the Bishop does not control.


10. c3

White does not worry yet about his dark-squared Bishop's mobility since he can secure control over the dark squares with pawns, which Yaacov pointed out can "work like mini-Bishops." He invited us to imagine the line of pawns at b2, c3, and d4 working together like a Bishop to secure complete control over that diagonal.


10... Bd6 11. O-O Qe7

Preparing queenside castling, though Black can delay castling so long as the center is still fixed.


12. Qe2

The Queen goes to a light square to help secure control over the light squares. The other natural square for the Queen is f3, but here that square should be reserved for the Knight.


12... g5!?

Black attacks on dark squares, "eating away at White's pawn structure," but in so doing surrenders some of his control of the light squares. "You always lose something for what you gain in chess" Yaacov said. The advance is also commital and while it makes gxf4 possible, eliminating the doubled pawns, that exchange is much better for White than for Black.


13. Nf3

a) 13. g3 gxf4 14. exf4 O-O-O

b) 13. fxg5? Bxh2+ 14. Kf2 (14. Kh1? Nh5) 14... Ne4+! 15. Bxe4 Qxg5! 16. Qf3 dxe4 17. Nxe4 Qg6 followed by O-O-O with a strong attack.


13... g4!?

This move risks losing a pawn, since the pawn at g4 is hard to defend. But it is hard to suggest a better idea.

13... gxf4 14. exf4 only aids White's development and control of the center.


14. Ne5 O-O-O

14... g3!? 15. h3 (15. hxg3?! O-O-O) 15... O-O-O 16. Rf3 Ne4 17. Bxe4 dxe4 18. Rxg3


15. g3

This is what Nimzovich called "Prophylaxis": White prepares to defend the h-pawn from an attack on the h-file before grabbing the g-pawn (which is not going anywhere).


15... Ne4 16. Bxe4 dxe4 17. Qxg4

White has won a pawn, but Black has gained the initiative on the kingside. White must now start thinking about his own counterchances on the queenside.


17... f5 18. Qe2 Bxe5 19. fxe5 Rh3

"Restrain, blockade, destroy." Black targets the h2 pawn by blockading on the light squares.


20. b4!

White puts another pawn on dark, but he must open up lines on the queenside and the hook is at b5 due to the pawn at c6. Meanwhile, once the pawn advances to b5, the Bishop will be able to develop to a3 and get to the critical d6 square to aid the attack.


20... Rdh8 21. Rf2 Nf8

The Knight heads for f3 via h7-g5. But this does give White the time he needs to counter-attack.

21... Qg5 22. Rg2 and White is secure and Black loses the key g5 square for his Knight.


22. b5! cxb5 23. Qxb5

23. a4!? b4!? (23... bxa4 24. Rxa4) 24. cxb4 is an alternative way of opening lines on the queenside.


23... Nh7

Black inches closer to his goal. Who will get there first?


24. Rb1 Ng5 25. Ba3!

A necessary tactic to speed White's attack.


25... Qc7

a) 25... Nf3+!? 26. Kf1 (26. Rxf3!? Rxh2! 27. Rff1! Rh1+ 28. Kf2 R8h2+ 29. Ke1 Rxf1+ 30. Kxf1 Rh1+! 31. Kg2 Rxb1 32. Qxb1 (32. Qc4+!? Qc7 33. Qxe6+ Qd7 34. Qg8+) 32... Qxa3=) 26... Qc7 (26... Nxh2+!? 27. Ke2 Qc7 28. Bd6) 27. Bd6 a6 28. Qa4 transposes to the game continuation( 28. Qb3! Qd7)

b) 25... Qxa3?? 26. Qxb7+ Kd8 27. Qb8+ Kd7 28. Rb7+ Kc6 29. Qc7+ Kd5 30. c4#!


26. Bd6 a6!

26... Nf3+ 27. Kf1 Nxh2+ 28. Ke2


27. Qa4 (?)

Necessary may be 27. Qb3 Qd7 28. Qb6 Rxh2! 29. Rxh2 Nf3+ 30. Kf1 Rxh2 31. Qa7 Nd2+ (31... Rh1+ 32. Ke2 Rh2+ 33. Kf1=) 32. Kg1 Nf3+ 33. Kf1 Nd2+ 34. Ke1 Nf3+ 35. Kf1= with a draw.(35. Kd1?? Qa4+)


27... Nf3+!

Black can force a draw by 27... Rxh2 28. Rxh2 Nf3+ 29. Kf2 Rxh2+ 30. Kf1 Rh1+=


28. Kf1 Qf7


During the lecture, no one considered what Fritz points out: 28... Nxh2+! 29. Ke2 (29. Rxh2 Rxh2) (29. Kg2 Ng4!) (29. Ke1 Qxc3+) 29... Qxc3!! and it appears that Black is winning.


29. Qc6+

In extreme time pressure (the game was played at Game-30), Yaacov took a draw against the GM. But there may have been a win, as he discovered after the game during analysis with Greg Shahade.

29. Rb5! Most thematic, since it takes place on light squares, though 29.Rb4 amounts to the same thing. 29... Kd8 (29... Nxh2+? 30. Rxh2! Rxh2 31. Rc5+ Kd8 32. Qa5+ Ke8 33. Rc8+ Kd7 34. Qc7#) (29... axb5 30. Qa8+ Kd7 31. Qxb7+ Kd8 32. Qb8+ Kd7 33. Qc7+ Ke8 34. Qc8#) 30. Qa5+ (30. Rc5 Qd7 31. Qa5+ Ke8) 30... Ke8 31. Rc5 Qd7 32. Rc7! (32. c4 Rxh2 33. Rxh2 Rxh2 34. Rc7 Rd2!!=) 32... Qb5+ 33. Qxb5+ axb5 34. d5! Rxg3 35. Rg2! Rxg2 36. Kxg2 Rxh2+ 37. Kg3 Rh6 38. dxe6 Rxe6 39. Kf4 g6 40. Rxb7 and White has excellent winning chances.


29... bxc6

29... Kd8?? 30. Rxb7!


30. Rb8+ Kd7 31. Rb7+ Ke8

31... Kc8 32. Rxf7?! (32. Rb8+! Kd7 33. Rb7+=) 32... Nxh2+ 33. Ke1 Ng4 34. Rb2 Rh1+ 35. Kd2 R8h2#


32. Rb8+

Draw by perpetual check.


[based on Norowitz]

Illustrative Game Two

YaacovN - EttoreMajorana (Veselin Topalov) [D00]

ICC 3 0/Internet Chess Club 2004

1. d4 d5 2. e3 c6 3. Bd3 Nf6 4. Nd2

Before commiting to the typical Stonewall advance of Pf4, Yaacov takes time out to over-protect e4 to prevent the Black pieces from swarming over that square. As he said, "it's like applying bug-spray to that square." At another point he said, "you first defend the weakness before creating it."


4... Bg4

This line is often recommended as an anti-Stonewall antidote and is most popular at the GM level. You can find a large number of Yaacov's games with this line in the file.


5. Ne2

5. f3 Bh5 6. Ne2 Bg6!


5... Nbd7 6. f3 Bh5 7. Nf4 Bg6 8. Nxg6 hxg6

Yaacov points ot that Black obtains "lots of light-square compensation" for the loss of the light-squared Bishop in the form of more pawns on light squares. As he said at another point in his lecture, "the pawns are like little Bishops." Black also has a potentially useful half-open h-file, though that opening could also prove a weakness if Black castles kingside.


9. f4

"In the nick of time" to stop ...e5. Yaacov always waits to commit with the f4 advance until it is necessary to stop Black's Pe5.


9... e6 10. O-O Bd6 11. Nf3 Ne4!?

Black may eventu ally lose a pawn at e4 this way, but he gains significant light-square compensation for it and has more potential of using the h-file for an attack.


12. Bxe4! dxe4 13. Ng5 Nf6

a) 13... Rxh2!? 14. Kxh2 Qxg5 15. Rh1 O-O-O 16. Kg1

b) 13... f5!? 14. Nxe6!? ( 14. c4!) 14... Qh4 15. h3


14. c4

White works to control light squares, but by pushing this pawn forward he potentially weakens his dark-square formation in the center (since he cannot support it with Pc3)...


14... c5!

...and Black immediately attacks it -- though in so doing he weakens his own light squares, so it is natural that White should look for an attacking idea utilizing those squares.


15. Qa4+! Ke7?!

Safer is 15... Kf8 but then it is harder for Black to utilize the h-file.


16. dxc5! Bxc5 17. b4 Bb6

17... Bd4!? 18. Rb1! (18. Rd1?! Bxa1 19. Rxd8 Rhxd8) 18... Ng4!? 19. Qa3 Bb6 20. h3 Nf6 21. c5


18. c5 Bc7 19. Rd1 Qe8

Naturally seeking an exchange of Queens to lessen his king-safety problem and to mitigate White's space edge.


20. b5!

Refusing the exchange, of course. "The attacker should generally avoid exchanges that can only help the defense."


20... Rd8?!

20... Kf8


21. Ba3! Kf8 22. c6+

22. Rxd8! Bxd8 (22... Qxd8 23. b6) 23. Qxa7


22... Kg8 23. Qxa7 Ng4?

Black seeks to win in a lost position. Much stiffer resistance was possible with

23... Nd5! 24. Qxb7?! Rb8 25. Qa6 Ra8 26. Qb7 Rb8=


24. Qxb7

24. b6!! wins immediately


24... Nxe3 25. Rxd8

Fritz suggests 25. Qxc7! Nxd1 26. Nxf7 Rc8 27. Nd6

25... Qxd8 26. b6?

Allowing Black lots of counterplay and at least a forced draw, though both players were clearly in extreme time pressure.

26. Bc5!


26... Qd2?

An extremely sharp move that requires the most precision on White's part and therefore offers Black practical winning chances. After all, there is no way White can defend against the threat of mate -- except by creating counter-threats.

Black can and must force a draw by 26... Rxh2!! 27. bxc7 Rxg2+ 28. Kh1 Rh2+ 29. Kg1 Rg2+=


27. Qc8+! Bd8

28. Qxd8+!!

Only move!


28... Qxd8 29. c7 Qc8

29... Qd7 30. Rb1!


30. Nxe4?

30. Rc1! and there is nothing Black can do against the plan of b7 and c8=Q.


30... Nd5?

a) Black actually still has at least a draw by 30... Qb7!! 31. Rc1 (31. Kf2? Nc4) (31. Bc5? Qxe4! 32. Bxe3 (32. c8=Q+ Kh7) 32... Qxe3+ 33. Kf1 (33. Kh1 Kh7) 33... Rxh2!! 34. c8=Q+ Kh7 and White cannot avoid mate.) 31... Kh7!! 32. Ng5+! Kh6 33. Nxf7+ Kh5! (33... Kh7 34. Ng5+ Kh6=) 34. Rc5+ Kh4 35. Kf2 Ng4+ 36. Kg1 Ne3 37. Kf2= (37. Rg5? Qxb6)

b) During the lecture, Mark Kernighan pointed out the possibility of 30... Kh7!? 31. Ng5+ Kh6 32. Nxf7+ Kh5 33. Nxh8 (33. Bc5!!) 33... Qb7 34. Kf2 Ng4+ 35. Ke1 which Fritz sees as drawn by perpetual, but which we abandoned as likely winning for White.


31. Nd6! Nxb6 32. Nxc8 Nxc8 33. Rd1 Kh7

Though he missed the stunning drawing line discussed above, the champ has still somehow managed to battle his way into an ending where he is only a pawn down - albeit losing, of course, due to White's passed pawns. But you have to admire him for holding on so well in what was clearly a lost position. Now White must somehow force checkmate against the World Champion before his flag falls -- and there is no increment to help him! That to me is the most impressive aspect of this game.


34. Rd8 f6 35. Bc5 g5 36. a4 gxf4 37. a5 e5 38. a6 e4 39. a7 Nxa7 40. Bxa7 e3 41. Rxh8+ Kxh8 42. c8=Q+ Kh7 43. Qf5+ g6 44. Qxf4 e2 45. Qe3 e1=Q+ 46. Qxe1 Kg7 47. Qe6 g5 48. Bd4 g4 49. Qxf6+ Kh7 50. Qg7#

Black checkmated


[based on Norowitz]

Reported by Michael Goeller

See also Yaacov's ICC Games with the Stonewall and Supplemental Stonewall Games.

Games in PGN