Stonewall Attack: A Sure and Steady Opening


Table of Contents

For those who want to keep opening theory to the minimum, you are unlikely to find a better chess opening than the Stonewall Attack.

  • This chess opening is a system-based opening where the white pieces generally go to the same squares no matter what Black plays.
  • White usually places pawns on c3, d4, e3, and f4. The light-squared bishop goes to d3, and the knights get developed to d2 and f3 or h3.
  • Developing the knight on h3 allows Nf2 to support the g4 pawn advance. Another option is to bring the knight into the game with Nf4 after the f5 advance.
  • The Stonewall Attack is ideally suited to players who include the Stonewall Variation of the Dutch Defense in their repertoire.
  • In this chess opening, there are really only two mainlines you need to know how to face with white – 5…e6 and 5…Bg4.

Highlighted course

The Yaac Attack - Stonewall for White

Ideas and Strategies in the Stonewall Attack

This video is from our “The Yaac Attack – Stonewall for White” course

The Stonewall Attack has been played for over a hundred years. In 1897 John Finan Barry played it against Thomas Lawrence, and more recently, the Stonewall Attack made an appearance at the 2018 Batumi Olympiad for Women. This time it was black that emerged victorious.

The Stonewall Attack can begin with 1.d4, or you can enter it from Bird’s Opening (1.f4). Using Bird’s Opening is reminiscent of the Dutch Stonewall that starts with 1…f5.

In its simplest form, the Stonewall Attack is a reversed Stonewall Defense.

The main aim of the Stonewall Attack is to control the e5-square with the pawns on f4 and d4. A knight on f3 supports the control of e5. White’s queenside knight will often make its way to f3 to support the other knight on e5.

Clamping down on e5 makes it more challenging for Black to develop the light-squared bishop and provides an excellent outpost for one of White’s knights.

The downside of the d4, e3, and f4 pawn formation is that it leaves a hole on e4 that Black can use as an outpost. The pawn on e3 blocks White’s dark-squared bishop, making a queenside fianchetto an excellent option to develop the bishop.

When generating a strong kingside attack, White can bring almost every piece over to the kingside. The queen will reach the kingside with Qe1-h4; after short castle, the rook can support the queen with the rook swing Rf3-g3 or Rf3-h3.

Do not be afraid to advance the pawns in front of your king. The g4-g5 pawn advance is often needed to drive the black knight away from f6.

White Plays 6.Nd2

A common opening move sequence is 1.d4 d5 2.e3 Nf6 3.Bd3 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.f4 e6 6.Nd2

One of the most common opening move sequences in the Stonewall Attack is 1.d4 d5 2.e3 Nf6 3.Bd3 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.f4 e6 6.Nd2

This position shows the standard setup that White is aiming for in the Stonewall Attack.

There is no need to force the bishop’s development on c1 because the position will open up enough for the bishops to become a dominant force.

6…Bd6 7.Nh3 0-0 8.0-0 b6 9.Qf3 Bb7 10.g4

Thanks to the rapid development of the white pieces it is possible to begin a pawn storm against the black king with g4 as early as the tenth move.

Thanks to the rapid development of the white pieces, they are in position to support an attack as early as move ten with g4. Playing through master games will help you become familiar with the attacking plans frequently used in the Stonewall Attack.

Here s an excellent game played by Victor Winz at the Polish Olympiad in 1935.

White Plays 6.Nf3

Frank Marshall and Jose Raul Capablanca played many great games against each other. One of these epic battles included the Stonewall Attack with 6.Nf3.

1.d4 d5 2.e3 Nf6 3.Bd3 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.f4 e6 6.Nf3

The Stonewall Attack with 6.Nf3. This position is reached after 1.d4 d5 2.e3 Nf6 3.Bd3 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.f4 e6 and now 6.Nf3

This natural developing move signals White’s intention to place a knight on e5 as soon as possible. This knight move allows White to play Qh5 once Black castles short and induce the weakening g6-advance.

Another strategy for White to follow is to hold back with Ne5 and play the Qe1-h4 maneuver first. Be careful about discovered attacks on the queen if Black develops the bishop to e7.

Play might continue with:

6…Be7 7.Nbd2 0-0 8.Ne5 Nxe5 9.fxe5 Nd7 10.Qh5 g6 11.Qh3

Stonewall Attack with 6.Nf3 and 11.Qh3. A good strategy for White to follow is an early Ne5 followed by Qh5, to induce the weakening ...g6.

The Stonewall pawn formation is such a strong structure it is sometimes possible for the white king to remain safe in the center of the board.

Final Thoughts on the Stonewall Attack

Despite its modest appearance, the Stonewall Attack can lead to exciting, attacking games. The minimal opening theory associated with the opening makes it very attractive to busy players.

The lack of opening theory in no way undermines the value of the Stonewall Attack as an opening. Frank Marshall felt confident enough in the Stonewall Attack to play it against the great Jose Raul Capablanca.

If it is good enough to earn a draw against Capablanca, surely it is solid enough to play against anybody?

The Stonewall Attack: Frequently Asked Questions

How good is the Stonewall Attack?

The Stonewall Attack is a deceptively good opening. Despite the quiet opening moves, White can generate a potent kingside attack.

How do you beat the Stonewall Attack?

A Queen’s Gambit declined setup with an early …c5 works well. Because White intends a kingside attack, it makes sense to castle long if the opportunity arises.

What is the difference between Stonewall Attack and Stonewall Defense?

The Stonewall Defense is a variation of the Dutch Defense played with Black against 1.d4. The Stonewall Attack is a reversed Stonewall setup played with White.

How do you play Dutch Stonewall?

The opening moves in one of the mainlines from the Dutch Stonewall are 1.d4 f5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.g3 e6 4.Bg2 d5 5.0-0 Bd6 6.c4 c6.

How do you make a stone wall in chess?

Pawns on c3, d4,e3, and f4 for white and c6, d5, e6, and f5 for Black characterize the Stonewall formation.

Highlighted course

The Yaac Attack - Stonewall for White

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