Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone…
(From Robert Frost’s Mending Wall.)
Readers may remember my unsuccessful foray into the Stonewall world at a recent UK league match (see here for the report). Well, it was hard to blame the opening (nor Dutch expert Moskalenko’s advice), and I did get to play a rather dashing rook-for-two-bishops sacrifice. But in the end, regardless of the build up or asthetics, the result would read “Pert – Smerdon, 1 – 0”; chess, like boxing, love or watching a Leonardo di Caprio movie, is really just hit or miss.
Still, I was undeterred after my first Stonewall crumble, and so I decided to give it a while a few weeks later in the next league match. My opponent was the experienced and solid Chris Beaumont, and he seemed not at all surprised at my choice of the stonewall. In fact, to my confuddlement and suspicion, he blitzed out the exact same moves as in my game against Pert. My first thought was the terrified, “Oh no, he’s read my blog!” My second was the embarrassingly narcissistic “Wow – he’s actually read my blog!” (It turns out neither was true.) Fearing that I was walking into some blog-improving preparation, I deviated on move 9. This sent my opponent into a deep think, confirming my suspicious. On move 12 my captain, Roger Emerson, caught me as I was wandering around and whispered, “What happened to your Stonewall again? Looks more like a dry stonewall, if you ask me!” (A dry stonewall is usually mortar-free and therefore, presumably, more prone to collapsing – although the Incans might have something to say about that.)
Despite Roger’s astute observation (he was also responsible for alerting me to the Frost poem at the outset) and my cunning deviation, the game followed an eerily similar vibe to the first outing against Pert. My ‘drywall’ quickly solidified once my e-pawn got to e4, ‘cementing’ (see what I did there?) the centre. Plus, I again managed to concoct a mischievious rook-for-two-pieces sacrifice (but a much better version this time around). The coup de grace came just on the time control at move forty, with an elegant but straightforward combination to queen my a-pawn.
The position was winning (though not trivially so), and I secretly hoped Chris would resign – not, as you might expect, out of relief, but embarrasingly, because I was running late for a date. On move 44, with a small crowd gathered around our board, Chris leaned over and proffered, “I hope you don’t mind that I play on a bit longer. I can’t quite see the win for you, though I’m sure it is winning, and I wouldn’t mind seeing your technique.” As gracious as you like, and of course I replied, “Not at all! Do continue.” After all, as the saying goes, dates come and dates go, but a Stonewall stands forever.
…Or something like that.