David Smerdon | September 17, 2012 17:14

An Open Letter to the Stonewall

Dearest Stonewall,

It’s over.  I’m sorry.

It’s hard even to pen these words to you, though I’m sure that the pain will pass in time.  But this has to be done; I’m breaking up with you, once and for all.  Please don’t try to convince me otherwise – you know the effect you have on me.  If you love me the way you claim to, you’ll let me go, for both of our sakes.

I know we said we’d be together forever, but sometimes things just have to end.  You see, I just can’t put up with the hurt any more.  Time and time again you burn me, only to suck me in once more with promises of improvement. “It’ll be better next time”, you’d say, staring at me with those soft f5-d5 eyes, pointing straight at the outpost of my heart.  “Things just kind of happened, but it was only this one time”, you’d plead after yet another heartbreaking loss.  “My love for you is rock solid”, you’d lie, as I’d watch yet another line of my defenses crumble under a white assault.

Like the lovestruck fool I was, I’d keep coming back, only to be burned yet again.  It’s taken time, but I’ve finally summoned the strength to confront the brutal truth: you’re not to be trusted.  And so, it’s over.

Sure, we had some times.  Oh, how we had some times!  The scent of the quick kingside mating attack, the beautiful positional grind, the flamboyant endgame finish.  You sucked me in with your promises of a partnership full of joy and success, and there were times when I could really believe it.  But, in the cold, harsh light of hindsight, I realise that those blissful moments stand sparse against the dense foliage of demoralising suffocation.  When it was good, it was really good.  But, dear Stonewall, those fleeting minatures just aren’t enough.  I’ve had enough of your games.

Now that the decision to break up is final in my heart, I’ve allowed myself the small luxury of reminiscing about our relationship.  I even remember the first time we met.  I remember laying eyes on your gloriously symmetric pawn structure and being simply awed by the simplicity of your character.  A few simple moves against any opposition and your true personality rang out loud and clear: a gloriously solid physique, beautifully elegant plans and such powerful domination of the e4 square.  I recall your humble yet confident dismissal of the e5 weakness, the graceful movement and flow of the pieces under the strength of your command, and the inevitable magic that fills a room when you announce the triumphant reemergence of your c8 bishop.  How could anyone not be attracted to such an aura? How could anyone not want to be a part of such exuberance forever?  How could I not fall for your charm?

I remember the first time we were together.  It wasn’t your typical romance – I wielded the white pieces for our first outing – but you’ve never been one for soppy conventions.  I expected we’d take things slow, get a feel for each other and gradually explore the position we’d created – but you had other ideas.  You had me well in your clutches, and before I could stop myself, I was falling, head over heels, doing things I never thought I would with an opening I’d just met.  I’d expected a calm, restrained positional grind from our first outing, but as early as move eleven I found myself sacrificing a piece for a tantalising central attack.  Mate followed moments later, and after such exhilaration  I knew there could be no turning back.  You had me at “f4″.


I was young, naive, and overwhelmed with how you made me feel.  But after our second date, I really should have known better.  It was the very next day, and despite promising me all the satisfactions of our first time in the match against Nick Pert, you burned me right at the last minute.  At first, I simply couldn’t believe you could be so cruel.  But you were quick to defend your actions, claiming we were simply a “victim of circumstances”, that you’d never foreseen that things would go sour, and that your deserting me for Nick was “a one-off, never to be repeated.”

Like a fool, I believed you, to my peril.

As the games wore on, I found myself less and less enthused by the positions you placed me in.  That centre of strength I so admired in those early days begun to appear weak, barely supported on a haphazard foundation of your lies.  The e4 sparkle when you smiled began to lose its lustre, quickly dissolved by a brash f3 push.  Suddenly, everyone seemed to want to play 1.d4 against me, as if they knew something about you that I did not.  Time and again you promised me it wasn’t so, but the twinkle in the eyes of my opponents when I pushed my f-pawn seemed to suggest that something was going on.  I kept on lying to myself, convinced that it was all coincidence, that their victories were due to chance and not because you’d allowed them into your intimate secrets.  Of course, now I know it was all a ruse.  Deep down, I guess I always knew that there were others, that your love for me was never as strong and commited as the pawn centre you made it out to be.  I fooled myself into believing otherwise, but for months, the writing had been on the Wall.


But Stonewall, the last Olympiad really was the final straw.  Two draws from four games was more than my fragile heart could bear.  The final match against Lubomir Ftachnik told me once and for all that you were not to be trusted.  My captain, my friends and even strangers I’d never met before have been telling me for months you’re nothing but trouble, but it took until this game for the facade of your charm to finally give way to my own realisation.  Even afterwards, you had the nerve to claim that we still had an equal endgame, that it wasn’t your fault my position immediately fell into cruel passivity at the hands of a seasoned expert.  Yes, Stonewall, I know now just why he seemed so at ease in handling your structure.  A little bird told me that you and him had flirted in no less than twenty games, that you’d given him all of your secrets, ignorant or more likely unaffected by the hurt it would cause me.  I never stood a chance.


Oh Stonewall, you do have a way with the Grandmasters, don’t you?  I don’t know how many others there were, and, now that we are finally over, I don’t care.  I’ve moved on, at least emotionally.  There isn’t anyone else, in case you were wondering – at least not yet.  You’ve left a gaping hole in my repertoire, and it needs time to mend before I can think about you replacing me with someone else.  But I know in myself that I’m a good guy who deserves a decent opening, one that treats me right, sees me through the rough patches, cares for me, and doesn’t leave me high and dry when I’m most in need.  Already I’ve had a call from the Grunfeld, asking me out for a few blitz games at our local cafe.  I had to decline – I’m not quite ready for that level of theory – but perhaps, some day, I’ll consider giving a kingside fianchetto another go.  And the f-pawn will definitely be kept very much at home.

Now that it’s over, Stonewall, I want you to know that I’m not angry at you.  I wouldn’t give you the satisfaction.  But I do feel sorry for  you, and even more so for those to come who fall victim to your appeal.  Despite your outward allure, I know now that, deep down, you’re simply unsound.  It hurts to know you kept it hidden from me for so long, but I’ll not lower myself to petty insults or immersing myself in any more of your childish games.  I’m above that.  You may have broken my heart and stripped bare my ELO points, but you’ll never take my dignity.

I’d wish you good luck and success in your future, but knowing now what I do about the permanent weaknesses of your structure and your complete disregard for your c8 bishop, I feel it would be wasted breath.  So instead, let me finish by saying that I choose to remember the good times – the swashbuckling kingside mates, the dainty positional crushes, the enduring endgame pleasures – than the pain you caused me.  It’s over, and if you care about me at all, you’ll be happy for me.

Take care of yourself, Stonewall, as best you can.  Perhaps you’ll never be able to patch up your issues, but I’m sure you’ll find some poor young thing to fall victim to your charms in no time.  Perhaps I’ll even come across the two of you in the future – of course, with me safely on the other side of the board this time.  I won’t be jealous, nor will I be upset.  In fact, if anything, I’ll be happy.
Because I’ll be ready for you.

Sincerely, but forever more not yours,


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David Smerdon's picture
Author: David Smerdon

David Smerdon is a chess grandmaster from Brisbane, Australia. David attended Anglican Church Grammar School and Melbourne University. To qualify for the title of Grandmaster, a player must achieve three Grandmaster norm performances, and a FIDE Elo rating over 2500. Late in 2007, Smerdon achieved his third and final Grandmaster norm. In the July 2009 FIDE rating list his rating passed 2500, so he qualified for the title of Grandmaster. He is the fourth Australian to become a Grandmaster, after Ian Rogers, Darryl Johansen and Zhao Zong-Yuan. In 2009, Smerdon won the Queenstown Chess Classic tournament.

Source: Wikipedia




Someitsi's picture

A better love story than Twillight.

Ilja's picture

The most ingenious I ever read in connection with chess. Simply brilliant!

Héctor 's picture

Best open letter... ever !

Stonewall's picture

Dear David,

perhaps, you misunderstood. one more time? Last time? You don't really know me so well, don't you think so? You could try new things, explore me deeper, find out who I really am. Your touch is so sweet, d5, oh, when you push those pawn to f5, so sincere. It can't have been all wrong. Precision and creativity. Let's find out where we can go from here. Passion. Isn't there any curiosity left?


Lee's picture

I think that's some serious closure. Great piece Sir!

prokof's picture

This open letter is a masterpiece ! The chess world needs more witty people like Smerdon. Beautifully written !!

Stonewall's picture

Dear David. This is your Stonewall. In know, we have had good times and hard times, and it was a long way to be with you. Of course, I told you several times before you moved "don't take the pawn ...", and something like that, but you never followed.
So I had to suffer by you, by your play, by your distinction much too often. You ruined my reputation playing the most dispositional moves, but I never got too angry. I was going to help you. I have been there, years over years, you could have me on your side whenever you liked to.
And now this letter. I understand, this is the river of no return. So I have to say goodbye, my huckleberry friend, this is the last curtain. I will support a different one. Remember the times we had have together, David.

yieldhunter's picture

my godness - in German we call this article "hirnwichse" - whicht might be translated with "useless intellectual mastrubation"

virginmind's picture

i'm not sure if bobby fischer was the one to call chess an 'intellectual masturbation' - was he?

Aditya's picture

Awesome! Very rarely do we see chess and writing dancing together so elegantly, without either of them stumbling and falling.

AgonyUncle's picture

Dear GM Smerdon

The tone of your letter suggests that you are very much in love with Stonewall and can't live without it. My advice would be to take a month long vacation apart, then do some serious analysis of your relationship to see how you can rekindle the fire.

Kamalakanta's picture

Very good writing!

AAR's picture

Humorous writing.

Isn't it obvious that being predictable in openings will lead to better preparation by your opponent?

Eric van Loon's picture


Sofie's picture

This article seems very similar to an article I cannot find right now so I might be wrong but was it Karel van der Weide on the Wolga?
Can somebody check?

David Ellis's picture

Fab article!!
I've always enjoyed your writings (and your games) but this capped the lot - a brilliant analogy.

Kamalakanta's picture

Hi! Thinking about your open letter to the Stonewall, the question arises...how many games did you play with it, and how did you do? (wins, losses, draws)...



Kamalakanta's picture


I tried to put a comment here, with a link to my blog on another chess site, but your site says it triggered a spam filter...is it because of the link?


antichrist chesschat's picture

a basic understanding of chess means that you do not separate your pawns from your king unless with very good reason - as it weakens both king and pawns

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