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Friday, May 11, 2018

Grob Plays the Grob

     Stefan Bueckner, FIDE master and publisher of the magazine Kaissiber is famous for playing and advocating unusual and dubious openings such as the Englund Gambit and the Grob Attack and he said his score with the Grob in correspondence games is close to 90 percent. 
     IM Michael Basman is particularly known for frequently choosing bizarre or rarely played openings and he has published The Killer Grob. In his book Basman writes that 1.g4 ignores the firmly held dogma that one should open the game with a move by a center pawn, but, as he pointed out, the Grob has its own logic. He addressed the question, does the Grob work?
     GM Jonathan Levitt said that while moves like 1. e4 or 1.d4 hardly give white a winning advantage, the disadvantage of the Grob is that it hands black an equal game right from the start. 
     While Henri Grob (June, 1904 – July, 1974) was not a chess giant, he was no slouch. He was considered as a leading Swiss player from the 1930s to 1950s and was invited to many prestigious tournaments and was Swiss Champion in 1939 and 1951. Chessmetrics puts his highest rating at 2491 in 1934, placing his at number 79 in the world. And, he was serious about 1.g4. When he published his book Angriff g2–g4 in 1942, he wrote that the work was not meant for beginners. 
     Some interesting facts about Grob: Between 1946 and 1972, he played 3,614 correspondence games against readers of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, a leading Swiss newspaper scoring +2,703 -430 =481. Grob married nine (!!!) times. When asked if he were married he replied, "Almost always." 
Chantal Chaude de Silans vs Grob in 1951

     The opinion of those esteemed players is not without weight and it would seem that for those of us holding the lowly Patzer title, against our peers the Grob is not easy to meet. Our opponents are good enough to recognize that the move is nonsense and they often overreact thinking there must be an immediate refutation, but there isn't. As a result, careless play on black's part by ignoring white's pressure on the focal points of d5 and b7 can, if if black is unaware, easily result in his getting into trouble. 
     I have used the Grob successfully on many occasions, but my Chessbase Light Database shows white only scoring +63 -93 =37, or just 42 percent; not very encouraging. There's an interesting site on the Grob, The World of Grob's Attack, that is worth a visit if you're interested in playing this unusual opening. 
     Here is a Grob original: 

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