Thursday, 22 February 2007

Archive: UNCUT! 57

The Sean Marsh
Chess Column

*Column 57*
**February 2007* *

Daylight Grobbery!

Dear Readers,

While reviewing ‘Beating Unusual Chess Openings’ I was reminded of some analysis from what seems like a lifetime ago.

When I was at college in the early 1980s (yes folks, I really did go…) and then at Guisborough Chess Club a curious trend had taken hold of a number of players. It all started with Guisborough supremo Stuart Morgan. For someone who always seemed so dapper and correct, it came as a bit of a shock to see him spend several years essaying one of the wackiest of openings…The Grob!

Inspired by the chess audio tapes of Mike ‘The Spike’ Basman and the small book ‘The Tactical Grob’ by Claude F. Bloodgood (serving life for matricide when he wrote it) Stuart adopted this strange beast for a few seasons, confounding those who were expecting his normal Scotch Game. He even took to playing it with Black, which marked quite a change in style form his habitual Petroff Defence.

The funny thing is, his results with the Grob weren’t bad at all and soon he was inspiring - or should that be contaminating - a lot of the college players. It is said that one should set trends rather than follow them, and Stuart was certainly a trailblazer at the time. I remember one confused opponent leaning over and asking him: ‘Is that the move you want to play?’ Such a comment was ahead of its time, as nobody played chess over the Internet in those days and ‘mouse-slips’ were definitely a thing of the distant future.

I even tried it once myself (..always desperate to get into the ‘in’ crowd, that’s me…) in a match between Prior Pursglove College and Guisborough B. It went a bit wrong and I lost a pawn but with a Queen and Rook left each I figured there was enough counter play to hold comfortably, so I offered a draw. Without a word in reply, Tom simply played a move. This frustrated me…how ignorant, I thought! I made another error and then even allowed the major pieces to be swapped off, leading to a lost King and pawn ending (I thought my advanced King would compensate for the missing pawn but alas it was not to be). Talking about the game afterwards, Tom said he thought it had been heading for a draw when the Queens and Rooks were still on. I asked him why he didn’t accept my offer and it turned out he was merely very deaf and hadn’t heard me say anything! So I learned a couple of valuable life-lessons that night, concerning not only judgement of people but also judgement of what one should or shouldn’t try and get away with over the board in openings and endings.

The defeat rather put me off playing The Grob but given its popularity at Guisborough I was always going to face it a few more times.

Like all openings, The Grob does have it tricks and traps and there are some paths to quick victories. For example, after 1 g4 d5 2 Bg2 Bxg4 3 c4 c6 4 cxd5 cxd5 5 Qb3 e6??

…White eschews the b-pawn in favour of the stronger 6 Qa4+! picking up the stray Bishop.
I witnessed a regular debate between two other Guisborough players who upheld different sides of the great Grob debate. Andrew Henderson played 1 g4 almost exclusively at the time and his permanent chess rival Tim Blake insisted it was poor. Tim devised a line - typical of his style - which offered some material in return for serious attacking chances. It is this very line which appears in IM Palliser’s new book, and which brought back so many memories.
1.g4 d5 2.Bg2 Bxg4 3.c4 dxc4 4.Bxb7 Nd7 5.Bxa8 Qxa8 6.f3

Well, who would you rather be here? Tim and Andrew consistently improved the resources for both sides but I can’t remember them ever coming to any definitive conclusion.
However, I do remember a particularly potent line against the Black Grob which KO’d a few Guisborough and college players in short order.

1.e4 g5 2.Bc4 h6 3.h4 gxh4 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Nxh4 d6

…and now it suddenly becomes apparent that the Knight wasn’t just capturing on h4 for fun but was getting into position to step into g6 at an appropriate moment…
6.Bxf7+ Grobbery with violence! 6 …Kxf7 7.Qh5+ …and Black would do well to last much longer. It was this line that finally convinced a lot of college students that the Black Grob sorely lacked the timbre to make A-level status.

To conclude this little grub around in the Grobbery, it’s time to grab a couple of games from the past, featuring the chief Grobber himself. They not be the most accurate and they may not the best games he ever played with 1 g4/…g5 but I have chosen them for a very good reason…they are the only two I’ve got…

Stuart Morgan - C. Proctor
Calderdale Major (6), 05.1986

1.g4 d6 2.h3 g6 3.Bg2 Bg7 4.d4 c6 5.c4

A sort of extended Fianchetto Variation of the King’s Indian Defence has arisen!
5 …Nd7 6.Nc3 e5 7.d5 c5 Blocking the centre was a mistake by Black, making White’s flank attack more potent.
8.Nf3 Nh6 9.Bg5 Qa5 10.Qd2 Ng8 11.Qc2 Ngf6 12.Bd2 h6 13.a3 a6 14.0–0 Qd8 15.b4 So…a spike on both sides of the board! And look how safe White’s King is…

15 …0–0 16.g5 hxg5 17.Bxg5 Qe8 18.Rab1 b6 19.bxc5 bxc5 20.Rb3 e4 21.Nd2 Ne5 22.Bxf6 Bxf6 23.Ncxe4 Be7 24.Qc3 f5

25.Nxc5! Bf6 26.Ne6 Bxe6 27.dxe6 Nc6 28.Qd3 Ne5 29.Qd5 Ra7 30.Rfb1 Re7 31.Qxd6 Rxe6 32.Bd5 (The Grob Bishop finally gets a piece of the action!) 32 …Kg7 33.Bxe6 1–0

George Jenkinson - Stuart Morgan
PPC v Elmwood C, 11.03.1988

1.d4 h6 (Of course, a modicum of care must be taken with the move order…) 2.c4 g5 3.Nf3 Bg7 4.g3 c5
(There is a school of thought that suggests the Grob is at is very best when White has rashly committed himself to an early c2-c4, principally because the bolstering c2-c3 is no longer available.)

5.Bg2 g4! (Sniping from the flank to ensure control of the centre - hypermodernism in action!) 6.Nh4 cxd4 7.0–0 Nc6 8.e3 d6 9.Nf5?? (An incautious use of the pre-move facility, way ahead of its time! But there is a serious point here; players who like things ‘by the book‘ can become confused very quickly when facing the unknown and this can easily lead to glaring errors.)
9...Bxf5 10.Re1 Bxb1 11.Rxb1 dxe3 12.Bxe3 Nf6 13.a3 Qd7 14.Qd2 Rd8 15.Rbd1 Ne5 16.Qc1 Nf3+ 17.Bxf3 gxf3

It’s been over - technically - for a while of course, but now it’s certain mate, so…0–1

And finally…

Just time to tell you to watch out for the brand new magazine series featuring Harry Potter…for further details see this month’s Junior Newsletter **link to archived Junior Newsletter to follow**

Sean Marsh
22nd February 2007


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