Saturday, August 28, 2010

Grab a Grob

Hi Pilgrims.

A long time between postings – humblest apologies but I have been exceedingly busy getting replacement goods and rebuilding a house in Kinglake to replace the one we lost in the fires of 2009 (see previous postings). Finally it is built and we moved furniture in on July 12, 2010. There is a lot still to do, such as painting the outside of the house, oiling the timber decks, building fences and establishing a garden, as well as moving the small things, such as books, and so on. Ironically, we have had one of the coldest and wettest winters of recent memory and we cannot complete the fences because the ground is too soft from the rains. No fences means, we cannot take up our dogs, so we have to wait.

Re-establishing myself in Kinglake will also take time. Vivien does not wish to live there permanently, so she is keeping her home in Preston (a sophisticated, inner suburb of Melbourne, where countless stylish people – like us - live). So we will be alternating between her place in Preston and mine in Kinglake. They are only about 60 kilometres apart (1 hour) so it is quite manageable. I will probably spend more time in Kinglake to write and just be.

In June this year, I also left my regular job (librarianship, records management, and copyright law compliance for a large educational institution) in order to devote my time fully to writing. That means a lot of creative satisfaction but no income. I will be relying on the interest payments from my superannuation to see me through. I feel I have to give the writing a serious shot while I still have my youthful energy (I am a young 57). I figure when I get to 70-75 I will want to take things easy and enjoy life. Vivien and I are ‘freelance writers’ so we will be looking for writing or editing jobs as a team, as well as pursuing our own individual projects.

Back to Chess.

Sometimes it is worth playing something unusual, even unsound, so as to give your self a chance to win on your own mettle. It can also be fun. So much of modern chess is based on computer-assisted preparation. Even ordinary players prepare and play like Grandmasters, thanks to the databases and analysis engines that are available. Not much original thinking is needed unless the opponent deviates into an inferior line; someone like me is liable to do that because I do not have a chess database or powerful chess engine.

I have written about this in my regular ‘Ramblings’ column at:

Below is a Grob opening, named after the iconoclastic chess master Henri Grob, who used it in many correspondence chess games. It was played on the ICCF webserver, event ‘WS/O/244’. My opponent is Jan Erik Zimmermann from Denmark. Like me, he does not use chess computers but prefers to play ‘alfresco’. Any success or failure is due to your own play and not that of a silicone substitute.

The question of the soundness or otherwise of this opening, is not settled. When the great computer in the sky analyses all possible variations issuing from 1. g4!? it may well be the case that the Grob is a win for White after all. The analysis on this opening is scant and still based largely on positional assumptions. Surely, it has to be bad, it is said; look at how it ignores the centre and weakens the King’s position. All true and beside the point. White places his Bishop on g2 to attack the centre and also grabs some space on the King-side. Black has to react quickly and perhaps aggressively or he/she will be in difficulties – remember, White has the move and gets into threatening positions quicker if Black plays passively.

Indeed, this is what happened in this game. My opponent, unfamiliar with the opening, played too passively and then after a mistake which lost the exchange, he had a hard struggle and eventually succumbed.

I present the game with light notes for your enjoyment. Consider adding the Grob to your arsenal when playing for a win. If you lose you can always blame the opening rather than your playing skill. If you win, you can take all the credit. That’s a win-win scenario.

George Eraclides (1800) V Jan Erik Zimmermann (1636)


November 2008 to April 2009

Grob’s Opening

1.g4 e5 2.Bg2?! c6?! (too passive; MCO 15 advises h5 with a complicated game not unfavourable to Black) 3.d4 exd4 4.Qxd4 d5 5.Nc3 Qf6 (he realises that White is developing his pieces very quickly and gaining useful space, hence the Queen exchange) 6.Qxf6 Nxf6 7.g5 (this impudent Pawn continues to irritate Black, showing that 2...c6 was not a good idea) Nfd7 8.Nf3 Bd6 9.e4 dxe4 10.Nxe4 Bc7 (he had no real alternatives; the Grob is looking pretty good) 11.Be3 Ne5 12.Nxe5 Bxe5 13.O-O-O O-O 14.Ng3 g6 (so as to be able to place the Bishop on g7 eventually but White cooks up a little tactics) 15.Rhe1 Be6 16.Bc5 Bf4+ 17.Kb1 Re8 18.Ne4 Nd7 19.Bd6 Bxd6 20.Nxd6 Rf8 (20...Reb8 21. Nxb7 anyway) 21.Nxb7 Rac8 22.Nd6 Rc7 23.Bf3 (to stop a nuisance Bf5; White’s tactics have netted him material and positional superiority) Nc5 24.Ne4 Na4 25.b3 Nb6 26.Nf6+ Kg7 27.Rd6 h6 28.Bxc6 hxg5 29.Ne8+ Rxe8 30.Bxe8 Nd5 31.c4 Nb4 32.Red1 (White has done very well out of the tactics and now has a won position; his aim is to snuff out any counter-chances by Black and avoid errors in the coming won ending; for his part, Black tries to make life as hard as he can for White and encourage a blunder) Bf5+ 33.Kb2 Re7 34.Ba4 Re2+ 35.R6d2 Re4 36.Kc3 a5 37.a3 Na6 38.Bd7 (simplification is a key to winning for White) Bxd7 39.Rxd7 Rh4 40.R7d5 Rxh2 41.Rxa5 Nc7 42.Rxg5 Rxf2 43.Rd2 Rf3+ 44.Rd3 Rf2 45.Kb4 Ne6 46.Rgg3 g5 47.c5 Rf5 48.Rc3 Nc7 49.Ka5 Kg6 50.Kb6! Nd5+ 51.Kb7 Nxc3 52.Rxc3! (this return of the exchange leaves Black having to give up his Rook for the passed Pawn while White’s Rook can stop anything on the King-side) g4 53.b4 Rf3 54.Rc4 g3 55.c6 1-0

I was pleased to win this game and actually found the ending harder than gaining the middle-game advantage.

So grab a Grob next time you sit at the board and you will not be bored.

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