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Chess Tactics in the Grob

Updated on November 29, 2012

The Killer Grob

1. g4 The Killer Grob
1. g4 The Killer Grob | Source

Introduction

The Grob (1. g4) is also known as:

  • The Killer Grob
  • Grob's Attack
  • The Tactical Grob
  • The Spike

And several other names according to Wikipedia. I've always like the name "Killer Grob" myself :-)

It is a very fun opening to play, and I have played it myself for years in rated USCF tournament games, blitz games, and correspondence games.

There are lots of things I like about it:

  • Surprise value - this will often shock a player who has the black pieces, and many times they have not seen this first move.
  • Time advantage - Black will often spend a lot of time playing against this opening, so it is a great weapon for faster time controls.
  • Takes away all book knowledge from the black player in most cases
  • Sets up the game so that the player with the best tactical ability is most likely to win
  • Fun - it can be really boring to play the same openings over and over
  • You will be much more familiar with the typical patterns than your opponent. He will be doing a lot of mental heavy lifting looking at a position for the first time, which you might have seen 100 times before. This can be a huge advantage.


How I started playing The Grob

It was kind of a fluke...

There was a guy at my work who liked to play chess against me during lunch. He was not very good - probably a playing strength about 700-800. I was about 1400-1500 USCF at the time. I could beat him by spotting him a piece.

He didn't like me to handicap myself, so I had to self handicap to make it interesting. I decided to play offbeat openings, thinking that they were weak, and would make the game more interesting for me.

What I found was.... I ended up winning even faster than normal!

I couldn't believe it - these openings like 1. g4 were supposed to be "bad", but I was crushing this guy much faster than I would with moves like 1. e4.

A few weeks later I was playing in a weekend tournament in Denver. I was having a rough time, and lost 3 games in a row. I was on the bottom board, in the last round, with the white pieces. I decided - what the heck - and played 1. g4 in my first rated tournament game.

I ended up winning a piece right in the opening, and had an easy win!

After that I started playing the Grob A LOT. It really helped to sharpen my tactics, and helped me to learn to "think outside the box" when it comes to chess, and chess openings.

The Grob has a lot of tricks, traps, and tactics in it. In this article we will look at some of them.

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Grob tactic #1

White to Play
White to Play | Source

Kicking the Knight

Tactical Pattern #1 - pushing g5 against the knight on f6.

A lot of players have no idea how to develop their pieces against The Grob. Many players will play an early Nf6, because this is a move that makes sense in 99% of all chess openings.

However it doesn't make sense against The Grob!

In this started with 1. g4 e5 2. Bg2 Nf6 and I responded with 3. g5!

Now the knight has to go back to its home base of g8 or "on the rim" to h5 if it wants to continue to play a role in the game. However my opponent played 3. ..Ng4?? and the knight was trapped after 4. h3

The g5 push is something that black always has to watch out for when putting his knight on f6 in The Grob.

Here is the compete game:

[Event "Ladder"]
[Site "http://www.redhotpawn.com"]
[Date "2010.10.29"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Timmybx"]
[Black "Cdurkin"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A00"]
[WhiteElo "1779"]
[BlackElo "1181"]
[PlyCount "61"]

1. g4 e5 2. Bg2 Nf6 3. g5 Ng4 4. h3 Nxf2 5. Kxf2 Qxg5 6. d3 Qf5+ 7. Nf3 Bc5+ 8. e3 b6 9. Rf1 d5 10. Kg1 O-O 11. Qe2 a6 12. Nbd2 Qg6 13. Nxe5 Qe6 14. d4 Bd6 15. Ndf3 Bb7 16. Bd2 Nc6 17. Nxc6 Bxc6 18. Rac1 Bb5 19. c4 Bxc4 20. Qf2 Bxf1 21. Qxf1 a5 22. Ng5 Qg6 23. e4 Rae8 24. e5 Bxe5 25. dxe5 Rxe5 26. Nf3 Rf5 27. Rxc7 Re8 28. Rc3 Rf6 29. Re3 Rc8 30. Qe2 Rc2 31. Re8# 1-0


Light Square attack

White to play
White to play | Source

Queen double attack on b7 and d5

Often in The Grob the white queen deploys to the b3 square. White is trying to attack black on the light squares using the Queen, and the light squared bishop on g2 on the long light squared diagonal.

If black's dark squared bishop has grabbed the pawn on g4, it has left the defense of the b7 square.

In the position on the right white's best move is 5. Qb3 which attacks the b7 square and the d5 square. Black cannot defend both of them. White has already gambitted the g4 pawn, so white is simply getting back their material. However there are lots of ways for black to go wrong in this position.

In the game below, black played 5. ..b6 to protect the b pawn, which cannot be recommended. This just opens up the long diagonal for white, and after 6. Bxd5 white is now double attacking the rook on a8 and the f7 square.

Black then made another bad move, Nd7, so that the queen could protect the rook and recapture the bishop after 7. Bxa8. However black really ended up "help mating" himself, and white played 7. Bxf7#

This double attack is very common.

[Event "Open invite"]
[Site "http://www.redhotpawn.com"]
[Date "2009.01.26"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Jgvaccaro"]
[Black "Quanah4"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A00"]
[WhiteElo "1278"]
[BlackElo "1299"]
[PlyCount "13"]

1. g4 d5 2. Bg2 Bxg4 3. c4 c6 4. cxd5 cxd5 5. Qb3 b6 6. Bxd5 Nd7 7. Bxf7# 1-0


Oops

Black to Play
Black to Play | Source

Fool's mate

You might think that this never happens, but it does! Playing g4 really weakens your kingside, and playing f3 as well is drinking poison!

Here 2. ..Qh4# is checkmate. This is the shortest possible game of chess.

[Event "Open invite"]
[Site "http://www.redhotpawn.com"]
[Date "2006.12.16"]
[White "Brenireland, J."]
[Black "Wittywonka"]
[Result "0-1"]
[WhiteElo "961"]
[BlackElo "1386"]
[PlyCount "4"]

1. g4 e5 2. f3 Qh4# 0-1

Here is another similar game:

[Event "Open invite"]
[Site "http://www.redhotpawn.com"]
[Date "2007.07.18"]
[White "Petesfreak"]
[Black "Irontigran"]
[Result "0-1"]
[WhiteElo "1256"]
[BlackElo "1271"]
[PlyCount "8"]

1. Nh3 e5 2. g4 d5 3. f4 exf4 4. Nxf4 Qh4# 0-1

Long Diagonal

White to Play
White to Play | Source

Powerful Bishop

The White Light Square Bishop sitting on the g2 square is a very powerful piece. As mentioned earlier, white often exerts pressure on Black's b7 square. Here black played their queen out to protect the pawn, but in this case it doesn't work.

White can still play Bxb7!, which also wins the rook on a8, because of the discovered attack Nd6+ if black plays Qxb7.

This game was played by Claude Bloodgood, who was a very unusual character, and wrote a rare book that I own called "The Tactical Grob". See the links below for the Wikipedia page about Claude Bloodgood. If you enjoy reading about chess players, and chess history, his biography is one you will find interesting, and sounds like something you would see on a daytime soap opera.

[Date "1972.??.??"]
[White "Bloodgood, C."]
[Black "Boothe, J."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A00"]
[PlyCount "19"]

1. g4 d5 2. Bg2 Bxg4 3. c4 c6 4. Qb3 Qc7 5. cxd5 cxd5 6. Nc3 d4 7. Nb5 Qb6 8.
Bxb7 Qxb7 9. Nd6+ exd6 10. Qxb7 1-0


All dressed up, nowhere to go

Black to Play
Black to Play | Source

Trapping the Queen

As white you have to be very careful grabbing the b7 pawn. Black can often gain several tempos chasing the queen, and even worse can sometimes trap it!

In the diagram on the right black can play 7. ..Nc5! trapping the queen.

Analysis by Henri Grob (who the opening is named after)

1. g4 d5 2. Bg2 Bxg4 3. c4 Nf6 4. Qb3 e6 5. Qxb7 Nbd7 6. cxd5 exd5 7. Nc3 Nc5

if 8. Qb4 Nd3+ (discovered attack with the bishop)
if 8. Qc6+ Bd7
if 8. Qb5+ c6 9. Qxc6 Bd7

Loose pieces drop off

White to Play
White to Play | Source

Queen check on a4

This is a trap I have done many times - in blitz games on the 16th Street Mall in Denver, in USCF rated tournament games (including twice against the same opponent years apart), and in correspondence games. This trap can occur in several different ways, but here is one of them

In this position white plays Qa4+ followed by Qxg4 winning the bishop for free.

1. g4 d5 2. Bg2 Bxg4 3. c4 Nf6 4. Qb3 Nxd5 5. e6 6. Qa4+

The key is:

  • Black Bishop on g4 (that captured the grob pawn on move 2 most likely)
  • Black has pushed the e6 pawn, preventing the black bishop from retreating to block the check
  • White has a check on a4 with the queen
  • No other pieces protecting the bishop on g4 (such as a knight on f6)

Often black gets wrapped up trying to defend both the d5 and b7 pawns, that they forget their bishop is hanging there.

This tactic happens over and over in the Grob.


Back Rank Threat

Black to Play
Black to Play | Source

Weak back rank for white

One thing that white has to be careful about is rook attacks on the c file, which can lead to a back rank mate. In this variation to the right, white grabbed the c pawn, after taking the b7 pawn, but this allows black the move Rc8!

If white moves his queen, he will be back rank mated with Rxc1#.

Sample variation from The Tactical Grob:

1. g4 d5 2. Bg2 Bxg4 3. c4 Nf6 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. Qb3 c6 6. Qxb7 Nd7 7. Qxc6


When to play the Grob

Personally I like to use the Grob against certain types of opponents and in certain types of situations. These are:

  • When the person doesn't know me at all, and might think I am a total beginner. For example a couple of times I sat down at the chess tables on the 16th street mall, acting like I had barely any idea how to play chess. I would play 1. g4 and it looks like a novice move. However, then I start to turn the tactics on, and it is fun to see the look on my opponents face when they lose to such a "bad" opening.
  • When my opponent is lower rated than me. This can be good, because if the lower rated player knows his openings, you might be playing against Garry Kasparov for the first 10 moves. With the Grob, I want that player rated 400 points lower than me thinking on the FIRST MOVE.
  • Along the same lines, if I know the player is weak on tactics, or really booked on openings, it is a good choice.
  • In games with short time controls, blitz games. In these games, my familiarity with the patterns can help a lot with the clock.
  • If the person is very "by the book" when it comes to the Pandolfini style "rules" or fears the unknown.. I had one opponent take a day off of work to study the Grob, because he knew he would be playing me that night at the Denver Chess Club, and the opening really scared him. I think I ended up getting the black pieces, so all that effort was for nothing lol.
  • Against older players, who generally are not as good at "thinking outside the box".
  • Sometimes I am just in the mood to do something a little different. I often just play the first move I feel like playing for white and black.


When not to play The Grob

Situations where I don't like to play The Grob

  • against players who have a reputation for being "positional" experts. These types of players can pick apart the weaknesses in the position.
  • In really long time controls, where there is time to see all of the tricks and traps
  • Against players who know it - or are ABSURDLY booked up - I have met a few guys who have studied the Grob, and the best ways to play against it. They are rare, but do exist. Most 2000+ rated players have some knowledge of the opening, and probably one defense they like.
  • With players I have played it a bunch of times. The Grob is like a magic trick, you don't want to do it over and over to the same person or they will figure out the trick.
  • Generally with higher rated players. They are probably higher rated than me because they are better at tactics and positional chess than I am, so it is not the best choice, but again depends on the player.
  • When I am tired, not feeling creative, burned out. At times like this it is better to play something "safe" like the Colle or English, where you aren't going to have to do as much calculating.

Types of Grob Opponents

When you play The Grob you will get several types of reactions after your first move

  • Overconfidence - they think this is a TERRIBLE move, and want to punish you accordingly. This can be a great reaction, because it is not as bad as they think it is, and you know the opening better than they do
  • Fear - they have no idea what to do, or what is going on here. They came to play chess, and you just took out a monopoly board. They will often spend a few minutes coming up with a response
  • Excitement - something new and different! Yay! This is normally my reaction to oddball openings.
  • Indifference - been there, done that. Normally will just play d5 and c6 and be pretty careful. My least favorite opponent.

Summary

While I certainly won't argue that The Grob is "sound" - it certainly is a lot of fun!

Some of the benefits of playing the Grob:

  • Explore new ideas and piece positions
  • Sharpen your tactical skills
  • Break the habits of rote play and piece development
  • Get your creative chess juices flowing again
  • Elements of "Chess Psychology"
  • Lots of fun!

In some ways it has a lot of the same advantages of "Fischer Random Chess".

Again some of the main ideas are:

  • White plays for attacks on the light squares with his bishop, queen, and queen's knight
  • Double attack of the b7 and d5 square
  • Timely push of g5 and a kingside attack
  • Lots of crazy and unexplored positions

White is quite willing and eager to "break the rules" of normal openings:

  • Weakening the kingside
  • Developing the queen early
  • Moving the same piece twice
  • Often doesn't castle

White needs to watch out for

  • Getting his queen trapped grabbing pawns
  • Back rank threats on the c file
  • Fools mate with his weakened kingside

I hope you enjoyed looking at some of the common tactical patterns in The Grob. If you liked this article, please refer it to your friends, and check out my chess website at http://tacticstime.com

Happy Tactics!

Your Friend,

Tim


Comments

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    • profile image

      Sean Castleton 3 years ago

      Yes, a fair assessment of the overall tactics of Grob's Attack. Well done! For a more extensive and detailed analysis of this opening, check out my Grob Attack built with Houdini at the following link:

      https://sites.google.com/site/thegrobattack/

      Best regards, Sean.

    • Anthea Carson profile image

      Anthea Carson 6 years ago from Colorado Springs

      Nice Job, very thorough! We wanted to put the Grob in the Animal book because we thought there was a South American Fish named the Grob but we couldn't verify it so we left it out. Might have made a cool chapter and a great cartoon though.