44 ( +1 | -1 ) White to play and winLooking through a database of more than a quarter of a million master games, I found that 1.g4 (Grob's Attack) has easily the best score of any opening for White. So why isn't it played much more often? The only reason I can think of is that people fear the ridicule and contempt of their peers if they play it --- especially if they lose. Yet if you lose with 1.d4, no-one says that you lost because you played 1.d4.
84 ( +1 | -1 ) But the question is...How many of those quarter-million games are Grobs? Chessgames.com, for instance, shows 134 Grobs for 269,146 total games, so there's not really a useful sample size. Most likely, it's either played by Grob experts (who use is regularly and are well-versed enough in its theory to make a good showing) or those who go to it as a surprise weapon. In either case, there is another factor at work beyond the innate strength or weakness of the opening.
If everyone played it all the time, I would bet that white's winning percentage would fall back into balance. Is it a matter of ridicule? I seriously doubt it. Chess history is full of people whose play flew in the face of convention, established a strong record based on their unconventional approaches, then lived to see their heresies become the orthodoxy.
82 ( +1 | -1 ) In addition to what bucklehead said, you have to look at the skill levels of the players who actually played those Grob games. I'm guessing that a lot of these games were contests between somewhat weaker players (since the Grob is not at all common at a higher level). In those situations, opening knowledge is typically not as a heavy deciding factor in the game's outcome ("at the amateur level, anything is playable" being the extreme extension of this).
Doing a quick search of 1. g4 games, I managed to find 34 recent games played out at a (lower) master level. While this is hardly a meaningful sample size, in these 34 games, White scores a rather poor 40% (+9,=9,-16). The only one in the group of 34 where I even recognized the players, though, was a game between Basman and Rowson.
175 ( +1 | -1 ) The point is not so much whether or not 34 games or 134 games are statistically significant (they aren't) but that winning percentage, in and of itself, is not a "cold statistic" that has any value.
I've played 1. a3 and won. Several times. But that doesn't reflect on the merits (or lack thereof) of 1. a3 as an opening move. Because all those 1. a3 games were training and tutoring games against inferior opposition.
The reason I pointed to those 34 master games was that at least there, there is a greater likelihood that opening choice will have an effect on outcome and hence perhaps winning percentage is a better statistical indicator (although probably not very good at all, given the small number of games). At lesser skill levels, the advantages and disadvantages offered by a particular opening choice simply don't matter as the players make large mistakes that overshadow swings in opening advantage. A winning percentage of amateur games is essentially meaningless, for instance.
You need to look closely at your sample Grob games. Who were the players? Were the games of high quality? Did the benefits/drawbacks of 1. g4 actually have any bearing on outcome or were the games decided by something else? In the Basman-Rowson game, Rowson attempted to exploit the weakening of the kingside light squares, and did so to reasonably good effect. He sadled Basman with weak pawns and then invaded on the light squares with his queen to pick off those pawns. Of course, queen and pawn endgames are always rather difficult, and I haven't analyzed it in detail to see is serious mistakes were made (didn't find the game particularly interesting), but at least the game highlighted some aspect of 1. g4 (mostly a negative).
68 ( +1 | -1 ) It does seem to depend on the database, I just tried the same with my TWIC database and white doesn't score well at all. White gets 38% out of 66 games and has an ELO performance of 2153 against an opposition of 2240 (the white players having an average ELO of 2266). If black replies 1...d5 (scores 70%) or 1...e5 (scores 75%) white's performance is even worse. I don't really think 1.g4 is such a bad move that black should score such an amazing amount of points, but I feel that if black does play sensibly white has sort of given away the advantage of the first move (as he will usually have to make further slow moves like h2-h3).
157 ( +1 | -1 ) Let me preface this by saying......that I have no problem with the Grob (other than thinking that it had more cachet back in the days when it was known as The Spike). But I must say, philaretus, that I still find your argument unpersuasive.
Let's look at the chessgames.com database, since I have the sense this is the DB to which you were referring. Sure 1 g4 has a 72.4% win ratio for white; but following this logic, should we not rather assume that 1 Na3 (which appears in one game and has a 100% win ratio for white) is the ultimate chess opening? This is also a "cold statistic," but as you can see not a very useful one.
Your guesswork is that players avoid the Grob because they fear ridicule will follow a loss. Perhaps, but who would laugh at a 1 g4 player who won 70% of the time? My strong belief is that other players would emulate the Grob-er. This sort of thing happens all the time--think of the way Kasparov's successes with the Scotch in the early 90s led to a full-scale revival of the opening. It's the chess equivalent of the free market: if someone is making money off of an opening, everyone else will start wanting a piece of the pie.
I think frequently about the old quote from Portisch: "Your only task in the opening is to reach a playable middlegame." If you want to use the Grob to pave the way to that middlegame for you, then I say go for it. I guess in the end all I'm saying is don't expect a 70% win rate based on the results of 0.05% of a database. Take the hilts, sharpen the blade, perfect your technique--and *then* they will fear you.
135 ( +1 | -1 ) IT also makes a differenceas to the nature of games included to the d-base. Do they flow in freely from some source on an "as they are played" basis? Or chosen for inclusion? With that preface I'll say I once surveyed 2 full years of Chess Life & Review in the mid 70's. WT had 79% and 80% wins in QGD and Ruy. But who knows how many 1000's of drawn games may not have been chosen as interesting for publication? Do you inow the inclusion basis of the d-base, or some idea from the games you've seen there perhaps? I hear E. Schiller has called it bad. I hardly know of it. Seems to me as an "impression" like it is an early overextention. I wonder if many of the wins come from players of BL following ideas where WT get to play the Bg2 c4 stuff? In other words walking into pressure (or poss K-side attacks) they don't have to? On the other hand. I said just yesterday re Bird's f4, it can sometimes generate a k-side attack, even with no white 0-0, that can be unresponsive to BL counters of d4, c5 type centers. Maybe my Impresion is wrong adn its like that then? Remember Chessnovice liking the Cluade Bloodgood g4 book. But I have not seen that either. (So only hope ;is okay for me to be ignorant- i admit- but still speak, my friend?..8-) Good Luck in the search for truth. There's always the tried & true way in Chess, to find out!! Or have someone show otherwise :) [No not me! I'm ignorant!]