Playing the Grand Prix Attack Against the Sicilian

Combining aggression with positional play, the Grand Prix Attack provides white with a sound, dangerous system against the Sicilian Defense.

  • The mainstay of White’s strategy is the kingside attack, often spearheaded with f5.
  • Despite its simplicity, this attacking plan has proven extremely challenging for black to defend against, with many strong players unable to find the proper defense.
  • The straightforward strategies in the Grand Prix Attack make it suitable for players of all levels, including beginners.
  • When black successfully defends against the dangerous kingside attack, white can switch attention to the queenside and play a more positional game.
  • The f5 advance is a crucial move in White’s attack, so over-protecting this square is a vital element of Black’s defensive strategy.

GM Gawain Jones is a strong player who makes excellent use of the Grand Prix Attack.

Vital Strategies in the Grand Prix Attack

The Grand Prix Attack is a popular Anti-Sicilian chess opening.

Arguably, one of the best-known strategies for white in the Grand Prix attack is the kingside attack. This attack often involves a sacrifice, either a pawn on f5 or a minor piece.

The pawn advance is one element of the attack. When attacking, it is essential to include your most powerful attacking piece, the queen.

White’s queen will often reach the kingside via the e1 square. The queen will continue to h4 and is often supported by a rook that can join in the attack via f3.

In many openings, the moves …e5 and …d5 help achieve black equality in the opening, and the Sicilian Defense is no exception. When playing against the Grand Prix Attack, if your opponent chooses 2.f4, respond immediately with 2…d5!

White can retain the pawn after 3.exd5 Nf6 4.c4 e6 5.dxe6 Be6, but there is no doubt that black gets excellent compensation for the pawn.

This variation demonstrates why it is essential to play precisely and concentrate from the start of the game. Instead of 2.f4, it is best to play 2.Nc3 to prevent 2…d5.

The positional plan on the queenside for white focuses on doubling the c-pawns with BXC6. The forward doubled-pawn on c5 then becomes a target for white.

To avoid the doubled pawns, black can meet Bb5 with …Nd4, attacking the bishop on b5. If the bishop retreats to c4 or a4, it gets attacked with …b5.

Black Plays 2…Nc6

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 g6 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bb5

The alternative for white is 5.Bc4, but Black’s queenside pawns often harass the bishop. In light of this, white seeks to avoid the loss of time by exchanging the bishop and creating a pawn weakness in Black’s position.

Black does have …Nd4 available to avoid getting stuck with doubled c-pawns, which is the most often played response.

5…Nd4 6.0-0 Nxb5 7.Nxb5 d5 8.e5 Bg4 9.d4 a6 10.Nc3

Remember, the idea behind Bb5 was to exchange the bishop for the knight. When black plays Nd4 moving, the bishop defeats the aim of the move.

8.e5 is another crucial move for white. Advancing the pawn helps restrict the bishop on g7 and gains white space.

Despite its reputation as an attacking option, do not forget that you can play the Grand Prix Attack positionally. Denis Kadric created an outside passed pawn on the queenside to win his game against Till Schreiner.

Black Plays 2…d6

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 d6 3.f4 g6 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bb5+ Bd7 6.Bc4 Nc6

White plays Bb5+ intending to meet …Nc6 with Bxc6.

When the check is met with 5…Bd7, White withdraws the bishop to c4. Now the bishop on d7 cuts off the queen’s protection of the d-pawn. The bishop on d7 makes …e6 less appealing as it leaves the d6-pawn undefended.

7.d3 Na5 8.Bd2 Nxc4 9.dxc4 Nf6 10.Qe2 0-0 11.0-0-0

White has achieved excellent control of the center and a space advantage with simple, natural moves. These are two pleasant advantages to have entering the middlegame – especially with opposite side castling.

Black Plays 2…e6

The two strongest responses to the Grand Prix Attack are 2…Nc6 and 2…e6. The drawback to 2…e6 is it offers white the chance to transpose to the Open Sicilian now that the Najdorf, Dragon, and Sveshnikov variations have all been avoided.

On the plus side, the move 2…e6 does support a quick …d5 advance, which slows down White’s plans to play the standard kingside attack. A flank attack is not advisable if your opponent can counter-attack in the center.

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 e6 3.f4 Nc6 4.Nf3 d5 5.Bb5 Nge7

2...e6 is one of Black's best defenses to the Grand Prix Attack.

If White continues with Bxc6, there will be no pawn weakness since Black will recapture with the knight. Black is threatening to play …a6 putting the question to the bishop.

The knight on e7 helps control the vital f5-square as well.

6.exd5 exd5 7.Qe2 Qd6 8.d4 cxd4 9.Nxd4 g6 10.Be3

White retains the option of casting to either side and has play against Black’s isolated queen’s pawn.

In Conclusion

The Grand Prix Attack is a sound approach for white against the Sicilian Defense that comes with a relatively light theoretical burden. The Grand Prix Attack is an excellent choice for white because it caters to both attacking and positional players.

No matter what your level, it will not take you long to understand the strategies and plans in this opening. The best part is that you can continue to play the Grand Prix Attack as you improve.

The longer you play an opening, the deeper your understanding of it grows. This deeper understanding will help tip the balance in your favor when you find yourself in a theoretically equal position.

The Sicilian Grand Prix Attack Frequently Asked Questions

Is the Grand Prix Attack sound?

Yes, the Grand Prix Attack is a sound choice against the Sicilian Defense. This is a chess opening you can play at all levels.

Why is it called the Grand Prix Attack?

The opening was used by man British chess players in the 1980s when they played in the weekend Grand Prix circuit.

How do you play the Grand Prix Attack?

The Grand Prix Attack involves an early f4-pawn advance. This pawn advance is best prepared with 2.Nc3 to prevent black from countering with 2…d5.

How to counter the Grand Prix Attack?

The strongest defenses against the Grand Prix Attack involve 2…Nc6 and 2…e6. In the lines with 2…e6, Black plays …Nge7 to over-protect f5 and to have the option of recapturing on c6 with the knight.

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