The Grand Prix Attack is a variant of the very popular Sicilian Defense. Several move orders can be used to reach the Grand Prix Attack, but a common order might be 1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. f4
Rather than opening up the center with an early d2-d4, white strives to increase his space advantage and mount the beginnings of a kingside attack. It’s no wonder that the Grand Prix Attack remains popular as an anti-sicilian weapon!
White generally intends to play an early Bc4 or Bb5, developing the light bishop actively. Then white can castle short and plan to attack.
Black can respond to the Grand Prix Attack by expanding on the queenside (black’s c-pawn gives them space in this sector already), or by playing a well-timed strike in the center with …d5
1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. f4 g6 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. Bb5
This is a common position to reach. Notice that black fianchettos the dark bishop – adding a key kingside defender in anticipation of the coming attack, and also taking aim at the white queenside!
Now black has a decision to make – should Bxc6 be prevented? This move would double the black pawns (making queenside expansion with …a6 and …b5 impossible) but would also surrender the bishop pair.
5…Nd4 is a popular move, and now there might follow 6. 0-0 Nxb5 7. Nxb5 d6 8. d3 Nf6 9. Qe1!
This is a common move in the Grand Prix Attack. Many inexperienced players would simply “finish development” and think of a plan later, but this move shows that white is developing with purpose! The queen is ready to join the fray on the kingside after a later Qh4.
White’s idea is illustrated by 9…0-0 10. Qh4 Bd7 11. Nc3 b5 12. f5!
It’s important for white to achieve this breakthrough. It unleashes the dark bishop to join the attack too!
Accepting this pawn sacrifice would be ill-advised for black – the open g-file could come back to haunt him!
Instead, black should probably play 12…b4 and continue queenside expansion. A complex and imbalanced middlegame is sure to result.
Alternatively, black could have changed the pawn structure entirely and struck at the center on move seven, with 7…d5:
This certainly changes the course of the game. If white exchanges with 8. exd5, the center is blown open and white’s kingside build-up will be less likely to succeed. That said, it might concern black to open the center when white has a lead in development.
On the other hand, 8. e5 would lead to a more locked-up position, blunting the g7 bishop but leaving black’s large center intact.
Of course, it should be noted that black sometimes doesn’t play 5…Nd4 at all, and allows white to double their pawns. In the video at the top of this page, I show an example of how black can even use the doubled pawns to their advantage in some cases!
1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. f4 g6 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. Bc4
This is another common way for white to play the Grand Prix Attack. White may hope to keep this bishop on the board for a while – something that doesn’t often happen in the Bb5 variation!
This bishop bears down on the f7 pawn. Black can blunt this diagonal with …e6, but white may hope that this bishop might help make an eventually f4-f5 breakthrough even stronger.
The downside is that this bishop might be a target for black’s expansion. For example, …b5 might now come with tempo.
One interesting sample line begins with 5…e6 6. f5!?
That’s one way to use the bishop! It’s dangerous for black to accept this pawn sacrifice, as is often the case.
Instead, black can keep developing intending to strike at the center themselves. After 6…Nge7 7. fxe6 fxe6 8. d3 d5:
We arrive at this interesting position. Black’s king might be a little “airy” for the time being, but they’ve successfully taken over the center. Black has scored well from this position!
The Grand Prix Attack is a popular weapon against the Sicilian. White often plans to built up an attack on the kingside, and black needs to be well-prepared to counter with action on the queenside or center if they hope to survive!
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