Grand Prix Attack is an aggressive chess opening in Sicilian Defense (1.e4 c5) where White aims for an early f-pawn push. Instead of developing the g-Knight to f3, 3.f4 is chosen after the typical 1.e4 and 2.Nc3. Then, the g1-Knight is improved to its casual place, and a fierce battle begins.
Grand Prix Attack originated in London in the 1800s, where two chess experts experimented with this novel approach. Today’s lines differ from their initial routes, and players usually desire an early Nc3 rather than committing to a straight pawn advancement. Nowadays, people use this chaotic tool to accelerate their assault on their rival King. It is played at every level and often leads to sharp scenes. Grand Prix Attack is objectively not a very sound opening if the opposing side is well-prepared.
Winning Percentage on Both Sides
Unlike other popular variations, this one favors Black at a high level.
Master Games Statistics
|Victory for White
|Victory for Black
Statistics from 1.1 Million Amateur Games
|Victory for White
|Victory for Black
This chess opening holds all the fighting spirits after 3.f4 is chosen. By choosing this tract, further assault on the short side is often desired. The opposing side typically goes for the casual pawn set-ups and piece placements with the fianchetto on g7.
White often seeks a Kingside assault where the pawns march up the board to create menace on the rival. A further f5 is one of the key moves that can prove an edge once it works. Due to its closed nature, the game can be one-sided if the enemy is not seeking a counter-assault on the long side. The Queen often seeks a flexible place to look out for an entry in the short side by going to e1. It is essential not to overextend the pawns and create irreparable weaknesses.
On the other hand, Black looks to kick the enemy from the long side and utilize the g7-Bishop and its scope. An expansion over the Queen side can be beneficial to accomplish this mission. Since the ‘a7-g1’ diagonal is fragile to all the threats, placing some pieces over there to trouble the rival is often a considerable choice. Also, if the opponent doesn’t achieve a sound assault on the short side, their potential weaknesses can be exploited in the endgame.
Grand Prix Attack Theory
As a closed option, most variations lead to a strategy battle. Black often maintains a strong pawn structure, and the rival tries to break through it.
The main line starts with the assault on the Knight (5.Bb5). Grand Prix Attack leads to sharp and complex positions where both parties try to rein squares and limit the rival’s options. It often requires the ability to calculate precisely to avoid any pitfalls.
The second most played move is simply improving the Bishop to c4. This often leads to solid scenes where both sides aim to outplay the opposing side strategically.
Main Line: 5. Bb5
It starts with 1.e4, and the opposing side chooses to enter Sicilian territory by replying 1…c5. Then, 2.Nc3 aims to stop the rival’s classic d5 idea. If it is not played and 2.f4 is chosen instead, 2…d5 is already pleasant for the opponent. Hence, 2.Nc3 is chosen and replied to by typical 2…Nc6. And only after then, 3.f4 is chosen to unbalance the scene. The firm approach often requires a fianchetto on g7 by 3…g6 and 4…Bg7. White, in the meanwhile, advances the Knight to f3 and prepares to ruin the rival’s pawn structure by moving the f1-Bishop to b5.
From this moment, the best option is to reply by 5…Nd4. Anything else can be resulted in Bishop taking on c6 and ruining the pawn structure. White often seeks to solidify the pawn structure by an easy e3 if that ever occurs. Since the c-pawn will be on c5, the supposedly weak ‘a7-g1’ can’t be easily exploited. Also, there is a direct assault on the rival after a short side castle because all the pawns are ready to march up. The only way to avoid this kind of incident is to place the Queen somewhere (such as 5…Qb6 or 5…Qc7) to capture it on c6. This attempt is objectively very slow and gives the center to the rival. Also, White can go for e5 and rein over the f6-square in these cases.
One thing to be noted is that if 5…Qa5 is ever played; White has to choose the moves wisely. They can use the comfort route and weaken the rival’s pawn set-up (6.Bxc6 and 6…bxc6). The best way to proceed is not to let the Black play c4 and exchange itself for the d-pawn. Hence, 7.d3 is an excellent choice to maintain a healthy pawn structure. Also, if the opponent gets greedy and takes the extra pawn (7…Bxc3 8.bxc3 and 8…Qxc3+), White can go for 9.Bd2 and preserve the dark-square Bishop on the board. Giving up a pawn to achieve total domination across the dark squares is often very good once the opponent fianchettos in a dark square. Since the King will be fragile and cannot get safe in the long side, the attack will be sound, and this gives a big edge to White.
After the 5…Nd4 is chosen, the threat on b5 can be ignored with a simple 6. O-O. Then, the rival has several options (6…Nxb5, 6…a6 and 6…e6 are the most prominent ones). If they choose to increase the pressure on b5 by 6…Qb6, Nd5-c7 ideas would give a huge benefit (7.Nd5 Qxb5 would lose to Nc7+, followed by Nxb5). 6…Nxb5 is met by 7.Nxb5. Then, the rival can go a6 to kick the Knight away and play b5. Meanwhile, Knight can jump back to c3, and d3 can be played. Since no tension exists in the center, f5 would be the next target to break through in the short side (Qe1, Qh4, and Ng5 would be a sound assault once Black castles).
In most of these lines, White seeks an e5-f5 break to attack the enemy King and utilize the f1-rook. Conversely, the enemy looks to advance in the long side and limit the opponent’s options.
5. Bc4 Line
Opposed to the main line, this one starts with 5.Bc4 to aim for a firm position. After the Bishop scopes to f7, the rival often wants to break the connection on the ‘a2-g8’ diagonal by going 5…e6. It also contains a hidden threat (d5 with a tempo would be a dream scenario). There are several other alternatives, such as 5…d6 and 5…a6, to have a flexible route. Most of these variations would limit the c4-Bishop’s control over the critical places.
If we discover the alternatives before diving into the 5…e6 line, 5…d6 would be a better candidate to switch gears if needed. It opens up the c8-bishop and creates a slow e6-d5 idea. White often goes for 6.d3 to solidify the pawn structure, and the enemy can go for 6…e6 to kick the bishop from c4 by aiming d5. Here, 7.f5 is a good try to attack the rival. However, it would require White not to re-capture the pawn once 7…exf5 occurs. Because then, the f8-Bishop would be activated, and the dynamic play would disappear. Instead of that, 8. O-O is the way to activate the f1-Rook over the f-file. Since the c4-Bishop is now open to scope, 8…fxe4 would immediately lose to 9.Ng5, triple attack on f7.
If 5…a6 is chosen, White can stop the opposing side from expanding in the long side. 6.a4 stops the b5 ideas and leaves the opponent to go for slow e6-d5 again. After 6…e6 is chosen, 7.f5 can be picked to open the f-file to assault the rival. This line is similar to the previous one we discussed. However, the c8-Bishop is not open. This also gives an alternative, such as 8. exf5. From there, the enemy has to ignore that pawn because fxg6 wouldn’t be a good idea (it opens up the h-file, and the White King can be haunted once the short castle occurs). The most logical way to keep the tension up would be to castle and bring another attacker (the Rook) into the game.
Since we have seen the alternatives, the idea will be similar in the 5…e6 line. 6.f5 often looks to create imbalances. From here, the rival can either take the pawn with e- and g-pawns or ignore it by improving the knight (Nge7). White often wants to tempt the opponent to capture another pawn after a line like 6…exf5 7.d3, and 7…fxe4. Positions like this would favor White even though they are down a pawn. The rival will have difficulty developing the c8-Bishop and untangling after 8…Nge7 (get ready to castle before it’s too late, Bxf7 is a colossal threat after White castles due to Ng5) 8. O-O 8….O-O and 9.Qd6.
Even though White is objectively worse in most variations, Black can easily be punished if they play dubious moves. Black often needs to castle into safety and have a pleasant endgame with a better position.
Pros and Cons of playing Grand Prix Attack
|Black can be caught up off-guarded.
|Objectively not the best option for White.
|If the opponent is not prepared, the game can be one-sided.
|Black can equalize quickly if they know the lines.
|Some lines can be very sharp and can lead to an early victory.
|Some variations require positional understanding without concrete ideas.
|Since most of the positions are closed, even though White is down in material, the opponent might be unable to exchange pieces easily.
|White may need to sacrifice a pawn without intending to earn it back.
Grand Prix Attack is an aggressive variation of Closed Sicilian, where White aims to commit for an early f4. This approach is objectively not solid and may require sacrificing a pawn in some lines. However, it creates chances for the opponent to fail and blunder easily. It is used at every level; however, the results at the high level do not favor White because it can be refuted with enough preparation.
Is the Grand Prix Attack an anti-Sicilian?
Yes, the Grand Prix Attack is considered an anti-Sicilian opening. It is used by White as a weapon against the Sicilian Defense, aiming for aggressive play and quick development.
Is the Grand Prix Attack good opening?
The Grand Prix Attack is a good opening choice for players who prefer aggressive and tactical games. It’s particularly effective at club levels, though less commonly seen in top-level play. It offers White chances for a swift attack but requires accurate play to maintain the initiative.