Elizabeth's Grand Prix Attack
By Joel Benjamin   
January 26, 2007
Dear Joel,

I know the Grand Prix is supposed to be a silly opening, but I can't figure out what to do in the lines with 5. Bc4 where white either delays f5 for a couple moves with 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 g6 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bc4 e6 6.0-0 Nge7 7.d3 0-0 8.f5

I also wonder what to do when White plays f5 but refuses to take on e6, for example: 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 g6 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bc4 e6 6.f5 Nge7 7.0-0 ef5 (?!) 8. d3

The books I have don't even consider this. Any ideas? Thanks!


The problem with the Bc4 line for White is that Black is poised to bust out with a quick d7-d5.

In your first line, White has no good answer to 8... d5! Now 9.exd5 exd5 drops the f5-pawn. 9.Bb3 dxe4 9.dxe4 Qxd1 and Black can take the f5-pawn again with impunity.


Your second line is similarly busted by 7... d5! (instead of 7... ef5)

White has the same problem as before; he can sack a piece with 9.fxe6 dxc4 10.exf7+ Kf8 but it looks quite unsound. In the main lines with a quick f4-f5 and fxe6 White still cannot prevent d7-d5, but hopes Black will be open to a quick attack.

Many of those lines involve a piece sacrifice and are teetering on the edge of playability. White fares much better with Bc4 in the Grand Prix if Black has committed to an early d7-d6. Most grandmasters will only employ this setup with the move order 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 d6 (ready for a Najdorf or Scheveningen if White switches to Open Sicilian mode with 3.Nf3) 3.f4 Nc6 4.Nf3 g6 5.Bc4. I played that way against Sandipan Chanda in the last round of the World Open last year and nearly reached a winning position (and an extra 20 grand!).

By the way, the best way to solve thorny opening dilemmas is to use a combination of books and databases (if you have access to both). Databases don't provide enough explanation or context on their own, but they can explain why a certain move order is rarely played. Usually the answer is out there somewhere.

Joel Benjamin