Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Grand Prix Attack: Assets and Liabilities

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I was sick of playing the c3 Sicilian as white, and that I was ready to find a new response. At the time, I had narrowed down my choice to either the Smith-Morra Gambit or the Grand Prix Attack (GPA). I decided on the GPA (2. f4). I decided against the Smith-Morra Gambit, not because it isn't sound, but because good players don't accept it, and transpose into the French. I hate the French. I really like playing the GPA so far, and am clearly in the early "in love" phase of the relationship, so caveat emptor.

Here are some thoughts about the pluses and minuses of the GPA (note that there is an excellent Bibliography of literature on the GPA at the Kenilworth Blog):

1. Natural and principled moves, with a few exceptions, lead to a solid middlegame.
2. No hypermodern crap, which I hate, as in the Closed Sicilian. And I don't have to learn the reams of theory that go along with it, and the same goes for the Open Sicilian. Since the GPA isn't a main line, there isn't tons of theory to learn. (The GPA isn't mentioned in any of my beginning opening books!).
3. Tak complained that the GPA seemed like the KG, but with no gambit. Exactly! Translation: it's like the KG except you don't have to give a pawn away on move two! Don't most experts agree that the KGD is better for white than the KGA?
4. The pawn duo on e4/f4 is a powerful force, immediately applying pressure to black's kingside. Besides opening up a file for your f rook, the pawn on f4 creates a nice outpost on the e5 square, and threatens an f5 advance, blocking in black's white bishop. The power of the duo partly explains why it is smart for black to play 2...d5 against the GPA!
5. The pawn structure is similar to those I usually transpose into as white in the King's Pawn openings. Hence, I am already somewhat comfortable with the pawn duo on e4/f4, and the GPA has given me some new ideas that I'll be able to use in my King's Pawn games. I had read about synergy between repertoire choices, and now I get to see it. It's pretty sweet.

1. As Tempo pointed out, c2 is often a weak square. I'm not sure this is unique to the GPA response to c5. However, it is a genuine problem, a problem which the c3 Sicilian remedies (I have learned that in chess you pay for safety with boredom). I wonder if an early Na3 could sometimes be a good move to protect that square?
2. Typically black has a space advantage queenside, and has the opportunity to trap white's pieces there (for example, see this game where my bishop was trapped queenside). This is sort of unnerving.
3. Because of 2, there is a very tense middlegame, where black is gearing up for a queenside attack, and white for a kingside attack. It's all about the initiative, and if you aren't good at seizing the initiative when the position calls for it, you will be screwed. I am not good at seizing the initiative, or knowing when the position calls for an attack (any good books on this other than Art of Attack?), so I'll be taking some lumps as I improve.
4. The GPA will soon gain in popularity, unfortunately, as it is the recommended line in Chess Openings for White, Explained, which will surely be a chess bestseller. Oh well, at least I can say I played it before it was the cool thing to do.
5. Some say that 2...d5 refutes the GPA (hence, many have gone to playing the 'delayed' GPA 2. Nc3 3. f4, as white, to deal with it). Frankly, I think this obituary was written prematurely, but if the GPA starts to feel broke, I'll switch to the delayed GPA.

All in all, I'm very happy with the GPA. Typically, I can tell that I don't like an opening after a week or so playing with it (this happened with the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit and the Sicilian as black). I may have found a new life-partner (speaking of which, tomorrow is my 2-year wedding anniversary: Hi Julia!).


Blogger takchess said...

"Don't most experts agree that the KGD is better for white than the KGA?"

I think the jury is still out on this as evidenced by these experts play......
nice post btw

7/24/2006 05:53:00 PM  
Blogger takchess said...

Never mind I misread your sentence but enjoy the games!

7/24/2006 05:55:00 PM  
Blogger Asaph Ho said...

So currently what's your success rate with the GPA? I currently play the delayed GPA as I had similar problems with 1 e4 c5 2 f4 d5. Nice post anyway. Oh, and I also agree that White has problems on the queenside.

11/24/2007 03:49:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Asaph: I play the Smith-Morra Gambit now, but overall I think the GPA is good. I don't know what my success rate was. I didn't like it when black played an early h6, which kills a lot of white's attacking plans. Smith Morra is even more crazy and open.

11/26/2007 01:17:00 AM  
Blogger grrrrrrr said...

GPA is a good choice. Dzindzihashvilllie (whatever) likes it and he's a master at giving people what they like the least and what will be easy to play (non hypermodern) There are many tricks to it though first of all, 2 f4 is easily countered with 2..d5 where black gets everything they can prevent this by simply playing 2Nc3 and 3 f4 and will nver have to deal with 2d5...another trick is to pin with bishop on b5 and take if they do not protect, when black doubles the pawns you should win every game
which is directly counter to what 99% of sicilian players believe...arfter the pawn are doubled look to defend e4 with d3 then B goes to d2 then the killer move...Na4!!!! shutting down the queen side ..almost...then c4!!!..Qe1 the is to NEVER, EVER let the a pawn for black advance, and ALWAYS have pressure on the doulbed pawns....their light bishop will be worthless and they will have to open up the game with too few pieces....there are many other tricks but thats my's all i play and i have been VERY successful with it..playing 2Nf3 is a blunder for white....plain and simple against c5...good luck

1/07/2009 07:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting that you mention the Smith-Morra and the Grand Prix together. I know the SMG pretty well and have had a lot of success w/ it. My current strategy is to use the SMG against weaker players and the GPA against stronger. That way I can avoid all the lines/theory/complications of the Najdorf, etc. and still (hopefully) finish off patzers quickly. I still have to learn the GPA better, but I like what I've seen so far. Tend to think that 2.Nc3 is the best way to start it off tho.

10/31/2009 06:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been playing the delayed GPA for some time as well and I find that my bishop gets trapped on the queenside. I recently went over a game with Rybka in which intead of playing pawn to d3 after the bishop is developed to c4 or b5, the pawn was pushed to d4 before and then the bishop was placed on e2, like the classical lines in the open Sicilian. Is this still considered the GPA?

3/07/2010 03:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the main ideas is to play Bb5 and trade off the bishop, preferably weakening the pawn structure. You can then play positionally against the doubled pawns or go for the thematic K-side attack, with Qe1 and f5 ideas

2/16/2011 07:33:00 PM  

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