The Grand Prix Attack begins 1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. f4. It is an anti-Sicilian for white that is popular among club players because playing it requires memorizing significantly less theory than the open Sicilian. However, I wonder if playing it is a good choice.

According to the 365chess database, after playing 3. f4, white wins 36% of the time, while black wins 40% of the time. That is, by playing 3. f4, the white player seems to give black a slight advantage. Compare this to the open Sicilian or the 2. c3 Sicilian, where white maintains a slight advantage in winning percentage. It is tempting to conclude that white should not play the Grand Prix attack, and instead choose another anti-Sicilian. The large sample size (11,000 games) seems to indicate that playing 3. f4 really does put white at a disadvantage, and that the winning percentages aren't just a statistical anomaly.

It's not hard to come up with an explanation. Moving the f4 pawn seems to give white a slight structural disadvantage. If white can't strike the killing blow and black can close up the game, the weakened kingside allows black counterplay.

Certainly, one can easily think of objections to this analysis. For example, the games in the database are not a random sample, and there is probably a large bias towards 2000+ level play. And it's true that at a club level, especially below 1600, tactical blunders in the middlegame are going to make the opening moves irrelevant. But the sample size is huge, and the effect is significant (a 4% advantage in winning percentage for black, instead of the usual 3% advantage for white in the open Sicilian). Why not play it safe and choose a different anti-Sicilian? I don't think club players should hamstring themselves unnecessarily.

In light of the above, are there any good reasons for club players to play the Grand Prix Attack instead of a different anti-Sicilian? For example (and I don't have the computational skill to do this, otherwise I would), do the winning percentages look different for sub-2000 players?

  • Please note that statistics are not everything. It could be that the Grand Prix attack is preferred by weaker players (for example, because it doesn't have much theory). Or maybe people use it as a weapon against stronger opponents (see the Exchange variation in the French, for instance)
    – David
    Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 7:55

8 Answers 8


I don't have any statistics to back this up, but many openings where black has a large plus against white it isn't necessarily because the opening is actually so bad that it gives black a significant advantage, but because the opening is more popular at a lower level (which is normally because it actually is worse than other openings) so the players who play it are on average lower rated than their opponents and would most likely score less than 50% anyway.

Normally the openings with low percentages for white are slightly worse than other openings for white, but not necessarily so bad as to give black the advantage, but then the fact that they're worse than others kicks in and the higher level players play them less often, leading to that opening to score a lot of losses for white, even in a game which is even or with a slight edge for white after the opening.


Every (almost) opening scheme is suitable for some players or situations but not for others. If you like the positions you get from the Grand Prix, play it. Keep in mind defenses for Black have been worked out.


The Grand Prix is a very aggressive opening, and as such, it may be played when someone really needs a win, or they know their opponent may be superior at slower lines, as Qiri alluded above. But that's more about aggressive openings than the GP itself.

The Grand Prix seems suitable for club play if you know the ideas. I think Sunil Weeramantry had a book with a few GPA games that showed how it worked. Pretty much any opening with f4 is good at the club level (Austrian Attack, 4 pawns vs King's Indian) because it's fun to attack, and people aren't as focused on defense.

I remember dabbling in the QGA and not realizing I needed to attack the king, and that was kind of a failure. I think the worst that happens if you play it is, you find you don't like it, but you get an appreciation for Black's game. So if you are looking specifically to avoid very sharp play and big attacks, the GPA is probably not for you. The c3 (Alapin) sicilian may be a better bet.


If Black knows what his doing, he can obtain easy equality. It's not an opening where White is likely to gain an advantage.


The GP 'attack' is very good especially for folks under IM.

You have to be careful about interpreting databases. Look at the ratings included. Try filtering and see how the numbers change. Try another database and see how they change too.

You have to be careful of transpositions. EG chessbase has black doing 4% better if white starts with p-kb4 instead of with n-qb3. And there are other ways to transpose with different winning percentages depending on where you are in the game.

Just looking at stats will let you think that you have a great chance of winning a game and one more move suddenly they flip and your chances are fat slim and none.

And no matter the rating level, all stats are sullied with mistakes. Even GMs will toss a queen sometime.

Also there is a big difference between playing a computer and a person. If you are not a computer you should play what you are comfortable with not try to memorize the winning percentages of every line you might play sometime.


In Club level and below 2200 level it is a good weapon but in Top GM Tournaments it is not that frequent . Gawain Jones is a GM who has a video on it . Here is an example of his Play . "Sicilian Grand Prix Attack"

  • but has a much higher winning % at high levels. over 80% although that is based on very small statistical sample. Commented Feb 6, 2020 at 16:22

To answer the last part of your question. at the all games level white gets in the low 40s at that position but if white played differently on the next move he could get 70s% [so why does white play those other moves at all ? !! ]

at the 2700 level white wins 85% but that is based on very small statistical sample. there must be a reason it is played so little.


You make some interesting points. After 1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. f4 white clearly has the better center from a classical standpoint. You say there's a "slight structural disadvantage" and while I don't necessarily disagree, I do agree that there are some weaknesses that might not be so obvious. Engines tend to rate these types of positions better for the other side as well. I still think white is objectively a little better despite all of the evidence to the contrary but it is something for me to think about.

That being said, from a practical standpoint, the opening is fine. The Lichess database sorted at <2200 has white crushing with a 54.5% win percentage. I think it's perfectly playable for most players

For someone who likes f4/f5 openings (ie King's gambit, Dutch, Latvian, Schlieman etc) the GPA is an excellent choice and will lead to a lot of similar types of positions.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.