Lawrence Trent: The modern Grand Prix Attack

by Davide Nastasio
3/2/2016 – If you play 1.e4 you need a weapon against the Sicilian. A good choice is the Modern Grand Prix Attack. The line is sound, aggressive, and easy to learn. White avoids theoretical clashes with well-prepared opponents and from the very start steers the game into structures he knows - if he studies Lawrence Trent's DVD on the modern Grand Prix Attack.

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Lawrence Trent: The modern Grand Prix Attack

A review

Tarrasch famously said: "Before the endgame, the gods have placed the middlegame". I would like to add and improve with "Before the endgame, the gods have placed the Opening!" Nastasio

IM Lawrence Trent begins his DVD on the Grand Prix Attack with a little history about the opening, saying that it is an anti-Sicilian line which rose to prominence in the 1980ies. Here we should delve a little deeper into chess history – it is worth it. It all began in 1974, when a sponsor – Cutty Sark Whisky – offered a £1000 prize to the most successful tournament player of the year. If the currency of the prize made you think that all this took place in the United Kingdom, you are right.

The first player who won the £1000 two times in a row was the famous Tony Miles. The prize also led players to compete hard, weekend after weekend, on the Grand Prix circuit. As a rule of thumb a player needed to score 5.0/6 in these tournaments to win some money but a pro like Miles had to make 5.5/6 to win enough money.

Nowadays playing five to six rounds on a weekend – and playing three games on Saturday – is quite normal, but at that time it was not. Pairings would usually be posted about 30 minutes before the round and you simply had no time to prepare for your opponent. But you had to win your games if you wanted to win money and so sharp openings like the King's Indian and the Sicilian became very popular – and hence the need to neutralize them!

I'd like to share a brilliant game, which isn't mentioned by Trent, to let the reader understand how dangerous the Grand Prix Attack is – a talented young player takes down an experienced GM!

 

Here’s another little gem of that period!

 

Thanks to the Megabase it took me only a few seconds to find these games.

But let's stop for a moment to consider why one should study and play this opening. Statistics give the answer! In fact, this opening is one of the most successful weapons against the Sicilian.

This said, Trent is cautious and in the introduction explains clearly what he is teaching us. He begins by saying that he will show a game with detailed analysis to prove that 2.Nc3 is better than 2.f4. He then explains that the reason he called this DVD "The modern Grand Prix Attack" is relative to the fact that certain former main lines of the Grand Prix are now obsolete and are no longer considered to give White an advantage.

Trent presents ideas and sidelines which promise to give White a good game. However, advocating to play 2.Nc3 instead of 2.f4 cannot be construed as "modern" or "new" because the English GM Gawain Jones, arguably the greatest Grand Prix expert of today, had already recommended this move order in his book "Starting Out: Sicilian Grand Prix Attack" from 2008.

Trent reveals that he had some fantastic victories with the Grand Prix Attack, but then stopped playing it for a while to return to it later in his career. Trent also makes some general remarks about the Grand Prix Attack:

1. If you like ultra-solid play this is not your opening. The Rossolimo (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5) or the Alapin (1.e4 c5 2.c3) are less risky.

2. But yes, if you don't want to spend a long time memorizing lines and studying theory this is the opening for you.

3. The opening is dangerous for Black. To illustrate this point Trent gives a number of lines which have not been explored enough, and which could land Black in trouble if he does not know his way.

4. This DVD is geared towards players who want to play the variation with White. However, Trent also shows the lines that were once considered to be the main lines and how Black can neutralize them.

5. Gawain Jones is the leading exponent in this opening and it’s a good idea to look at his games if you want to understand the main ideas of the Grand Prix Attack. Mark Hebden and Julian Hodgson also played the line successfully.

Gawain Jones at the London Chess Classic 2012

Here I would like to share a little gem by Gawain Jones: He wins in 28 moves, which shows how much venom this opening contains!

 

After studying the DVD I decided to study the opening more intensively. Here is how I usually proceed: Using the ECO code I filtered the games of the experts in this line which brought me a database of 2000-3000 games. I now created a new database (Sic_GP_main_players), and I put this first batch of games inside. I then filtered this database further and looked for games by Gawain Jones.

An easy way to find games in ChessBase files: the filter function

This brought me 143 games.

I then repeated the process for other main players of the Grand Prix Attack (for example Mark Hebden or Julian Hodgson), and in the end I had the best games played in the Sicilian Grand Prix. Watching these games over and over will help me more than trying to memorize the lines by heart, because these games show me where to put my pieces and how to handle typical structures.

Of course, one can also just use the database on the DVD which contains 121 illustrative games. However, with my system, I followed the development of Gawain Jones and I could see how he grew with the Grand Prix Attack. I witnessed how he solved crucial problems in this opening and played it successfully against a huge array of different opponents.

All in all the DVD contains 18 videos. The sixteen videos that are bracketed by the introduction and the conclusion form the theoretical framework one needs to know to play the Sicilian Grand Prix.

In these sixteen videos Trent shows three games from his own practice. As I had the feeling that he liked to play the Sicilian with Black I wanted to know how he fared against the Grand Prix Attack. According to the Mega-Database Trent played about ten games with Black against the Grand Prix Attack and suffered some tough losses. Perhaps these inspired him to put time and work into the opening to find a way to neutralize it.

But what did I learn from the DVD? A lot!! The Grand Prix Attack is a sharp opening and has accumulated quite a bulk of theory over the years. However, for amateurs it should be enough to learn the basic ideas of the line and Trent does a good job in explaining them.

Lawrence Trent in the ChessBase studio in Hamburg

I would like to conclude with the words of a wise GM: Sveshnikov, who tells us why we need to study, play and understand the Sicilian.

"It used to be said that without understanding the Spanish, one couldn't become world champion... because the Spanish is the best opening for White. In the same way the Sicilian is the best opening for Black... therefore today one cannot become World Champion without understanding both the Spanish and the Sicilian."

Sample Video:

Lawrence Trent
The modern Grand Prix Attack

• Video running time: 6 h 41 min (English)
• With interactive training including video feedback
• Exclusive database with 50 essential games
• Including CB 12 – Reader

€27.90
€23.45 without VAT (for Customers outside the EU)
$25.33 (without VAT)

This DVD can be purchased as a hard copy or it can be downloaded directly from the Internet, that way sparing you the few days needed for it to arrive by post.

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Davide Nastasio is a novel chess aficionado, who has made of chess his spiritual tool of improvement, and self-discovery. One of his favorite quotes is from the great Paul Keres: "Nobody is born a master. The way to mastery leads to the desired goal only after long years of learning, of struggle, of rejoicing, and of disappointment..."
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