The Grand Prix with Pawn to a3

Is an early pawn to a3 merely a waste of time in the Grand Prix Attack against the Sicilian or can it have a larger purpose? You be the judge.

Lawrence A Day - Anatoly Lein [B23]

Saint John op-1/Saint John 1988


1. e4 c5 2. f4 g6 3. Nf3 Bg7 4. Nc3 Nc6 5. a3 e6 6. b4!

This Wing Gambit Delayed is very effective here and forces Black to play very carefully.

 

6... cxb4?!

Exchanging the c-pawn for the b-pawn already looks like a mistake, but (in my experience) anyone who has not seen this before will be unable to resist this capture and likely unable to resist the pawn.

a) 6... b6!? asks "Why give him what he wants?" though White looks good after 7. e5 d5 8. h4!? Nge7 9. h5! with great long-tem attacking prospects. I have had great success with this idea in blitz games, even after accidentally sacrificing my Rook at a1 on occasion!

 

b) 6... d5 7. e5 f6!? 8. Bb5 makes for an interesting battle.

 

c) 6... Nxb4!? might surprise you, but it should be good for White long-term after 7. axb4 cxb4 8. e5 (8. Bb2!? bxc3 9. Bxc3 Bxc3 10. dxc3 leaves both players with severe structural weaknesses -- one of those positions where "both sides are lost.") 8... bxc3 9. d4 Ne7 10. Ba3 Nd5 11. Bc4 Nxf4 (11... Ne3 12. Qe2) 12. O-O

 

d) 6... Nge7! may actually be best, when grabbing the pawn is unclear after 7. bxc5 (7. e5) 7... Bxc3! 8. dxc3 Qa5 9. e5!? (9. Be3 Qxc3+ 10. Kf2 f5 11. Bd3) 9... Nd5 10. Bd3 Nxc3 11. Qd2 Qxc5 12. a4 h6 13. Ba3 Nb4 14. a5 Ncd5 15. Be4 (15. Kf1!) 15... Qc4 16. Qd4 Nxc2+ 17. Bxc2 Qxc2 18. O-O Qc3 19. Qa4 b5 20. Qxb5 Nc7 21. Qa4 Ba6 22. Rfb1 Nd5 23. Nd4 Qe3+ 24. Kh1 Qxf4 25. Qb3 f5 26. Nb5 Kf7 27. Nc3 Nxc3 28. Qxc3 Rhc8 29. Qe1 Rc2 30. Rb4 Qf2 31. Qxf2 Rxf2 32. Rd1 Ke8 33. Rc1 g5 34. h4 f4 35. Kg1 Re2 36. hxg5 hxg5 37. g3? Rc8 38. Rbb1 f3 39. Bc5? Rg2+ 0-1 Ermenkov,E-Cosma,I/Subotica 2002 (56)

7. axb4 Nge7

Accepting the gambit pawn just leads to trouble for Black due to his dark-square weaknesses. For example: 7... Nxb4? 8. Ba3 Bf8 (8... Nc6 9. Nb5!) 9. Qb1! Nc6 (9... a5 10. Nb5) 10. Nb5 d6 11. e5! This is exactly the sort of thing you are looking for with the b4-gambit.

 

8. b5! Nd4 9. e5 Nxf3+ 10. Qxf3 d5 11. Qf2!?

Going after the pawn at a7. Something like 11. Bd3 O-O 12. h4 f6 13. exf6 Rxf6 14. Ba3 may be the weirdly correct way to play this position.

 

11... f6 12. exf6 Bxf6 13. Rxa7 Rxa7 14. Qxa7

The extra pawn gives White the edge, but Black does have active squares for his pieces.

 

14... Nf5 15. Ba3 Kf7 16. g3 h5!

16... Bd4 17. Bc5

 

17. Bd3 Re8 18. Kd1 Bd4 19. Bc5 Bxc5 20. Qxc5

Lein puts up a good enough fight to draw the ending.

 

20... Qd6 21. Qxd6 Nxd6 22. Ne2 Bd7 23. Nd4 Kf6 24. c3 Ra8 25. Ke2 g5 26. h4 gxf4 27. gxf4 Rg8 28. Kf3 Nf7 29. Be2 e5 30. fxe5+ Nxe5+ 31. Kf2 Ng4+ 32. Bxg4 Rxg4 33. b6 Ke7 34. Nf3 Rf4 35. Ke3 Re4+ 36. Kf2 Rf4 37. Re1+ Kd6 38. Kg3 Rg4+ 39. Kf2 Bf5 40. Re8 Be4 41. Ne5 Rxh4 42. Kg3 Rh1 43. d4 Rb1 44. c4 dxc4 45. Nxc4+ Kd5 46. Nd2 Rg1+ 47. Kh4 Bh1 48. Rd8+ 1/2-1/2


Bernard Hanen - Bruno Belin [B23]

FRA AJEC/1162 corr/France 1986


1. e4 c5 2. f4 Nc6 3. Nc3 g6 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. a3 d6 6. Bc4

6. Bb5 is also playable but hardly consistent with 5.a3. And the b4-sac does not make as much sense against ...d6.

 

6... e6

6... Nd4 7. O-O Bg4? 8. Bxf7+ Kxf7 9. Ng5+

 

7. O-O a6?!

The Bishop at c4 provokes Black into wasting time with queenside action before completing his development. But the White Bishop will find a nice home at a2 and meanwhile Black has failed to capitalize on White's own tempo loss.

 

Better 7... Nge7 which appears to at least equalize after 8. Qe1 O-O 9. d3 Nd4 10. Qf2!? (10. Nxd4 cxd4 11. Ne2 d5 12. Bb3 dxe4 13. dxe4 d3 14. Nc3=) 10... d5 11. Ba2 b6 12. Re1 (probably necessary is 12. Nd1! Bb7 13. c3 Nxf3+ 14. Qxf3=) 12... Bb7 13. e5 Nxf3+ 14. Qxf3 Nf5 15. Rb1 Rc8 16. Bd2 h5 17. Qd1 a6 18. b4 c4 19. Ne2 d4 20. Bxc4 b5 21. Bb3 Nh4 22. Ng3 Bxg2 23. Qe2 Bh3 24. Qf2 Bg4 25. Re4 Qb6 26. Kf1 Nf3 27. c4 bxc4 28. dxc4 h4 29. Nh1 Qc6 30. Re2 Nxd2+ (30... Bh3+) 31. Rxd2 Qxh1+ 32. Qg1 Qf3+? 33. Qf2 1/2-1/2 Day,L-Frilles,R/Toronto 1997 (33) -- Black must have taken a draw in extreme time pressure.

 

8. d3 b5 9. Ba2 Nge7 10. Qe1

An alternative development scheme might be 10. Be3 O-O 11. Qd2 Nd4 12. Rae1 Nec6 13. Nd1 followed by c3 with the possibilities of b4 and e5.

 

10... O-O 11. f5 exf5

11... b4!? 12. axb4 cxb4 13. Ne2 exf5 14. Qh4 is still strong.

11... gxf5!? 12. Qh4 Nd4 13. Bh6 is less clear than the game continuation.

 

12. Qh4 Nd4?! 13. Bg5!

The pressure on e7 is going to be unbearable for Black. Note that he cannot break the pin since ...f6 is impossible due to the Bishop at a2.

 

13... Ndc6 14. Nd5 Ra7 15. exf5

White continues straightforwardly with the attack on e7. More decisive, if complicated, was a kingside attack by:

15. Nf6+! Bxf6 16. Bxf6 h5 (16... fxe4 17. Ne5! Nxe5 18. Qh6 Nf5 19. Rxf5) 17. Qf4 Kh7 18. Ng5+ Kg8 19. Nxf7 Qb6!? 20. Kh1 c4 21. dxc4

 

15... Bxf5 16. Rae1 Be6 17. Nxe7+ Nxe7 18. Bxe6 fxe6 19. Rxe6 Rf7?!

19... Re8! 20. Rfe1 Bf8 requires White to re-target his attack: 21. Qg3 Rd7 22. Bf4 d5 23. Ne5 Nf5 24. Rxe8 Qxe8 25. Nxd7 Qxd7 26. Qf3

 

20. Rfe1 Bf8 21. Bf6! Qc7 22. Ng5 Nf5 23. Qe4 Ng7 24. Bxg7!

24. Nxf7 Nxe6 25. Nh6+ Bxh6 26. Qxe6+ Qf7 27. Qxd6 is much less decisive.

 

24... Rxg7?!

24... Kxg7 25. Nxf7 Qxf7 26. Rf1

 

25. Re8!

with the powerful forking threat of Ne6 or Rxf8+ and Ne6+

 

25... Rf7 26. Nxf7

Black did not like the looks of 26...Qxf7 27.Rf1 etc.

1-0

Can White play the a3 and b4 idea when Black chooses a French set-up instead of a Fianchetto? The answer appears to be a firm "No."

Philip Roach (2205) - Jordi Magem Badals (2470) [B23]

Novi Sad ol (Men)/Novi Sad (14) 1990


1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 e6 3. f4 Nc6 4. Nf3 Nge7 5. a3?! d5 6. Bb5 dxe4 7. Nxe4 a6 8. Bxc6+ Nxc6 9. b4 cxb4 10. Bb2 bxa3 11. Rxa3 f6

11... Bxa3 12. Bxa3 Qa5 13. Nd6+

 

12. Nh4 Qc7 13. Re3 Nb4 14. O-O Nd5 15. Rb3 b5 16. d4 Bb7 17. Qh5+ Qf7 18. Qe2 Rc8 19. f5 Kd7 20. Re1 exf5 21. Nxf5 g6 22. Nfg3 Be7 23. Nc5+ Bxc5 24. dxc5 Rhe8 25. Qd2 Rxe1+ 26. Qxe1 Rxc5 27. Qf2 Rc4 28. Rd3 Kc8 29. Rd2 Nf4 30. Ba3 Qe6 31. Bd6 Nd5 32. Ba3 Qe3 33. Qxe3 Nxe3 34. Re2 Nxc2 35. Re8+ Kd7 36. Re7+ Kc6 37. Re6+ Kd5 38. Ne4 Kxe6 0-1

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