Monday, October 12, 2009

The Smith-Morra Gambit's Siren Call

A small wave of nostalgia for the Smith-Morra Gambit has been building in me of late, culminating in my finding an old scorebook from 1981 where it featured in at least half my games as White. I have posted analysis of two of the better ones I unearthed in "Youthful Smith-Morras" (along with a PGN to download). I am impressed by the creativity in these games, and playing them over (even the ones with too many errors by both sides to show) I am surprised by how well I was doing as White in every game. In fact, I would say that none of my losses were due to the opening, while it gave me many quick wins.

Goeller - Boudreaux, NC GP 1981
White to Play and Force a Draw

I had been thinking about the Smith-Morra since I saw a series of lectures by GM-elect Alex Lenderman at ICC back in late 2007. The recent game Esserman - Bartell, USCL 2009 revived my interest to some extent. Then last week I stumbled upon a super Smith-Morra webliography at The Bishops Bounty (a great blog by the way). And today I came close to buying The Modern Morra Gambit by Hannes Langrock. I didn't buy it, though (not yet, anyway). You'd think Tim McGrew's "The Power of Ideas" and "A Little Learning" would have convinced me that the Smith-Morra is not just some youthful indulgence. Maybe I've grown old and curmudgeonly in my attitude, sort of like IM Mark Ginsburg (author of "Defending the Smith-Morra") who analyzes the Esserman game at his blog, under the title "The Smith-Morra, again?" (you can just feel his exasperation). I should just dismiss the thought. But it is hard to resist the Smith-Morra Gambit's siren call.

Goeller - Glickman, NJ Junior 1981
White to Play and Win


Anonymous said...

The Globe's Chess Notes analyzes the Esserman game.

Anonymous said...

There is also Boris Alterman's blog and videos on the S&M.

Anonymous said...

"How to defeat the Smith-Morra Gambit: 6...a6", IM Timothy Taylor, Chess Ent., 1993

Almost An Outright Refutation O The Smith-Morra Gambit Accepted Variation

The material in this book is well researched and analyzed. In addition to providing a well selected, although limited bibliography, Mr. Taylor thoroughly analyzes all 12 games selected to provide the reader with a clear historical perspective and easy to understand theoretical overview. All the games are analyzed from the opening thru to the endgame. A revised edition thru 2010 would only further confirm the author's assessment and conclusions about this opening. This writer, having the advantage of a present day perspective, having read almost all publications since 1993, concurs with Timothy Taylor's incisive analysis and crystal clear assessment of the Smith-Morra Gambit Accepted Variation.

Anonymous said...


After studying this chess opening book, I now know that White has sacrificed a pawn (a material advantage for Black) for a temporary advantage in rapid development (a time advantage for White) to attack Black's position which is underdeveloped. A situation for Black which is not easily corrected without the correct plan. As IM Timothy Taylor explains, not only is the correct plan necessary, but equally important, move order is critical. The disadvantages of White's sacrifice of a pawn are of a more permanent nature. First and most important is the fact that just as in the Sicilian Defense Black has a 2 vs. 1 center pawn advantage, (i.e. Black has pawns at d7 and e7 vs. White's only pawn at e4). This is an advantage which usually endures into the endgame, not to mention that White has already sacrificed a pawn giving Black a one pawn advantage in any potential endgame if White is unable to recover the pawn with at least equality. Or should his attack fall short and fail to produce compensation for the pawn. Second, due to time constraints to exploit his temporary time advantage in development, White's plan of attack, much as in the Stonewall, is rather limited and rigid. The above, advantage vs. disadvantage summary is Mr. Taylor's general assessment of the opening. More specifically the move order recommended after the initial moves 1.e4 c5, 2.d4 cd4, 3.c3 dc3, 4.Nc3 are 4...Nc6. And, after White's usual response 5.Nf3, Mr. Taylor writes the best response is 5...d6. White's usual continuation is 6.Bc4 to which the author strongly emphasizes throughout his book the critical response 6...a6. Mr. Taylor's analysis is a lucid explantion of why this imove is critical. White's thematic moves are, Nf3,Bc4, 0-0, Qe2, (Bg5,Bf4, or Be3), R(f)d1, R(a)c1. As the reader will notice there are no pawn moves. This is due largely to the time constraints in exploiting the temporal advantage of rapid development. Time advantages are fleeting in nature and must be exploited within a few moves or they will dissapate. Pawn moves affect pawn structure and usually involve longer term plans of attack for which White has no time to spare. The last two games in the book illustrate in detail what the disadvantages are for White when he employs the pawn moves a3 and h3. Mr. Taylor recommends the Chicago Defense in both of these cases and analyzes in detail how Black is able to exploit this loss of time by White. An overarching theme in all 12 games is the elimination of White's dark square Bishop which creates a dark square color weakness for White that Black exploits primarily with his own dark square Bishop in combination with his Queen. I use the book in my games as Black. I rarely face the Smith Morra from opponents today.