Thursday, April 08, 2010

Smith-Morra Gambit Bibliography

When I first developed an opening repertoire in my teens, I got most of my information from the old Chess Digest pamphlets of Ken Smith and John Hall.  The Smith-Morra Gambit (1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3) thus naturally became my answer to the Sicilian.  The gambit was first analyzed by the obscure French player Pierre Morra (1900-1969) in the 1940s and 50s (generally via the move order 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.c3), but it was the American poker champion, chess publisher, and gambiteer FM Ken "Top Hat" Smith (1930-1999) who became its chief proponent, gambling on it even against top notch competition at San Antonio 1972

It has been many years since I took the Smith-Morra seriously.  But, as I rarely play much "serious" chess these days, I have begun toying around with it quite a bit.  As I wrote in The Smith-Morra Gambit's Siren Call, it's tough to resist the pleasures afforded by the line, as it promises a wide open board with plenty of active piece play and tactics.   Recent analysis (most notably in The Modern Morra Gambit by Hannes Langrock) suggests that there is no completely clear way for Black to refute it and many ways to go wrong, so even some titled players have added it to their repertoires, and most of their opponents continue to choose the safer course of declining the gambit (generally with 3...Nf6, which transposes directly to the Alapin Sicilian, saving study time).  Ultimately, the Smith-Morra is still a fun line to play at the amateur level and one that guarantees many quick victories with only some risk against the most well-prepared opponents.

IM Marc Esserman is one rising star who regularly plays the Smith-Morra Gambit, and he will be giving a lecture on it at the Kenilworth Chess Club on April 15, 2010 ("Tax Day") at 8:15 p.m.  The lecture is open to the public and admission is $10.

To get us thinking about his lecture, I have prepared a bibliography to whet your appetite, with a number of recent and forthcoming works of interest in both the Smith-Morra Accepted and Smith-Morra Declined (or Alapin).  Everything is listed in reverse chronology, as best I can offer (difficult with web sources), with links to preview, purchase or download items available via the internet.  I have generally left off all but the most influential Black repertoire books that offer only a game or chapter on the gambit, as well as opening encyclopedias which may only mention it in a line or two of analysis.  As always, I welcome reader corrections and additions. And I will be adding some more materials myself (especially videos) over the next couple of days.

I would like to give special thanks to Michel Barbaut, who shared a wonderful bibliography with me and a very rare picture of Pierre Morra that appeared with an article in a French magazine.

Smith-Morra Accepted

Boris Alterman, The Alterman Gambit Guide: White Gambits (Quality Chess 2010)
Just released, this book seems similar in design to Nigel Davies's Gambiteer (which, surprisingly, did not feature the Smith-Morra but instead the Wing Gambit against the Sicilian).  Alterman did some great videos for ICC, and his breezy style seems to translate well to print based on the excerpt available online and other materials at his blog.  The book is clearly pitched to low-rated amateurs or beginning players, with move-by-move explanations but not necessarily very complete or deep analysis.  It covers the Danish Gambit, Urusov Gambit, Philidor, Cochrane Gambit vs the Petroff, Morphy Attack (Fried Liver?), Max Lange, Evans Gambit, Panov Attack, Morra, and Milner-Barry Gambit.  Red meat for the mad dog.

TheChessWebsite, Chess Openings - Smith Morra Gambit (2010)
A good video for amateurs, introducing the Smith-Morra gambit and quickly reviewing main lines.

Michael Goeller, Youthful Smith-Morras and The Smith-Morra Gambit's Siren Call (2009) Some games with the Smith-Morra from when I was a kid and a lengthy meditation on whether or not to play the gambit.

GambitFan, Smith-Morra Gambit All at
A way to learn the Smith-Morra is to play over a bunch of games online, and this link offers you a quick and easy way to do so.  See also his collections on the Smith-Morra Gambit with ...e5?! and the Alapin Variation (or Smith-Morra Declined).

Jeremy Silman, Smith-Morra Gambit ( 2009)

John Emms, Starting Out: The Sicilian 2nd edition (Everyman Chess 2009)

Efstratios Grivas, "A Black Repertoire  against the Morra and Grand Prix." NIC Yearbook 88 (2008).  Recommends the line with Nc6, e6, Bb4, and Nge7 as about equal.

Smith-Morra Gambit: Chess Openings on Demand (2008)
An interesting use of blogger to post a complete Smith-Morra repertoire in text format.

Mark Ginsburg, Defending the Smith-Morra (2008)
IM Ginsburg regularly turns up his nose at gambits and this article (written in apparent anger at only drawing IM Mark Esserman in the line) is no exception.  His recommendations are similar to Tim Taylor's (see below), and both seem inspired by Smith - Evans, San Antonio 1972.  Also available in html format.

Gary Lane, Bliss (Opening Lanes #118, ChessCafe 2008)
Annotates the game Cor van Wijgerden-Oscar Panno Amsterdam 1980 which featured the defense Nc6, e6, Bb4, Nge7.

Boris Alterman, Chess Lessons Blog: Morra Gambit (2008)
Several blog entries directed at beginners and amateurs -- and likely the basis for his recent book.

Boris Schipkov, The Siberian Trap (Chess Siberia 2008)
Annotates Kolenbeck - Schipkov, 1987, which may well be the stem game of the "Siberian Trap."

Alex Lenderman, Smith Morra Gambit, Part 1 (free), Part 2, and Part 3
(Internet Chess Club, 2007-2008). Part 1 is available free of charge, but Parts 2 and 3 require membership to ICC to login and view. 

Ecspade, Smith Morra Gambit, Part One and Part Two (2007)
A useful video for amateurs by a 1400 player.

Richard Palliser, Fighting the Anti-Sicilians: Combating 2 C3, the Closed, the Morra  (Everyman Chess 2007)
This is a useful book for any Sicilian player who favors e6 or Classical structures, as Palliser's recommendations against the anti-Sicilians favor French set-ups and generally ignore problems faced by the d6 player (even skipping coverage of the Moscow Variation entirely).  Palliser offers two antidotes to the Morra: the first, playing Nc6, d6 and a6, heading for a game like Smith - Evans, San Antonio 1972 (as recommended by Tim Taylor); the second, to play e6, a6, b5, and Bb7 followed by d6, Be7, Nbd7, Ngf6 etc.

Morra News Since Langrock's Book (Chess Publishing forum thread 2007)

Bill Paschal, Playing the Black Side of the Smith-Morra Gambit ( 2007)

Jonathan Rowson, Andrew Martin, Gary Lane, Smith-Morra Gambit (B21)  (Chess Publishing 2007)

Tim Harding, "Has the Smith-Morra Gambit Been Revived?" (Kibitzer #134, ChessCafe 2007)
Harding reviews Langrock's book (see below) and provides a very useful overview of the current state of Smith-Morra theory. 

Roger Coathup, The Smith-Morra Gambit: The Siberian Trap (Chess Tales Blog 2007)

Hannes Langrock, The Modern Morra Gambit: A Dynamic Weapon against the Sicilian (Russell Enterprises 2006)
This is currently the essential book if you want to play the Smith-Morra.  I think it is very objective and also very well presented.  It also tries to explain alternatives and not simply focus on the recommended lines.  Reviews by Jeremy Silman, John Donaldson, Carsten Hansen and John Watson (among others) universally offer praise for Langrock's "labor of love" even if they disparage the opening itself.

Gérard Demuydt, Lutter contre le Gambit Morra, Part One and Part Two
A variation against the Smith-Morra with 4...e6, 5...a6 and 6...b5 (Part One) or 6...Ne7 (Part Two).

Alexander Bangiev, Felderstrategie: Für Morra-Gambit‎ (Silbersaiten Verlag 2006)
I'd be very interested in an English translation of this book, which seems to continue Bangiev's discussion of square strategy in particular openings.

Girolt Thierry, Le Gambit Morra (Echecs Passion 2006)
A useful quick-start guide to the gambit.

Jesse Kraai, The Siberian Trap in the Smith-Morra Gambit ( 2006 - subscription required) You can also see this video in two parts (Part One and Part Two) online at YouTube.

Jesse Kraai, The Smith-Morra Gambit ( 2005 - subscription required)

Tim McGrew,  "The Power of Ideas" (Gambit Cartel #27, Chess Cafe 2004)
McGrew tells the story of a game where young Pete opens with the Smith-Morra Gambit, describing his thoughts and emotions before, during, and after the course of play. It is really a ground-breaking piece of chess writing which manages to both instruct and entertain, while it also offers a rather convincing defense of playing gambits to develop tactical awareness.

Tim McGrew,   "A Little Learning" (Gambit Cartel #20, Chess Cafe 2004)
The first "Peter Story," where Pete's chess instructor tries to convince him to ignore the database statistics and stick with the Smith-Morra Gambit, because if you look at the games where White loses you quickly see that he was just a complete putz.

Gary Lane, "Scream" (Opening Lanes #68, Chess Cafe 2004)

Academia de Xadrez Xeque-Mate,  El Gambito Smith-Morra PDF Download (2004) 
From the Wayback Machine--downloads direct.  Not bad.

Roman Dzindzichashvili, Roman’s Lab 65 : The Difference between sound and unsound ways to play sharp openings (DVD 2004)

Boris Alterman, Morra, Part Two (ChessBase 2004)

Boris Alterman, Meeting the Sicilian with the Smith-Morra Gambit (ChessBase 2004)

Igor Stohl, "Yet Another Refutation Attempt."  NIC Yearbook 67 (2003)

Nigel Davies, Amateur Chess Is Different (Let's Take a Look #3, Chess Cafe 2003)

Albert Hoogendoorn, The Smith-Morra Gambit PDF at Chessville (2003)
See also Part One and Part Two as HTML at Chessville -- but the related PGN links no longer work and are not stored in the archives.

Michael Jensen, Stephen Ham and Joe Shipman, "The Smith-Morra Gambit, Part 6: A topical line." Correspondence Chess News 91 (2003) This and the following can be found via the Wayback Machine:

Michael Jensen, "The Smith-Morra Gambit, Part 5: Mauling the Grandmasters." Correspondence Chess News 86 (2003)

Michael Jensen, "The Smith-Morra Gambit, Part 4: The Faroese Connection." Correspondence Chess News 79 (2002)

Michael Jensen, "The Smith-Morra Gambit, Part 3: The 'Open Sicilian' setups." Correspondence Chess News 77 (2002)

Michael Jensen, "A Case For The Smith Morra Gambit, Part 2: Snaring the Siberian." Correspondence Chess News 72 (2002)

Michael Jensen, "A Case for the Smith-Morra Gambit, Part 1: Michael's Miniatures." Correspondence Chess News  70 (2002): 13-20.
A useful collection of amateur games (below 1700) that show many ways Black can go wrong. You can find CCN online in both PDF and PGN formats at

Jim Bickford, The Main Line Smith-Morra Gambit Accepted (Syzygy Publishing 2002)

Jim Bickford, The Dragon vs Smith-Morra Gambit Accepted (Syzygy Publishing 2002)
I have not seen these volumes, but most others in the series were just made up of "data dumps" of games.

Franco Pezzi, The Gambitingly Way (CD 2001-2002)
Features quite a few annotated games.

T. Born, Morra Gambit ( 2001)
PDF database article from the archives.

John Emms, Starting Out: The Sicilian 1st edition (Everyman 2001)
See second edition above.  Has a chapter on the Smith-Morra.

Andrew Martin, Morra Gambit Accepted.  Foxy Video Series, Volume 36 (DVD, 110 min., 2000) 
A very interesting presentation which mostly follows the recommendations and idea of Graham Burgess (including h4 vs the Fianchetto defense with g6).  A useful introduction to the Smith-Morra for those looking to get started playing it quickly. 

Peter Doggers, "A Refutation Refuted." NIC Yearbook 57 (2000)

Bob Ciaffone and Ben Finegold, Smith-Morra Gambit, Finegold Defense (Gameplayer 2000)
A pamphlet with some good ideas but poorly presented for usability, with much more prose than analysis.  I assume it is more the work of Life Master Ciaffone than now-GM Finegold, though I know Finegold has used this line (in a game I will analyze here).  This was reviewed by John Watson  rather favorably, even while he critiqued all of the analysis he examined while still bowing to anti-Morra prejudice -- noting, after showing that White is doing well against some of their lines: "Of course, by normal development, I'm sure that Black is still better (this IS the Smith-Morra, after all)."  GambitChess has posted a database book in PGN.

Pascal, Le Gambit Morra Accepte (Club d'echecs Latourdivoire 2000)

Barnett Chess Club,  The Smith-Morra Gambit System Against the Sicilian Defence (October 1999)
A very useful introduction to the Smith-Morra from the former Barnett Chess Club website.

Gary Lane, "The Unknown Move" (Opening Lanes #12, Chess Cafe 1999)
Looks at Adams - Watson, British Championship 1990.

Morra Gambit in a Week (Anova 1999)

József Pálkövi and James Cobb, Morra Gambit‎  (Caissa Chess Books, Kecskemet 1998 / 2000)
Absolutely ground breaking for its time.  Langrock credits Palkovi with introducing him to the Morra, but he also points out a number places where the book is overly optimistic or mistaken regarding analysis.  Like other intriguing books by Palkovi, it is now difficult to get hold of a copy, which suggests that it is held tightly by Smith-Morra lovers.  See review by Carsten Hansen.

Natasha Regan and Susan Lalic, Trends in the Smith-Morra Gambit (Chess Digest 1997)

Smith-Morra Gambit Accepted, B21 (Moravian Chess 1996)

John Watson and Eric Schiller, Big Book of Busts (Hypermodern Press 1995)

Francis Meinsohn, Virginie (1994)
I was not able to track down further information on this intriguing title from a well-known French FM theoretician.  Reader information welcome.

Morra Gambit: Collection of Games (Echecs International 1994)

Graham Burgess, Winning with the Smith-Morra Gambit (Batsford 1994)
This was the last great book on the Smith-Morra that revived interest in the line, but it would be over a dozen years before anyone would offer a better book from the White perspective.  This book also offers a White repertoire for when Black declines the gambit.

Tim Taylor, How to Defeat the Smith-Morra Gambit: 6...a6 (Chess Enterprises 1993/2002)
Widely available for free download.  Also available as a database book in PGN from Gambit Chess.

Ken Smith and Bill Wall, Smith-Morra Accepted: A Game Collection (Chess Enterprises 1992)

Andrew Martin, Trends in the Smith-Morra Gambit (Trends 1992)

Joseph Shipman, "The Smith-Morra Gambit Accepted" (Chess Horizons, 1990-1991)
There was a series of articles by the son of IM Walter Shipman in the award winning Massachusetts chess magazine.

Neil Carr,  Developments in the Smith-Morra Gambit, 1980-1989 (Quadrant 1990)

Attilio Sacripanti,  La difesa Siciliana, il gambetto Morra-Matulovic  (Mursia 1989)

Rolf Schwarz, Morra Gambit, Sizilianisches Mittelgambit  (Schachverlag Rudi Schmaus 1989)

Mike Basman, Chess Openings (Crowood Chess Library 1987)

Francis Meinsohn, Attaque à tout va  (Hatier 1985) 

Eduard Gufeld, Le Gambit Morra  (Grasset 1984)

Lev Polugajevsky, Sizilianisch: Morra-Gambit bis Scheveninger System (Sportverlag 1982)

János Flesch, The Morra Smith Gambit (Batsford 1981)
This was the book I studied most closely in the early 80s and it made a good case for the gambit, featuring some interesting games I have not seen in databases since.

J. Negro, Une étude du gambit Pierre Morra, défense Sicilienne  (1978)

Ken Smith, Sicilian: Theory of the Smith-Morra Gambit in games, 1968 thru 1973 (Chess Digest 1974)  GambitChess has posted a database book in PGN.

Ken Smith, Sicilian: Theory of the Smith-Morra Gambit in games, 1846 thru 1967  (Chess Digest 1974)

Ken Smith, Sicilian: Smith-Morra Gambit Accepted  (Chess Digest 1972)

Eduard Gufeld, Chess 37 (1972): 207ff.

Sthig Jonasson, Morra-Smith Gambit (Schackbulletinens Forlag 1971)

Ken Smith, "Smith-Morra Gambit vs the Sicilian Defense," Chess Digest 2-3 (1969).

Walter Korn, Chess Review 24-25 (1956): 268ff, 302ff

Pierre Morra, Le Jeu des Echecs (1952)

Pierre Morra, Le fameux gambit Sicilien (1946)

Additional Resources

The Smith-Morra Declined (Alapin / c3 Sicilian)
The main advantage of the Smith-Morra Gambit is that while Black can transpose to lines of the standard c3 Sicilian, the defender's choices are more limited because the pawn capture cxd4 has already been played.  This is not intended as a complete list, and  I have included only sources from the last 15 years.

Evgeny Sveshnikov, The Complete c3 Sicilian (New in Chess, expected September 2010)
This is an exciting development: a book on the c3 Sicilian by its greatest theoretician.

Bill Paschal, Creative Opening Concepts; Part III; Against the c3 Sicilian ( 2010)

 J. Patrick, New Paths in the Smith-Morra Gambit Declined, More, Part Two and More Adventures

Sam Collins, Chess Explained: The c3 Sicilian (Gambit 2007)
Covers the opening in 25 well annotated games.  

Richard Palliser, Fighting the Anti-Sicilians: Combating 2 C3, the Closed, the Morra  (Everyman Chess 2007)

Sergei Tiviakov, Sicilian Defense with 2.c3 - Alapin Variation (ChessBase 2007, 4 hour DVD)

Hannes Langrock, "Taming the Gallagher-system in the 2.c3-Sicilian" (ChessCafe 2007)
Covers an interesting line vs the Gallagher Variation (1.e4 c5 2.c3 Nf6 3.e5 Nd5 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nf3 e6 6.cxd4 b6) with 7.Bc4!? intending to swap the Bishop for the Knight to gain some control over d5.

Hector Leyva Paneque, Una Defectuosa Defensa en la Variante Alapin de la Siciliana (InforChess 2006)

Dorian Rogozenko, Alapin Sicilian CD (ChessBase 2006)

David Vigorito, The 2.c3 Sicilian for Black: Part I and Part II ( 2006)

Dorian Rogozenko, Anti-Sicilians: A Guide for Black (Gambit 2003)

Joe Gallagher, Beating the Anti-Sicilians (Batsford 2003)

Eduard Gufeld and Nikolaĭ Kalinichenk, Chess Strategy  (Batsford 2003)

Juan Rohl, Defensa Siciliana, Variante Alapin (Hechiceros 2003 -- from archive)

Eduardas Rozentalis & Andrew Harley, Play the 2c3 Sicilian (Gambit 2002)
Rapidly becoming rare, yet correctly recommended and praised by several writers.  You should get a copy soon if you don't have it already. See review by Randy Bauer.

Joe Gallagher, c3 Sicilian (Everyman 1999)
Features 70 games, many won by Black, leading Watson in a review to suggest that the line is dead.

Graham Burgess, 101 Chess Opening Surprises (Gambit 1998)
A fun collection of off-beat lines, including several in the c3 Sicilian which could occur by transposition from the Morra -- especially the "unrefuted line" 1.e4 c5 2.c3 d5 3.exd5 Qxd5 4.d4 cxd4 5.cxd4 Nc6 6.Nf3 Bg4 7.Nc3 Bxf3 8.gxf3 Qxd4 9.Qxd4 Nxd4 10.Nb5.

Eduard Gufeld, An Opening repertoire for the positional player (Cadogan / Everyman 1998) 

Murray Chandler, The Complete c3 Sicilian (Batsford 1996)
A useful reference manual, combining detailed analytic coverage with 70 games, plus an index of variations.

Paul Motwani, H.O.T. Chess (Batsford 1996)
Analyzes the game Motwani - Tiviakov, Gausdal 1992, featuring the line 1.e4 c5 2.c3 d5 3.exd5 Qxd5 4.d4 Nc6 5.Be3 cxd4 6.cxd4 but without sufficient consideration of 6...e5.


BRF Fågelsången said...

Thank you soooooo much! Great collection of resources. I hav great expectations on "The Alterman Gambit Guide" and is sleeping in the mailbox waiting for it to arrive!

Laurent S said...

Fantastic compilation !

Congrats !

Dan Scoones said...

An extraordinary compilation -- thank you for seeing it to completion! I now feel somewhat fortunate to have acquired a copy of Palkovi's book this year -- I didn't realize it was somewhat rare!

Tom said...

Hey Michael, sorry to intrude on this wonderfull post but you once started a black 1. e4 e5 rep with a focus on playing g6. Are you going to continue with that serie or not?

If not, thanks for the great material, otherwise: even better

Again sorry for going off topic



Michael Goeller said...

Hi Tom --

The Open Game g6 Black repertoire is hardly forgotten, especially since it is my own main repertoire these days. I have done extensive research and some analysis, but it is going to take some time to put together my notes into more articles. These days, I am having trouble just finding time for chess at all. But that should get better as summer progresses.

Mihail Marin has a good article in CBM 128, arriving at the g6 lines via 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 d6 with an eventual fianchetto. I have been looking at his ideas in comparison to the Larsen Philidor lines, and it is certainly interesting stuff, though I still prefer 3...g6 -- though you do have to deal with the dangers of 4.d4, including 4.d4 exd4 5.Bg5! which would be my next focus if an article comes out. You should also have "Dangerous Weapons 1.e4 e5" which has a great chapter by Flear on g6 against the Scotch and Four Knights.

Those might hold you until I find the time to return to this topic... Thanks for your interest.

Tom said...

I have the dangerous weapons book and have given that stuff a punt. I also have Sokolov's Ruy Lopez Revisited which contains some good material on the Smyslov variation.

Which led to a websearch which led to this blog. I was quite amazed to see the possibility of g6 against the Italian game (and even more against the scotch gambit), which are 2 openings which are quite popular in my club.

So now I'm looking at that variation.

Michael Goeller said...

oh yeah -- forgot about Sokolov's book. I also like his material on the Nge7 line with g6 -- which Aronian has used in blitz with success. I was looking at that also, which is better than the lines discussed by Soltis. On the use of g6 in the Italian, you might also see Pinski's book on the Italian and Evans, which is very encouraging.

Tom said...

I have Pinski two knights and four knights books... . In my opinion he is not totally objective in his assessments showing a clear preference for black in both books.

Anyway, perhaps if I see it the bargain bin.

In one of the recent BCM there is an article on Aronian's games in the variation you mention (Cozio right?). Sokolov is a bit more pessimistic about that variation. Flear in Offbeat Ruy Lopez opines that both variations are closely linked. Personaly I prefer developping the knight to Nf6.

Anonymous said...


I think that "Pierre Morra, Le fameux gambit Sicilien (1946)" is not a book.

You can find a text on the webpage which says: "Pierre Morra -le fameux gambit sicilien- l'a fondé en 1946." In English: Pierre-Morra - [who gave his name to] the famous Sicilian Gambit - founded it [l’Echiquier Niçois] in 1946.


Michael Goeller said...

I have since posted a Smith-Morra Update that includes more material.

Michael Goeller said...

And I have an additional update, which includes a Review of Mayhem in the Morra.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Michael Goeller said...

There is an interesting article by CCIM Paul Santhosh on The Smith–Morra Gambit:

He offers some very interesting games, including an 1846 Kieseritzky game that must be the first recorded use of the gambit. And it's a great game: