2010-07-07

Attacking Chess Opening Overview - Smith-Morra Gambit

Overview
The Smith-Morra gambit always evokes a very strong response from many players. It is the ideal idea - limit the large amount of theory that one must know and learn a system that allows White to have an initiative while putting the Sicilian player on the defensive. It has a less than ideal reputation but it is a good alternative for players to learn tactics, open lines and have less opening study to do.

History
The gambit is relatively new, but the idea has been around for a while. Morphy was the first player to do the c3 gambit, but it was not in the modern move order. Tartakower was the first grandmaster who actually tried to play the modern move order. He played the gambit on and off through his career. In South America there was some analysis done by Rivadavia. The major contribution to the popularization of the gambit was done by Pierre Morra and Ken Smith. They provided a good amount of analysis and played it enough to get attention.

Moves
1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3. c3
This is the starting position of the Smith-Morra gambit.  It can be declined at this point, although accepting it with the intent to show it is weak seems like the rage right now.

3...dxc3 4. Nxc3 Nc6 5. Nf3 d6 6. Bc4 e6 7. O-O Nf6 8. Qe2 Be7 9. Rd1

This is the classical main line position.  White is threatening 10. e5, is castled, has an active position and development is ahead of Black.


In general, White develops with the following scheme Nf3, Bc4, O-O, Qe2, Rd1 followed by deciding on the best place for the queen bishop.  Sometimes Black plays to take advantage of this setup and it must be changed but normally Whites setup is fine.


Common Tactics
There are some common tactics that exist in the Smith-Morra. I list them below.
  1. e5 thrust
  2. Knight sacrifice on d5
  3. Piece Sacrifice on b5
Summary
The Smith-Morra gambit is a fun, exciting gambit that takes Black out of his comfort zone in the Sicilian.  The game usually ends up with White having the initiative in a fairly even game.  Black is denied from playing his pet Sicilian system and has to be more defensive.  There are a number of ways for Black to equalize, but the games are fun and complex.