Smith-Morra Gambit: Paulsen Formation


A teammate at The Unsound Openers recently challenged me to a correspondence game, and was willing to let me play the Smith-Morra Gambit. After my previous try-out with this opening, I was eager to discover other variations and ready to dive into deeper waters. My opponent chose for the Paulsen formation as defensive system, and looks like he got inspired by the Morphy Defense as well at some point.


My battle plan: 

  • Offer my opponent a free pawn and develop as quickly as possible
  • Limit his movements with a timely e5 but let him castle
  • Open the board and conquer some attacking lines, even at the cost of a minor piece or exchange sacrifice
  • Hunt down the enemy king until he slips and falls, or gets cornered in a spot where I can deliver the “coup de grâce”. 

Here’s the full game with annotations. Make sure to also check the Kieseritzky – Vitzthum von Eckstaedt game that diverts from mine in move 8.


Conclusion: In retrospect it appears that my attack starting with 15.Nfg5?! was a bit optimistic. But having much more active pieces and being in full offensive mode is a non-negligible advantage as well. Put enough pressure on the king from various sides, chances are that he will slip and fall. I kind of regret my opponent blundered with 23.Kd6?? as I’m curious to see how the game would have gone from there. But it was a fun and active battle, and a representative example of the Smith-Morra Gambit dynamics.