Smith-Morra Gambit: Paulsen Formation 
In my previous blogpost with the Smith-Morra Gambit: Paulsen Formation, we could already see how the opening encourages active play and provides tactical opportunities. In my next game I could try-out the pleasure of sacrificing my knight on d5, a typical move in many SMG variations designed to break open the center and launch a brutal attack.
But before we get to the game, how does one know when it’s the right time to “sac the knight”? As in the SMG this usually doesn’t lead to a quick mating sequence or the gain of bigger pieces, it’s not always obvious when to jump into the darkness. Luckily for the gambiteer, Esserman established a list of favorable conditions for this move. No binary algorithm, but the more of these are fulfilled, the better chance your sacrifice will pay off. Here’s the cheat-sheet:
- The Black d-pawn is still on the 7th rank (so we can occupy d6 with a pawn)
- Black has a knight on c6 (so exd6 wins a tempo)
- White’s bishop is on b3 already (so Na5 after exd6 doesn’t win back a tempo)
- Black has not castled yet (the further away from castling, the better)
- Black played b4 (and lost a tempo)