How to counter Smith Morra Gambit as Black

I had this slow chess 45/45 match coming against an opponent who, at 1591 was some 50 points ahead of me in live standard ratings. He was playing white. I decided to have a look at his previous games, to see his general opening patterns. I realized that after 1.e4 his favorite option is Morra gambit against black’s Sicilian Defense. He had completely destroyed his last two opponents with Morra. Since my experience with Morra gambit was too little and not too pleasant either,I decided to have little study for Morra. After searching  thorough internet and books I realized that almost all the material is from White’s perspective with little description on how black can counter vicious attack which follows after 1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3 dxc3 4. Nxc3…..


Finally I found a book , written by Timothy Taylor with title ‘How to defeat Smith Morra Gambit – 6…..a6’. 

So lets first see what smith Morra gambit is and what it tries to achieve. I will go through the main line only:

As you can see white is occupying the centre, ahead of development and ready to launch an vicious attack on black's kingside with f1 rooks aiming to come to e1, queen side bishop to occupy g5 and Q on e2.

What makes this gambit so lethal especially for beginners and intermediate level players that one wrong move and black will find itself defending throughout the game and with white attacking from so many quarters, it will be some task. I had even come across a video on youtube where a 1700 strength player defeated a titled player using Smith Morra.  

Lets go to what should be the most effective way to counter it:

Move order is crucial in this opening and following example will show how things can go wrong unless black doesn't play precisely:



Now I will just go on to my game and how I counter it. I effectively counter this gambit and even dominated him. I eventually lost the  game but not due to any positional inferiority but because of a tactical blunder. Yeah welcome to the land of Rishi... :)


  • 3 years ago


    @stormsout: yes 8. ..a6 mainline but I prefer delaying e6 a bit.

    As for 8. Qe2 is concern, I would line to develop bishop, wheather on f4 or on g5 and clear rank for my rooks before thinking of assaulting.

  • 3 years ago


    Nice variation. I also have been playing the Morra lately from white side. I'd play 8.Qe2, hoping for 8...e6 9.Rd1 and it is a transposition to the classical mainline with 8...a6. 

    1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Nxc3 Nc6 5.Nf3 d6 6.Bc4 e6 7.0-0 Nf6 8.Qe2 a6!? (8...Be7 is mainline) 9.Re1

    I usually put the bishop to f4, put pressure on d6, instead of Bg5 unless black kicks with e5 (which leaves d5 weak). So I don't really like Bg5 but I like black's idea of replying 8.Qe2 with 8...Bg4! 

  • 3 years ago


    I was watching Tal memorial and computer recognized 1. ..c5 a mistake in response to 1.e5. So don't listen much to them in terms of opening.

    A move should be looked into the perspective of what it is going to achive. 8.e5 opened the center too soon. Key is to prevent black's normal development by occupying center while white develops his pieces. So yes IMHO you opened up center a lil bit early. 

    I preferred 6....a6 because it not not only prevents your knight to come on b5 but also didn't block my white squared bishop for two more moves.

  • 3 years ago


    For the last month I learn the Morra gambit in order to surprise my fellow club members who play the Najdorf.

    Till now I had one OTB game in which i completely dominated the game and blundered in the endgame for a draw.

    i didn't made yet an analysis of the above game (the computer analysis says 2.d4 is a mistake) my Q is whether 8.e5 was too soon (the usual plan is Qe2 + Rd1) .

    You are right. In this opening a little mistake from black (especially from casual Najdorf players) is punished very quickly.

    6....a6 somtimes prevents secrifises on b5 which are common in the Morra gambit.

    Let's play again this opening.

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