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Sicilian Defense: Smith-Morra Gambit | ROMANTIC chess for EPIC WINNING! 💖

Sicilian Defense: Smith-Morra Gambit | ROMANTIC chess for EPIC WINNING! 💖

vitualis
| 3

#sicilian #smithmorragambit #doublecheck #doublecheckmate #sacrifice 

I recently played the most romantic game of chess ever! This game was a club tournament match - I had the White pieces and played for Team Sydney (Australia) and my opponent was playing for Team Sophia (Bulgaria).

But what is the romantic style of chess? Romanticism is an artistic movement that originated in the 18th century that emphasised emotion over reason, individualism over conformity, and freedom over structure with regards to expressive form. In chess, romanticism is expressed in preferring rapid tactical manoeuvres and daring gambits and sacrifices, over more sound positional play and longer-term strategic planning. This was the style of Steinitz, Anderssen, Staunton and Morphy. To quote myself from a new book that I'm currently writing on romantic chess opening attacks (aiming for release in late-2024!), from the perspective of a romanticist:

"It is not enough to simply win, but one must strive to win with style!"

I love playing in the romantic style as it is exciting, fun, and creative. After all, in casual chess what's the point of playing if it isn't fun, whether you win or lose?

This game started with my opponent playing the Sicilian Defense and then entering the Smith-Morra Gambit Accepted (1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 dxc3), my current favourite anti-Sicilian approach. On move 6, Black played a somewhat hesitant and waiting move (6... h6). Hmm... This was an indication that they were likely to play more conservatively and defensively; a bit of information to file away when thinking about the opponent will respond to provocation!

On move 7, Black makes their first relative inaccuracy with (7... Nf6) as it can immediately be attacked with (8. e5). However, I don't correctly capitalise on this error. One of my bad habits in daily matches is that I often play moves on my phone when I'm out and about, as soon as I receive a notification. Although this means that my daily games often finish much more quickly than for other people (for instance, I'm the first person in this tournament to have finished both games - one with Black and one with White), I often make mistakes due to underthinking a position as I'm in a rush. My first mistake came quickly on move 11 (11. Nd6+). Although I trade one of my knights for Black's dark square bishop, I lose another pawn in the process for no compensation. Ouch!

However, galvanised my approach to the game. Given that I was clearly already in a disadvantageous position, it was now time to double down on my plan to play romantically! So, to create attacks, play tactical and sharp lines, and always look for sacrifices for advantage, both absolute and psychological ones!

Move 13: Black is comfortably ahead [-2] and castles their king to safety (13... O-O). However, I noticed that most of Black's pieces were on the queenside, and on the other side of their diagonal chain of pawns. I decided to launch a critical attack on Black's kingside defences by sacrificing my dark square bishop, striking their h6-pawn they moved on move 6! The attack would open the g-file and expose Black's king, and to exploit this with my queen, I needed to move my knight on f3... so (14. Nd4)!

Black plays another waiting move (14... a6); I strike (15. Bxh6!?). Stockfish hates this move as romanticism is often at odds with accuracy. The consequence of this is that when playing an audacious and unsound romantic attack, engine recommendations are often not especially helpful as it will typically recommend consolidating moves, pulling back from the attack, and enduring a long lingering defensive game to delay defeat as long as possible!

From this point (move 15) until move 34, I'm dead lost according to the engine. I'm never better than around [-5] and yet, I managed to hold the initiative in the middlegame! With Black's king exposed, my goal was to peel open Black's defences, especially getting rid of more of the pawns. Move 20, I sacrifice my other bishop to open a file (20. Bxf5!?) and this allows me to infiltrate my rook to Black's 8th rank (21. Re8+). This rook has an outsized power - it effectively removes Black's king's access to their own back rank, and pins two of Black's pieces.

Next move, I make use of the momentum and crash forward with my knight, capturing yet another of Black's pawns (22. Nxf5). This was a very powerful move, with an attack on Black's queen, and if Black doesn't navigate correctly, further smashes open Black's king's very tenuous defence. Black, however, plays a very strong defensive game. They correctly trade their rook for my knight (22. Bxf5 23. Rxa8), and blunt my attack, giving them some respite and possibility of a counterattack...

...such as (25... Ng5)! This was a very clever approach, but I saw it. If I didn't, Nf3 would have been a family fork of my queen, rook, and king, and the f3 square which is defended by my g-pawn, would simultaneously be rendered impotent due to the discovered pin by Black's rook on g6! Luckily, this tactic was refuted with (26. Kh1).

The next few moves see some mutual manoeuvring. Black tries to form an attack on my f3-pawn (correct) and I struggle to find a way to infiltrate with my queen and other rook. Eventually, I found the crack with (33. Rc8!?)! This is technically a blunder as Black has [-M8] but they would need to sacrifice one of their minor pieces by capturing my f-pawn. This is difficult to find, and Black didn't see it (and neither did I to be honest). My Rc8, however, was to give a psychological nudge for Black to move their c6-knight. They did (33... Ne5?) and their logic seemed clear - triple attacking my f3-pawn. However, this hesitancy was their undoing and this gave the long dark square diagonal to my queen which I made use of immediately (34. Qxd4), pinning the Black knight to the king.

Black now makes a fateful move - a completely natural and sensible-looking move. But it was a blunder! The evaluation switches from [-9 → +3] when Black unpinned their knight with (34... Kh7??). Black had to immediately counterattack with (Nxf3), which crushed my entire position after a series of trades, rather than take the more passive stance. 

One step of tempo was all I needed as (35. Rxe5!). I had a strong intuition that Black still thought that they were winning as it appears that I'd just hung a fork. However, this was a lure, a ruse, a trap! Black leapt into it with (35... Nxf3??), hanging [+M2]!

That rook on the 8th rank? I played (36. Rh8+), ostensibly sacrificing the rook with check. However, the goal was to force Black's king onto the long dark square diagonal! Perhaps suspicious, Black opted to not capture my rook (36... Kg7), but to no avail... 

And then, the final move. The pièce de résistance, the cherry on top, a beautiful coup de grâce. (37. Re7#) - double-check checkmate, DOUBLE CHECKMATE!

"It is not enough to simply win, but one must strive to win with style!"

The big takeaway from this game is to not be afraid to lose! Play in the romantic style! Take a leap of faith and try sacrificing pieces for activity. Win or lose you'll get to experience a fun and exciting way to play chess!

Game: https://www.chess.com/game/daily/619740361

Hi!  I'm vitualis, the chess noob (aka chessnoob64), and I run the "Adventures of a Chess Noob" YouTube channel and blog.  I'm learning and having fun with chess! 

I restarted playing chess recently after my interest was rekindled by the release of "The Queen's Gambit" on Netflix.  I mostly play 1 or 2 games a day, and am trying to improve (slowly!).  I document some of my games and learning experiences on my blog and YouTube channel from the perspective of a beginner-intermediate player!


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