mayhem in the morra

this book was recommended by my coach as not only a detailed resource on the smith morra - which i was curious about as an e4 player- but also as a very entertaining read

i am a beginner and have just started learning some ideas in the italian game as my e4 plan and ideas of how to continue if black doesnt go for it

i have started seeing more 1. e4 ...c5 in my games and i really didnt have a good plan and i often got into time trouble as my opponents were easily responding to my moved

i had stumbled on a line in the smith morra and i was intrigued at how easily white could develop if black takes the pawn- in fact the moves open up much like they do in my beloved italian game

i actually won a few friendlies against much higher rated players at my chess club and i even didnt play the moves correctly but the constant pressure was too much for some of these dudes

i personally like it as i (ironically?- since i am reading an opening book on an opening i dont want to study) dont want to start learning sicilian responses atm but the best thing about this book is the writing style

this is the first chess book i can “read”
the anecdotes and overall style make it very entertaining

anyways, what are your veteran opinions on the smith-morra?

There are many problems with what you are doing:


1) That book is WAY too complex and detailed for someone rated anything below 2000 over the board.

2) The Morra Gambit is borderline unsound.

3) You also have to know c3-Sicilian Theory, which is what the Morra transposes to 90% of the time when Black declines the gambit.  Again, you shouldn't even be studying specific openings, but rather, opening concepts.


The books you should be "reading" are ones like Play Winning Chess, Winning Chess Tactics, Winning Chess Strategies, and Winning Chess Endings by Yasser Sieriwan!


If you can't read those because you find it boring or too much work, then chess isn't for you.  Take up Tic Tac Toe.  It's an easier game to master!


If you are a beginner and your coach recommended a book in Smith Morra then do yourself a favor:

Find another coach!

   He is as ignorant as you are(if not even more).

Don't be fooled by a good on line rating. A good on line rating doesn't mean he understands chess and certainly doesn't mean he knows how to teach.Not even a good OTB  rating is a guarantee that he can be a good teacher.

fwiw- book was not recommended as a "chessbook" per se- it was recommended more for entertainment value- the chess info was just bonus

the book my coach recommended for study was "chess tactics antennae" by neiman and this one has proven quite effective

The Morra is fine as an opening for beginners, but Esserman's book is not beginner stuff- by a very long shot.

I think it is a very good book, but there is one thing I don't like very much in it: His prose, which I've found as everything BUT entertaining, and slightly misleading.

Neiman's book is certainly a good one, I can recommend it too.

I would prefer & recommend  "Soviet Chess Primer" by Maizelis, which is a book about all phases of the game, and has a great (recent) English translation, but working on the antenna will certainly not harm you.

lol- thanks pfren i will look into "the soviet chess primer"

Can you really label d4 as "IQP" here with a pawn on d7? let alone that this pawn is an extra one... tongue.png


I have mayhem in the morra and I think it is an amazing book, perfect difficulty for me I think, and he is a great writer and uses vibrant language.  The biggest problem with the opening for a lower rated player is you usually have to either keep black in a tight positional bind even through to the endgame or create some explosive tactics before they unwind and coordinate, otherwise you are just down a pawn.  If you are even a little bit inaccurate as white your compensation quickly dissipates.  


as far as e4 c5 d4 cxd c3 nf6 I think esserman recommends e5 not cxd

daxypoo wrote:
... i will look into "the soviet chess primer"

"... The title might suggest [that The Soviet Chess Primer by Ilya Maizelis] is for beginners, but that is not the case. It does start off with some basic positions, but quickly moves on to much more advanced material including chapters on positional play and techniques of calculation." - IM John Donaldson


Possibly of interest:
Simple Attacking Plans by Fred Wilson (2012)
Logical Chess: Move by Move by Irving Chernev (1957)
The Most Instructive Games of Chess Ever Played by Irving Chernev (1965)
Winning Chess by Irving Chernev and Fred Reinfeld (1948)
Back to Basics: Tactics by Dan Heisman (2007)
Discovering Chess Openings by GM John Emms (2006)
Openings for Amateurs by Pete Tamburro (2014)
Chess Endgames for Kids by Karsten Müller (2015)
A Guide to Chess Improvement by Dan Heisman (2010)
Studying Chess Made Easy by Andrew Soltis (2009)
Seirawan stuff:

DeirdreSkye wrote: "If you are a beginner and your coach recommended a book in Smith Morra then do yourself a favor: Find another coach! ..."
daxypoo wrote:
fwiw- book was not recommended as a "chessbook" per se- it was recommended more for entertainment value- the chess info was just bonus ...

An alternative is presented in My First Chess Opening Repertoire for White

thanks kindaspongey; i have both of moret’s books on chessable though i put the one for black on the back burner; however, i love the opening for white-

Mayhem is a great book, and it’s a kick ass gambit.  Keep the coach.


Never heard of the book.  Went to Amazon and the reviews were very complimentary.  


"... Though the analysis often runs deep, the presentation is very straight-forward. ..."


Ignore the naysayers and whoop it up with the Morra. Beginners need to learn about tactics, initiative, and attacking like a berzerker, and this is a good opening for that. 

As for the book being too advanced, just because a student doesn't understand everything doesn't mean a book can't be of value. 


Sooner or later any 1.e4 player will need a good line against the Sicilian. Amateur players should avoid the main lines at all costs, so the Morra Gambit (and its cousin 2.c3) are as good as anything else, and certainly more fun than the currently popular lines with 3.Bb5.


   I don't think there are a lot of beginners who are drawn to chess by the beauties of 'positional' play. Maybe the prodigies. For most of us, it's the tactics that get us hooked.....

    In additional to the previous ideas, look at the games of other players. Most that you'll find in DBs are at least master level, and very instructive. 

   Check out Milan Matulovic, a controversial Yugoslav GM who played the Smith-Morra a bunch of times in back the 1950s.


i drew with one of the top dozen players in the United States with the Smith Morra accepted but that was back in 1973.  Now i think the gambit is dubious at the highest levels.