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The Smith-Morra Gambit... Accept or Refute?

  • #21
    Gonnosuke wrote:

    There's no good excuse for declining the Smith-Morra.  Compared to something like the King's Gambit which can lead to irrational positions, the Smith-Morra is one dimensional and easy to neutralize once you learn a few key concepts.  With a little homework you'll never have to fear the light square banzai strategy again....

    As Costelus mentioned, e5 is the key to whites game.  The move order I've had the most success with is e6 a6 Nge7 intending Ng6 which is a great square for the knight as it puts some heat on e5.  Example:

     

    From a purely statistical perspective, this move order should scare white off the Smith-Morra altogether since he's only scoring 37% in the 836 games where 7...Nge7 was played.

    As usual, stats don't tell the whole tale. 9.Bf4 is bullcrap.

    Care to test out the 9.Be3 b5 10.Bb3 Ng6 line against me, Gonnosuke? :)

  • #22
    costelus wrote:
    rich wrote:

    white plays 2.d4 I would play Nf6.


    He he, that is the reason I play sometimes this gambit in blitz or bullet. 2...Nf6 3.e5 Thanks for allowing me to push e5 with tempo. Now what about your knight?


    I have to say, I've played the Morra in hundreds, if not thousands, of online blitz games. Maybe 2 Black players have gone 2...Nf6.

  • #23

    Nf6 is good, I normally play the Nimzowitsch variation as black 1.e4 c5 Nf3 Nf6, so why not after d4 ? I can't see anything major stopping me.

  • #24
  • #25
    BigTy wrote:

    The only way to refute a gambit is to accept it.


    You know, I've seen this statement a lot of places. I believe it was originally said by the first official World Champion, Wilhelm Steinitz. And I usually don't disagree with Grandmasters or World Champions when it comes to chess. But I definitely disagree here.

    The definition of refuting any move in chess is to prove that the person making that move will lose (or sometimes draw, if they were supposed to be playing for a win) for having made it. Sometimes, that means accepting a material sacrifice and proving that the person playing the sac doesn't get enough compensation for it. Other times, it means declining the material sacrifice in a way that leaves the opponent worse off for having tried to sac material. That holds true in the opening just as much as any other time of the game.

    In some gambits, the way to refute the gambit is to accept the gambit pawn, then prove that the gambiteer's attack isn't enough to make up for the material. But in some cases, the gambiteer's position is just awkward if their gambit is declined, so refusing to accept the material is a better refutation of the gambit than accepting the pawn. I can think of a couple of gambits where the best refutation is to decline the gambit in a particular way.

    I just had to get that off my chest. I've seen this nonsense statement repeated way too many times.

    As for the Smith-Morra Gambit, it's probably not white's best try against the Sicilian. But it's certainly playable - I saw an IM score a win as white with this gambit at a tournament, where he was trying for a GM norm. So obviously, it can't be too awful, or he wouldn't be playing it.

    If you accept the gambit as black, you need to defend very accurately. I think it's easier to play white than black in the accepted lines. On the other hand, if you decline the gambit, many white players, especially at lower levels, have only prepared how to play if it's accepted, so they don't know how to handle the declined lines.

    So I think black should decline the gambit, unless he's done some serious study on defending the accepted gambit position.

  • #26

    rich if you play 1e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Nxc3 Nf6  and 5. e5 then knight only square is back to g8 :(

  • #27
    eaglex wrote:

    rich if you play 1e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Nxc3 Nf6  and 5. e5 then knight only square is back to g8 :(


     No you don't take the pawn at all, I never said that. The line goes as follows. 1.e4 c5 2.d4 Nf6 e5 Nd5.

  • #28

    Ok - is this one of those bad openings or is this just one of those openings that GMs just don't like to use? If it's the latter I don't see what the problem is. Even the grob is still used a little and that's supposed to be really bad.

  • #29

    There's "unsound" and then there's truly bad.

    The Englund Gambit (1. d4 e5?!) is truly bad. I scored some nice wins with it when I used to play it in the U1600 sections of USCF tournaments, but nobody over 1800 will let you get away with that garbage. Since I'm rated in the 1700's now and trying to beat guys rated 1900+ regularly, I've given it up for sounder openings.

    The Smith-Morra Gambit, on the other hand, may or may not be theoretically sound. That's still up for debate. GM's won't play it because other lines of the Sicilian are definitely sound, and probably offer white slightly better prospects for a win. But the SMG still gets plenty of use below that level, including among strong masters. Here's an article from the USCF web site where IM Marc Esserman shows some of his games from the 2008 Miami Open, including two games where he played the SMG against other IM's: http://main.uschess.org/content/view/8739/473/ One accepted the gambit, the other declined, and white won both games. Nuff said.

    I still play the SMG as white, every time I see the Sicilian. It may ultimately prove to be unsound, but there's no definitive refutation, it gives me good chances, especially against unprepared opponents, and most importantly, it's just fun to play.

    --Fromper

  • #30
    Fromper wrote:

    There's "unsound" and then there's truly bad.

    The Englund Gambit (1. d4 e5?!) is truly bad. I scored some nice wins with it when I used to play it in the U1600 sections of USCF tournaments, but nobody over 1800 will let you get away with that garbage. Since I'm rated in the 1700's now and trying to beat guys rated 1900+ regularly, I've given it up for sounder openings.

    The Smith-Morra Gambit, on the other hand, may or may not be theoretically sound. That's still up for debate. GM's won't play it because other lines of the Sicilian are definitely sound, and probably offer white slightly better prospects for a win. But the SMG still gets plenty of use below that level, including among strong masters. Here's an article from the USCF web site where IM Marc Esserman shows some of his games from the 2008 Miami Open, including two games where he played the SMG against other IM's: http://main.uschess.org/content/view/8739/473/ One accepted the gambit, the other declined, and white won both games. Nuff said.

    I still play the SMG as white, every time I see the Sicilian. It may ultimately prove to be unsound, but there's no definitive refutation, it gives me good chances, especially against unprepared opponents, and most importantly, it's just fun to play.

    --Fromper


    well said

  • #31

    I played Smith Morra against lower rated opposition (<2000) and I found that Black gets quite a comfortable and easy game, not the type of game I would expect him to struggle after I sacrificed a pawn. So, I think the gambit is playable, but, if Black doesn't get too greedy or doesn't walk into some trap, he will be slightly better. These being said, I prefer 2. c3. I know, Black gets an easy game here too, but I don't sacrifice any pawn :)

  • #32
    marvellosity wrote:
    costelus wrote:
    rich wrote:

    white plays 2.d4 I would play Nf6.


    He he, that is the reason I play sometimes this gambit in blitz or bullet. 2...Nf6 3.e5 Thanks for allowing me to push e5 with tempo. Now what about your knight?


    I have to say, I've played the Morra in hundreds, if not thousands, of online blitz games. Maybe 2 Black players have gone 2...Nf6.


    Yes, I skipped a few moves. Smith-Morra is 1.e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 dxc3 4. Nxc3 and now the "natural" 4...Nf6 is bad because of 5.e5.

    Sure, the initial question was 1.e4 c5 2. d4 Nf6. Now that's an odd move, as Black develops a knight which will be attacked and also does not fight for the center. Let's say 3. e5 Nd5 4. c4 Nb4 5. dxc5 and it looks that Black sacrificed a pawn. He might get it back later. OK Rich, it's quite playable, although I would prefer White in this position.

  • #33
    RainbowRising wrote:
    gbidari wrote:

    GM's do not play it and have called it unsound. I believe them. If you have time to study the opening, learn the lines and accept.


    GM Milan Matulovic


    He plays it? I stand corrected.
  • #34

    I like it as white as I get to develop the bishops, I would rather play the danish gambit though.

    as black I would decline as it creates an isolated pawn I can play tactics on.

  • #35
    gbidari wrote:
    RainbowRising wrote:
    gbidari wrote:

    GM's do not play it and have called it unsound. I believe them. If you have time to study the opening, learn the lines and accept.


    GM Milan Matulovic


    He plays it? I stand corrected.

    Let's say he played it. He is a veteran now, and I think most of his games are from the 70's

  • #36

    Alex Lenderman also playes it and i believe that he is now a GM :)

  • #37

    This opening is not sound.

    The best modern OTB GM's like Kramnik, Anand & Carlsen never play it so why should you?

    I constantly bump into GM's in my CC games, so just look to play the QGD instead.

    The Morra gambit may be a fun opening for the rest of us, but chess really shouldn't be about fun.

  • #38
    BigTy wrote:

    The only way to refute a gambit is to accept it. That is especially true here, because if black knows his theory white eventually ends up being a pawn down for pretty much nothing.


    I believe that is said for sacrifices, not for gambits. Gambits are all about gaining time, space and attack. Smith morra gambit was first played by Serbian GM Milan Matulovic and Tartakower before him.

  • #39
    SteveCollyer wrote:

    This opening is not sound.

    The best modern OTB GM's like Kramnik, Anand & Carlsen never play it so why should you?

    I constantly bump into GM's in my CC games, so just look to play the QGD instead.

    The Morra gambit may be a fun opening for the rest of us, but chess really shouldn't be about fun.


    Kramnik, Anand, and Carlsen don't play the Vienna, Giuoco Piano, or Scotch as white, either. Should those be abandoned by the rest of us, too?

    Did you actually just say "chess really shouldn't be about fun"??? The day you're right about that is the day we all quit the game.

  • #40
    Gonnosuke wrote:
    marvellosity wrote:
    Gonnosuke wrote:

    There's no good excuse for declining the Smith-Morra.  Compared to something like the King's Gambit which can lead to irrational positions, the Smith-Morra is one dimensional and easy to neutralize once you learn a few key concepts.  With a little homework you'll never have to fear the light square banzai strategy again....

    As Costelus mentioned, e5 is the key to whites game.  The move order I've had the most success with is e6 a6 Nge7 intending Ng6 which is a great square for the knight as it puts some heat on e5.  Example:

     

    From a purely statistical perspective, this move order should scare white off the Smith-Morra altogether since he's only scoring 37% in the 836 games where 7...Nge7 was played.

    As usual, stats don't tell the whole tale. 9.Bf4 is bullcrap.

    Care to test out the 9.Be3 b5 10.Bb3 Ng6 line against me, Gonnosuke? :)


    Notice that the stats are after Nge7 not Bf4.  I'm not starting any new games at the moment.  But I'd be happy to play the draw out some other time.


    My point, made also in the Langrock book, is that Black scores well because White doesn't know what he's doing - 'normal' Morra development is insufficient and leaves Black clearly better. But there are other ways :)

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