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

marvellosity
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 :)

aansel

it is a perfectly playable option for anybody below 2200 (OTB) and perhaps even higher. Walter and Joe Shipman (both IM"s I believe) played it and wrote about it quite a bit in Chess Horizons. I also believe Lenderman  has played it as well. If you play it and know it it will be as good as any other opening for casual players. 

At the top levels the standards are much different but most players, including myself,  can't understand why GM's rank some positions +/=. Preparation at the top level (even among GM's) is at a totally new level. My recommendation is if you like to play the position and know the middlegame as White it is fine. As Black it depends on what you know and what type of positions you are more comfortable in and that is the decision on whether to accept of decline it. With less knowledge declining is easiest and safest.

Atos
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.


Nonsense. If you never learn the King's Gambit because the top GMs don't play it, you will never rise above 1300 level.

The reason Anand doesn't play the King's Gambit against Kramnik is that he knows that Kramnik would know very well how to defend against it.

SteveCollyer
rob9258 wrote:
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.


 I could not disagree more. Unless you are a professional chess player, chess should be about nothing but fun. It is a pleasant diversion that occupies the mind and satisfies the psyche without needing to resort to drugs and without causing harm to others. It is a great way to meet people and make friends. It inspires the lust for battle but foregoes the casualties of war. Each of us should take from chess what we need or desire, and if fun is what you want from chess, go for it! Play the gambit if it brings you joy! The worst thing that could happen is that you lose some games. Time spent over the chessboard, even while losing games, is enjoyable. Have fun!


I would have thought that the 3rd sentence in my post would have given the game away.

Apparently not...

Atos
SteveCollyer wrote:
rob9258 wrote:
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.


I could not disagree more. Unless you are a professional chess player, chess should be about nothing but fun. It is a pleasant diversion that occupies the mind and satisfies the psyche without needing to resort to drugs and without causing harm to others. It is a great way to meet people and make friends. It inspires the lust for battle but foregoes the casualties of war. Each of us should take from chess what we need or desire, and if fun is what you want from chess, go for it! Play the gambit if it brings you joy! The worst thing that could happen is that you lose some games. Time spent over the chessboard, even while losing games, is enjoyable. Have fun!


I would have thought that the 3rd sentence in my post would have given the game away.

Apparently not...


Oh sorry Steve, I guess that we have come to expect absurd opinions...

Elubas
marvellosity wrote:
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 :)


I think you're just biased.

Anyways, I don't have a problem with fun, but when I bash gambits it's not because they are unplayable but instead come from my point of view that I don't think throwing in a bag of tricks is not how I want to grow in the long run (yes I want to become good, no it's not over optimistic I can tell it's possible for me even if it'll take a long time). Instead I want to just outplay the opponent and that way there is no chance that a certain amount of knowledge about a suspect but "too sharp to refute" (I'm not saying the smith morra is refuted, btw) will become "obsolete" when I play against stronger and stronger players.

But positionally speaking, how much does white really get that he doesn't get in the open? Lets see, there are some well known traps like an early ...Nf6 that are indeed hard to see the first try, and white gets slightly more development and black's counterplay is less. Sure white gets the c file, but is it really going to be that useful? Black will probably want to use the c file (eventually) himself and maybe it will just be a means for trading off rooks. It seems like black's position is more restrained, but the central structure seems solid enough that he can slowly unravel. It seems like white has present but insufficent objective compensation (and I would be comfortable handling the passive but solid black side) but if I'm wrong at best it's equal.

Atos

Besides the plan of attacking on the kingside by using the light squares, there is also pressure along the semi-open d-file on the (weak) d6 pawn. It's difficult for Black to find active squares for the pieces. (For example the Queen can have problems, facing the Rook on the c file.) If the White manages to play e5 they will have more space and will have freedom to attack on the kingside. But to prevent e5 the Black might have to play e5 themselves and this will now leave the d pawn backward and the king's bishop blocked in. It's not quite so one-dimensional.

That said, I no longer play Smith Morra against strong opponents or in long games. For blitz, it is fun to play and scores pretty well.

P.S. It should really be called Matulovic-Morra.

Elubas

Fair enough, those little things together might give white decent compensation, though it still seems inferior to the open for sure.

Fromper
Atos wrote:

That said, I no longer play Smith Morra against strong opponents or in long games. For blitz, it is fun to play and scores pretty well.


I don't understand that. I always have to take more time to figure out the proper way to attack in such a complicated opening. I play the SMG much better in slow games than in blitz. But I also play any opening much better in slow play than blitz. My ICC blitz rating is 600 points below my standard rating on the same server.

That said, I almost always start with 1. e4 as white, and the Smith-Morra is the only thing I know how to play against the Sicilian, so I always play it. In fact, I'm downright happy whenever I see the Sicilian, because I know I get to play my gambit.

Estragon
Atos wrote:

Besides the plan of attacking on the kingside by using the light squares, there is also pressure along the semi-open d-file on the (weak) d6 pawn. It's difficult for Black to find active squares for the pieces. (For example the Queen can have problems, facing the Rook on the c file.) If the White manages to play e5 they will have more space and will have freedom to attack on the kingside. But to prevent e5 the Black might have to play e5 themselves and this will now leave the d pawn backward and the king's bishop blocked in. It's not quite so one-dimensional.

That said, I no longer play Smith Morra against strong opponents or in long games. For blitz, it is fun to play and scores pretty well.

P.S. It should really be called Matulovic-Morra.


 

No, if anyone should be dropped, it's Morra!  His old move order gets nowhere.  Matulovic did play it for a while in the early '70s, but Smith did the hard analytical work and certainly more to popularize it.  Besides, you don't want the disgraced "J'adoubovic" as the front man for your opening . . . bad PR . . .

SteveCollyer

I do play the Morra a lot, both in CC & OTB.

One of the most annoying & under-rated systems for Black appears briefly in Langrock's book under the Early Development of Black Dark-Square Bishop chapter.  He does not rate the immediate 7...Bxc3, but a pawn on White's c-file & isolated a & c-pawns & Black well on to the road for equality is not what White wants 8 moves into this opening.

The most annoying move order I find is

 

Estragon

But White has compensation for the pawn in this line with 10 a4, inviting ...Qxc3  11 Bb2 . . ., or else ...Ba3 with good play.

87654321

true estrag & maybe the less than subtle 9 Qd6 is worth a try.

Back to post one for the OP i would suggest accepting the gambit as this is the best way to learn the ideas behind this opening for both black and white. The Nf6 line as he illustrates in diagram 1 is certainly the most aggressive and can lead to quick wins if white as frequently happens mixes the move order and allows blacks Nd4 with the setup of Ng4 and Qc7 giving a well known cheapo.

for the rather more advanced 2700 level gonno etc 7Nge7 is shown by results to be positionally better if you can handle a dour struggle and building of small advantages to eek out a win, such is the lot of the advanced player

Ive found correspondence chess gives the opportunity of more opponents than club play and better practice for openings such as this.

>:) 

Fromper

After the Bxc3, definitely give up on the typical Qe2, etc. You have to know when to get out of the normal Smith-Morra formation, and when you knight on c3 is gone, that's one of those times.

As mentioned above, 9. Qd6 is white's best move. The key here is that black has abandoned his dark squares, so white has to take control of them. Qd6 locks in the d7 pawn and c8 bishop. Follow it up with moves like Ba3 and Rfd1 to really lock down the dark squares and d file. Don't worry about losing the c3 pawn. If black moves his queen that far away, then that d7 pawn is likely to go down (Bb5 to increase the pressure, then Ne5, etc). Black will have an extra pawn (or 2 if he goes after c3), but white will have ALL his pieces activated and aiming at d7, while black's pieces are nearly worthless. Actually, I'm thinking Rac1 looks like a good followup if black does take that c3 pawn, adding to the pressure on the c6 knight and stuck c8 bishop.

I wish someone would play this against me. I had one guy try it a long time ago, when I wasn't nearly as good at this, and I blew the opportunity, but my more recent opponents are too smart to play that way.

SteveCollyer

Interesting ideas - thanks Smile

In one game in particular on another site I did play what now seems the vastly inferior 9.Qe2 in this variation.

I did hammer the d-file though, but against a significantly better player my position faltered later on.

marvellosity
SteveCollyer wrote:

I do play the Morra a lot, both in CC & OTB.

One of the most annoying & under-rated systems for Black appears briefly in Langrock's book under the Early Development of Black Dark-Square Bishop chapter.  He does not rate the immediate 7...Bxc3, but a pawn on White's c-file & isolated a & c-pawns & Black well on to the road for equality is not what White wants 8 moves into this opening.

The most annoying move order I find is

 


It's not under-rated at all. It's not rated highly because it's pretty pants, for reasons that Fromper gives pretty nicely.

marvellosity

I think you're just biased.

Anyways, I don't have a problem with fun, but when I bash gambits it's not because they are unplayable but instead come from my point of view that I don't think throwing in a bag of tricks is not how I want to grow in the long run (yes I want to become good, no it's not over optimistic I can tell it's possible for me even if it'll take a long time). Instead I want to just outplay the opponent and that way there is no chance that a certain amount of knowledge about a suspect but "too sharp to refute" (I'm not saying the smith morra is refuted, btw) will become "obsolete" when I play against stronger and stronger players.

But positionally speaking, how much does white really get that he doesn't get in the open? Lets see, there are some well known traps like an early ...Nf6 that are indeed hard to see the first try, and white gets slightly more development and black's counterplay is less. Sure white gets the c file, but is it really going to be that useful? Black will probably want to use the c file (eventually) himself and maybe it will just be a means for trading off rooks. It seems like black's position is more restrained, but the central structure seems solid enough that he can slowly unravel. It seems like white has present but insufficent objective compensation (and I would be comfortable handling the passive but solid black side) but if I'm wrong at best it's equal.


Too right I'm biased. I've dismantled strong opponents with the Morra and practically never lose with it. (OTB I'm talking). Good to see you're expertly talking about an opening you know nothing about. Hold on... :/

One rather good reason to play the Morra is that it's MY territory. I'm happy to concede that there are several lines which are 'equal' - but the fact is, I know these positions much better than my opponent, so how 'equal' are they?

pvmike

I've played the morra smith alot and I feel like black gets an advantage in this line.

Elubas
marvellosity wrote:

I think you're just biased.

Anyways, I don't have a problem with fun, but when I bash gambits it's not because they are unplayable but instead come from my point of view that I don't think throwing in a bag of tricks is not how I want to grow in the long run (yes I want to become good, no it's not over optimistic I can tell it's possible for me even if it'll take a long time). Instead I want to just outplay the opponent and that way there is no chance that a certain amount of knowledge about a suspect but "too sharp to refute" (I'm not saying the smith morra is refuted, btw) will become "obsolete" when I play against stronger and stronger players.

But positionally speaking, how much does white really get that he doesn't get in the open? Lets see, there are some well known traps like an early ...Nf6 that are indeed hard to see the first try, and white gets slightly more development and black's counterplay is less. Sure white gets the c file, but is it really going to be that useful? Black will probably want to use the c file (eventually) himself and maybe it will just be a means for trading off rooks. It seems like black's position is more restrained, but the central structure seems solid enough that he can slowly unravel. It seems like white has present but insufficent objective compensation (and I would be comfortable handling the passive but solid black side) but if I'm wrong at best it's equal.


Too right I'm biased. I've dismantled strong opponents with the Morra and practically never lose with it. (OTB I'm talking). Good to see you're expertly talking about an opening you know nothing about. Hold on... :/

One rather good reason to play the Morra is that it's MY territory. I'm happy to concede that there are several lines which are 'equal' - but the fact is, I know these positions much better than my opponent, so how 'equal' are they?


I'm sorry, you can help me out with my wrongness. I mean it's clear white doesn't have anything concrete, right? Just unclear compensation.

I said this a long time ago, at best this is equal, but it's more likely a little better for black in a position where he can slowly unravel. MCO says something much like  "black gets the advantage with correct play". Now, I'm not saying MCO must be right, but I can trust their GM, high quality, unbiased analysis. But the thing is youseem to think that you're smarter than them and know all of these ideas they never dreamed of, that makes it equal right?

I think it's one of those positions that who's side you prefer is often a matter of taste, but in this case although white has a slightly more active position it's hard to see how black must be overrun. It's a different kind of initiative than say, in the danish gambit (well if black holds the pawns), with a clear attack, if that makes sense. Because in that opening, lots of lines are open, in the smith morra, there are also open lines, but at the same time black's center pawns put up strong resistance, with the d6 e6 structure.

I've played the smith morra once, as black, yet I still am not too afraid of the smith morra, even an experienced morra player playing it. I'm a little afraid of the king's gambit or marshall attack though, why? Because unlike those openings I know that my position is solid enough to tough things out in a smith morra, but lets just say in the KG and marshall I have to deal with A LOT more.

marvellosity
Elubas wrote:

I said this a long time ago, at best this is equal, but it's more likely a little better for black in a position where he can slowly unravel. MCO says something much like  "black gets the advantage with correct play". Now, I'm not saying MCO must be right, but I can trust their GM, high quality, unbiased analysis. But the thing is youseem to think that you're smarter than them and know all of these ideas they never dreamed of, that makes it equal right?

Well, as it's my opening I have the luxury of looking at GM analysis and working on it myself to see if it can be improved. Which, oftentimes in an opening like the Morra, it can. No more of your facetiousness.