Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Smith-Morra Gambit Analyzed

1 e4 Usually leads to a more dynamic and tactical game than other first moves.

1...c5 Black opts for the Sicilian, the most dynamic and popular response to 1 e4.

2 d4 White avoids the normal continuation 2 Nf3, after which Black can steer the game into a variation which he knows and White probably does not know so well. Instead, White steers the game into his pet variation, which will likely make Black uncomfortable.

2...cxd4 The best way to refute a gambit is to accept it! There are many popular ways of declining the gambit also.

3 c3 Now it becomes a true gambit.

3...dxc3 Black accepts the challenge. In exchange for his gambited Pawn, White will have play on the d and c files.

4 Nxc3 Sometimes White will offer a 2nd Pawn by not taking immediately, but this is said to be "unnecessary and unsound" on White's part.

4...Nc6 Covers e5 and blocks the c file.

5 Nf3 This and Bc4 are likely interchangeable.

5...d6 Will be needed anyway, so why not play it now?

6 Bc4 While White will have an issue about where to develop his other Bishop, the King's Bishop always goes here.

6...e6 Black often blunders here with 6...Nf6?, and after 7 e5! Nxe5?? 8 Nxe5 dxe5 9 Bxf7ch! Black has lost his Queen, while after 7...dxe5 8 QxQ NxQ 9 Nb5 Rb8 10 Nxe5 e6 White stands better.

7 0-0 Normal and good.

7...a6 This prevents Nb5, and thus is an important part of Black's defensive scheme.

8 Qe2 This and White's last are likely interchangeable.

8...Bd7 This, along with Black's next, initiate a line which Joseph Sipman, in a series of articles in Chess Horizons 17 years ago, says is "clearly the best". An alternative for Black is 8...b5 9 Bb3 Ra7!?, initiating the so-called "Chicago Defense". I was introduced to this setup years ago when Steve Carter played it against me in club games. Based on Steve's success with it, I played it myself as Black in a number of ICC games, but found out that White has resources against it. Shipman gives 10 Rd1 Be7 11 Be3 Rd7 12 Nd4! (the refutation) Nxd4 13 Bxd4 Bf6! 14 e5 dxe5 15 Bxe5 Bxe5 16 Qxe5 Nf6 17 Rxd7 Bxd7 18 Qd6!; or 10 Be3! Rd7 11 Nd4!, with the idea that White has kept his King Rook home, where it supports the push f2-f4-f5 with a good attack.

9 Rd1 White proceeds in standard fashion.

9...Be7 Shipman says this defense "poses a real threat to the soundness of the Smith-Morra gambit". By delaying ...Nf6, Black gives White the problem of where to move his Queen Bishop.

10 Be3! Waiting moves here do not help, because Black also has the useful waiting move ...Rc8. 10 Bf4 is also playable, though Black comes out OK if he knows what he's doing. After 10 Bf4
Shipman gives 10...e5! 11 Be3 Nf6 and now: 1) 12 Bg5 Bg4!; 2) Rac1 Ng4!; 3) h3 Rc8!; or 4) Nd5! NxN 13 BxN 0-0 14 Rac1 Rac8

10...Nf6! Not 10...Rc8 11 Na4 b5 12 Bb6 Rc7 and either 13 Bb3 or 13 Bxb5ch are good for White.

11 Bg5! Shipman says this keeps the initiative.

11...Ng4! Gives back the Pawn, but White must trade Queens in the process. The continuation now given by Shipman is 12 Bxe7 Qxe7 13 Qd2! Nge5! 14 Be2! Nxf3 15 Bxf3 Ne5 16 Be2 Bc6! 17 Qxd6 Qxd6 18 Rxd6 Ke7 19 Rd2 g5! 20 Rad1=.


chessart said...

I think I have finally internalized the principles in this post. I just got the following easy win vs. che07.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. c3 dxc3 5. Nxc3 e6 6. Bc4 a6 7. O-O Nc6 8. Qe2 Be7 9. Rd1 Bd7 10. Bb3 Rc8 11. Bf4 e5 12. Be3 Nf6 13. Bg5 Bg4 14. Rac1 Nd4 15. Qe3 Bxf3 16. gxf3 O-O 17. Bxf6 Bxf6 18. Bd5 Bg5 19. Qd3 Bf4 20. Ne2 Nxe2+ 21. Qxe2 Qh4 22. Rxc8 Qxh2+ 23. Kf1 Qh1# (White checkmated} 0-1

chessart said...

Here is another game played today, vs. notmasteryet. I keep my extra Pawn down to a King and Pawn endgame, but run out of time in the sudden death time control.

1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 dxc3 4. Bc4 e6 5. Nxc3 d6 6. Nf3 a6 7. O-O Nc6 8. Qe2 Be7 9. Rd1 Bd7 10. Bf4 e5 11. Bg3 Nf6 12. h3 O-O 13. Rac1 Rc8 14. Nd5 Nxd5 15. Bxd5 Qb6 16. Rc2 Be6 17. Rdc1 Bxd5 18. exd5 Na7 19. Nh4 Rxc2 20. Rxc2 f5 21. Qd3 f4 22. Nf5 Bf6 23. Bh4 Bxh4 24. Nxh4 Nb5 25. Rc3 Nd4 26. Rb3 Qc7 27. Rc3 Qd8 28. Nf3 Nxf3+ 29. Qxf3 Qf6 30. Rc7 Rf7 31. Rc8+ Rf8 32. Rxf8+ Qxf8 33. Qb3 Qf7 34. Qb4 Qc7 35. Qb3 b5 36. Kh2 Qc4 37. Qxc4 bxc4 38. g3 fxg3+ 39. Kxg3 Kf7 40. Kf3 Kf6 41. Ke4 Kg5 42. a4 h5 43. a5 g6 44. h4+ Kxh4 45. f4 exf4 46. Kxf4 g5+ 47. Kf5 g4 48. Ke6 g3 49. Kxd6 g2 50. Kc6 g1=Q 51. d6 Qg6 52. Kc7 Qg3 53. Kc6 Qf3+ 54. Kc7 Qf4 55. Kc6 Qe4+ 56. Kc7 Qe5 57. Kc6 Qe6 58. Kc7 Qxd6+ 59. Kxd6 Kg3 60. Kc6 h4 61. Kb6 h3 62. Kxa6 h2 63. Kb6 h1=Q 64. a6 Qa8 65. a7 Kf4 66. Kc5 Ke4 67. Kxc4 Qxa7 68. b4 Qd4+ 69. Kb5 Kd5 70. Ka5 {Black forfeits on time} 1-0

chessart said...

Another illustrative game, vs. rajacatur (1470).

1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 dxc3 4. Nxc3 d6 5. Nf3 e6 6. Bc4 a6 7. Bf4 Be7 8. Qe2 Nc6 9. O-O Bd7 10. Rfd1 e5 11. Be3 Nf6 12. Rac1 Ng4 13. Nd5 Nxe3 14. Qxe3 O-O 15. a4 Rc8 16. Ba2 Be6 17. Nb6 Bxa2 18. Nxc8 Qxc8 19. b4 Be6 20. b5 axb5 21. axb5 Bg4 22. bxc6 bxc6 23. Qc3 f5 {White disconnected and forfeits} 0-1

chessart said...

Just played the following game, which illustrates how a higher-rated player (in this case HATMAN, rated 1682), can get frustrated and make no progress, finally losing ignominiously on time. White tries 12 h3, to prevent Black's ...Bg4. The book line I have is 12 h3 Rc8! 13 a3 b5! or Black can also play 13...0-0 14 b4 b5 15 Bb3 Nb4! or 14 Rac1 b5 15 Bd5 Na5 winning. I actually get this position by transposition in the game but instead of 15...Na5 I play 15...Be6, which works out well for me.

1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 dxc3 4. Nxc3 e6 5. Nf3 d6 6. Bc4 a6 7. O-O Nc6 8. Qe2 Be7 9. Rd1 Bd7 10. Bf4 e5 11. Be3 Nf6 12. h3 O-O 13. Rac1 Rc8 14. a3 b5 15. Bd5 Be6 16. Bxe6 fxe6 17. Ng5 Qd7 18. b4 h6 19. Nf3 Qb7 20. Qa2 Qd7 21. Qb3 Rfd8 22. Kf1 Kf7 23. Bb6 Re8 24. Kg1 Bd8 25. Be3 Be7 26. Nh4 g5 27. Nf5 Kg6 28. Nxe7+ Qxe7 29. f3 Rf8 30. Kh2 Nh5 31. Ne2 Nf4 32. Nc3 Qf7 33. Rf1
Nd4 {White forfeits on time} 0-1

chessart said...

Just played vs. Varenic(1561).

1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 dxc3 4. Nxc3 d6 5. Bc4 e6 6. Nf3 a6 7. O-O Nc6 8. Qe2 Be7 9. Rd1 Bd7 10. Bf4 e5 11. Be3 Nf6 12. Nd5

This is quite a crossroads we are at here. A search of the 14 games in the Java database shows 7(!) different moves played here by White. h3 & Rac1 had 4 each, followed by Rd2 with 2, and one each for Nd5, Bg5, b4 & a4. Shipman gives Nd5 a "!".

12...Nxd5 13. exd5

There are no games in the database with this move, and Shipman does not discuss it! The computer suggests 13...Na7 in response. My move leaves the N/a5 vulnerable.

Na5 14. Bd3 O-O??

Overlooking White's threat to trap the Knight. The computer suggests 14...f5, but 14...b5 looks better to me, creating the b7 escape square for my Knight on a5.

15. b4! b5 16. bxa5 Qxa5 17. Ng5 Bxg5 18. Bxg5 f6 19. Qh5 f5 20. Be7 e4 21. Bxf8 Rxf8 22. Be2 Qb6 23. Qg5 f4 24. Qe7 Bf5 25. Rac1 e3 26. f3 g5 27. Qc7 {Black resigns} 1-0

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting! It appears that the "Shipman variation" is a solid way to meet the Morra. If Black wants to play for a win, he could always play 11...Qb8 instead of 11...Ng4!?