Friday, October 26, 2007

Smith-Morra Gambit

In chess, the Smith-Morra Gambit (or simply Morra Gambit) is a gambit against the Sicilian defense distinguished by the moves 1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3. It is not common in grandmaster games, but at club level chess it is an excellent weapon.

The gambit is accepted by:

1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Nxc3

White sacrifices a pawn to develop quickly and create attacking chances. In exchange for the gambit pawn, White has a piece developed and a pawn in the center, while Black has nothing but an empty space on c7. The plan for white is straightforward and consists in putting his bishop on c4 with attack on f7, and control of both lines c and d with rooks taking advantage of the fact that the black queen can hardly find a suitable place.

The Smith-Morra is named after two players, the Pierre Morra from France (1900-1969), and Kenneth Ray Smith of the United States (1930-1999). Hence in Europe the name Morra-Smith gambit is preferred; names like Tartakower Gambit and Matulovic Gambit have disappeared. I wonder why that is, I always thought whoever played the gambit first ought to have it named after them! any comments? It is also the game of the week!

Morra published a booklet and several articles about the Smith-Morra around 1950. Smith wrote a total of nine books and forty-nine articles about the gambit. When Ken Smith participated in the international tournament against several top grandmasters in San Antonio in 1972, Smith essayed the Smith-Morra three times, against Donald Byrne, Larry Evans and Henrique Mecking, but wound up losing all those games. In fact, when Mario Campos Lopez played the French Defense (1...e6) instead of the Sicilian against Smith, Bent Larsen gave Lopez's move a question mark along with the comment "stronger is 1...c5 which wins a pawn". Did you know that Kenneth Ray Smith was one of very few people whom Bobby Fischer trusted and had sign a contract with him to help organize and arrange tournaments.

Here is a nice opening trap that can be used as Black. It is against the Smith Morra Gambit. The position comes from the following moves:
1. e4 c5
2. d4 cxd4
3. c3 dxc3
4. Nxc3 e6
5. Bc4 Nc6
6. Nf3 Qc7
7. Qe2 Nf6
8. O-O Ng4
9. h3??

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