Traps, Tricks & Mistakes: Morra Nightmare

This post is a collaboration with Mr Andrew Crosby who is an expert in chess gambits.
Andrew usually plays them in his games with great success. In addition, he is an active member of our virtual club taking part in online tournaments and matches.

Facing a gambit unprepared is very likely to end in disaster. This is what happened in today’s game that features the Smith-Morra Gambit (1.e4 c5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3) played by White who gained a strong initiative after only six moves!!

Typical of a gambit, White in the Smith-Morra sacrifices a pawn with the intention is to achieve an early advantage in development leading to the creation of attacking chances.

Generally, the most successful way to deal with a gambit is not to hang onto the material gain. On the contrary, to return it once a chance appears to regain the initiative.

Black has the option of declining the gambit pawn on c3 by the simple advance 3…d3 called the Push Variation. d3 restricts the development of White’s king’s bishop and prevents Nc3. In the ensuing play, the bishop will capture the pawn on d3 and usually the queen’s knight goes to c4 via d2.

In the main line of the Smith-Morra, White’s knight finds its optimum square on c3 after capturing the pawn while both white bishops having open lines. The positioning of the white bishop depends on Black’s responses. But most often the king’s bishop goes to c4, aiming at Black’s vulnerable f7 square. However, note that the bishop on c4 is undefended and hence Black’s queen on c7 can attack it. Black saw this as an opportunity in today’s game. Note that in the main line of the Smith-Morra, the bishop on c4 becomes defended by the queen on e2.

This gambit in the Sicilian Defense provides many tactical opportunities for White if Black plays inaccurately. Like any other gambit, the Smith-Morra is a weapon for adventurous players who can aggressively utilize the extra space and tempo. While rarely appears at the highest level, it is frequent in blitz and rapid games. Hikaru Nakamura uses it extensively.

Additional note concerning Vladimir Afromeev: Afromeev is a Russian chess player who for several years was the only player in the world top 100 list who was not a GM and his peak FIDE rating was 2646.

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