Game#44 – Fighting off the Smith Morra Gambit

The Smith Morra Gambit

The Smith Morra Gambit is one of the most aggressive replies to the Sicilian Defense. White sacrifices a pawn early to gain an advantage in development and seize the initiative. Black has to be very careful. Any slow or passive moves could result in a crushing defeat. White’s sole aim is to crash through Black’s defenses and justify his pawn sacrifice.

Deep Swindle and I have played this opening a countless number of times. I always play the Black side. From the Black side, the opening can teach you the importance of defense and dealing with a loss of tempo. As White, you will learn the value of the initiative which can worth at least a pawn and sometimes more.

One book I would strongly recommend from the Black side of the Smith Morra Gambit is Tim Taylor’s – How to Defeat the Smith-Morra Gambit 6…a6. It will show you all the common themes that White can throw at you and the appropriate replies. Now let’s look at the game.

Smith Morra Gambit

Post-game analysis

Analyzing your games pays dividends. Learning how to calculate accurately is an important part of becoming a strong chess player. The Smith Morra Gambit will help you do that regardless of what side you play it from. Here, the important Nh5 move was something I had analyzed in a prior game and was able to take advantage of. This was not sheer memorization though – it was the understanding that White’s early e5 was played too quickly. This is why you analyze your games. The knowledge you learn during your analysis can be applied to future games.

Don’t rush. Being up a pawn puts pressure on your opponent. It makes him do things he might not do if the material count was equal. Take time to improve your pieces and lock down squares. Don’t overextend. White has to justify the pawn he lost so don’t give him any help. Also, watch for counter play!

Keeping pawns on the right squares. If you are facing an ending against a bishop, remember to try and keep your pawns on the opposite-colored squares. In this game, the best way to combat White’s bishop was to put all my pawns on dark squares. Obviously, being up the exchange was enough to win regardless of what squares my pawns were on but it is always good to remember basic endgame strategy. The last thing you want is the bishop capturing consecutive pawns on your pawn chain as your rook is powerless to stop it.


The Smith Morra Gambit is not an opening for the feint of heart. It isn’t for those who want to play it safe. If you are looking for simple plans and easy development, stick with the Stone Wall Attack for my favorite the King’s Indian Attack.

I you want wild tactics and a deeper understanding of compensation at the loss of pawn, this is the opening for you. Some other books I would recommend on the Smith Morra Gambit are:

The Modern Morra Gambit by Russell Enterprises.
Winning With the Smith-Morra Gambit (Batsford Chess Library) – Henry Holt & Co.
Mayhem in the Morra by Marc Esserman (2012-07-01) – Marc Esserman.

Each of these books provides different levels of guidance. Tim Taylor’s book is the only one that focuses solely on Black’s replies. But in order to learn the opening properly, you will need to understand White’s plans and ambitions.

There are other forms of media on the Smith Morra Gambit too. Chessbase has a DVD on the Smith Morra This is a multimedia tool designed to work with Chessbase but it’s another alternative to consider as well.

What are your thoughts on playing the Smith Morra Gambit? Are you a fan or not? Please share your thoughts below.

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