Saturday, October 13, 2012

A trap in the Smith-Morra

Probably the best-known trap in the Smith-Morra Gambit occurs after 3...dxc3 4.Nxc3 Nc6 5.Nf3 d6 6.Bc4 Nf6?! 7.e5! (see diagram). After accepting the pawn Black has played three eminently reasonable-looking developing moves, but is suddenly in trouble! In the game below, he actually stumbles into checkmate - after trading queens, no less. In the final position, Black resigns in light of 10...Ke8 11.Nc7#! Marc Esserman writes, "I've lost count how many times I have delivered this comedic finish." (Mayhem in the Morra!, p. 205)

This trap isn't actually as fearsome as its reputation. After 7.e5!, Black certainly must avoid (a) 7...Nxe5?? 8.Nxe5 dxe5? 9.Bxf7+! Kxf7 10.Qxd8. Esserman considers his best line to be (b) 7...Ng4! 8.exd6 exd6! 9.O-O Be7 10.h3 Nge5 11.Nxe5 dxe5 12.Qh5 O-O 13.Rd1 Qa5 14.Be3, when "White's full range of motion more than compensates for Black's extra e5-pawn." Unfortunately the attractive 8.e6!? has, he says, been refuted by Rybka: 8...fxe6! 9.Ng5 Nge5 10.Nxe6 Qa5! 11.Bb3 Bxe6 12.Bxe6 Qa6! with a small advantage to Black. After (c) 7...dxe5 8.Qxd8+, Esserman says that Black's best is the surprising (c1) 8...Kxd8! 9.Ng5 Na5! when the obvious 10.Nxf7+? Ke8 11.Nxh8 Nxc4 will leave Black up material after he wins the beast on h8. Instead, he recommends 10.Bb5! Be6! 11.Nxe6+ fxe6, when Black is two pawns up but White is slightly better in light of his bishop pair, lead in development, and Black's tripled e-pawns. After the game continuation (c2) 8...Nxd8? 9.Nb5!, Black's best is 9...Rb8! (instead of 9...Kd7??) 10.Nxe5 (threatening Nc7#!) e6 11.Bf4! (Rybka) Nh5 12.Be3 Bb4+ 13.Kf1 O-O 14.Be2 a6 15.a3 Be7 16.Na7! Nf6 17.Rc1 Bd7 18.Nxd7 Nxd7 19.Rc7 Nf6 20.Nc8! and White wins. For more details, see pages 204-07 and 219-21 of Mayhem in the Morra!

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