Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Back to Siberia

Many players, faced with the Smith-Morra Gambit (1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3), try for a quick win with the Siberian Trap. A successful example of the trap is seen in the below game. After 9.h3?? Nd4! White gets mated after 10.Nxd4? Qh2# or 10.Qd3? Nxf3+ 11.Qxf3 Qh2#, or loses the queen for two knights after 10.hxg4 Nxe2+ 11.Bxe2.

Sicilian players like me love to ridicule the Smith-Morra. When IM Mario Campos-Lopez played the French Defense against Ken Smith at San Antonio 1972, Bent Larsen gave 1...e6 a question mark, noting that 1...c5 wins a pawn against Smith. Smith played his beloved gambit thrice in that tournament, losing to GMs Larry Evans and Henrique Mecking, and IM Donald Byrne.

However, IM Marc Esserman in his brilliant and entertaining new book Mayhem in the Morra! makes a strong case that the gambit is sound! He also plays it himself with great results, including a crushing win against GM Loek Van Wely.

Against the Siberian Trap, he extensively analyzes 8.Nb5! (improving on 8.Qe2?!) Qb8 9.e5! After 9...Nxe5?!, he analyzes 10.Nxe5 Qxe5 11.Re1! to a forced win for White. One line is 11...Qb8 12.Qd4! d6 13.Bf4! e5 14.Rxe5+! dxe5 (14...Be7 15.Rxe7+!; 14...Be6 15.Bxe6! dxe5 16.Bxe5 Qd8 17.Nc7+) 15.Bxe5 and Black's queen is trapped. After the alternative 9...Ng4 10.Bf4 a6 (he also analyzes 10...Ngxe5? 11.Nxe5 Nxe5 12.Bxe6! dxe6 (12...fxe6 13.Qh5+) 13.Rc1!) 11.Nd6+ Bxd6 12.exd6 b5 13.Bd5!! is Esserman's TN, which he analyzes as leading to at least a large advantage for White. The main line is acceptance of the sacrifice with 13...exd5 14.Re1+, which Esserman analyzes to a forced win.

I played 13.Bd5!! in two blitz games today, but both of my opponents declined the bishop. One game went 13...Bb7 14.Bxc6! Bxc6 15.Nd4! (another line given by Esserman), when Black could already resign in light of 15...Nf6 16.Nxc6 dxc6? 17.d7+ winning the queen. Here is the other game. Note that 15...Qb6!, leaving Black "only" a piece down, would have been a slight improvement.

In case you haven't gotten the idea, I highly recommend Esserman's book for anyone who plays 1.e4 as White or the Sicilian as Black, or just wants to play over some great tactical games.


Anonymous said...

I love the Smith-Morra, Marc Esserman and Fred Rhine!

Bill Brock said...

Instead of 12...b5?, 12...O-O and Black is OK. But who wants Black here, playable though it may be?

Frederick Rhine said...

12...O-O (which Esserman also analyzes) is indeed better, but still not easy for Black. See Milman-Ehlvest (the same line, but with White a tempo down, having played Nd6+ without waiting for Black to provoke it with ...a6) for an illustration of Black's problems.