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Sicilian Defence, Smith-Morra Gambit

Smith-Morra Gambit
a b c d e f g h
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Moves 1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3
ECO B20 or B21
Named after Ken Smith
Pierre Morra
Parent Sicilian Defence
Synonym(s) Morra Gambit

In chess, the Smith-Morra Gambit (or simply Morra Gambit) is an opening gambit against the Sicilian Defence distinguished by the moves:

1. e4 c5
2. d4 cxd4
3. c3

White sacrifices a pawn to develop quickly and create attacking chances. In exchange for the gambit pawn, White has a piece developed after 4.Nxc3 and a pawn in the center, while Black has an extra pawn and a central pawn majority. The plan for White is straightforward and consists of placing the bishop on c4 to attack the f7-square, and controlling both the c- and d-files with rooks, taking advantage of the fact that Black can hardly find a suitable place to post their queen.

The Smith-Morra is uncommon in grandmaster games, but is popular at club level.


The Smith-Morra is named after Pierre Morra (1900-1969) from France, and Ken Smith (1930-1999) of the Dallas Chess Club. Hence in Europe the name Morra Gambit is preferred; names like Tartakower Gambit and Matulovic Gambit have disappeared.

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 Smith participated in an international tournament against several top grandmasters in San Antonio in 1972, he essayed the opening three times, against Donald Byrne, Larry Evans, and Henrique Mecking, but lost all three games.

Continuations overview

Black has a wide choice of reasonable defences after 1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3. White sometimes plays 2.Nf3 and 3.c3, which depending on Black's response may rule out certain lines.

Morra Gambit Accepted: 3...dxc3



Morra Gambit Declined

The latter has a bad reputation, as square c3 is free for the knight. Still 5...Nf6 (5...e5; 5...Nc6 6.Nf3 e5) 6.Nf3 e6 7.Nc3 Qd6 is likely to transpose to a main line of the Alapin: 2.c3 d5 3.exd5 Qxd5 4.d4 e6 5.Nf3 Nf6 6.Bd3 Nc6 7.0-0 cxd4 8.cxd4 Be7 9.Nc3 Qd6.

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