Smokey Mountain Smith-Morra

Bruce Goodwin is a Chess Cat who also happens to be the President of the Smokey Mountain Chess Club (, which meets every Thursday afternoon at a wonderful place, Blue Ridge Books ( Check out this article from a local tabloid:
The Chess Cat likes the Smith-Morra Gambit. Over time I have sent Bruce a few games, and articles, via email, such as this one:
Deming – Cornell (Indiana, 1980)
1. e4 c5 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 de4 4. Ne4 Nd7 5. Qe2 Ngf6 6. Nd6#

His response was, “Thanks, dude!” This put a smile on my face and also caused me to sit back an reflect upon good times and good people, who can be found at a good place. Keep this in mind if you ever happen to be anywhere the glorious mountains of Western North Carolina. I dedicate this post to the Chess Cat, and all the men of the Dixie Chess Confederacy who meet to play the Royal game every Thursday afternoon.

FM Kazim Gulamali also likes the Smith-Morra. The motto of St. Pauli Girl beer is, “You never forget your first girl.” The SM was Kazim’s first love, and he has never forgotten it, as can be ascertained from the fact that he still plays it, as in this game:

Gulamali, Kazim (2293) vs Kanter, Eduard (2406)
16th Dubai Open 2014 04/15/2014 Rd 9
ECO: B21 Sicilian, Smith-Morra gambit

1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 d3 4. c4 Nc6 5. Bxd3 g6 6. Nc3 Bg7 7. Nf3 d6 8. h3 Nf6 9. O-O Nd7 10. Qe2 Nc5 11. Rd1 O-O 12. Bc2 Bxc3 13. bxc3 Qc7 14. Bh6 Re8 15. Nd4 a6 16. f4 e5 17. Nxc6 Qxc6 18. f5 f6 19. Rd5 Qc7 20. Rad1 Rd8 21. Qf2 Qe7 (White to move. Answer at the end of article.)

While researching the opening I discovered a game by a long-time habitue of the House of Pain, Lester Bedell. It was surprising to find his highly rated opponent is also a big fan of the Smith-Morra gambit.

Alex Lenderman (2327) vs Lester B Bedell (1903)
6th Foxwoods 2004 Rd 9

1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 d3 4. c4 g6 5. Bxd3 Bg7 6. Nf3 d6 7. h3 Nc6 8. O-O Nf6 9. Nc3 O-O 10. Be3 Nd7 11. Qd2 Nde5 12. Nxe5 Nxe5 (SF & Hou prefer Qa5) 13. Be2 Be6 (Nc6-Hou) 14. Nd5 Bxd5 (Nd7-Hou) 15. cxd5 b6 16. Rac1 Nd7 17. Rc6 Nc5 18. Qc2 a5 19. b3 Qb8 20. a3 f5 21. exf5 gxf5 22. b4 axb4 23. axb4 f4 24. Bxc5 bxc5 25. bxc5 dxc5 26. Qxc5 Qb2 27. Re6 Ra1 28. Qxe7 Rxf1+ 29. Bxf1 Bf6 30. Qd6 Bd4 31. Re2 Qc1 32. Qe6+ Kh8 33. Qe4 Bc5 34. Rc2 Qa3 35. Qe5+ Kg8 36. d6 Bxd6 37. Bc4+ Rf7 38. Qe8+ Kg7 39. Qxf7+ 1-0

Lester was punished for his weakening 20th move. Wondering about Lester sent me to the USCF website where I discovered he has not played since the Atlanta Winter Congress in Feburary of 2009, and that his USCF membership expired a year later. I recall receiving a message from Lester after he won a chess tournament in his home, which I wrote about on the defunct BaconLOG (

Here is another game, a blitz match on on 2/28/2007:
Nepomniashchy (2587) vs Nakamura (2651)
1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 d3 4. c4 g6 5. Nc3 d6 6. Nf3 Bg7 7. Be3 Nc6 8. Bxd3 Bg4 9. Be2 Bxf3 10. Bxf3 Nf6 11. Be2 Rc8 12. O-O a6 13. Rc1 O-O 14. b3 Nd7 15. Nd5 e6 16. Nf4 Qe7 17. Rc2 Rfd8 18. Rd2 Nc5 19. f3 Bh6 20. Kh1 Qf8 21. Re1 e522. Nd5 Bxe3 23. Nxe3 Ne6 24. Bf1 Ncd4 25. Nd5 f5 26. exf5 gxf5 27. f4 Qg7 28. Rd3 Kh8 29. Rg3 Qf7 30. fxe5 f4 31. Rd3 dxe5 32. Rxe5 Nc6 33. Re1 Re8 34. Rd2 Ng5 35. Rxe8+ Rxe8 36. Rf2 Ne4 37. Rf3 Ne5 38. Qd4 Ng5 39. Rxf4 Qg7 40. Nf6 Nc6 41. Nxe8 Qxd4 42. Rf8# 1-0

I also discovered a blog entry devoted to the Smith-Morra, ENYCA, the blog of the Eastern New York Chess Association. The title is, “A tale of two titles: Morra gambit and the romantic school of chess,” and it was posted on August 10, 2014, by M Walter Mockler. ( He writes, “It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity.”
“I have spent decades rejecting the Morra gambit on the grounds of materialism, an unnecessary squandering of material in response to the Sicilian. I purchased a book by Marc Esserman, Mayhem In The Morra, to introduce a volatile option for blitz and rapid play. What I found instead was a compelling appeal by a zealot, urging a return to the true faith, romantic chess.”
From the Introduction – The Much Maligned Morra:
After 1. e4 c5 2. d4 cd 3. c3, we reach the starting position of the much maligned Morra Gambit. I must confess that this is often the moment in my chess praxis when my heart thumps most – will my opponent accept the sacrifice in the spirit of the Romantics, or will he shun the most honorable path and meekly decline? Sometimes I wait for the critical decision for many minutes as my grandmaster foe flashes me an incredulous, bordering on insulted, loo. Other times, I receive the answer almost instantaneously. Yet every time I am greeted with 3 …dc, I could not be happier. My knight freely flows to c3, the Morra accepted appears, and we travel back in time to the 19th century.”

Is that not beautiful? Kind of makes one want to play the Smith-Morra gambit, does it not? It makes me think of Ken Smith, whom I first met at the 1972 Church’s Fried Chicken tournament in San Antonio. Wiki has this to say:
“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.” (

What Wiki does not say is that in the book, “San Antonio: Church’s Fried Chicken First International Chess Tournament,” GM Bent Larsen writes in the notes to the second round game between Ken and NM Mario Campos-Lopez, after 1 e4 e6, “Stronger is P-QB4, which wins a pawn (Smith always plays the Morra Gambit, in this tournament with disastrous results.)”

Kenneth R Smith (2395) vs Donald Byrne (2470)
San Antonio 1972 Rd 4

1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 dxc3 4. Nxc3 Nc6 5. Nf3 d6 6. Bc4 e6 7. O-O Nge7 (“By this piece arrangement Black demonstrates ambitious intentions. He wants not only to blunt White’s usual P-K5, …but Black also wants to contest the dark squares (his K4 and KB5).”- Ken Smith in his book “Sicilian: Smith-Morra Gambit Accepted.”) 8. Bg5 a6 9. Qe2 h6 10. Bh4 (In his book, Smith criticizes this move, giving as its refutation 10… P-KN4 11 B-KN3 B-N2 12 QR-Q1 P-K4 when “the threat of 13…B-N5 is strong.” Instead he recommends 10 B-K3 N-N3 11 QR-Q1. One can only surmise that in playing the text he had in mind an improvement on the analysis in the book, but Byrne is the first to vary.) Qa5 11. Bg3 Ng6 12. Qd2 (A scandalous waste of a tempo in a variation where White’s only real compensation is his slight initiative. 12 P-Q3 was probably best.) Nge5 13. Nxe5 dxe5 14. a3 Be7 15. b4 Qd8 16. Qa2 b5 17. Bb3 O-O 18. Qb2 Bb7 19. Ne2 Bf6 20. f3 Qc7 21. Rac1 Rfd8 22. Kh1 Rd3 23. Nd4 Qd7 24. Nxc6 Bxc6 25. Rc5 Be7 26. Rcc1 Bg5 27. Rcd1 Rd8 28. h4 (“White had almost equalized, but this move is terrible. 28 P-R3 was much better.” – Browne) Bf6 29. Bxe5 Bxe5 30. Qxe5 Qe7 31. Qb2 Qxh4+ 32. Kg1 Qg5 33. Qc2 Rd2 34. Rxd2 Rxd2 0-1

Some of the notes by IM David Levy in the tournament book.

Kenneth R Smith (2395) vs Larry Melvyn Evans (2545)
San Antonio 1972 Rd 9

1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 dxc3 (“The best way to refute a gambit is to accept it,” so it is writ. Black can decline with 3…P-Q6, or 3…P-Q4 or 3…N-KB3, but why?) 4. Nxc3 Nc6 5. Nf3 d6 6. Bc4 a6 7. O-O Nf6 8. Bg5 e6 9. Qe2 h6 10. Bh4 (Loses the initiative. On 10 B-K3 N-KN5! [the point] 11 B-Q2 KN-K4 Black’s position is very solid anyway.) g5 11. Bg3 Nh5 12Rfd1 Nxg3 13. hxg3 g4 14. Ne1 Ne5 15. Bb3 h5 16. Nd3 Bg7 17. Nf4 h4 18. Qd2 hxg3 19. fxg3 Qb6+ 20. Kf1 Bd7 21. Rac1 Rd8 22. Ke2 Nf3 23. Qd3 Nd4+ 24. Kd2 Nxb3+ 25. axb3 Qf2+ 26. Nce2 Bb5 27. Qe3 Qxe3+ 28. Kxe3 e5 29. Nd5 Bh6+ 30. Kf2 Bxc1 31. Rxc1 Bc6 32. Nec3 Kd7 33. Nf6+ Ke6 34. Nxg4 f5 35. exf5+ Kxf5 36. Ne3+ Ke6 37. g4 d5 38. Ne2 d4 39. Nc4 Rdg8 40. Kg3 Rg5 0-1 (Notes by GM Larry Evans)

Ken’s next opponent the youngest participant in the tournament, eight months younger than future World Champion, Anatoly Karpov. Because of the similarity in age, I got to know Henrique better than the other players. He rented a car and took me along for a “drive” around San Antonio. It was one of the most harrowing rides I have ever experienced. Mecking was missing cars on my side by an inch, smiling and laughing all the while, as I cringed and moved ever to my left, away from the door. I mentioned this to Brian McCarthy on the way back from the recent scholastic tournament here in Atlanta at the downtown Hyatt and he said it reminded him of a former NM, Michael Lucas. “Yeah,” I said, “he scared the hell out of me. One time he took off a mirror and kept on driving. ” Brian, who was driving, began to laugh uproariously, saying, “That’s how he got the name “Crazy Lucas!”

Kenneth R Smith (2395) vs Henrique Mecking (2570)
San Antonio 1972 Rd 13

1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 dxc3 4. Nxc3 Nc6 5. Nf3 d6 6. Bc4 a6 7. O-O Nf6 8. a3 (What kind of move is this? Normal is 8 B-KN5) e6 9. Qe2 h6 10. Rd1 e5 11. Nd5 Be7 12. Be3 Nxd5 13. exd5 Nb8 14. Nxe5 (Totally unsound. White should have tried doubling Rooks on the QB file.) dxe5 15. f4 exf4 16. d6 fxe3 17. Qxe3 Nc6 18. Bd5 O-O 19. Bxc6 Bg5 0-1 (Notes by IM David Levy)

Bobby Fischer vs Viktor Korchnoi
Buenos Aires 1960 Rd 14

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 a6 3. d4 cxd4 4. c3 dxc3 5. Nxc3 Nc6 6. Bc4 d6 7. O-O Nf6 8. Bg5 e6 9. Qe2 Be7 10. Rfd1 Qc7 11. Rac1 O-O 12. Bb3 h6 13. Bf4 e5 14. Be3 Qd8 15. Nd5 Nxd5 16. Bxd5 Bd7 17. Nd2 Nb4 18. Bb3 Bg5 19. Bxg5 Qxg5 20. Nf3 Bg4 21. Rc7 Qd8 22. Rxb7 Rb8 23. Rxb8 Qxb8 24. h3 Bxf3 25. Qxf3 Nc6 26. Qd3 Nd4 27. Bc4 a5 28. b3 Qb4 29. f4 Kh7 1/2-1/2

What? You were unaware Bobby played the Smith-Morra?

Answer: 22. Qxc5! 1-0


One thought on “Smokey Mountain Smith-Morra

  1. Chesster says:

    This is a wonderful article. Thank you Armchair Warrior!

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