Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Chess and the Smith-Morra Gambit , according to IM Marc Esserman

Boston has always been the epicenter for swashbucklers of chess, beginning with Harry Nelson Pillsbury, to Weaver Adams, to Harry Lyman, to John Curdo, to GM Larry Christiansen, and now the chess gods insured that Marc Esserman move to Boston from Florida.

For the above mentioned, initiative is the most important asset in the game of chess -- these are players who put force above materiality.On December 8th Marc Esserman presented his views about the Smith-Morra Gambit in a lecture during an entertaining few hours about the fun one can have for the investment of one pawn.

The Smith-Morra is and has been a controversial opening over the past 50 years - being very popular with Boston players - and various claimed antidotes have been put forward.

Harry Lyman influenced many BCF players to use it against the Sicilian, including yours truly.

Then a man named Tim Taylor in the early 90's published a book that took some of the appeal out of the opening. Theory being ever-changing, Esserman and others have taken a real serious look at the Smith Morra. Marc computer beating on all known lines and games goes into a game with the confidence he has seen all that has been. With such preparation, and Marc being so gifted with great tactical skills, generates this confidence to use the Smith Morra against all comers. Last night Marc via games reviewed major attempts to debunk the Smith-Morra, showing in great detail how to deal with the Chicago and Siberian defenses. Most of his audience, a dozen, were people who play the white side of the SM, not defenders against the SM. Marc joked that he didn't want the lecture taped during the night as he divulged lines, facts, and concepts never published.

Esserman warned us not to be as dogmatic as originator Ken Smith, noting to be careful and not blindly make automatic moves like Qe2 without looking out. Esserman emphasized that white has to act quickly in not letting black consolidate easily without being "messed up" a bit for the pawn. Marc also stated you should take a lot more time in analysis than you might normally take because of the complexities but joked to not go too crazy in sacrificing too much. Then he showed an outrageous game where he quickly sacrificed a knight along with a pawn to win. He pointed out you should play against black's queen and leverage that pressure to impede Black's development and coordination.

The Smith-Morra, in Esserman's hands, presents positions that play to his strengths: early centralized queen placement, cryptic but brutal knight moves, in combination with bishops flying away from self interference with rooks are some Esserman's tactical common themes.

Bishops to h7 and a7 imbedded behind enemy pawns, and forcing enemy rooks to self smother their kings also abounded -- being Esserman signature strategies.

Overall a very well planned and presented lecture. At the end of the evening Marc took on all comers with a simultaneous.

Five players faced Marc -- some of us played/lost two games. I had to leave to early, but at that time Marc was undefeated.

I hope someday to see the book -- once Marc feels he has squeezed as many points as he can from the opening.

Is the Smith Morra a good opening for white?

Please Comment

Thank You Mike Griffin 12/09/2009

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