Smith Morra Mayhem!
I have been playing a lot of blitz lately (2-5 games a day, with 3 0 time controls). I have ignored opening theory (in fact I have purposefully been playing objectively unsound, reckless openings), tactical training, and slow games for the last few years. Other bits of life have become my highest priority.
While I have found the Smith-Morra a fun weapon against the Sicilian, I also got the suspicion that I was missing lots of opportunities. Hence, on a whim, I bought the book 'Mayhem in the Morra' by Marc Esserman. It isamazing, written by someone who loves chess, loves the opening, and takes great pains to explain tactics and strategy at multiple levels, including word-based explanations for people like me, to more concrete variation-crunching analysis for those that want more meat on the bones.
I am getting a much better understanding of the main strategic goals, but also the most common tactical themes (e.g., a common knight sacrifice that I frankly would never have thought of on my own). It is so clear, its enthusiasm for the game so contagious, that it makes me want to drop everything and start doing chess full time.
If I had to come up with any criticisms (which I force myself to do for all reviews) it is that he is probably not objective enough; he is something of an evangelist for the opening, and evangelicals are usually not the most trustworthy sources. That said, in this case it is contagious and likeable (unlike some offbeat opening books where it is offputting, especially if the person writing it is rated 1000 at chess.com but writes as if they have a refutation of the Ruy Lopez). Frankly, at my crappy 1200-level blitz games, I will never find any problems with this opening.
I like to make an analogy between good chess authors and mother birds. They do all sorts of work to get the food and digest the material, and are kind enough to spit it back in the mouth of those of us less able to secure our own food. This guy is like a freaking pelican mommy shoveling chewed up fish into my cakehole. Thanks to Marc Esserman for this great book, it truly makes me wish I had more time for the chess sink.
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