Monday, June 26, 2006

Anti-Sicilians: and it comes down to two

I am trying to decide between playing the Grand Prix Attack (GPA: 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. f4) and the Smith-Morra Gambit (SMG: 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3) as white when I hit the Sicilian. Both lead to tactically rich games, with a lot less theory than the main lines.

My thinking thus far biases me toward the SMG. For one, there is more beginner material out there for Smith-Morra, in particular my favorite opening book has a great chapter on it. Also, you are more likely to get lines you have studied, while in contrast in the GPA there is a lot more wriggle-room for black, even as early as move two (e.g., black often will not play 2...Nc6, but in the SMG, black almost always plays cxd4). In favor of the GPA, the pawn structure is very similar to that seen in the King's Gambit declined, which I already am pretty used to as white. This could mean less stuff to learn on my part.

Because of all this, I am leaning toward Smith-Morra. Anyone have any opinions on this matter? If your answer is "Play 2. Nf3", you haven't answered my question. :)

23 Comments:

Blogger Patrick said...

I don't like SMG-- it feels like I'm playing a Colle system. The moves are too formulaic; 80% of SMG's go like this:
Nc3 Bc4 Nf3 Qe7 0-0 Rd1 Rc1 Bb3 Nd5

SMG is just too predictable IMO; for white and also for black. So I'd recommend GPA, although you meant 2.Nc3 in your post instead of 2.Nf3. GPA seems like a better choice for someone who plays Vienna. (Same pawn structure.) Lastly, GM's (used to) play GPA; it was all the rage in the 1980's. GM's never play SMG, for a reason. To me, SMG is no fun b/c it doesn't blow the game open to get at the Black king's throat, unlike almost all 1.e4 gambits: Danish, Evans, KGA, etc.

I play c3 sicilian or (blitz only) Wing Gambit 2.b4. At least 2.b4 opens up the game. Have fun with your choice; it's fun like shopping for a new car. :)

6/26/2006 11:34:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Patrick: thanks for catching the mistake: I've changed it in the original post(quid pro quo: did you mean Qe2 in your description of what usually happens as white?).

Mike Basman, in his amazing book 'Chess Openings', has a really good chapter on the Morra gambit.

I have been playing the Alapin (2. c3) but want something more open, with less study required, and less likely to transpose into the French. Wing gambit, eh? Yer a nut!

I'd like to just play around with both, but black plays the sicilian so rarely it is hard to play a whole bunch of games using the SMG and GPA to get a feel for each. Perhaps I'll Fritzillate it.

6/27/2006 12:31:00 AM  
Blogger bahus said...

I know what Patrick means: the basic set-up in SMG is very simple (e4, d4, c3, Nc3, Nf3, Bc4, 0-0, Qe2, Rd1, Be3, Rac1, Bb3), the question is how to proceed after these first 12 moves. I play SMG against all 1...c5 players and so far most players a.) accept the gambit and b.) have no idea how to play against it but rather try to play their normal Sicilian with a pawn up only to get a nasty surprise with early e5 or Bxf7 etc.

What I initially liked about this gambit was the fact that it is very simple for white and all the pieces have a natural development. In CC games I've lately tried to learn the lines a bit deeper in thematic SMG tournaments and got to play the lines also with black for the first time. You don't really need much theory but there are number of ideas or plans that you learn by playing and then analysing your games. The latter is very important as when playing SMG you have to know how to take advantage of your opponent’s errors and this means often very drastic actions (real and fake sacrifices to open up the lines towards opponents king).

As Patrick said, hardly any really good players use this gambit. I've played it in 5-min and 15-min games against 2200+ players at the local chess club and so far none of them have accpeted the gambit (they play 3...Nf6 and transpose to Alapin Sicilian). I guess they don't face SMG often and feel more at home with normal lines but this hardly means that the gambit is refuted. Against anyone under 1900 (or U2000 ICC) it is more than playable.

http://www.chessvictory.com/SmithMorra.pdf
http://www.chesscafe.com/text/mcgrew20.pdf
http://www.chesscafe.com/text/mcgrew27.pdf

- bahus

6/27/2006 04:28:00 AM  
Blogger Temposchlucker said...

When the GPA was invented, the basic idea was to sneek with your queen via e1 to h4 and setting up a kingside attack. To have the time for this, your center has to be stable.
The refutation of the GPA is 1.e4 c5 2.f4 d5
Your pawns will be scattered all over the place and you have no chance of attack based on the position. Since there is no stable center your own king is too vulnerable.
The toilet-variation 2.Pc3 is meant to repair this. It makes the GPA playable, but the original attacking idea is lost IMO, with no substitute.

The SMG is a logical gambit.
Giving a pawn for swift development and open lines. The only reason grandmasters don't like this is that by good defense the endgame is lost.
So when you play against a GM, don't play the SMG since you will lose the ending with a pawn less. In all other cases: use it.

I never had much succes with the SMG. I always had the idea I had the open lines at the wrong side of the board. I just don't have feeling for the SMG, which doesn't mean it isn't good.

So I'm looking for a good alternative myself. For now playing the Alapin, which is way too slow.
But it is save.

6/27/2006 04:33:00 AM  
Blogger takchess said...

Here is my uninformed 2 cents. I have played around with the smith mora gambit and felt I that the game did not develop quick enough for my liking. If I gambit a pawn I want to be attacking quickly like in the Danish Gambit or Kings Gambit. The SMA the attack builds as patrick says in a slow formulaic way.
I prefered playing standard lines in the Sicilian where my Knights got developed, I castled queen side and pushed King side.
In looking at the Grand Prix vs the Perneyi attack. The GP has a much earlier pawn push. I like the ideas behind the Perneyi better. I also find interesting the knight sac on F5 in this game.
http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1347849

here is a link to grand prix collection
http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chesscollection?cid=1004382

Also I too have had success with the wing gambit. 8)

6/27/2006 08:00:00 AM  
Blogger takchess said...

unsure if you recall this in Rapid chess improvement. Mdlm talked to a master who said one couldn't reach master level if he played the grand prix attack. MDLM disagreed in that he played it all the time.

6/27/2006 08:03:00 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

unsure if you recall this in Rapid chess improvement. Mdlm talked to a master who said one couldn't reach master level if he played the grand prix attack. MDLM disagreed in that he played it all the time.

And he didn't reach master level, did he? :)

6/27/2006 09:08:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Interesting thoughts to help me stay confused. :)

I have noticed that the SMG, like the blackmar-diemer gambit, has a very devoted, almost cult-like, following. This makes me a little wary, frankly, though it doesn't seem to generate the antipathy amongst GMs that the BDG invariably does (BDG:Chess Openings :: Creationism:Biology). In fact, most IM/GM types recommend avoiding the SMG because white ultimately gains compensation for the pawn, not necessarily in the form of a quick attack, but by gaining a significant long-term positional/strategic advantages in the open lines and pinned black material.

Bahus: I, too, look at the formulaic moves as an asset of the SMG: less for me to learn! Just get me to the middlegame with a fun, open game. The version of the Alapin reached by refusing the gambit (as recommended in Chess Openings for Black, Explained) seems comfortable for white . Thanks for the links Bahus.

Tempo. Let me know what you move on to instead of the Alapin (I am trying to quit the Alapin for the same reason: too slow and closed of a game for me). You said, "The refutation of the GPA is 1.e4 c5 2.f4 d5." That's why the move order has changed to what I mentioned in my post: white needs to play 2. Nc3 first to prevent that early pawn break.

Tak, interesting, but too much theory to learn. I guess, partly, the mainstream anti-Sicilians are mainstream because of their success.

I leave you with a fun article about the SMG here.

6/27/2006 10:38:00 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

. . .or you could just play 1.d4

[grin]

6/27/2006 12:32:00 PM  
Blogger takchess said...

Actually the main line is not too hard,it consists for white. playing knight to normal spot f6, playing d4, capturing on d4, protecting the now threatened e4 with other knight,put bishop in a worthwhile spot, queen in worthwhile spot most likely protecting bishop, put bishop in worthwhile spot, castle.it is pretty intuitive in play. Push pawns when you feel like it. The complexity in the Sicilian comes more from the black side imho.

6/27/2006 12:40:00 PM  
Blogger takchess said...

should read f3 not f6

6/27/2006 12:41:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Jim, that vile siren d4 is sounding better and better...

6/27/2006 01:16:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Takchess: interesting perspective I hadn't seen before, that it is black who has to learn tons of stuff to play the Sicilian...I guess white largely dictates which variation you enter, so it makes sense!

In that light, I'll reconsider Emms' suggestion in his book 'Play 1. e4 e5', where he recommends the closed sicilian.

6/27/2006 01:18:00 PM  
Blogger Qaundoman said...

I'd say do the SMG just because it forces you to really take advantage of that extra developing move. Thus, you'll learn quick how not to screw around and beat your opponent quickly with tactics, or else you just find yourself in an endgame down a pawn.

The GPA, I think, leads to more positional stuff and is less likely to be a tactical slugfest.

When it came to me choosing what to play against the Sicilian, I initially chose the SMG but just didn't like it. I then went to the Alapin variation. Now, i realize that's not a gambit line, but it is fully in accord with the positional idea of getting the better center, which to me, I'd prefer to giving up an extra tempo. Lately, however, I've been playing the Wing Gambit Deferred, while the other Caissia's Confabulation contributor, Putnah, plays the straight Wing Gambit, that is, not deferred.

The Wing Gambit has the benefit of removing Black's pawn from the center so you can put both of your's instead; whereas the SMG gives wWhite the extra developing move at the exspense of a center pawn.

My humble class player opinion, of course.

Good luck! Maybe try both at some point. Do SMG for a while, then GPA for a while.

6/27/2006 01:19:00 PM  
Blogger Qaundoman said...

Wow, I just read your comment to Patrick wher you mention that Black rarely plays the Sicilian. Man, that's all I ever get hit with, that, and the Pirc. I think 1...c5 is Black's most common response to 1 e4.

In defense of the Wing Gambit, it has a positional reason behind it; namely, to remove black's best pawn and to put your two pawns in it's stead. I've played the Wing Gambit OTB a number of times and I've taken down A players with it. So, don't underestimate it. Of course, I've also lost to C-players playing the Wing, so go figure.

6/27/2006 01:24:00 PM  
Blogger takchess said...

watch out at your local barnes and nobles. Takchess Mco-14 in a Nutshell. 4 pages long.
JIm 8)

6/27/2006 01:25:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Quando: I think it's because I'm usually playing people between 900 and 1400 that I rarely see the Sicilian. I'm sure I'll start seeing it a lot once I get better. The wing gambit looks very interesting. I haven't seen any good treatments of it: it isn't even considered in any of my books!

I'll probably just start playing around with all these in real games, to get a sense for what I prefer in practice.

6/27/2006 01:41:00 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

another must-have article

6/27/2006 02:16:00 PM  
Blogger phorku said...

Halasz gambit sicilian variation?

6/27/2006 11:52:00 PM  
Blogger Yasser said...

i dont think you need to concentrate too much on the opening (i know you have heard that thousands of times before too); as long as you have one or two playable openings for each side it should be enough at this point; excellent blog by the way

6/28/2006 12:27:00 PM  
Blogger Qaundoman said...

Thanks Patrick for making that article avaliable. Blue Devil: I didn't even think that one of the reasons why you probably don't get the Sicilian all that often is due to the rating level of your opponents. I should have considered that. Thanks for pointing that out.

6/28/2006 12:54:00 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

I would just play whichever one you enjoy playing the most. Try them both for awhile if you haven't already.

While I believe in the GPA 2.Nc3/3.f4 is the best way to play, there's also 2.f4, a more aggressive form of the GPA. If your opponent doesn't know what to do they can find themselves in deep trouble quickly.

The "problem" with 2.f4 is 2...d5! where Black intends on sacrificing a pawn with 3.exd5 Nf6! Black gets very dynamic play and all the fun -- something a GPA player doesn't want as White.

7/03/2006 11:25:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Chris, after looking over resulting middle-games, I think I am going to go for the 2. f4 option, despite the problems with the 2...d5! line. This will minimize the amount of time I have to spend learning alternatives to 2...Nc6 after 2. Nc3. Plus, I will likely be much better versed on the ins-and-outs of the position than my black opponent (unless she also plays the GPA).

This is also the main reason I'm not going to play Smith Morra, as after 2...Nf6, you end up in a French variation and I don't want to worry about that.

Plus, since I already play to transpose to KGD from the Bishop's, I figure I'll be used to having a pawn duo on e4/f4, so less unfamiliar territory wrt pawn skeletons.

7/03/2006 01:42:00 PM  

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