Friday, September 14, 2007

Questions about Danish Gambit (Alekhine variation)

Can anyone explain why the Smith Morra Gambit [1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd 3. c3 dxc 4. Nxc3] is taken so seriously as a good opening for club players while the Alekhine Danish [1. e4 e5 2. d4 exd 3. c3 dxc 4. Nxc3] gets little to no attention? Why isn't the Alekhine Danish considered as good or better than the Smith Morra, given that in the Danish you end up with the same pieces developed, but the opponent has given up his King's pawn rather than a wing pawn in accepting the gambit?

Is it because in the Smith-Morra, he still can't develop either Bishop? Is that really that big a deal at the club level?

For those who have played both, has there been good synergy between the openings, as far as plans, typical strengths and weaknesses for both sides?

Finally, does anyone know what version of the Danish Davies recommends in his book Gambiteer I? Specifically, after 1. e4 e5 2. d4 exd 3. c3 dxc, does he recommend 4. Bc4 or 4. Nxc3? Also, any comments on how good that book is?

15 Comments:

Blogger Grandpatzer said...

"Can anyone explain why the Smith Morra Gambit ...is taken so seriously as a good opening for club players while the Alekhine Dutch ...gets little to no attention?"

Fashion, psychology and fear.

The Smith-Morra has a cult following. Danish groupies aren't so common.

The Smith-Morra has a certain dangerous-cool cache to it, like prison tats. You're saying "I want to kill you." In contrast, the Danish has a dowdy 19th-century air about it, I think (although Davies and others is trying to change that).

1.e4 players at club level tend to fear the main-line Sicilians and feel they need some anti-Sicilian weapon so that they don't fall into their opponents awesome book knowledge. In contrast, are there any 1.e4 players out there that go, "Oh, CRAP! he played 1...e5!"? If so, perhaps they should consider another pastime, such as stamp collecting.

Here's what I've uncovered:

1. If black allows this Danish line, the main line appears to be 3...dxc4 4.Nxc4 Nc6 5.Nf3 followed by the pin 5...Bb4, which is not possible in the Smith-Morra. Using Emms as a guide, if White continues with standard Smith-Morra moves it seems Black gets an OK game.

2. 3...d5 is considered to be quite good way to decline the Alekhine Danish. It's also played against the Smith-Morra, but in the latter at higher levels it seems that accepting the gambit is more common.

3. Kaufman's repertoire book strongly pushes 3...Qe7, saying "White must play about ten perfect moves just to equalize"...so be ready for it.

4. Personal aside: to me, in both Gambiteer I (flipping through it in the book store) and the Smith-Morra seem to walk a very narrow path, where accurate play is demanded. I wasnt' attracted to some of the lines recommended in Gambiteer I, but this is personal taste.

I've spent time on the Smith-Morra, and it seems in many key variations that you have to play very irrational, unnatural moves at many key junctures. If you're playing the Smith-Morra, I assume you have Langrock's book...if so, you probably know what I mean. The Smith-Morra is such a weird opening, it feels like an entirely different game. I was finding several continuations where it was much easier for White to go wrong than Black. I loved the idea of "white sacs a pawn for open lines and tactical shots", but the more I played it the more uncomfortable I was with it.

None of this is particularly important at club level, but I personally like playing stuff that's more rational.

9/14/2007 03:33:00 AM  
Blogger wayward son said...

Gambiteer I uses 4. Nxc3.

As for how good it is - can't say yet, I haven't had a chance to go through it very thoroughly. The book isn't that big, so there is not a ton of variations. Certainly you will have to do a lot of work of your own. But I have played a couple games with the recommended Sicilian Wing gambit and French wing gambit and they were wild fun. As for the Smith Morra Gambit. I have used it a little with so-so results. However I have used both types of Danish (4. Nc3 and 4. Bc4) with great success.

9/14/2007 03:46:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

GP: thanks very much for the generous helpful information. I've just started playing both of these openings as white, haven't read anything about either one yet (well, except the 'standard moves' for the Smith-Morra). So far the games have been fun. I've heard about that Kaufman move. Haven't run into it yet.

One nice thing about the Alekhine Dutch is that there is basically no theory out there on it. I got ECO and it has nothing, a pointer to a line it is supposed to transpose into. This means that it likely doesn't get much coverage in Black repertoire books, and means they are playing in my house, and it will give me time to build up skillz in the opening without having to learn a million reams of theory (as my opponents are so likely to go off book within just a few moves).

So if I study what look to be the most natural moves, and play it a bunch of times in blitz to get a sense for the statistics of how people respond, with Fritz, Davies, and some elbow grease, perhaps it will work out OK. It lets me avoid the freakin' Ruy, Petroff, etc etc. so I can spend more time on chess!

Wayward son (and GP): thanks for the info about Davies' book. Perhaps I'll order it.

9/14/2007 04:08:00 AM  
Blogger takchess said...

I don't own the book but do own the chessgame collection,
http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chesscollection?cid=1010142

9/14/2007 06:35:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Cool beans! Thanks Tak.

9/14/2007 10:27:00 AM  
Blogger Pale Morning Dun - Errant Knight de la Maza said...

I don't know, there is something just sexy about that open c-file in the Smith-Morra. Grandpatzer raises some good points. The Smith-Morra has junctures in it that demand what seems to be radical play. It's highly tactical. The upshot is if you know the opening and your opponent does not, then you can tend to press the advantage very, very early in the game. The downside I've found is that if my opponent knows what he/she is doing then I really have to fight to make my pawn sac worth it.

9/14/2007 11:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you mean "Danish", not Dutch. Dutch is a black opening after 1.d4 f5. Besides, Denmark and the Netherlands are different countries. I agree with GP that SMG is popular not so much for its intrinsic merits but for what it avoids. But i disagree with PMD that there is anything "sexy" about an open c-file.

9/14/2007 12:07:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Anon: I fixed the two 'Dutch' slips in the post. Thanks.

9/14/2007 12:24:00 PM  
Blogger Pale Morning Dun - Errant Knight de la Maza said...

Anon,
sexiness is a state of mind, baby. ya can't put an opinion on it. Vroom.

9/14/2007 02:11:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

PMD: lmao!

9/14/2007 02:54:00 PM  
Blogger Wahrheit said...

I must say, an open h-file is even sexier, and Qh5 may be the sexiest move in chess...

9/14/2007 06:04:00 PM  
Blogger Pale Morning Dun - Errant Knight de la Maza said...

Warheit,
Qh5....yes, I can see that. How bout castling long with check? Dead sexy.

9/15/2007 12:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Derek Slater said...

Here's a wildly non-theoretical answer.

If you look at the two diagrams in your post: in the Smith Morra neither of black's bishops are ready to move. In the Danish, black can immediately develop his king's bishop - which of course makes him one step closer to castling than in the Smith-Morra.

Might seem like an oversimplification, but I think there's something to it.

I say this as a person who plays the Danish in blitz from time to time :)

ds
reassembler.com

9/17/2007 10:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Derek Slater said...

Whoops, now I see that very observation is in your original post. How terrifically non-observant of me. Glad I could add insight to your blog by regurgitating your posts :)
ds

9/17/2007 12:27:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

DS: It's all good.

So far , playing around with both for a week or so, they don't feel all that similar as openings, and the Smith morra seems a bit less risky. But the Davies book has a good little core repertoire so I'm taking the plunge! Huzzahhh!!

I'll know more about this topic in a couple of months...

9/17/2007 01:07:00 PM  

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