"Busts to the Bust:" Contest Winners

Back at the end of July, we published Elijah Logozar’s provocative polemic, “A Bust to the Smith-Morra Gambit.” We also invited readers to submit their responses, or “busts to the bust,” in a contest sponsored by US Chess Sales and Chessable. Thanks to both of our sponsors!

Three submissions came in before the August 15th deadline, all of which are published below. (A fourth arrived too late to be judged.) While Logozar responds to all three, only two prizes could be awarded. The winners of the contest are: 1st prize – A $50 Gift Certificiate to US Chess Sales Winner: Pranav Nagarajan 2nd prize – A one year PRO membership at Chessable.com Winner: Daniel Jones
Before getting into the details of each submission, here is Logozar’s overall response to the challenges to his idea.
I would like to thank the CLO readers for submitting their attempts to disprove my anti-Morra analysis and for taking it seriously. Pranav analyzed one of my recommended lines to a draw. My claim is that Black was pressing on the way and is the only one who had serious winning chances. With precise defense White is able to hold a draw, but it is not easy. Black can always draw by perpetual check at will. In his chess.com blog post, Daniel claims that my claim of refutation was exaggerated. I’d argue that refutation has multiple possible definitions, and I was operating under the one that means “prove to be substandard or conceptually incorrect.” My claim is that Black is at least slightly better in all variations, not that White loses by force. Brian claimed that I’d underestimated White’s chances in the 6.Bf4 a6 7.Be2 variation. I believe that White’s chances are only practical as objectively White doesn’t have sufficient compensation for the sacrificed pawn.
1st PrizePranav Nagarajan

[Event "?"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2019.07.28"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Mopping up the, Morra"]
[Black "Refutation of the, Refutation"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "B21"]
[Annotator "Nagarajan, Pranav"]
[PlyCount "64"]
[EventDate "2019.??.??"]

1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 dxc3 4. Nxc3 Nc6 5. Nf3 e6 6. Bc4 Nge7 $5 {Logozar
claims this to be the starting point of his refutation to the Smith-Morra
gambit. I will focus on the continuation 7. O-O, which I believe is White's
best chance for equality.} (6... a6 {is the main line.} 7. O-O Nge7 (7... b5 {
accelerates Black's queenside expansion.} 8. Bb3 Bb7 9. Qe2 (9. Re1 Bc5 $15 {
Black has scored well from this position.}) 9... Nge7 10. Bg5 (10. Rd1 Ng6 $15
{is also not very challenging for Black.}) 10... h6 11. Be3 Na5 12. Nd4 Ng6 13.
f4 Nxb3 14. Nxb3 Be7 {has been played in a couple of correspondence games.} 15.
f5 Ne5 16. Bd4 Bf6 17. fxe6 dxe6 18. Rad1 Qc7 19. Rc1 Qb8 20. Qh5 {and now} Nd7
{seems like a potential improvement. White has insufficient compensation for
the pawn.}) 8. Bg5 {reaches a position which Logozar wishes to avoid.} (8. Be3
{is a rare alternative, but may be more promising for White. For instance,} b5
9. Bb3 Bb7 10. Rc1 Rc8 11. Re1 Ng6 12. Nd5 $1 {is a strong sacrifice.}) 8... h6
(8... f6 9. Be3 Ng6 10. Nd4 {is known to give White good compensation, as
Logozar points out.}) 9. Be3 b5 10. Bb3 Bb7 $1 (10... Ng6 11. Nd5 $1 $40 {
Logozar cites this sacrifice as one of the main reasons he does not want to
play this line. However, Black's play can be improved.}) 11. Re1 Na5 12. Ne5 $1
Nxb3 13. Bb6 Qc8 14. Qf3 Nf5 15. axb3 Bd6 16. Qg4 h5 $1 17. Qh3 Bxe5 18. exf5
Bc7 {has been played in a few correspondence games. While all of these games
were drawn, I do not believe White has enough compensation for the pawn.}) 7.
O-O (7. Bg5 h6 8. Nb5 d5 $1 9. exd5 hxg5 10. dxc6 Nxc6 11. Qxd8+ Kxd8 12.
O-O-O+ Ke7 13. Nxg5 g6 {reaches an endgame which Logozar evaluates as slightly
better for Black, and I agree.}) (7. Nb5 d5 $1 8. Bf4 Ng6 9. Nc7+ Ke7 10. Bg3
dxc4 11. Qxd8+ Kxd8 12. Nxa8 e5 13. O-O-O+ Bd7 14. Ng5 Kc8 15. Nxf7 Rg8 {
is better for Black, since the knight on a8 is not going to make it out alive.}
) 7... Ng6 (7... a6 8. Bg5 {transposes to the line with 6...a6 and 7...Nge7
considered above. While Logozar considers 7...a6 to be dubious, I believe that
it is a perfectly reasonable continuation.}) 8. Nb5 (8. Bg5 {is another
interesting option, though it seems to fall short of equality.} Be7 9. Bxe7
Qxe7 10. Nb5 {White achieves control over the dark squares, but Black can work
around this.} O-O 11. Nd6 (11. Rc1 a6 12. Nd6 b5 13. Be2 b4 14. Qd2 a5 $15 {
Black will exchange the light-squared bishops on his next move.}) (11. Re1 a6
12. Nd6 b5 13. Bf1 b4 14. a4 bxa3 15. bxa3 a5 16. Bb5 Ba6 17. a4 Nb4 $15 {
Black has successfully developed his pieces.}) 11... Nd8 $1 12. Rc1 b6 13. Bb5
Bb7 14. Rc7 Bc6 {White has insufficient compensation for the pawn. For
instance,} 15. Qd2 Qf6 16. Rd1 h6 $1 {gives Black a solid position.}) 8... d6 (
8... a6 {gives up the bishop pair.} 9. Nd6+ Bxd6 10. Qxd6 Qe7 (10... b5 11. Be2
Bb7 12. Rd1 Qe7 13. Qg3 O-O 14. h4 $1 {This is an important idea that
destablizes the knight on g6.} f6 15. h5 Nge5 16. Bf4 $44) 11. Qg3 O-O 12. h4
$1 f6 13. h5 Nge5 14. Nxe5 Nxe5 15. Bb3 b5 16. Bf4 $44 {White's strong
dark-squared bishop provides him with full compensation.}) 9. Bg5 Qd7 10. Nbd4
$1 {A subtle move that anticipates 10...a6.} h6 (10... a6 11. Nxc6 bxc6 12. h4
$36 {White's lead in development gives him full compensation for the pawn.} h6
13. Be3 h5 14. Rc1 Be7 15. Bb3 Bb7 16. Ba4 Nxh4 17. Nd4 Rc8 18. f4 Bf6 19. Rf2
$40 {is an example continuation illustrating White's attacking chances.}) (
10... Be7 11. Bxe7 Ngxe7 (11... Qxe7 12. Nb5 {wins back the pawn.}) 12. Nb5 d5
13. exd5 exd5 14. Bxd5 Nxd5 15. Qxd5 Qxd5 16. Nc7+ Kf8 17. Nxd5 {leads to a
dead equal endgame.}) 11. Be3 Be7 12. Bb5 $1 {The pin forces the following
continuation.} e5 13. Nf5 O-O 14. Qc1 $1 Qe6 (14... a6 15. Bxc6 bxc6 (15...
Qxc6 16. Qxc6 bxc6 17. Nxe7+ Nxe7 18. Rfd1 {wins the pawn back.}) 16. Rd1 f6
17. Nxd6 $1 Bxd6 18. Qc4+ Kh7 19. Bc5 {regains the pawn with equality.}) 15.
Rd1 Qf6 (15... Rd8 16. Bxc6 bxc6 17. Qxc6 Rb8 18. Bxa7 Rxb2 19. Bb6 Bd7 20.
Nxe7+ Nxe7 21. Qc7 Rc8 22. Qxd6 Qxd6 23. Rxd6 Bc6 24. Be3 Bxe4 25. Nxe5 {
leads to a balanced endgame where Black's activity compensates for the missing
pawn.}) (15... Bd7 $2 16. Bxh6 $1 {leads to a crushing attack.}) 16. Bxc6 bxc6
17. Nxg7 $1 Kxg7 (17... Qxg7 18. Bxh6 Qh7 19. Bxf8 Bxf8 20. Qxc6 Rb8 21. Qc7
Nf4 22. Qxb8 Qg6 23. Ne1 Nh3+ 24. Kh1 Nxf2+ 25. Kg1 Nh3+ {with an amusing
repetition.}) 18. Bxh6+ Kh7 (18... Kh8 19. Bxf8 Bxf8 20. Qxc6 Rb8 21. Qc7 Ra8
22. Qc6 {with another repetition.}) (18... Kg8 19. Bxf8 Bxf8 20. Qxc6 Rb8 21.
Qc7 Ra8 22. Qc6 {is yet another draw. It is important to note that Logozar's
rook sacrifice does not work here:} Bg4 23. Qxa8 Bxf3 24. Rd3 Bxg2 25. Rg3 Bf3
26. Re1 {and Black has to waste a tempo moving his king to bring the
dark-squared bishop into the attack.}) 19. Bxf8 Bxf8 (19... Nxf8 {Capturing
with the knight does not change the evaluation of the position.} 20. Qxc6 Rb8
21. Qc7 Ra8 22. Qc6 {with equality.}) 20. Qxc6 Bg4 $1 {According to Logozar,
the only way to avoid the repetition.} 21. Qxa8 {This has to be the critical
line.} (21. Ng5+ Qxg5 22. Qxa8 Bg7 23. Rd3 Nf4 24. Rg3 Ne2+ 25. Kh1 Nxg3+ 26.
hxg3 Qd2 (26... Qh6+ 27. Kg1 Qd2 28. Qxa7 Qxb2 29. Rf1 Be6 30. a4 Qd4 31. Qa8
d5 32. a5 $1 dxe4 33. a6 e3 {leads to some crazy variations, but they all end
in 0.00.}) 27. f3 Qh6+ 28. Kg1 Qe3+ 29. Kh2 Be6 30. Rd1 Qb6 {is given as
better for Black by Logozar. I'm not sure he is right: for instance,} 31. a4
Bf6 (31... a5 32. b4 $3 Qxb4 (32... axb4 33. a5 Qc5 34. a6 Bh6 35. Rd3 Be3 36.
Rxe3 Qxe3 37. a7 {forces Black to give perpetual check.}) 33. Qd8 Qxa4 34. Rxd6
$11) 32. Qf8 Qxb2 (32... Qb4 33. Rc1 Qxa4 34. Rc7 Qd4 35. Rxf7+ Bxf7 36. Qxf7+
Bg7 37. Qh5+ Kg8 38. Qe8+ Kh7 39. Qh5+ Bh6 40. Qf7+ {with perpetual check.})
33. Rxd6 Qb4 34. Rd8 Qxf8 (34... Qxa4 35. Ra8 Qd4 36. Qb8 $11) 35. Rxf8 {
leads to an equal endgame. In practice, however, the position is easier to
play with Black due to the two bishops.}) (21. Nxe5 $2 Nxe5 22. Qxa8 Nf3+ 23.
Kf1 Be6 $1 24. Rac1 Nxh2+ 25. Kg1 Ng4 26. Rc2 Qh6 27. Rd3 Qh2+ 28. Kf1 Qh1+ {
with a strong attack for Black.}) 21... Bxf3 22. Rd3 {Black has attacking
chances, but White also has enough resources to hold. I will focus on the best
and most forcing continuations.} Bxg2 23. Rg3 Bf3 24. Re1 d5 $5 {By
sacrificing this pawn, Black forces the queen to return via d7 instead of c8.
While this allows Black to accelerate the activation of the g6 knight, it does
not change the evaluation of the position.} (24... Bh6 25. Qc8 {White brings
the queen back into the defense.} Bh5 26. Qf5 Qxf5 27. exf5 Nh4 28. Re4 Nxf5 (
28... Nf3+ 29. Kg2 d5 30. Ra4 e4 31. Rxa7 d4 32. Rh3 Bg4 33. Rg3 Bh5 34. Rh3
$11) 29. Rh3 Kg6 30. Ra4 d5 {leads to an equal endgame with a fascinating
material imbalance.}) 25. Qxd5 Bh6 26. Qd7 {White relocates the queen to the
kingside.} Nh4 27. b4 {By advancing his queenside pawns, White secures a
source of counterplay.} Bh5 28. Qh3 {In general, while there are several
pieces are hovering menacingly around White's king, Black needs some time to
rearrange them. White can use this tempi to bring his pieces back into the
defense.} Nf3+ (28... Bg5 29. b5 {By advancing the candidate pawn, White
forces Black to take action.} Nf3+ (29... Kh6 30. a4 Qd8 {There are several
continuations from this point that maintain equality. One example line is:} 31.
Rd3 Qa5 32. Kf1 Qxa4 33. Qd7 Nf3 34. Rxf3 Bxf3 35. Qxf7 Qxb5+ 36. Kg1 Bxe4 37.
Qf8+ Kh5 38. Qh8+ Bh6 39. f3 Qb6+ 40. Kg2 Qg6+ 41. Kf2 Bf5 42. Rxe5 Qb6+ 43.
Kg2 $11) 30. Kh1 Kh6 31. Rd1 Nd4 32. Rdg1 Nf3 33. Rd1 Nd4 34. Rdg1 Nf3 35. Rd1
$11) (28... Bf4 29. Rb1 Qd8 $1 {The only move that keeps Black in the game.}
30. b5 Kh6 $1 {Now that the bishop on h5 is protected, Bxg3 is a real threat.
In addition, White's second rook cannot leave the back rank, since Qd1+ is a
possibility.} 31. Rd3 Qg5+ 32. Kh1 Bg4 33. Rg1 Bxh3 34. Rxg5 Bf1 35. Rgg3 Bxg3
36. Rd6+ Ng6 37. fxg3 Bxb5 38. Kg2 {The tactical flurry ends in an equal
endgame.}) 29. Kh1 Nh4 {Black is forced to retreat the knight due to the pin
on the h-file.} (29... Nxe1 $2 30. Qxh5 Qxf2 31. b5 $1 Qf1+ 32. Rg1 Qf3+ 33.
Qxf3 Nxf3 34. Rf1 Nd4 35. Rxf7+ Kg6 36. Rxa7 Nxb5 37. Ra6+ {leads to a winning
endgame for White.}) 30. Kg1 Nf3+ 31. Kh1 Nh4 32. Kg1 Nf3+ {with a draw by
threefold repetition.} 1/2-1/2

Logozar’s response

[Event "?"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2019.07.28"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Response to Pranav Nagarajan"]
[Black "?"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "B21"]
[Annotator "Logozar"]
[PlyCount "64"]
[EventDate "2019.??.??"]

{First of all, I'd like to clarify something. In the variations that follow,
White has to make numerous only moves while Black has a draw in the pocket. He
is the only one who can play for more and who might have a theoretical
improvement which consolidates into a static advantage. My claim was not that
Black wins by force in the Morra, but that he has at bare minimum a small
advantage. Some small advantage positions are defensible, and in this case, I
agree with you that this is defensible for White. Just because I found the
method for White to defend against Black's initiative/small advantage does not
mean that it doesn't exist. Several Stockfish "0.00" suggestions (depth 30+)
failed to equalize/hold for White, if that says something. On to the
variations.} 1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 dxc3 4. Nxc3 Nc6 5. Nf3 e6 6. Bc4 Nge7
7. O-O Ng6 8. Nb5 $7 {If Black is able to finish his development (...Be7, ...
0-0, ...a6, ...b5, ...Bb7, ...Rc8, ...Na5) White won't have any compensation
for the sacrificed pawn. White is forced into immediate tactical operations to
try to prove that he can use his lead in development before it disappears.
I've attached 'only move' symbols for White when relevant (Black has a lot
more room for error and has more playable alternatives). Fail to find the only
move when Black is up a pawn, and the compensation disapears. Fail to find an
only move when Black is not up a pawn, and Black will have (as a minimum)
verifiable =+ and in most cases more, not counting the initiative that he
already had. You've already seen the refutations to White deviations from only
moves in my course so I won't include the early refutations and cut straight
to the critical positions.} d6 9. Bg5 $7 Qd7 10. Nbd4 $7 h6 {I'm including the
following alternatives (with !? symbols) to show that Black has a lot of
playable options and White is walking a tightrope. Who knows, maybe after one
of these alternatives Black will be able to press more than he can in my
recommendations. This shows that White isn't able to just memorize what to do
against my recommendation - his compensation is concrete and absolutely
requires concrete and exact play or else Black will consolidate. It's not the
sort of long-term compensation that White aims for when playing the Morra.} (
10... a6 $5) (10... Be7 $5) 11. Be3 $7 Be7 (11... a6 $5) (11... Qd8 $5 {
with ...Bd7}) 12. Bb5 $7 e5 13. Nf5 $7 O-O 14. Qc1 $7 Qe6 (14... Qd8 $5) (14...
Qc7 $5) (14... a6 $5) 15. Rd1 $7 Qf6 (15... Rd8 $5) (15... Rb8 $5) 16. Bxc6 $7
(16. Nxg7 {transposes but White needs to play this idea regardless of the move
order so I am going to attach an only move to 16.Bxc6 - clarifying that this
idea is forced.}) 16... bxc6 17. Nxg7 $7 Kxg7 (17... Bg4 $5) (17... Nf4 $5) (
17... Qxg7 $5) 18. Bxh6+ $7 Kh7 19. Bxf8 $7 Bxf8 20. Qxc6 $7 {After playing
twelve only moves in a row, it may seem like White is surviving, but in
actuality, his defense is only beginning.} Bg4 $1 (20... Rb8 21. Qc7 Ra8 22.
Qc6 {All of the previous concrete and exact play by White was for what... so
that he can force a repetition? Which isn't forced because of the numerous
alternatives for Black after move 10? Even after 20.Qxc6 Black play for more.})
21. Qxa8 $7 {On the "0.00" evaluation: 'AlphaZero's was normally the only
dissenting voice: in positions assessed at 0.00 by the engines, its evaluation
was often positive for itself. Putting that together with the score AlphaZero
was making in such positions, it made me wonder whether a new chapter had been
opened on 0.00 evaluations. (...) It would then be unsurprising if a
percentage of such narrow 0.00 paths were in fact better for the attacker, and
not holding for the defender.' - GM Matthew Sadler (Game Changer: AlphaZero's
Groundbreaking Chess Strategies and the Promise of AI)} Bxf3 {Black is playing
for an attack against the king with a draw in the pocket (via perpetual check)
and chances to play for more (even against many engine suggestions). White has
no way to play for more than a draw and is trying to defend. Therefore, I
claim a Black advantage. Is this advantage decisive or can it be consolidated
into a static advantage? This is the question that the following variations
attempt to answer. The analysis isn't completely comprehensive and there might
be improvements somewhere, but it goes to show that Black is pressing even if
White plays like a computer and that '0.00' doesn't always mean draw. White
fails to hold many of the following '0.00' positions. The onus is on White to
prove that he can equalize. After many false trails (and 20+ hrs of analyzing
with the computer), I believe that I found ways for White to defend against
Black's advantage and hold a draw, at least in the following 'recommendations'.
Black has many alternatives, of course, and White is playing for a draw in
every line. Many engine '0.00' lines can't be held by White, but some can. Not
every advantage is decisive with best play and I also don't think this one is,
but forces White to find some accurate defensive resources, and sometimes the
defensive resources that Stockfish declares '0.00' on aren't sufficient.} 22.
Rd3 $1 {There are numerous '0.00' alternatives but most of them either don't
equalize or make it harder for White to defend (White would have to find some
difficult moves and avoid some false '0.00' trails). For the sake of readers
of this counter, I'll include some of the false trails to show how difficult
this can be for White.} (22. gxf3 $2 Qxf3 {followed by ...Nf4 wins for Black.
This is not a false "0.00" trail but is useful for the readers to understand.})
(22. Rac1 Qg7 {Black has numerous alternatives to play for a win and methods
of forcing a draw on this path, but to keep the file simpler, I'll focus on my
recommendations.} 23. Re1 Nf4 24. g3 Qf6 25. h4 {White gives his king some
breathing room and takes some of the sting out of ...Nh3+. After extremely
detailed analysis and letting Stockfish 10 64 sit until approximately depth 50,
I was convinced that this was the critical line. I later found false 0.00
trails here as well, and believe that 22. Rd3 is a better attempt to equalize.
The alternatives on move 25, despite Stockfish's "0.00" claim, don't equalize.}
(25. Qc8 Bh6 26. Rc7 (26. Rc3 Ne6 27. Rd3 Nd4 $15) (26. Rc4 Ne6 $17 {with ...
Bd2 and ...Nd4.}) 26... Ne6 (26... Nd3 $5) 27. Rb7 (27. Rxa7 Bd2 28. Ra1 Bxe4 {
=+ to -/+}) 27... Bd2 28. Ra1 (28. Qe8 Kg6 29. Rf1 Bxe4 30. Qg8+ Ng7 31. Rb3
Ba5 $17) 28... Bxe4 29. Rb8 Kg6 {=+ to -/+}) (25. Rc2 Bh6 {Black improves his
bishop and flexibly prepares for Re3. Black intends ...Nh3+ with ...Bg4 and ...
Qf3. This position is=+ minimum, possibly more.}) 25... Bh6 26. Rc7 $5 {
Possibly risky - some computer suggestions after this are false 0.00s.} ({
In my course I deeply analyzed} 26. Qxa7 {concluding that White can probably
defend with best play, which will require several more only moves, and that
Black can draw at will (there are multiple methods of doing this).}) 26... Bh5
27. Qc8 Ne6 28. Rxa7 Nd4 29. Ra3 $5 (29. Ra8 {is likely a correct 0.00, but
White still needs to play precicely after} Qg7) 29... Qg6 30. Kg2 ({Though
Stockfish doesn't think this is nessesary,} 30. Ra8 {is best, even at the cost
of a tempo.} Qg7 $13) 30... Bg4 $1 {now White must make a tough decision that
even Stockfish isn't sure about...} 31. Qc7 $1 (31. Qa8 Nc2 $17) (31. Qb7 Nc2
$15) (31. Qc3 Nf3 $17 {indending ...Bd2 and/or ...Qe6. If the e1-rook moves
off of the e-file, then ...Qxe4 is possible, if Re2 then ...Nxh4.}) 31... Qf6 {
...then Stockfish comes around (depth 27), changing it's mind about 0.00 and
gives Black an advantage of -0.48. I analyze this significantly deeper in my
Chessable course, but I don't want to digress too much. However, I think it's
fully appropriate to quote GM John Shaw (Playing 1.e4: Caro-Kann, 1...e5 and
Minor Lines): "The computer evaluation 0.00 generally means something close to
the following: White has sacrificed material and no clear path to an advantage
is available, but he can force a draw if he wants to, for example with a
perpetual. it does not mean that nothing is going on in the position. (...)
You will find that not all 0.00 positions are defensible for the side with
extra material. You just need to get past the horizon."}) 22... Bxg2 {Lets not
forget that in the lines that follow, Black can obtain a draw by perpetual
check at will and has plausible alternatives to play for a win, even if White
is able to defend with careful play. I agree with Pranav though that with
correct play White should be able to defend and obtain a draw, though in
practice there should be only two results (draw or Black wins).} 23. Rg3 $7 Bf3
24. Re1 d5 (24... Bh6 $5 25. Qc8 $13) 25. Qxd5 $7 Bh6 (25... Bh5 $5 $13) 26.
Qd7 {The first place where your file deviates from the analysis in my course.
I analyzed an alternative to a draw with correct play (though White still had
to be accurate and avoid some incorrect Stockfish suggestions). I think your
suggestion is easier, and we are in agreement that the following variations
will lead to equality for White. But Black had the initiative, was the only
one fighting for a win, and White equalized against Black's advantage (which
was not decisive with best play).} Nh4 27. b4 Bh5 28. Qh3 Nf3+ {Note how even
here Black is the one who decides if he will give a perpetual or not. White
has no chance to fight for a win in any of these lines, even if he plays
perfectly, because White is on the defensive and Black can draw by perpetual
at will.} (28... Bg5 29. b5 Nf3+ (29... Kh6 30. a4 Qd8 31. Rd3 Qa5 32. Kf1 Qxa4
33. Qd7 Nf3 34. Rxf3 Bxf3 35. Qxf7 Qxb5+ 36. Kg1 Bxe4 37. Qf8+ Kh5 38. Qh8+ Bh6
39. f3 Qb6+ 40. Kg2 Qg6+ 41. Kf2 Bf5 42. Rxe5 Qb6+ 43. Kg2 $11) 30. Kh1 Kh6 31.
Rd1 Nd4 32. Rdg1 Nf3 33. Rd1 Nd4 34. Rdg1 Nf3 35. Rd1 $11) (28... Bf4 29. Rb1
Qd8 30. b5 Kh6 31. Rd3 Qg5+ 32. Kh1 Bg4 33. Rg1 Bxh3 34. Rxg5 Bf1 35. Rgg3 Bxg3
36. Rd6+ Ng6 37. fxg3 Bxb5 38. Kg2 $10) 29. Kh1 Nh4 30. Kg1 Nf3+ 31. Kh1 Nh4
32. Kg1 Nf3+ {As stated earlier, not all advantages are sufficient to win with
best play, though the margin for error for the 'better' side is higher and the
defending side must play with greater accuracy. That is true here, White
defended accurately and obtained a draw.} 1/2-1/2

2nd PrizeDaniel Jones Jones’ response to Logozar’s claims is found at his chess.com blog. Because of the formatting there and the embedded diagrams, we ask that you click the link to read Jones’ thoughts. Logozar’s Response
Daniel Jones wrote a blog on chess.com claiming to counter the assertions that I made in my Chessable course ‘Mop up the Morra’. Daniel’s major claim was that Black does not have an advantage in my recommended mainline because in his view the engine’s preference for Black on move thirteen is too small to be categorized as an advantage. Daniel also claimed that 7...h6 is not a novelty as it was analyzed by Langrock before I published ‘Mop up the Morra.’ Daniel’s third claim was that my assertion that the Morra was ‘refuted’ and the claims in my advertisements were exaggerated. Here is my response. In my course and the US Chess article, I clearly defined novelty as in ‘not been played in FIDE master games’. According to this definition, 7...h6 would be categorized as a novelty even if Langrock’s book was released first. In any case, I discovered 7...h6 before I checked Langrock’s book, which I cited as a source before I published ‘Mop up the Morra’. My claim after 13...g6 is that Black is slightly better (=+). Refute can mean ‘prove to lead to a lost game’, but it can also mean ‘prove to be substandard or conceptually incorrect.’ I used definition two and this should be clear from my claim of a small Black advantage. It is well known that in advertising not everything is literal, so you have to use the context to interpret meaning. The aim of the Smith-Morra Gambit is to fight for the initiative and to obtain attacking compensation for the sacrificed pawn. In my recommended variation, White needs to play precisely to reach an endgame where he is defending and fighting for a draw. Conceptually, the Morra gambit is inaccurate because White’s dynamic compensation is gone and Black will be statically pressing. As for the chess-related portion of Daniel’s rebuttal, his post concludes that the engine assessment of -0.19 after 14.Nd6 is sufficient to claim that White’s position is either equal or close enough to being equal that White need not be concerned. However, not only is 14.Nd6 far too soon to be cutting off further exploration into the position (I analyzed 14.Nd6 significantly deeper in my course), but the comparison Daniel drew between this variation and a position after move three of the Spanish Game is not a fair one. In Jones’ quoted Morra position with 13...g6, the position is very settled, having reached a queenless middlegame with chances for only one side. In the Spanish position, all pieces and pawns remain on the board, countless options exist for both sides, and both sides have legitimate chances to play for a win. Due to the more settled and clarified nature of the line Daniel discussed from my repertoire, fewer branches exist, and the position better lends itself to deep and nuanced engine analysis than a position taken from move three of the Spanish Game.
Honorable mentionBrian Tay

[Event "Chess.com 3/0 u"]
[Site "Chess.com"]
[Date "2019.08.14"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Brian Tay"]
[Black "LogoCzar (Logozar)"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B21"]
[WhiteElo "2042"]
[BlackElo "2310"]
[Annotator "Brian Tay"]
[PlyCount "39"]
[EventDate "2018.11.05"]
[EventCountry "USA"]

{Note to reader, on 8/14/2019, by a coincidence, Logozar was online chess.com
the same time I was. I challenged him to an unrated game where I was white,
and played the Morra Gambit. He obviously used his line. We will be following
that game. (The ratings given were our chess.com blitz ratings at that time).}
1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 dxc3 4. Nxc3 Nc6 5. Nf3 e6 6. Bf4 $1 {if e6, then i
do believe though that it is important the change the move order (and in some
lines the setup).} (6. Bc4 Nge7 7. Bg5 h6 8. Nb5 d5 9. exd5 hxg5 10. dxc6 Nxc6
11. Qxd8+ Kxd8 12. O-O-O+ Ke7 13. Nxg5 g6 {is Logozar's main line. That is
what we don't want.}) 6... a6 {Logozar says this, so we will only cover this.
I will omit other lines, because my job is not to cover everything, but to
refute what Logozar says.} 7. Be2 $1 {Novelty! The idea is that it black
sticks with his Nge7 structure, then Bd6 will come, and when the knight goes
to g6, then sooner or later h4! will force h5, and the bishop on e2 will be
indirectly attacking h5. Also, the bishop is probably better placed on e2 than
c4, as then it will block the c-file. This move has already been played a
dozen times, but not with the next idea.} (7. e5 {Logozar gives this.} f5) 7...
Nge7 {(Logozar sticks to his normal development.)} (7... d6 {This is another
alternative, to prove that the bishop on e2 is misplaced. Now Stockfish gives:}
8. Qb3 $1 {The queen still goes here! It now has another hidden purpose...} Nf6
9. O-O Be7 10. Rfd1 {Seemingly normal development...} Qc7 11. Qa3 $1 {Suprise!
Another point of the move Qb3; it can go to this square to hit the d6 pawn,
forcing weaknesses! It's time for complications!} e5 {Forced, but it yet
weakens d5, which also positionally forces black next move as well.} 12. Bg5 d5
$1 {Or else Bxf6 and Nd5.} 13. Qa4 {Now there are 2 alternatives.} dxe4 (13...
d4 14. Nd5 Qb8 15. Rac1 {No rush to take on f6. Now there is a hidden threat
of Rxc6! With all white's control, he has to be a bit better.} O-O (15... Nxd5
16. exd5 b5 17. Qc2 Nb4 18. Qe4 {and stockfish already gives a +- to white.}) (
15... Bd7 16. Nb6 $1 {and we take on f6 first, then d7.}) 16. Rxc6 $1 {only
move to keep the edge.} Nxd5 17. exd5 Bxg5 18. Rxc8 Qxc8 19. Nxg5 Qd8 20. f4 $1
exf4 21. Nh3 Qxd5 22. Nxf4 {White grabs the pawn on d4 and has a edge.
Stockfish gives a 0.60 for white.}) 14. Bxf6 Bxf6 15. Nd5 {When in doubt,
chase the black queen. -Mayhem in the Morra} Qd8 16. Qxe4 O-O 17. Rac1 Be6 (
17... g6 $5 {Wanting to put the bishop on f5.} 18. Qe3 $1 {Threat is Nb6.} Rb8
19. Bxa6 $1) 18. Bc4 {The bishop once placed on e2 now goes to it's standard
Morra Gambit Square. With the d5 grip, white should be fine.}) 8. Bd6 Ng6 9. h4
$1 Bxd6 {Logozar played this, and it is one of the top computer choices.} (9...
f6 {One of the computer choices to control e5. However, this weakens the
kingside and is exactly what Logozar says you should avoid! However, it is a
move.} 10. h5 $1 Nge5 11. Bxf8 $1 Rxf8 {Engine Checked: Forced. Only way to
try to at least fight for an edge. However, black cannot castle anymore.} 12.
h6 $1 {Weakening the king further.} g6 13. O-O b5 14. Nd4 $1 {When f4 comes,
things will get messy.}) (9... h5 {A very logical choice.} 10. Bxf8 $1 Kxf8 11.
Qd6+ $1 Qe7 12. Qg3 $1 b5 (12... d6 13. Rd1 e5 (13... Nge5 14. Ng5 $1 f6 15.
Nh3 {White will now castle and play f4.}) 14. Nd5 {White now has a good
outpost.}) 13. Rd1 $1 {With good dark squared control.}) 10. Qxd6 Qe7 {
Perfectly logical, and what Logozar did against me.} 11. Qg3 $1 {best spot for
the queen} h5 (11... f6 {After the game, Logozar told me this was better.} 12.
Rd1 $1 O-O 13. O-O b5 14. h5 $1 {Time to attack the knights!} Nge5 15. Nh4 $1 {
Now f4 comes, and the knights are just in the way. In a human game, it is easy
to go wrong for black, especially in blitz.}) 12. O-O-O $6 {What I played in
the game, but not best.} (12. Rd1 $1 b5 (12... Qf6 {idea is Nf4} 13. Qc7 $1 {
The queen has left the dark squares.} Nf4 14. O-O $1 {white gets quick
development} Nxe2+ 15. Nxe2 Qxb2 {Black has 2 pawns, but white's development
and dark squared control fully compensates} 16. Ng3 Qxa2 17. Qf4 $1 {Now black
can't castle because there is Nxh5. An unclear game is ahead.}) 13. O-O Bb7 {
Now the simple} 14. Rd2 {should secure a fine position.}) 12... b5 {The rest
of the game will just be shown, but remember to play 12. Rd1!} 13. e5 {The
move that caused him time troubles, which is why he most likely blundered a
move later.} Qc5 14. Kb1 Ncxe5 $4 (14... Qb4 {is best though.}) 15. Ne4 Qc7 16.
Nd6+ Ke7 17. Nxe5 Nxe5 18. Qxe5 Ra7 19. Qg5+ Kf8 20. Bxh5 {missing a good
final blow, but enough to make the person that caused me to make this analysis
resign.} (20. Rc1) 1-0

Logozar’s response

[Event "Chess.com 3/0 u"]
[Site "Chess.com"]
[Date "2019.08.14"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Response to Brian Tay"]
[Black "Brian Tay-LogoCzar"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B21"]
[WhiteElo "2042"]
[BlackElo "2310"]
[Annotator "Logozar"]
[PlyCount "39"]
[EventDate "2018.11.05"]
[EventCountry "USA"]

{I don't think that this blitz game proves anything from the theoretical point
of view. Still, both of us can be in agreement about one thing: the Morra can
be a practical weapon for speed chess, even if it's unsound. Black can obtain
an advantage, but the resulting positions are often sharp and both sides are
more likely to blunder tactics if the position is sharper. In blitz, you don't
have much time to calculate the complications, so accidents can happen.} 1. e4
c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 dxc3 4. Nxc3 Nc6 5. Nf3 e6 6. Bf4 a6 7. Be2 {I don't think
6.Bf4 is critical, especially not with 7.Be2. But Black behind in development
for the time being, so he should be careful.} Nge7 8. Bd6 Ng6 9. h4 Bxd6 {
As Tay said, 9...f6 and 9...h5 are playable alternatives. Black can
probably obtain an advantage using either of them, provided that he follows up
correctly.} 10. Qxd6 Qe7 11. Qg3 h5 $6 $15 (11... f6 $1 $17 {Black supports
the e5-square, preparing to meet h5 with ...Nge5. This is more difficult after
11...h5 (though Black should also be better there) as ...f6 would be met by
Qxg6. Where is White's compensation, exactly? Is it in his lead in
development? If he has no targets or effective pawn levers/sacrifices, he
won't be able to prevent Black from catching up. Is it in his space advantage?
Black can gain queenside space in the near future to compensate this. In short,
I don't think White has any compensation for the sacrificed pawn, provided
that Black plays carefully over the next few moves. With best play the
short-term dynamics will be neutralized, but if Black makes a mistake (for
example delaying development too long, making a weakness, or blundering a
tactic) then White might have an opporotunity to exploit his lead in
development. Stockfish is in agreement with me about White's lack of
compensation. "-0.88" - Stockfish 10 64, depth} 12. Rd1 {Given an exclaim by
Tay.} ({Stockfish initially thinks that} 12. O-O-O {is an alternative,
but eventually decides that White has no compensation for the sacrificed pawn
after} O-O (12... Nge5 {is also strong.}) (12... b5 {is also strong. White has
some practical chances after} 13. h5 Nge5 14. Nh4 {but Black can easily
neutralize this with} Na5 15. h6 g5 16. Bh5+ Kd8 $17 {it's not clear where
White's compensation lies or whos king is more exposed.})) 12... O-O (12... b5
$17 {is a flexible option for those of you who might want to avoid White's
kingside "attack". Black can develop his queenside before castling.}) 13. O-O
b5 14. h5 {Time to attack the knights!} Nge5 15. Nh4 {White is only playing
for practical chances, since he has no compensation for the sacrificed pawn.
Black is equally well developed (some of White's pieces aren't very active and
Black can easily activate his queenside with ...Bb7). There isn't even a need
for a sample line here as f4 threatens nothing (what after ...Nf7?) White has
no compensation for the sacrificed pawn. Stockfish agrees that White has no
compensation for the sacrificed pawn and declares "-1.15" at depth 38. Sample
line:} Kh8 16. f4 Nf7 $17 {Black will follow up with ...Bb7, ...Rfd8, and ...
Rac8. What will White to do justify his material deficit? f5 doesn't work due
to ...Nce5.}) 12. O-O-O {The rest of the game is not of great theoretical
interest because Black had an improvement on move 11, but I'd like to give
quick analysis anyways.} (12. Rd1 b5 (12... Qf6 13. Qc7 Nf4 14. O-O Nxe2+ 15.
Nxe2 Qxb2 {Black has 2 pawns, but white's development and dark squared control
fully compensates} 16. Ng3 Qxa2 (16... f6 $5 $15 {with the idea of meeting Qf4
with ...e5. Black can castle and give up the h5-pawn because he would still be
up material.}) (16... Qb4 $15 {Seems to give Black some. In analyzing this,
it's clear that White has some compensation, but I'm not sure if it's
sufficient.}) 17. Qf4 $1 {I agree with Tay's assessment of unclear
here, and it's possible that my claim of a small Black advantage after 12.Rd1
can be disputed. I don't think my claim after 11...f6 is seriously disputable
though, so it's not of theoretical interest to debate the comments after 11...
h5.}) 13. O-O Qf6 $15 {improves on Tay's suggested ...Bb7 (which
weakens the d7-pawn). Black intends to follow up with ...Qf4 and ...Nce5.
White can play Qd6 or Qc7, but this gives up the h4-pawn for questionable
compensation.}) 12... b5 13. e5 Qc5 $15 (13... Qb4 $17 {with ...Qg4 or ...Qf4.
With queens off, White will not have any compensation for the pawn.}) 14. Kb1
Ncxe5 $4 {I blundered a tactic.} (14... Qb4 $15 {again, intending ...Qg4 or ...
Qf4.}) 15. Ne4 Qc7 16. Nd6+ Ke7 17. Nxe5 Nxe5 18. Qxe5 Ra7 19. Qg5+ Kf8 20.
Bxh5 1-0