Reviews | August 16, 2012 22:16

Review: Mayhem in the Morra!

Mayhem in the Morra!

The world can be divided into two kinds of people: those who finish one book before starting another, and those who read multiple books during the same period of time. Belonging to the second category myself, I wasn’t much surprised by the feeling of serendipity I experienced while reading Imagine, Jonah Lehrer’s new book on creativity, together with Marc Esserman’s Mayhem in the Morra!

Lehrer, science journalist and author of the bestselling Proust was a Neuroscientist, has been accused of fabricating quotes in Imagine (some of which he admitted), but I must say I still enjoyed the book as I naturally related a lot of what’s in it to chess. Lehrer stresses the importance of both “out of the box” thinking and hard work, which are precisely the qualities in Marc Esserman’s book on the Morra Gambit, published by Quality Chess.

Now, a confession must be made: I’ve always hated the Smith-Morra Gambit. Could there be a more annoying, infuriating and insulting chess variation than the desperate-looking 2.d4?! against the splendid Sicilian Defense?! And by God, I wasn’t alone. Everybody seems to hate this gambit – it must be the most despised variation in chess history.

Esserman, in his book, asks a simple question – a question I’ve personally never bothered to answer; a question so obviously silly and undeserving that it hardly justifies a serious answer; a question so simple that all Morra Haters must have asked in their worst nightmares, and were unable to honestly answer… that question is: why?

Why is the Morra Gambit so universally hated when thousands of romantic old fools still faint at the sight of a mere King’s Gambit; when Garry Kasparov is praised for digging up the ancient Evans Gambit, and when Tal, Shirov and Morozevich are still admired to no end for their uncompromising and risky opening play?

Reading the book’s Preface, in which Esserman throws these and other, equally valid questions at the unsuspecting reader, was a mind-blowing experience for me. I was forced to acknowledge that I didn’t in fact have a single good argument to hate the Morra, knowing next to nothing about it and seeing my prejudice exposed for what it was: fear.

After accepting Esserman’s convincing and accurate account of the gambit’s sad history, the “hostile environment” in which it was forced, often wrongly, by even the most “romantic” grandmasters of the past, I had to admit that I’d always been afraid of the Morra Gambit - which is why I have never had it on the board, always declining the gambit with 3…d3, 2…e6 or even, once, the ridiculous 2…d6?.

So what’s there to fear?  

1.e4 c5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3

PGN string

I must confess that this is often the moment in my chess praxis when my heart thumps most - will my opponent accept the sacrifice in the spirit of the Romantics, or will he shun the most honorable path and meekly decline? Sometimes I wait for the critical decision for many minutes as my grandmaster foe flashes me an incredulous, bordering on insulted, look. Other times, I receive the answer almost instantaneously. Yet every time I am greeted with 3…dxc3, I could not be happier. My knight freely flows to c3, the Morra accepted appears, and we travel back in time to the 19th century. Already ahead a full tempo in development, I smile, knowing that all of my pieces will soon flood the center. My bishops will zoom to the central diagonals, and my nimble queen will influence any sector of the board she desires. Meanwhile, Black remains cramped. His queen and bishops lie sleeping, and while his queen’s knight can reach c6 unharmed, the king’s knight must constantly fret about the dangerous e4-e5 thrust.

With scientific rigor (meaning with the help of the strongest chess engines in the world), Esserman, an International Master himself, debunks some of the world’s leading players’ opinions on the gambit, as well as scrutinizes his own games for mistakes by both his opponents and himself. Then again, he displays superior knowledge of strategic themes and positional considerations.

New York (rapid) 2003

1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Nxc3 Nc6 5.Nf3 e6 6.Bc4 Qc7 7.0-0 Nf6 8.Nb5 Qb8 9.e5 Nxe5 10.Nxe5 Qxe5 11.Re1 Qc5

PGN string


As you will see, there are no rules in chess, only guidelines. Normally we march forward in gambit play, but sometimes we retract like a bow and arrow, only to unleash with more vigor later. After the coiling 12.Bf1 the trap is laid clear, and White’s minor pieces will banish the queen to a land where she wishes not to go. The threat of Be3 and Rc1 force Black’s hand.


(…) Here I wanted to play 13.Qxd5, but after 13…Qxd5 14.Nc7+ Kd8 15.Nxd5 exd5, I merely succeed in trading pieces. Therefore I set up a threat, which as Nimzowitsch philosophizes, is stronger than the execution.


The hunter becomes the hunted. White now menaces 14.Qxd5 Qxd5 15.Nc7#! Meanwhile, Rc1 swirls in the frosty air. Black suffers on...

13…f6 14.Rc1 Qe7

PGN string

The queen shields her king from the fiery white rook, but in turn, entombs her entire kingside. If only the king foresaw her fate, he would have never sent her off to c7 to do his bidding so many moons ago.


White aims to drive the queen from her hideout on e7 via Bd6 followed by Qxd5 +-, so Black must cede the exchange. But that’s not all he will lose (…).

If you think, after reading above fragment, that Esserman just likes to show off, both with his own moves and his prose, you’d be wrong. His mission is deadly serious, as he puts forward in his introduction:

As I’d do with any serious opening, I will not stop the analysis in each critical variation until I have demonstrated that White is fighting for the advantage. Yes, that is not a misprint – that White is fighting for an advantage in the Morra Gambit. If after studying the Morra Gambit for 15 years I did not believe I could make this claim, I would not be writing this book.

Does he succeed? Well, it’s hard for me to judge in a superficial review, but in general I found his analysis extremely convincing.

Take this example, perhaps the most striking one in the entire book (riddled, hilariously, with quotes from the Austin Powers movies), which starts off with a sarcastic sneer towards a former World Championship candidate that could easily be mistaken for arrogance, then switches to astonishingly accurate conclusions impossible to resist.

1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Nxc3 e6 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.Bc4 a6 7.0-0 Qc7

Larsen’s delusion pervades in the present day. As I am writing, I leaf through the December 2011 Christmas edition of New in Chess where British superstar GM Nigel Short plays the role of the Grinch who stole the Morra Gambit: "A belief in the existence of Santa Claus is more rational than imagining White has adequate compensation after the unwarranted [3.]c3?" (…). And this comes from a man who ventures the King’s Gambit. Well Nigel – ho, ho, ho, baby.

PGN string


A virtual novelty on move 8 (played only once in a game between unrated players), which stops Larsen’s Defense even before it starts. With this dashing knight sacrifice, all the previous Nd5 themes again apply. Switch on your Rybka and watch as she gyrates wildly from -1 to +1 and beyond! Fembots: "You can’t resist us Mr. Powers. You can’t resist us Mr. Powers… resist us Mr. Powers.” Mr. Powers: "Au contraire baby, I think you, can’t resist me."

8…exd5 (…) 9.exd5 Nce7 (…) 10.Bb3 d6 11.Re1

PGN string

We reach a freestyle position where White remains a full piece down with seemingly few threats, but Black simply cannot consolidate his material gains. When the smoke clears, White’s queen routinely ravages from the a5-square in the key lines. (…)

Before reading on, I decided to feed this position to my own engine. Sure enough, it gives Black an advantage of +.70 but with a full piece down it’s clear that White must be onto something. But can it really be enough? My engine recommends the logical-looking line 11…Bg4 12.Bf4 Qd7 13.Rc1 which is also given by Esserman.

The longer I looked (and my engine was looking along!), the more I became convinced that this position is horrible for Black. He will simply run out of ideas while White is ready to follow up with amazing plans like a2-a4-a5 and Bb3-a4 (after 13…Nf6) or (after 13…Nh6) 14.h3 Bxf3 15.Qxf3 Nhf5 16.Qc3! with a devastating bind.

This is impressive stuff indeed, and the book is full of it. Esserman is not afraid to discuss well-known “refutations” of the Morra, such as the so-called Taylor set-up with ...Nc6, d6, a6 and Nf6 (a line he calls “Taylor’s treacherous Temple of Doom”) and present his own treatment of it. In this case, his recommendation is 8.Bf4! and after 8…Bg4 9.h3! Bh5 White should play IM Langrock’s move 10.Qb3!

PGN string

which Esserman claims leads to promising positions for White. Not convinced yet? Watch his lengthy analysis of this position and see for yourself.

Likewise, the “Chicago Defense”, in which Black plays the somewhat artificial-looking manoeuvre Ra8-a7-d7 (“and Black is a pawn up” – as a friend of mine likes to say), is treated with respect, but in this line, too, Esserman convinced me that White can fight for the advantage.

Mayhem in the Morra! is one of the best and funniest opening books I’ve ever read, and there’s hardly anything to criticize. Even his sometimes revengeful-sounding style is usually compensated by realistic goals, such as when he acknowledges the strength of the “Improved Siberian” move order for Black (1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Nxc3 e6 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.Bc4 Nf6!), commenting that in this line “the battle rages fierce” still.

Esserman’s book is an outstanding example of out-of-the-box thinking, profound enthusiasm for a subject and a lot of hard, hard work. It’s hilarious as well as ambitious; arrogant as well as amiable. It describes how an opening can make you sad and happy at the same time, depending on the way it is treated and how it treats you.

Marc Esserman has written a celebration of chess in all its imaginative richness. You should read it, even – no, especially if you’ve always hated the Morra Gambit.


Arne Moll's picture
Author: Arne Moll


Anonymous's picture

This is just silly reading material. I wish Chessvibes would support books of strategic guidance written by titled players and not this type of trash.

MW's picture

The author of this book, Marc Esserman, IS a titled player - an I.M.

Also I think there is room for reviews of chess books of all kinds. My own personal repertoire would never see the Morra from either side of the board, but there are plenty of adherents to it who will, no doubt, enjoy another book on the opening.

If the book is itself a poor one then, by all means, feel free to give pointed and detailed criticism. But to just label it "trash" is not enlightening anyone.

Ophelia Crack's picture

Mediocre book on a dubious opening. Book is full of chess thumping and plenty of mistakes and the author is an arrogant & braying jack ass.

ophelia crack2 your so so wrong's picture

ophelia it will win book of the year....the author is awesome...and you will get a a chicken ophelia a great book...

ophelia crack2 your so so wrong's picture

ophelia it will win book of the year....the author is awesome...and you will get a a chicken ophelia a great book...

ray's picture

can you point out a few "mistakes" in the book please

Super Morra's picture

this is simply an over-presentation of an opening that never deserved much attention for a reason - not recommended

Michael Lubin's picture

Why are all the other comments written by someone with a grudge or vested interest against this book?

Ophelia Crack's picture

I have no grudge or vested interest, fool. Just an honest opinion. The book is full of mistakes, typos, impossible moves and is missing some lines. The author's style is unwarranted and unmitigated arrogance and the opening itself still has white fighting for a draw with correct play from black.

Anthony Migchels's picture

and what line do you advise to back up that claim? I'm always struggling a bit against it!

Ophelia Crack's picture

In addition it is clear the book was rushed into publication and is far from the usually effort released from the usually stellar publishing company of Quality chess.

With the cost of chess books in today's market, this one is a misfire for serious players but perfect for coffee house punters

ophelia crack2 your so so wrong's picture

you so so wrong ophielia....

Merijn's picture

Haha the reactions complement the review in exemplary fashion. Good job Arne!

AljechinsCat's picture

The Morra might be an interesting weapon for sure. Main point for me is that it has hardly relevant - Black simply takes on d4 and plays Nf6 or d5 next move, reaching an Alapin that every Sicilian player will know.
But the Morra is not the most hated opening. I would give that trophy to the Blackmar Diemer Gambit (rather trash) or the London for being boring).

Remco G's picture

I thought everybody hated the Morra because the kind of play it leads to is just Open Sicilian play, but less rich?

Sander's picture

The reason why I personally dislike the Morra is the idea behind it; they play 20 moves out of memore alone, the opponent makes a mistake, loses and after that they feel like Tal because '' they sacrificed a pawn''. Or maybe it has more to do with my pseronal score against it, either way; 2. d4 should be made illegal.

Jarvis's picture

Haha, such a funny comment! :)

choufleur's picture

The issue is not if white is fighting for an advantage or not, let us admit he is, is this the best way to fight for an advantage ? Certainly not, from a theoretic point of view.

Horst Schlachetzki's picture

I also have bought the book and I am a bit unhappy now with it. The main variations from blacks point of view are too much hidden to my taste, and the book completely takes only whites point of view. Also there are some misprints and even wrong main diagrams, for example on page 57 (beginning of chapter 2), it shows a black pawn on a6 and black bishop on f8, but (!!) a6 was not played by black, but Be7 was played (!!) up to move 9 (which the diagram refers too).

I have sent a mail to the publisher , but did not even get a reply.

I personally still think black should play :

1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 dxc3 4. Nxc3 Nc6 5. Nf3 d6 6. Bc4 e6 7. O-O Nf6 8. Qe2 a6 9. Rd1 Qc7 10. Bf4 Be7 11. Rac1 O-O 12. Bb3 Qb8

Arne Moll's picture

@Horst: In this position Esserman analyses 13.e5!? for 5 more pages which I'm sure you've read. Instead of just mentioning what Black should play in your opinion, it would be interesting to readers to know where you think Black can improve on Esserman's analysis.

Anonymous's picture

With all respect to the A.Moll's of the world, a qualified review should come from a qualified source.

It would be better for Chessvibes to have active players with a minimum threshold rating to review books - reporting back on their experience using the book's ideas in tournaments, etc.

Peter Doggers's picture

Although I don't agree that a reviewer should be an active player with a minimum rating, I'd like to point out that recently we started publishing reviews by IMs Arthur van de Oudeweetering and IM Robert Ris as well.

Horst Schlachetzki's picture

Hallo Arne,
thank you very much for your reply. Here we come to the point what I am criticizing.

I do not claim, that I can improve Mr. Esserman's analysis, he is an IM , I am an amateur.

I critize in this position, that after
13. e5 Nh5 14. Bg5 dxe5 15. Bxe7 Nxe7 16. Nxe5 Nf6 17. Bc2
he gives Blacks inferior answer 17. ... Ned5 in bold as main variation giving a long explanation how white wins then, but Blacks better answer 17. ... b5 ! he gives as a subvariation with only a few moves 17. ... b5 18. g4 Nfd5 and stops.

I think this is not very objective and not a scientific approach. If 17. ... b5! is better than 17. ... Ned5, then an objective author would spend more time on explaining what can happen after this better move. This is what amateurs want to find in an opening book. Why did Mr. Esserman not explain the position after 17. ... b5 18. g4 Nfd5 , why did he just stop there ?

The reader is not interested how white can win after black inferior moves, he is interested in variations with best moves from both sides.

This is what is missing in this book, at least this is my opinion.

Arne Moll's picture

Hi Horst,

This type of thing happens quite often in chess books, even very good ones, and to be honest I've stopped being bothered too much about it myself as this just appears to be very difficult to avoid, probably due to last-minute discoveries or new developments right before going to print.

However in this case your criticism is not justified at all for the simple reason that the author himself states that "in theory Black can defend but the variations are worth including for their spectacular and instructional value." In other words, Esserman warns that he will leave the 'scientific' path for a while and just show some entertaining and illustrative variations. (Even scientific literature needs good examples, even if they are not always 100% scientifically justified by themselves.)

In fact, Esserman even gives a perfectly valid alternative for the speculative 17.Bc2, namely 17.Na4 ("the reilable positional approach"). Finally, on the previous page he already mentioned that this whole analysis is an attempt to "search for more than the equal position that White can force (...)". Again this seems a more than sufficient disclaimer for the 'free format' analysis that follow.

Jacob Aagaard's picture

I did not get your e-mail, nor do I agree with the comments above about the production level being poor. We have never published a flawless book and this one missed as well. But we worked hard on it and did not rush.
Some don't like the style of the book or the opening; peace be with you.

Horst Schlachetzki's picture

Well, I have sent the mail on 20.07.2012 and did receive no sent-error. I have resend it just now using

second missprint is :

2) variations on page 77 (chapter 3)
the subvariation on the bottom line
11. Rac1 ! 0-0 12. Bb8
should be replaced by
11. Rac1 ! 0-0 12. Bb3
as it is written on the referenced pages 79, 91 : 12. Bb3

As an additional remark I would have organized the game index by the white players name , which would make it easier to find out if a specific game is in the book or not. I cannot see, what one can benefit by having it ordered by the page number.

Maybe you can correct that in a future version, if that is needed.

Jasper's picture

I'm curious the know whether the book also focusses on the following line:
1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 dxc3 4. Nxc3 Nc6 5. Nf3 d6 6. Bc4 e6 7. O-O a6 8. Qe2 Be7 9. Rd1 Bd7 10. Bf4 e5

Main point being the delay of both Nf6 and Qc7, so that plans with Bg5 and/or Nd5 are non- or at least less effective

I always play this against the Morra and get quite favourable positions with it.

Horst Schlachetzki's picture

You can have a look at

where [Michael Goeller] tries to give some objective comments.

Esserman only says to move 9. .. Ne5 in the Esserman - Goeller game on pag 209 of the book:

9. ... Ne5 ? Black sticks to the plan, but the scenery has change

Goeller gives much more information :

9. ... Ne5 ?

This move works against everything except White's very simple reply, which I am embarrassed to admit that I overlooked. In some ways, the simultaneous was like playing a blitz game, as Esserman raced around the tables.

a) 9... Bxf3 10. gxf3! axb5 (10... Ne5 11. bxa6! Nxc4 12. axb7 Ra7 13. Nb5 Rxb7 14. Qa4 Rd7 15. Qxc4 and White's outide passed pawn proved quite dangerous in Regan - Tisdall, Denver 1977.) 11. Nxb5! recommended by IM Lawrence Trent also(11. Bxb5 g6 [black is slightly better] Hardarson - De Firmian) 11... g6 12. Qb3 Ne5 13. Bf4 (13. Bb2!?) 13... Nxc4 14. Qxc4 Rc8 15. Qa4 Qd7?? (15... Nd7 [only move] 16. Rac1 (16. e5!?) 16... Rc6 17. Bg5!? [with initiative] ) 16. Rac1 Rb8 17. Rc7 Black resigns 1-0 Esserman (Borba),M (2920)-Gormally (Elgransenor),D (2952)/Internet Chess Club 2006 -- an embarrassing loss by a GM that makes my own embarrassing loss not look so bad.

b) 9... axb5 10. Nxb5! (10. Bxb5 g6 [black is slightly better] Taylor) 10... e6 11. Bf4 Be7 12. h3 Bxf3 13. Qxf3 O-O (13... Ne5! 14. Bxe5 dxe5 15. Qg3 O-O 16. Qxe5 Rc8 [black is slightly better] Palliser) 14. Rfd1 Ra4 15. Rac1 Qa5 16. Nxd6?! (16. Bxd6 Bxd6 17. Nxd6 Ne5 18. Qb3 Nxc4 19. Rxc4= Palliser) 16... Ne5 17. Bxe5 Qxe5 18. Qb3 Bxd6! 19. Qxa4 Nxe4 [with initiative] (19... Qh2+! 20. Kf1 Bf4 [with attack] Palliser ) 20. Qb3? Qh2+ 21. Kf1 Qh1+ 22. Ke2 Qxg2 23. Qe3 Ng3+ 24. Kd2 Nf5 25. Qb6 h5 26. Kc3 Be5+ 27. Kb4 Qg5 28. Kb3 Nd4+ 29. Kb4 Qe7+ 0-1 Esserman Marc (USA) (2259)-Taylor Timothy (USA) (2291)/Las Vegas (USA).

Creemer's picture

Wow. This must be the most-and-fasted-commented on review on this site. Anybody care Kasparov was just arrested? lol. No, first things first, right. Bash the Morra! And the author, too!

Bob Dobbs's picture

Indeed, I think we could compare the responses to this review to the verdict against Pussy Riot in Russia. It is very hard and overwhelming for people to admit that they are not in charge of their own lives, just as it is hard for people to admit they are not in charge of their own chessboard. Many small people desperately desire order in their chess, just as they slavishly accept order in politics. The notion of beauty in chaos challenges the frame of their entire life. They will use any slander, any dirty tactic to silence the vocal advocate and defender of the beautiful freedom. They will defend a stale and defensive utilitarianism, even if it doesn't meet its own promises and slowly extinguishes all humanity in life and in chess. The vitriol against the Morra and its advocate is similar to the vitriol against Pussy Riot. Fortunately, as the great Kasparov faces arrest, we should recognize that the great ones see what the small ones cannot. Long live the Romantics! Long live Pussy Riot!

Creemer's picture


The Truth Shall Piss You Off.

Jarvis's picture

No way? It cannot stop here; where are all the half-maniac regulars of the CV comment streams?

slibbe's picture

Haha, you just opened some Pandora box, Arne!
This nice review may well get me into buying and actully reading the first chess-book in recent years.
Reading all the comments along with the Spassky-escape-Pussy-Riot-Kasparov-saga greatly improves this allready wonderfull sunday morning!

Horst Schlachetzki's picture

Third missprint is :


Errors on page 245 (beginning of chapter 11)

The book gives the following moves under the diagram

1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 dxc3 4. Nxc3 d6
5. Nf3 e6 6. Bc4 a6 7. 0-0 e6 8. Qe2 b5

9. Rd1 b5 10. Bb3 ..... 246


9. Nd4 b5 10. Bb3 Nc5 11. Bd5 ... 250

That is incorrect :

a pawn that moved to e6 in move five can not
move again to e6 in move seven

a pawn that moved to b5 in move eight can not
move again to b5 in move nine.

This should be corrected to

1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 dxc3 4. Nxc3 d6
5. Nf3 e6 6. Bc4 a6 7. 0-0 Nf6 8. Qe2 b5

9. Bb3 Nbd7 10. Rd1 ... 246

9. Bb3 Nbd7 10. Nd4 Nc5 11. Bd5 ... 249

Also the diagram itself is wrong :

It shows a black knight on c6, but move Nc6 was not made
by black up to move 8, which the diagram refers to,
not in the given move sequence, not in the correct move

Thank you to the publisher for providing additional
material on the Morra in


Horst Schlachetzki's picture

Questions to game analysis : Jacek Stopa - Alexandra Kosteniuk,
St. Louis (rapid) 2011

In his analysis on the above game Mr. Esserman in his book on pages
191, 192 gives the following in his game comment

after move 8.Bg5 by white :

" ...
Young IM Stopa, already an Evans Gambit disciple, showed up
inspired by our European 2011 summer tour, vowing to play the
Morra - the sexiest opening in chess - in each and every game he


after move 9. Nb5 by white :

" ...
During the interview, Stopa revealed that never before in his
career had he lost to a woman


As I am a chess amateur and also an amateur in the science of psychology,
please can somebody explain :

What makes a chess opening "sexy" ? I always thought, that only dead
pieces of wood are moved . Or is there a kind of hidden psychological
aspect for male IM's playing Morra Gambit with White ?

What kind of chess related information Mr. Esserman wants to give his readers
by telling, that Mr. Stopa never lost to a woman before ? Or is there again
some hidden psychological information ?

Many thanks for your efforts in advance.

Jarvis's picture

Not as hard to answer as you may think:

1) "Sexy", resonably understood in the sense of something like "risky" and "romantic" in the classical sense.

2) It's curious, anecdotal information.

Horst Schlachetzki's picture

Hi Jarvis,

thank you very much for your answers and comments :

to 1)

Its still my personal opinon that sexy should only be used in the
context of persons. But, if I am taking your point of view, that
in the context of a chess game "Sexy" is understood as "Risky",
then the "most sexiest" opening should mean "most riskiest" opening.
Well, that does not sound like a compliment for the Morra Gambit.

to 2)

If the information that

"Mr. Stopa never lost to a woman before"

before he lost to Alexandra Kosteniuk is

"curios, anecdotal information "

then I think it is a complete waste of space in an opening
book. Maybe if somebody is going to write a biography about
that very famous IM Jacek Stopa, then maybe some people
might be interested in the famous day in the history of mankind,
when famous IM Jacek Stopa lost his first game to a woman.

Maybe an additonal info, even Garry Kasparov lost to Judith Polgar
in 2002 a classical game in Moscow. Is that of any special interest
in modern times, because Judit Polgar is a woman ?
No, its just that the very strong chess player Judit Polgar was
stronger than Garry Kasparov on that day.

Horst Schlachetzki's picture

Fourth missprint is :


Errors on page 203 (beginning of chapter 9)

The book gives the following moves under the diagram

1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 dxc3 4. Nxc3 Nc6
5. Nf3 d6 6. Bc4


6...a6 7.0-0 Nf6



9.... Bxf3 10.Qxf3 Be6 11.Rfd1

Both squares f3 and e6 are white squares, it is
impossible, that a white bishop moving on the white squares can directly move from f3 to e6, as these two squares are not on the same diagonal, so 10. ... Be6
is not possible.

The above should be corrected to

9.... Bxf3 10.Qxf3 e6 11.Rfd1

Horst Schlachetzki's picture

Questions to statement on page 246 :

Mr. Esserman gives the following statement on page 246 of his book :
" ...
While in my eyes the other classical gambits have all
fallen to the brutality of modern computer analysis,
the Morra Gambit has and will continue to endure the
test of time.



Just to be sure :

Does the phrase

"have all fallen to the brutality of modern computer analysis"


"refuted" ??

If the answer is "YES" then my next questions are :

Does Mr. Esserman really think that the Marshall Gambit in the Spanish opening has been refuted ? Could be please show that refutation in the sense of a forced win for White ?

Does Mr. Esserman really think that the Naidorf Poisoned pawn has been refuted ? Can he show the forced win for black as white has sacrificed a pawn?

A Modest Proposal's picture

Dear Horst,
Fallen to the brutality of modern computer analysis implies "refuted." Please refer to the book's introduction for the implied definition of a classical chess gambit.
As for IM Stopa's interlude vs. GM Kosteniuk, please look up the definition of the terms "satire" and "irony" for further clarification.

Jonathan Swift

A Modest Proposal's picture

And, please, please, fix your spelling of misprint!!

Horst Schlachetzki's picture

Thank you very much for correcting me. As a non native english speaker I apologize for offending anybody by my bad use of the english language.
I will try to improve.

Yours sincerely, Horst Schlachetzki

Horst Schlachetzki's picture

fifth misprint in the book :

5) Error in Variation index :

In the variation index on page 356
Mr. Esserman gives :

Chapter 9

1. e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Nxc3 Nc6 5.Nf3 d6. Bc4


9. ...Bxf3 10.Qxf3 Be6 11. Rfd1 -> 222

That should be corrected to

9. ...Bxf3 10.Qxf3 e6 11. Rfd1 -> 222

Of course, you can argue, as the same misprint was already under the diagram at the
beginning of the chapter 9, it is consequent to make the same error in the
variation index. Very fine sense of "irony" !!

Horst Schlachetzki's picture

sixth misprint in the book :

Under the diagram on page 31 Mr. Esserman gives


1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Nxc3 Nc6 5.Nf3 e6 6.Bc4

6.... Qc7 8.0-0 Nf6 8. Nb5 Qb8 9. e5
9.... Nxe5 10.Nxe5 Nxe5 --> 34

This should be corrected to


1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Nxc3 Nc6 5.Nf3 e6 6.Bc4

6.... Qc7 8.0-0 Nf6 8. Nb5 Qb8 9. e5
9.... Nxe5 10.Nxe5 Qxe5 --> 34

which one can see on page 34

Summary :

Errors :

1) page 57 : error in diagram
2) page 77 : two wrong variations
3) page 245 : error in diagram and wrong variations
4) page 203 : wrong variations
5) page 356 : wrong variation in variation index
6) page 31 : wrong variation

Horst Schlachetzki's picture

Question :

on page 9 Mr. Esserman writes :

"I have faced two players over 2700 FIDE in the Morra Accepted
in tournament play. In both cases they lost under 30 moves."

Which games is he referring to ?

Is he referring to the game :

Esseman (2453) - Van Wely (2683), 04.08.2011, 112th US open,
which is analyzed in his book ?

Then I would be confused, as Van Wely's rating was 2683 on that
day, not >= 2700. Also the last time Van Wely had a rating >= 2700
was in 2001, so ten years before Esserman has beaten Van Wely.

So if Mr. Esserman is referring to that game, it would be more modest
to write :

"In one of my games I faced a former (!) 2700 player"

Or am I doing Mr. Esserman wrong and he is referring
to other games, where he has beaten actual (!) 2700 players ?

A Modest Proposal's picture

Dear Mr. Horst,
At the time of Esserman-Van Wely, the "former" 2700 Van Wely you so lovingly refer to was actually greater than or equal to 2700 on the DAY of the game according to the Fide live ratings list, but of course, went under 2700 after the loss. Please check the August 2011 live ratings for all the gory details.

Have you beaten actual 2200 players?

Johann Sebastian Swift

Horst Schlachetzki's picture

Dear Mr. Johann Sebastian Swift,

thank you so very much with the details again.

first: Did you notice, that I changed my spelling from
"missprint" to "misprint".


That was your great achievement.

As you suggested , I checked on

where really Mr. Van Wely had an inofficial (!) live rating of
2704.1 on 2011-08-04, the day of the game, wow
ratings through the days around of Mr. van Wely :

2011-07-31 : out of list with players >= 2700
2011-08-01 : 2700
2011-08-02 : 2700
2011-08-03 : 2700
2011-08-04 : 2704,1
2011-08-05 : out of list with players >= 2700

So I apologize and congratulate Mr. Esserman, not for
beating a player with an official 2700 rating but for beating
a player who was slightly over 2700 for one week on the unofficial (!)
live rating list.

And of course the readers of the book now have also this
background information, what Mr. Esserman means, if he
talks about 2700 players. Why did he himself not give that little
detail ?

@ Mr. Johann Sebastian Swift : Can you help me again with
the second game Mr. Esserman refers to ?

@ Mr. Johann Sebastian Swift : As you know I am not a native
english speaker, can you help me, what do you mean by
"gory details" ? Did you mean "glory" or "gory" in the
sense of "bloody" ? Well I do not understand.

@ Mr. Johann Sebastian Swift : Your question :

Have you beaten actual 2200 players?

Well I think, as you are a honourable person, you probably
do not want to disrespect me with saying in between the lines
"How can such a low rated player ask such insulting questions about
the famous fan of the Morra Gambit Mr. Esserman " ,
no you are really interested in me, I think.

So to satisfy your noble interest in my "chess career" (?) :

My current FIDE ELO rating is : 1925
My peak FIDE ELO rating was : 2073 (long ago)

I checked my old games and really I found one, where I have
beaten a player with an official FIDE rating >2200 :

Schlachetzki, Horst (2024) - Maxion, Dirk (2235) 1:0
Neckaropen 2002, Deizisau, Germany

There is also :

Zeller, Frank (2445) - Schlachetzki, Horst (1904) 0,5 : 0,5
Staufer Open , Schwaebisch Gmuend , 2011.01.02, first round

You know, as we say in german language :

"Blinde Huehner finden ab und zu auch einmal ein Korn!"

Your homework to find out, what that means !

May I ask you for your actual and peak FIDE rating or
is this disturbing your privacy ? Then , of course,
I apologize for bothering you.

Have a nice day,

best regards,

Horst Schlachetzki

unknown comic's picture

Does this book cover variations where Black declines the gambit? I usually play 2...Nf6 and the game invariably transposes to the Alapin.

unknown comic's picture

I mean 3...Nf6 as in 1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.
c3 Nf6

Andrew Greet's picture

Hi, as one of the proofreaders I can tell you Esserman covers all of Black's options to decline the gambit, recommending sharp attacking options wherever possible. In typical Esserman style, players who decline the gambit are labelled as "schemers" with numerous Joker quotes from The Dark Knight. :-)


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