14 April 2013

Smith-Morra Gambit Prehistory

When Johann Jacob Löwenthal took over editorship of The Chess Player's Magazine in 1865, he expressed his intent to "devote considerable space" to opening theory.
While endeavouring to systematize as far as possible those openings which have already been brought before the public, I shall submit to a searching analysis several others which have not yet found their way into print. The analysis of new methods of attack and defense will probably engage the attention of Chess players for an unlimited period. The Chess Player's Magazine (1865), 2-3
The first game presented offers an early version of what would come to be called the Smith-Morra Gambit, albeit with a slightly different move order. The game does not appear in the ChessBase database.

The player of the White pieces is presented as Mr. Calthorp (errata in the front of the volume notes the correct spelling should be Calthrop). Is he Samuel Robert Calthrop who played in the First American Chess Congress? Louis Paulsen eliminated Calthrop in the first round of that event, and these three games are the only games by any player named Calthrop in the ChessBase database. Perhaps it is notable that Calthrop played an early version of the Grand Prix Attack (also ECO B 21) in the third game of the match with Paulsen.

Samuel Robert Calthrop ran a boy's school in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and was originally from England. It is possible that he might have made a trip back to the mother country and played a few games of chess while there. On the other hand, perhaps he had a relative who was also a chess player with a knack for offbeat lines against the Sicilian Defense.

Here is the game with Löwenthal's annotations. I have converted English descriptive to algebraic, but otherwise reproduced the annotations as they appear in The Chess Player's Magazine (1865), 9-11.

Calthrop, [Samuel Robert?] -- Kennedy, Hugh Alexander [B21]
[ Löwenthal]

The following Sicilian Opening, adopted by so accomplished a veteran as Captain H. A. Kennedy, constitutes a good specimen of this début.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Bc4

The move generally played here is 4.Nxd4.

4...e6 5.c3

This move, which contributes so important and interesting a variation in the Scotch Gambit, and which may be safely adopted in that opening, is not so good in this début, as Black may, without disadvantage, take the Pawn with Pawn. White would gain no advantage by bringing his Queen's Knight into play, as Black's Pawns form a perfectly safe entrenchment against any attack.

5...dxc3 6.Nxc3 Bc5 7.0–0 d6 8.Be3 Nf6

Exchanging Bishops would have considerably weakened the Queen's Pawn, which could not be maintained against the attacking forces White could bring to bear.


9.e5 appears to be more attacking, and leads to some interesting variations.

9...dxc5 10.Qc2 0–0 11.e5 Ng4 12.Rad1 Qe7 13.Rfe1 a6 14.h3 Nh6 15.Ne4 b5 16.Nfg5

Threatening Mate in two moves by playing Nf6+, &c.

16...Nf5 17.Bd3 Nxe5 18.f4 Nxd3 19.Qxd3 c4 20.Qc2 g6 21.g4 Ng7 22.Qf2 h6 23.Qh4

An interesting position (see Diagram).


It is obvious that taking the proffered Knight would have involved the immediate loss of the game.

24.gxh5 Nxh5 25.Ng3 Qc5+

The correct move, by which Black is enabled to escape danger.


The only move, for if 26.Kh1 Bb7+ and wins, or 26.Kh2 Qf2+ and wins.

26...Nxg3+ 27.Qxg3 Kg7 28.Qc3+ Kg8

Had Blck interposed the Pawn, White would have taken e-pawn with Rook.

29.Ne4 b4

Very well played, forcing White to abandon the diagonal, commanded by his Queen.

30.Nf6+ Kh8 31.Qg3 Kg7 32.Re5 Qe7 33.Nh5+ Kh6 34.f5

White has exhausted all his resources.

34. Rd5, an apparently good move, would not have led to any advantage; Black would have replied with f5, rendering his game perfectly safe.

34...gxh5 35.h4 Qf6 36.Qf4+ Kh7 37.Rd2 exf5 38.Rg2 Rg8 39.Rxg8 Kxg8 40.Re8+ Kg7 41.Qg3+ Kh7 42.Qf3 Qxh4 43.Qxa8

White might, perhaps, have done better to take Rxc8, but even in that case Black would have won by numerical superiority of the Pawns.

43...Qf4+ 44.Kg1 Qc1+ 45.Kf2 Qxb2+ 46.Re2 Qd4+ 47.Kf1 Qd1+ 48.Re1 Qd3+ 49.Re2 Be6 50.Qxa6 f4 51.Qc6 f3 52.Qe4+ Bf5 53.Qxd3 Bxd3 0–1

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