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[fen "r1bqk1nr/pp2bppp/2npp3/8/2B1P3/2N1BN2/PP3PPP/R2Q1RK1 b kq - 3 8"]

What could be the best possible response to 8. Be3 for black? Would it be pushing the e pawn by a square, or developing the knight to f6?

What are the best possibilities in this continuation?

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    For the record, the initial moves would be 1.e4 c5 2.d4 cd4 3.c3 dc3 4.Nxc3 Nc6 5.Bc4 e6 6.Nf3 d6 7.0-0 Be7 8.Be3 – Evargalo Apr 16 '18 at 9:29
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I wouldn't go for 8...e5 in this position. When black plays e5 in Scheveningen/Najdorf and even in Smith-Morra gambit, it is usually connected with a win of tempo (attacking the knight on d4) or black is forced to do so because white is threatening e5. This simply isn't the case in the position above, as 9. e5 won't do much harm.

Finally, the 8...e5 move can cause you a lot of trouble because of the weak d5 square and the a2-g8 diagonal. Therefore, I would suggest you leaving e5 for future.


8...Nf6 is a much more logical developing move and I would play it. Not surprisingly, it stands as the move #1 in my database with a great statistic (72.1% for black). For example:

[fen "r1bqk1nr/pp2bppp/2npp3/8/2B1P3/2N1BN2/PP3PPP/R2Q1RK1 b kq - 3 8"]

8...Nf6 9.Qe2 O-O 10.Rfd1 {and only then (when white threatens e5) play 10...e5 yourself} 10...e5 

Another try for black is 8...a6 (covering the b5 square), but I think there will be enough time for that after finishing the development (if needed at all).


EDIT: As @Evargalo noted in the comments, in the 8...Nf6 line I gave above, you can also try 9...Ng4 with the idea of blocking the e5 break by putting a knight on e5:

[fen "r1bqk2r/pp2bppp/2nppn2/8/2B1P3/2N1BN2/PP2QPPP/R4RK1 b kq - 4 9"]

9...Ng4 10.Bf4 Nge5

The key idea of the manoeuvre is that black doesn't mind doubled pawns on the e-file, because he is pawn up and thanks to those pawns he can control the central squares d4 and d5.

Other possibilities shown by @Evargalo are to deviate from standard set-ups in Smith-Morra gambit by playing 10...Qa5 or 10...Bd7, I guess they are at least as good as 10...e5 so thanks to Evargalo for pointing them out.

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    Since that line just bring the game back to one of the main variations, note the possibilities for Black to deviate and "make use" of White move order with 8.Be3 : 9...Ng4 or 10...Bd7 or even 10...Qa5. – Evargalo Apr 16 '18 at 9:31
  • pushing the e5 pawn wasn't recommended at move 8 because of opening of the a2-g8 diagonal and yet at move 10 we push the e pawn. What was idea behind pushing the e pawn at move 10 and not move 8 ? Also now after pushing the e pawn, I believe white's both the knights can be more and more active. White can now continue with Nd5 and cause trouble for black – Yash Saraiya Apr 16 '18 at 11:29
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    @Yash Saraiya As I said in the annotation before the e5 move (see the white box behind the chessboard), white is threatening to play e5 himself because he pinned the black d-pawn by Rfd1. Qc7 isn't such a good solution, after Rac1 black would have problems along the c-file (e.g. Nb5/Nd5 in the future) – kmartin Apr 16 '18 at 12:24
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    @Yash Saraiya After 11.Nd5, black wouldn't mind playing Nxd5 and after Bxd5 developing the light-squared bishop. But he has even better option - taking the unprotected pawn on e4 (11...Nxe4). It might seem risky, but black should be fine. – kmartin Apr 16 '18 at 13:01
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In the Smith Morra gambit it's almost never a good idea to play ...e5, since this gives White the d5-square. By moving Nc3 to d5, White's often able to start a rapid attack (which is the goal of the Smith Morra).

A better approach is developing the Knight to f6, like you said. Then, aim to castle quickly and get your King safe. After doing this, you'll want to develop Qd8 and Bc8, in order to connect your Rooks...

To develop the Queen, either move it to c7 or a5. If you want to move it to c7, make sure to play ...a6 first (in order to stop White from attacking your Queen with Nb5). Playing ...a6 is usually a good idea in general in the Smith Morra, since it also stops White from attacking your d6-pawn by playing Nb5.

To develop Bc8, either move it to d7 or play ...a6 + ...b5, enabling you to move the Bishop to the b7-square.

If you can accomplish this, you'll be a pawn up with a slightly better game.

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