I often play the Smith-Morra gambit. Recently I've been seeing black play an early Qa5, such as

[fen ""]
1. e4  c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 Qa5 4. *


[fen ""]
1. e4  c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. Nf3 Qa5+ 4. *

It seems to throw a spanner in the works as to how I'm used to playing this opening. If met with 4. Bd2 then black can play 4... Qb6 hitting the unprotected b-pawn. It seems like black can bring the queen out early without the possibility of white chasing it around the board.

Question: How to best respond to an early black Qa5 in the Smith-Morra gambit?

Chess Opening Secrets Revealed suggests playing a later Bf4 depriving the queen on the c7 square, then play a3 followed by b4. But this seems like an awful lot of non-productive moves to chase the queen around, especially when you can't fianchetto the dark squared bishop.

Crafty suggests 1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.Nf3 Qa5+ 4.c3 Nc6 5.b4 Qc7 but this seems to just weaken the pawn structure, and make the white's thematic Bc4 more difficult to play.

  • 1
    for both diagrams I would go Bd2
    – dogs10099
    Commented Apr 9, 2013 at 22:02

3 Answers 3


I don't see why you can't just ignore the Queen on a5 for now and play Nf3, followed by Bc4 and 0-0. Then, there is no pin on the c3 pawn anymore and he must take on c3, after which you retake with Nxc3 and you're back into a normal Morra gambit position with his queen oddly placed on a5. If he doesn't take on c3, then you just take back on d4 with a large center. You are not forced to stay in Morra gambit territory forever if there's a better line you can play.

  • Hmm... it seems a bit awkward for white after 4...Nc6 5.Bc4 Nf6 hitting the e-pawn, and white can't use the typical e5 since the queen guards that square too. Maybe 5.Bd3 followed by 6.O-O after which black is forced to take the pawn. In this situation black's queen is oddly placed, but maybe so is white's bishop. Commented Apr 12, 2013 at 13:24
  • 1
    I actually did think about that situation myself too Douglas, thanks for bringing it up. If he plays Nf6, I would respond Qe2 to defend the e4 pawn. Considering that the queen usually goes to e2 anyways in normal Morra Gambit positions, I think that is a reasonable way to defend the e-pawn without giving any concessions.
    – flicflac
    Commented Apr 13, 2013 at 0:02

Marc Esserman in "Mayhem in the Morra" gives 3 ... Qa5 a ?! and recommends 4 Bd2 followed by 5 Nxc3 giving "An enhanced Morra Accepted". If you play the Morra I can strongly recommend this book. In fact if you don't play the Morra, and don't even play e4 or the Sicilian I can still recommend it, it's one of the most enjoyable chess books out there! If nothing else you'll learn a lot about tactics from Esserman's games.


After 1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3 Qa5, 4.Bd2 seems to be a strong reply. There is only one game in the Game Database of ChessTempo (Cotonnec-Dourerassou), however, with 4.Bd2, white immediately tries to take advantage of the (too) early sortie of the black queen.

After both 4....dxc3 5.Nxc3 and 4....d3 5.Bxd3, it is clear that white has a good version of 3....dxc3 and 3....d3 respectively, as the inclusion of Qa5 and Bd2 can only help white.

If black plays 4....Nf6, white continues with 5.cxd4 Qb6 6.Nc3, ignoring the threats Qxb2 and Qxd4. Accepting any of these pawn sacrfices is too dangerous for black, so the opening was a success for white: control over the center and a lead in development.

The game Cotonnec-Dourerassou went 4....Qb6 5.cxd4. Also in this position white shouldn't be afraid of losing a pawn. After 5....Qxb2 6.Nc3 Qb6 7.Nf3 or 5....Qxd4 6.Nc3 Nc6 7.Nf3 Qb6 8.Bc4, white has huge lead in development.

Dourerassou continued with 5....e6 and after 6.Nc3 Nf6 7.Nf3 Nc6 8.e5, and white obtained a nice advantage.

      [FEN ""]
      [StartPly "7"]

      1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3 Qa5 4.Bd2 Qb6 (4...dxc3 5.Nxc3)(4...d3 5.Bxd3)(4...Nf6 5.cxd4 Qb6 6.Nc3) 5.cxd4 (5...Qxb2 6.Nc3 Qb6 7.Nf3)(5...Qxd4 6.Nc3 Nc6 7.Nf3 Qb6 8.Bc4) e6 6.Nc3 Nf6 7.Nf3 Nc6 8.e5

  • 1
    I just started playing this line. First impressions, I would play 4. ... d3 5. Bxd3 Qb6. The best for White may be Na3. White has a strange position but is slightly better.
    – Mike Jones
    Commented Mar 20, 2016 at 8:46

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