The Morra Gambit chess opening begins with the moves: 1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3
In contrast with 1.e4 e5 openings, White has very few gambit tries against the Sicilian. The Morra is one of White’s more respected gambits, but is still seen relatively rarely at international level, the feeling being that Black has a few ways of finding a satisfactory game.
However, as we shall see, the second player has to be quite careful in the opening stages. The idea of the Morra is to offer a pawn for smooth development of the pieces. White usually obtains a useful development advantage and active posts for his pieces, but, as is normal in the Sicilian, Black’s structure makes it difficult for White to initiate a successful attack.
Morra Gambit Mainline
1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3 dxc3
Black can also refuse the gambit pawn by playing 3…d3 or by transposing back into the c3 Sicilian with 3…Nf6 4.e5 Nd5.
4.Nxc3 Nc6 5.Nf3 d6
The move 5…e6 is another perfectly playable idea. A line that has caught more than one person out is the following: 6.Bc4 Qc7 7.0-0 Nf6 8.Qe2 Ng4! 9.h3?? Nd4! and White loses his queen as 10 Nxd4 Qh2 is mate. This is known as the Siberian Trap.
Sensibly blocking the bishop’s path down to f7.
7.0-0 Nf6 8.Qe2
Preparing Rd1 to pressurize the slightly weak d6-pawn.
8...Be7 9.Rd1 e5!
Otherwise White may exploit the pin on the d-file to play e4-e5 himself.
A good prophylactic move, preventing Black from finding an active post for his c8-bishop with …Bg4.
Morra Gambit Strategies
White will complete his development with moves such as Be3 (or Bg5) and Rac1. Black may try to neutralize the pressure on the a2-g8 diagonal with …Be6 and prevent. White’s pieces coming to b5 with …a7-a6. Black’s extra pawn on d6 is vulnerable, but still performs defensive duties. Overall, Black’s position is solid, but it will be difficult for him to exploit his extra pawn. White has just enough play for the pawn.
Theory: Once Black has reached the position above, he has avoided most of the traps, but the game we about to look at is a good illustration of how careful Black has to be in this opening.
Statistics: I found over 6,000 games in Mega Database, with White scoring 48% but black players being significantly higher-rated. A high percentage of games (75%) were decisive.