An early …Nc6 in the Sozin Dragon (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 g6 6.Bc4 Nc6?!) is not particularly useful, or even safe, for Black. White has a forceful reply with after 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.e5. It’s now more commonly known as the Magnus Smith trap.
The trap was well known before the 20th century. A 19th century example is given below.
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 d6 6.Bc4 g6 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.e5 Ng4 9.exd6 Qxd6 10.Qe2 Bg7 11.Ne4 Qc7 12.h3 Ne5 13.Bf4 Nd3+ 14.cxd3 Qxf4 15.O-O O-O 16.Rac1 Rb8 17.Rc2 Rb6 18.a3 Be5 19.g3 Qf5 20.g4 Qf4 21.Ng3 Qd4 22.Qf3 Rxb2 23.Ne2 Qb6 24.Rxb2 Qxb2 25.d4 Bd6 26.a4 Bb7 27.Qd3 Qb6 28.Rb1 Qc7 29.h4 Qd7 30.Qf3 Bc8 31.g5 Qh3 32.Qxh3 Bxh3 33.Rb3 Bc8 34.Nc3 Kg7 35.Ne4 Bc7 36.d5 cxd5 37.Bxd5 Rd8 38.Bc6 Bb6 39.Kg2 f5 40.gxf6+ exf6 41.h5 f5 42.Ng5 Rd2 43.Nh3 Rd6 44.Bf3 Rd2 45.hxg6 hxg6 46.Bc6 Kh6 47.Kg3 g5 48.Rc3 g4 49.Be8 Bb7 50.Bc6 Ba6 51.Bg2 gxh3 52.Rc6+ Kg7 53.Bxh3 Bb7 54.Re6 Bxf2+ 55.Kh2 Bh4+ 56.Kg1 Bd5 57.Rd6 Bf2+ 0-1
So why is this trap known as the Magnus Smith trap, and not the Blackburne trap?
For at least two reasons. One is that Blackburne didn’t play the best moves and lost the game, so most players did not notice how powerful White’s attack could be.
Secondly, the first known player to properly analyze the trap and have it published was the Canadian player, Magnus Smith (1869–1934). A player of master strength, he played this now well-known trap against Kreymborg in the sixth round of the 1911 New York Masters Open and won in 49 moves.
This game, plus a related article by Smith, was published in the March 1911 issue of the American Chess Bulletin. The game can be found on page 59 and the article on pages 62-63.
Magnus Smith-Alfred Kreymborg
New York Masters Open, 1911
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Bc4 g6 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.e5 Ng4 (Of course not, 8…dxe5?? because of 9.Bxf7+, winning the queen. A trap not easy to see, but only if you have seen it played before. Many beginners have been on the wrong side of it.) 9.Bf4 (This is perhaps White’s best move.) 9…d5 (The text move, along with 9…Qb6 10.Qf3, are the two main responses to 9.Bf4.) 10.Nxd5 cxd5 11.Bxd5 Be6 12.Bc6+ Bd7 13.Bxa8 Qxa8 14.O-O Bg7 15.Re1 h5 16.Qd2 Bc6 17.Rad1 Nh6 18.c4 Nf5 19.f3 O-O 20.Qc2 e6 21.b4 a6 22.a4 Qa7+ 23.Kh1 Rc8 24.b5 Be8 25.Qe4 Bf8 26.Re2 Be7 27.g4 hxg4 28.fxg4 Ng7 29.Be3 Qa8 30.Qxa8 Rxa8 31.Rc1 axb5 32.axb5 Rc8 33.Kg2 Kf8 34.Kf3 Bd7 35.Rd1 Be8 36.Rc1 Bd7 37.Ra2 Bd8 38.Rd2 Be8 39.Rb2 Rb8 40.Ke2 Bc7 41.Bd4 Bd7 42.Rcb1 Ne8 43.c5 f6 44.c6 fxe5 45.Be3 Bc8 46.b6 Bd6 47.b7 e4 48.Ba7 Be5 49.Bxb8 1-0
The Magnus Smith trap has been named after him for his game, commentary, and publication of this now well-known trap.
Let’s look at some other games with this trap.
After 8.e5 Black has 8…Nh5, but this is not recommended as White has 9.Qf3!, which is almost winning.
New York, 1963
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Bc4 g6 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.e5 Nh5 9.Qf3 e6 (9…d5? 10.Nxd5! cxd5 11.Bxd5) 10.g4 Ng7 11.Ne4 Qa5+ (11…d5? 12.Nf6+ Ke7 13.Qa3+ Qd6 14.Qxd6#) 12.Bd2 Qxe5 13.Bc3 (trapping the Queen.)
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Bc4 g6 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.e5 Nh5 9.Qf3 e6 10.exd6 Qxd6 11.O-O Bb7 12.Rd1 Qc5 13.Qd3 (with the threat of 14.Qd7#) 13…Qe7 (13…Nf6 14.Ne4!) 14.Bg5! f6 15.Be3 Kf7 16.Qd7 (threatening 17.Bxe6 Qg7 18.Qxe7+ Bxe7 19.Rd7 ; 16…Ng7 17.Bc5) 1-0
New Zealand Ch.
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Bc4 g6 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.e5 Nh5 9.Qf3 e6 10.exd6 Qxd6 11.g4 Ng7 12.Bf4 e5 13.Bxf7+ Kd7 14.Rd1 exf4 15.O-O Ba6 16.Ne4 Bxf1 17.Nxd6 Bxd6 18.Qxf4 1-0
Black also has the better 8…Nd7, but White again gets the advantage.
Davis, Apr. 16 1964
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Bc4 g6 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.e5 Nd7 9.exd6 exd6 10.O-O d5 11.Nxd5 +/- Nc5 (11…cxd5 12.Qxd5! +-) 12.Qd4 cxd5 13.Bb5+ Bd7 14.Bxd7+ Qxd7 15.Qxh8 f5 16.Re1+ Ne6 17.Qf6 1-0
Imannuel Guthi-E. O’Hare
Tel Aviv Ol.
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Bc4 g6 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.e5 Nd7 9.exd6 exd6 10.O-O d5 11.Nxd5 Nc5 12.Qf3 (with the idea of Nf6+) 12…f5 (better is 12…Bg7) 13.Re1+ Kd7 (13…Ne4 14.Rxe4+ fxe4 15.Qxe4+ +-; 13…Kf7 14.Nc7+ and Ne8+ +-) 14.Bf4 Ne4 15.Rad1 Nd6 16.Nb4 Qb6 17.Qc3 Bb7 18.Be6+ (18.Rxd6+ Bxd6 19.Qe7+ +-) 18…Kc7 19.Nd5+ 1-0
El Segundo, CA, 1969
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 d6 5.Nc3 Nf6 6.Bc4 g6 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.e5 Nd7 9.exd6 exd6 10.O-O Be7 11.Re1 O-O 12.Bh6 Re8 13.Qf3 d5 14.Nxd5 Bb7
15.Qxf7+!! Kxf7 16.Ne3+ Kf6 17.Ng4+ Kf5 18.Be6mate 1-0
Lucerne Ol., 1982
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Bc4 g6 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.e5 Nd7 9.exd6 Qxd6 10.Qxd6 exd6 11.Bf4 Be6 12.Bb3 d5 13.h3 Nf6 14.Be5 Be7 15.O-O O-O 16.Rhe1 Nd7 17.Bf4 Nc5 18.Ne2 a5 19.Nd4 Rfc8 20.c3 Bf6 21.Bc2 Bd7 22.Be5 Kg7 23.Bxf6+ Kxf6 24.Re3 Re8 25.Rde1 Rxe3 26.Rxe3 Ne6 27.Ba4 Rc8 28.Nf3 Ra8 29.Nd4 Ra6 30.Nf3 Ke7 31.c4 Rb6 1/2-1/2
Croatia U20 Team Ch.
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Bc4 g6 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.e5 Nd7 9.exd6 e5?! 10.Qf3 Nf6 11.Bg5 Bg7 12.Ne4 Bf5 13.Nxf6+ Bxf6 14.Bxf6 e4 15.Qc3 Qxd6 16.Bxh8 O-O-O 17.Ba6+ 1-0
Which brings us back to 9…Ng4, which as mentioned before, is Black’s best move as he has some counterplay. But it’s not an easy thing to discover, especially with the clock ticking in a rated OTB game.
White has two good responses here; 9.e6 and 9.Bf4.
Let’s see games from both.
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Bc4 g6 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.e5 Ng4 9.e6 f5 10.O-O Bg7 11.Bf4 (It seems White has the advantage and should win. But Lasker was at his best when facing an uphill battle.) 11…Qb6 12.Bb3 Ba6 13.Na4 Qd4 14.Qxd4 Bxd4 15.c4 O-O 16.Rad1 Bf6 17.Rfe1 g5 18.Bxd6 exd6 19.Rxd6 Be5 20.c5 Rfe8 21.g3 Bf6 22.Rxc6 Bb7 23.Rc7 Be4 24.Nc3 Bxc3 25.bxc3 Ne5 26.Rd1 Nf3+ 27.Kf1 Nxh2+ 28.Ke1 Nf3+ 29.Ke2 Ne5 30.Rdd7 f4 31.Rg7+ Kh8 32.Rxg5 Bd3+ 33.Kd1 fxg3 34.fxg3 Ng6 35.Rd5 Be4 36.Rd6 Bf5 37.Bd5 Rab8 38.c6 Nf8 39.Rb7 Rbc8 40.e7 Ng6 41.Bf7 Rxe7 42.Bxg6 Bg4+ 43.Kc1 Re1+ 44.Kb2 hxg6 45.Rxg6 Bf5 46.Rf6 Be4 47.Rxa7 Rb1+ 48.Ka3 Bxc6 1/2-1/2
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Bc4 g6 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.e5 Ng4 9.e6 f5 10.Bf4 d5
11.Nxd5 cxd5 12.Bb5+ (A tactic worth remembering.) 1-0
US Open, 1972
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Bc4 g6 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.e5 Ng4 9.e6 f5 10.Qe2 Bg7 11.h3 Nf6 12.h4 d5 13.Ba6 Bxa6 14.Qxa6 Qd6 15.Qe2 O-O 16.Bd2 Rab8 17.O-O Rxb2 18.Kxb2 Ne4 19.Rb1 Qb4+ 20.Kc1 Qa3+ 21.Kd1 Bxc3 22.Rb3 Qxa2 23.Bxc3 Qxb3 24.Qxe4 Qxc3 25.Qa4 Rb8 26.Ke2 Rb4 27.Qxa7 Qxc2+ 28.Ke3 f4+ 29.Kf3 Qe4+ 0-1
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Bc4 g6 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.e5 Ng4 9.e6 f5 10.Bb3 Bg7 11.O-O Ba6 12.Re1 Be5 13.h3?
13…Bh2+ (14.Kh1 Nxf2+) 0-1
And now for 9.Bf4, which is best approach as it activates a piece and keeps pressure on some key squares. Here’s another reason to think it’s the best move. Any move that is preferred in correspondence chess is usually the best, as correspondence players have days, and even longer, to decide on their next move.
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Bc4 g6 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.e5 Ng4 9.Bf4 Qb6 10.Qf3 e6 11.exd6 Bg7 12.O-O-O Ne5 13.Bxe5 Bxe5 14.d7+ Bxd7 15.Rxd7 1-0
Great Britain, 1975
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Bc4 g6 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.e5 Ng4 9.Bf4 Qb6 10.Qf3 Bf5 11.exd6 e5 12.d7+ Kxd7 13.Rd1+ Bd6 14.Bc1 Rhf8 15.h3 Nf6 16.g4 Qb4 17.Bb3 Be4 18.Qxf6 Bxh1 19.a3 Qb7 20.Bg5 Bd5 21.Nxd5 cxd5 22.Bxd5 Qxb2 23.Bxa8 1-0
Yugoslavia Ch., 1978
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Bc4 g6 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.e5 Ng4 9.Bf4 Qb6 10.Qf3 dxe5 11.Bxf7+ Kd8 12.Bg3 Bg7 13.O-O Kc7 14.Qe2 Rf8 15.h3 Ne3 16.Bb3 Nxd1 17.Bxe5+ Bxe5 18.Qxe5+ Kd8 19.Rxd1+ Ke8 20.Re1 Qb4 21.Re4 Qb7 22.Nd5 1-0
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Bc4 g6 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.e5 Ng4 9.Bf4 Bh6 10.e6 Bxf4 11.Qxg4 Be5 12.exf7+ Kf8 13.Qf3 d5 14.Bb3 Kg7 15.O-O e6 16.h4 Rf8 17.Ne2 Qf6 18.Qxf6+ Bxf6 19.f4 Rxf7 20.c3 a5 21.Ba4 c5 22.g3 Rb8 23.Rhe1 Rfb7 24.Rd2 Rb6 25.Ng1 Bxc3 0-1
E. Germany, 1988
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Bc4 g6 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.e5 Ng4 9.Bf4 d5 10.Nxd5 Bg7 11.e6 cxd5 12.exf7+ Kf8 13.Qxd5 Bf5 14.h3 Nf6 15.Qxd8+ Rxd8 16.c3 h5 17.Ke2 e6 18.Be3 a5 19.f3 Kxf7 20.Rhd1 Nd5 21.Bxd5 exd5 22.Kf2 Rb8 23.Rd2 Be6 24.Re1 Rhe8 25.Bf4 Rb7 26.g4 hxg4 27.hxg4 Bf6 28.g5 Bxg5 29.Bxg5 Reb8 30.Ree2 Rb5 31.Kg3 Rh8 32.Rd4 Rh5 33.Bf4 Rh1 34.Bd6 g5 35.a4 Rb3 36.Bc7 Rb1 37.Rdd2 Ra1 38.Bxa5 Rxa4 39.Bb4 Ra2 40.f4 gxf4+ 41.Kxf4 d4 42.Rf2 dxc3 43.Ke5+ Kg6 44.Bxc3 Ra4 45.Kxe6 1-0
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Bc4 g6 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.e5 Ng4 9.Bf4 d5 10.Nxd5 cxd5 11.Bxd5 Bf5 12.f3 Nh6 13.Bxa8 Qxa8 14.Qd2 Ng8 15.O-O h5 16.Be3 Bg7 17.Qa5 Nh6 18.Qa4+ 1-0
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 d6 5.Nc3 Nf6 6.Bc4 g6 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.e5 Ng4 9.Bf4 d5 10.Nxd5 cxd5 11.Qxd5 Qxd5 12.Bxd5 Rb8 13.h3 Nh6 14.Bc6+ Kd8 15.e6 Rb6
16.O-O-O+ Bd7 17.Rxd7+ Kc8 1-0
So the main line of the Magnus Smith is 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Bc4 g6 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.e5 Ng4 9.Bf4. There are many alternate moves to the games above. And I’ll let you explore them on your own.