After discussing the motivation for declining a gambit, I now want to focus on the other side of the medal. What is the rationale behind the acceptance of a gambit?
Reason 1: Scientific Approach
In most cases, gambits are of questionable quality. For this reason, their acceptance is usually better than their rejection from an objective point of view. Many professional players try to play chess in the most correct way, especially if there are no serious counter arguments on the metagame level. Robert Hübner, for instance, is known as being very principled. He often accepted sacrifices, if he couldn’t find a refutation over the board. Mental lethargy was his thing not. Of course, such an attitude is very energy intensive and cannot be maintained in every situation. However, a scientific approach is of general benefit in chess as it purifies your mindset.
Reason 2: Success
Of course, the purposeful search for scientific truth or quality also has a very pragmatic side. Those who embrace the quality principle will be rewarded with success more often than not. That said, there were good reasons for Anand’s decision to reject the Morra Gambit in the specific situation described above (post 60). The fact that the game was only drawn has nothing to do with the legitimacy of his choice. Nevertheless, we must state that his position was never as good in the entire game as it had been on move three. He had the chance to gain an easy advantage by accepting the gambit and such an opportunity never showed up again.
Inferior variations should always be regarded as a gift. To appreciate such a gift, you only have to keep in mind how long you have to work against opponents of equal strength for a = + with Black. Right, very often you will never reach this in the entire game. Success in chess has a lot to do with being prepared. Being prepared to harvest the low-hanging fruits. Had Anand had Morra analysis at hand on his laptop, it would have been his decision to take the pawn. I have no doubt about that at all.
Reason 3: Psychological Initiative
Moves are a form of communication. In that sense, after 2.d4 you can almost hear your opponent say, “Hey, I’ll give you a whole pawn for just one tempo. And your position doesn’t even have a serious weakness. Take it ……. if you dare. ”
As I said, there can be good pragmatic reasons to reject the challenge. In the case of lack of knowledge, the acceptance of the Morra Gambit is very dangerous, because extremely sharp positions can arise on the board and most Morra players are well-informed specialists. But good reasons or not. There is always a bitter aftertaste and the psychological initiative is initially with White. That fact might not be the most predominant one, but it shouldn’t be disregarded. In the end, chess has a lot to do with psychological warfare and there are many ploys professional players resort to, in order to improve their practical chances on the metagame level. Just think about the technique of wearing the opponent down by lengthy maneuvers in dominant positions, before executing the main idea. Or think of the fake acceptance of a draw offer by repetition, by first repeating the position twice and only then declining it in the last possible moment. Chess is a lot about distributing pinpricks and it is always good to signal your opponent who is in the driver’s seat.