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Chess Traps

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 Click  HERE  to go to my "Best Short Games" Page. 

 Click  HERE  to go to my next page of  Chess Traps. (# 2.) 
(Check out the new feature!!!  It's called: "The Anatomy Of A Chess Trap.")  

  Traps   ....  we are everywhere! We will get you sooner or later!   (chess_traps.gif, 06 KB)

July 22, 2001.

This will be a page devoted entirely to CHESS TRAPS.
(The "Miniatures" have been moved to a new page, their own page.)  
(See the navigation bar at the left-hand side of the page.)


(A Chess 'Trap'  is commonly accepted as:) Games that were  won  ... 
 {usually rather quickly}  ...   as a result of a rather crude mistake.   


(This is a rather arbitrary definition. But it is one that will work. A good trap could also be a miniature, and visa-versa. But this page will be mostly those games that are  true traps  and are culled from the books that are in my library that are completely devoted to that topic. I have trap books by Reinfeld, Chernev, Horowitz, Lombardy, Pandolfini, (x3) and the list goes on. One of my goals for this page is to have a few traps from each book and a few traps for each type of opening to entertain and educate you.)


   Usually one side must violate the basic principles of the Opening,      
i.e. waste time, snatch pawns, ignore development, etc. - for a trap to work. 

[ More - on the principals of chess. A related article is:  "My System In Chess." ]   


I do  NOT  want to reproduce all of the examples of chess traps that are out there. (But I do want to give some of the better known ones.) (I have probably at least a dozen books devoted to traps. These books will be my primary source of information for this page!) Just maybe a few of the better known traps, the more common ones, a few of the prettier ones. And maybe a few you have never seen before. And maybe I will throw in a few of my own!!


( A word about traps and miniatures. My good friend,  Paul McClure  told me like over 30 years ago that, ... 

  "All traps are unsound."   

I have to say ... as a LIFE-Master ...  that while  ALL  traps are  not  unsound; the large majority of them are based on, "Positionally suspect moves."  What I mean is that one side must weaken their pawn structure or inhibit their own development to make many of these traps work. If you will pay attention, you will find this true of most traps. If you do not believe me, than I suggest you compare a "trap," to the opening moves in any good opening book like MCO. I think you will find what I am saying is true 75-90 percent of the time. I will also try to remember to point out the flaws in a trap whenever I can. )

  Of course, traps are a part of any opening system.  

(What this means is you should NOT base your opening repertoire on traps alone. I have met several students whose entire opening preparation consisted of nothing but learning as many traps as possible. This type of player  almost always fails  when faced with a well-prepared opponent.)

Now please do NOT misconstrue what I am saying. You have to learn traps, as part of learning the opening repertoire. You MUST know them, so you will not fall into them. You may also spring them on an un-wary opponent. {The traps and tactical motifs of an opening are probably the FIRST thing I learn, when I try to grasp a new opening system.} But speaking from over 35 years of tournament experience, you simply can NOT count on an opponent falling for these all the time. In fact, you will probably find, especially in adult tournaments, that these traps only occur in a VERY SMALL percentage of your overall number of games!!!


I see that one of the better  sources for this page will be  Irving Chernev's  book: "The 1000 Best, Short Games of Chess." 

(If a game is found there and here, I will give the number of the game as it appears in Chernev's book,  IF  you are lucky enough to have a copy.)

Click   HERE   to go to what I consider to be 

(It is also considered to be a miniature, as it is less than 25 moves.)
(Not really a trap, but a good game to learn tactics.)

The   "Fool's Mate"   runs:  1. g4!?, e6;  2. f4???, Qh4 mate.

It is probably so-named because only a very silly person, ... (Or a very INEXPERIENCED one!);  would be mated this way!

The   "Scholar's Mate"    runs: 1. e4, e5;  2. Bc4, Bc5;  3. Qh5!?, Nc6???; (Black only sees that his e-Pawn is attacked.  3...Qe7;  is forced.)  4. Qxf7 mate. 

It is probably so named as it is one of the first mates [traps?] many English school-boys were taught (or learned) in the 18th century.

Probably the one of the most well known traps is called:   "Noah's Ark."    (A Bishop is surrounded by Pawns, usually on the Queen-side.)  

A good example is:  1.e4, e5;  2.Nf3, Nc6;  3.Bb5, a6;  4.Ba4, Nf6;  5.Nc3,  {D?} 
This is an older move, that is not really played much anymore.  5.0-0,  is the main  line today, and virtually the only move played by GM's.  (0-0 is nearly automatic.) 

5...d6;  6.d4!?  {Diag?}   I don't much like this move, it is not really bad, but White could do much better. I have dozens of books on the Ruy Lopez, and a ChessBase CD-ROM that is brand new. More common today would be 6.Bxc6+!?,  or  6.0-0. (Even  6.d3, a very slow approach - could be better than this move.) 

6...b5; ('!')  {Diagram?}  The most active move - and the correct play - for Black. 
(Move order is also important for this trap to work!) 

7.Bb3!?,  (Maybe - '?!')  {Diagram?}  This is a natural-looking move, and it also an inaccuracy. The correct play was the in-between move, PxP.  (d4xe5) 

7...PxP, (...e5xd4);  8.NxQP/d4?  {Diagram?}   This is a mistake. Chernev says White must play Bd5,  I prefer 8.Ng5.  But no matter, either move is MUCH better than the silly capture on d4.  BUT!! ... I should strive to mention, that - at least, to the average player - that these move appear both normal and good. 

8...NxN/d4;  9.QxN/d4, c5;  10. White's Queen moves,  & now  10...c4;  {D?} 
Black wins the White Bishop on c3, and should win the game.  ("/+"  or  "-/+") 

This is  Trap # 2,  of  Irving Chernev's  wonderful book,   "Winning Chess Traps."    
 [ Copyright () 1946. ]   
( This was - and is - such a wonderful book. It was first published as a series of articles in various chess magazines. It proved so popular, it was printed in like 3 pamphlets. Then it was published as a book - for the first time - in 1946. This book proved to be so popular ... 
  ... that it was reprinted like 10 times!!!!!     Few other chess books have enjoyed this kind of success! )  

One of the shortest games of all time  is the following four move game between two  French Masters.  It was [supposedly] played  
between  - White: Gibaud  &  Black: Lazard;   in Paris, France in 1924. 

(Some masters, such as GM Soltis have disputed this game; but the authenticity will never be known for sure. I talked to one French player who said his Grand-Father actually witnessed this game, so I believe it really happened this way.)  

The moves were: 1. d4, Nf6;  2. Nd2, e5!?;  3. d4xe5, Ng4; 
(Now White probably thought, "I will kick that stupid Knight on g4 and then I will play Ngf3, and I will be just fine.")  

A good idea, but it has a flaw.  (A major one!)  

4. h3??, Ne3!; {Diag?}  and now White is reported to have RESIGNED!! The reason? White will lose his Queen. And if the Pawn on f2 captures the Knight, Black will play ...Qh4+ and mate next move. 

(This trap ... and the next one! ... clearly demonstrates the weakness of the White f2-square at the beginning of the game. {The King alone guards this square.} It also shows the sensitivity of the e1-h4 diagonal.)

One of the shortest games I ever personally witnessed was the following game. Some poor soul, whom I am quite certain is happy to remain anonymous, was playing the White pieces. The player handling the Black pieces was my good friend,  (J.) Scott Pfeiffer.  (At one time, Scott was easily one of the most feared competitors in the Gulf Coast area when he lived in Pensacola, FL.)  The game was played in MOBILE, AL in the early 1970's. (It may have been played in the Azalea City Open.)

The moves were: 1. f4!?, e5!;  2. f4xe5, d6;  3. e5xd6, Bxd6;  4. Nf3, g5!;
At this point White is threatened with nasties already. If he makes some pointless move, (Say 5. a3??); Black will respond with 5...g4. Now White loses a piece, because if he plays say 6. Nd4???, then Black will play 6...Qh4+;  7. g3, Qxg3+!;  8. hxg3, Bxg3#!  White probably figured that if he prevented Black from pushing his g-pawn, he could stop all the pain ... and all of Black's threats. (And he was HALF right.) So White played:  5. h3???,  and Scott smiled and played   5...Bg3 mate. 

The funny thing about this game is while Scott was playing this "gimme," I was playing a game that lasted around 7-8 hours and was adjourned twice!! What a break!! (For my friend, Scott. Definitely not for me!)

One of the shortest games I ever played was in a one day tournament for the Chess Championship of Clubbs Middle School. (circa 1971.) [I won.] I set this trap, knowing my very inexperienced opponent would probably fall into it.

The moves were: 1. e4, c6;  2. d4, d5;  3. Nc3, d5xe4,  4. Nxe4, Nd7!?;  (4...Bf5;)  5. Qe2!?, ('?!')  [ Correct is probably 5. Bc4 or even 5. Ng5!? ]  5... Nf6???;   6. Nd6 mate!  

(When I announced mate, my opponent at first did not believe it, then later he went crying from the room. I really felt sorry for him.)  


(White's fifth move could potentially cause problems later, as it makes it very difficult for the first player to develop his KB.   
  To be honest a GM would never play this move!)    


The funny thing is when I took this game to the Pensacola Chess Club, the resident club 'expert' said Black's 4th move was a horrible mistake. (He even showed me a book that "proved" his point!) Yet 4...Nd7; is perfectly sound and was regularly used by former World Champion Anatoly Karpov. (I personally have lost many games to the 4...Nd7; system in the Caro-Kann.)


[ For the chess scholar out there, I was  NOT  the first person to play or use this trap. According to my chess database of nearly 3 million games, (one of the largest personal collections I know of); this game first occurred in the City Leagues in Hamburg, Germany. (Perhaps the Kaiser ... and others ... supported chess in an effort to get the Germans to forget about the ravages of WWI.) The antagonists were Vogt - Lehmann. (Lehrmann?)

I have seen the year given as anywhere from 1911 to 1921.  > The best bet is the time range 1915 - 1917. <  (The German Master {Voight?} who probably played this game died in 1919.) And the great English Master, Blackburne, used a trap similar to this in one of his simul games in the late 1800's. ]  


Note: When I first wrote these words, {circa mid-1990's};  the average (on-line) DB only had around 300-500 thousand games. Today, the current version of the "Mega" database has MILLIONS of games, with few - if any - doubles! I have now installed the 2005 "Mega" database on my computer (sometime last year), and began updating that from "The Week In Chess." (Available in your favorite format from the website of the London Chess Center.)  March 10th, 2006.  

A standard trap runs: 1. e4, e52. Nf3, Nc63. Bc4, h6?;

(A waste of time. Black should develop by 3...Nf6. Or if he is really afraid of Ng5,  he could develop and prevent this move by playing 3...Be7. And of course  3...Bc5; leads to the Giuoco Piano.)

4. d4, d65. Nc3, Bg4?!;  (Probably inferior.) 

(Again, Black should develop his K-side, get ready to castle with 5...Nf6. Lasker said, "Always develop your Knights before Bishops." This is safe advice to follow, although both the Ruy Lopez and the Nimzo-Indian openings violate this rule. However, if you are not sure of what to do, its a good rule of thumb to follow.)

6. d4xe5, NxP/e5?; ('??')

(A terrible move. Black can avoid disaster with 6...Bxf3; or even 6...dxe5. Black figures that White will not move his KN, as it is pinned against the Queen. Black is wrong.)

7. NxN/e5!, BxQ/d1; (?)   [A mistake.] 

Black can avoid mate by playing 7...PxN/e5. But White wins a piece with 8. QxB/g4.

8. BxP/f7+, Ke7;  (The only legal move.)  9. Nd5.  Checkmate.

Black wasted TIME, and that was his biggest mistake. Because White was developing consistently while Black was fiddling around is the reason White is able to mate. Before White sprung the trap, Black had only made SIX moves, and had already moved his Knight twice. (He also wound up moving his QB twice.) White's opening was a model of correct play. He controlled the center and developed quickly. If Black had made good moves, White would have been ready to castle K-side and then finish the mobilization of his entire army.


This is  "Sire de Legal's Mate."  (De Legal was A. Philidor's teacher.)  


The great English Master, J.H. Blackburne - (whom I believe would be a  {super} GM if he were alive today);  said he would catch 2-3 players in this trap every time he gave a simultaneous exhibition.


(See also the game below.)

A game (trap!) by one of the greatest American Masters.


Harry N. Pillsbury - J. Fernandez;   Havana, 1900. ( White was Blindfold.)

1. e4, e5;  2. Nc3!?, Nc6;  3. f4, d6;  4. Nf3, a6; (?)

As in the trap above, Black wastes time. He is trying to prevent the pin on his Knight after 5. Bb5.

5. Bc4, Bg4; ('!?/?!')  6. d4xe5, NxP/e5; (?) 7. NxN/e5!, BxQ/d1; 8. BxP/f7+, Ke7; 9. Nd5#


This game is, of course, the same exact pattern as the one above, with just a few changes in the pawn moves. One of the keys to traps is to spot the basic  PATTERN,  no matter what situation or position it arises in!

 Here is a very nice trap. (Scotch Game.) 
 It begins: 1. e4, e5; 2. Nf3, Nc6; 3. d4, exd4; 4. Nxd4, Nge7?!; 

This is very bad and loses nearly instantly.

5. Nc3, g6!?;

This is the plan Black had and why he developed his KN to e7.

6. Bg5!, Bg7;

This gives us the diagram immediately below.  


  Black has developed his KB on the long diagonal. Is this good or bad?  (Diagram created with CB 8.0.)

 The position after 8...Bg7. What would you play here? 


7. Nd5!,  (Maybe - '!!')

(White can {also} keep the advantage with the simple 7. Nxc6, bxc6; 8. Qf3.)

(Maybe Black could try 7...f6; as a better defense.) 


Now what move would you play?

8. Qxd4!,   (Maybe - '!!')    8...0-0; "[]"  (If 8...Nxd4?;  9. Nf6+, Kf8;  10. Bh6#.)

  9. Nf6+!, Kh8; 10. Ng4+!, Nxd4; 11. Bf6+, Kg8; 12. Nh6  Check-Mate!  
A snazzy little mate! 


This is trap # 23 in  Bruce Pandolfini's  excellent book,
"Chess Openings:  Traps and Zaps." (Vol. I, page # 25.)


( A very similar trap is # 46, in "Winning Chess Traps," by Irving Chernev. This trap features the exact same mating pattern. )  


I highly recommend Bruce's book. If you are 1800 or below, and/or play any of these openings, you should get both books! Not only is there a trap, there is a scenario which tells you the elements of the position. At the end of every position, there is a complete description where the trap is broken down step-by-step. Pandolfini breaks down each trap to its elements. He tells you what made the trap work and how each side could improve. I reviewed approximately a dozen different traps in preparing this page. As a MASTER, I found the examples informative, educational AND entertaining. If a Master enjoys this book and thinks its helpful and beneficial to his chess, shouldn't you check these books out? And you should definitely go to, and read ALL the reviews of this book, (including mine) and read what has been written about these books. A necessary addition to your library, don't you think?


(And you should also read my "Training Page" and the narrative at the beginning of this page. Learning the tactics and patterns of the traps in the openings YOU play will definitely make you a better player. Isn't that logical? How could that not be good chess sense? ) 

  In the opening ...... A   "King's Indian Defense."    

A nice little trap: 1.d4, Nf62.c4, g63.g3, Bg74.Bg2, d65.Nf3, 0-06.0-0, c57.Nc3, Nc68.dxc5, dxc59.Be3, Qa5; 10.Qa4?,  (Better was 10.Bd2.)  10...QxQ/a411.NxQ/a4, b6!?12.Ne5?,  {Diagram?}  White succumbs to the yearning of his prelate on the long diagonal, and also the strong desire to win material. (Maybe best was 12.Nc3.) 12...NxN/e5!13. BxR/a8, Bd7!;  Black wins material.  ("/+") 

From the book: "New Traps in The Chess Openings,"  ( 1964)  by Al Horowitz. (#63) 

  The Scotch Game & Gambit  

1.e4, e52.Nf3, Nc63.d4, exd44.Bc4!?,  (4.Nxd4 or 4.c3,  are the moves that are more normally played.)  4...Bc5!?;  This is OK. (4...Nf6!; is even better. Click here.) 5.Ng5!?, Nh66.Qh5!?, Again - pure aggression. But is it sound?  6...Ne5?;  A mistake. (Better was: 6...Qe7! "=/+")   7.Ne6!, dxe6[];  (This is forced, according to Chernev.) 7.QxN/e5,  "+/-"  {Diagram?}  White will win a piece.  

This is trap  # 61  in  Irving Chernev's  book:  "Winning Chess Traps." 

  Click  HERE  to see a very detailed analysis of the trap known as:  
  "The Greco Trap."    (Also known as the "Greek Gift.") 

 ---> Over  1300  chess traps by  USCF  Master Bill Wall!!!!   Check it out!   [UN-believable!!!] 

  I will add no more traps to this page.   


   (Click  HERE  to go to the next page for {more} CHESS Traps.)   

  Chess traps - especially in adult tournaments - probably only work in a small percentage of actual games. 

   More Resources  

  (Page last updated on Friday; March 10th, 2006.   Page last modified or edited on: 03/15/2014 .)  


  Copyright (c) A.J. Goldsby I  

  Copyright () A.J. Goldsby, 1985 - 2013.  
  Copyright A.J. Goldsby, 2014.  All rights reserved.  

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