Good Cop, Bad Cop...

| 14 | Tactics

             Last week we discussed how to avoid falling into an opening trap.  But wouldn’t be it cool to set a trap on our own?  At first it looks like not a difficult task since we learn all kinds of opening traps from the moment we start playing chess, so why not use one of them? The truth is even though there is indeed a huge variety of traps, many of them are … well, just bad!  So, what is a good trap and what is a bad trap?  Last week I compared some opening traps to a scam.  So, lets use this analogy again.  Here is my version of ‘Scamming 101”


Disclaimer: the following information is given just for chess education and entertainment.  Please, don’t even think about doing it at home!


1)      A good scam shouldn’t lead to bad consequences for the scammer ( in other words, it should be totally legal).  Type ‘legal scams’ into your Google search and you’ll find what I am talking about. 

2)      It should be believable, otherwise no-one falls into it.  Every day my junk folder is full of Emails from relatives of deposed dictators , terminally ill but incredibly rich individuals who have no relatives, etc.  All of them promise me to share their fortune for a small wire transfer.  Of course I do what most people do: just delete the Emails after reading the first sentence. Now compare it to the posting on Ebay where the sad owner of an electronics store was selling his inventory due to coming bankruptcy (damn you, financial crisis!). The auction took place a week before Christmas and featured one of the hottest items: the Wii console.  The guy was smart enough not to ask too much or too little for Wii in order to avoid any possible suspicion. As a result of his multiple item auction, 20 Wii consoles were taken in less than 10 minutes.  I know it because I was one of the ‘lucky ones’ to get a cool toy for my kid.  To make the story short, PayPal together with my credit card eventually returned my money, but the lesson was learned.  A good scam is a believable scam!


Now back to chess.  Why was the trap that we discussed last week bad?  Because it broke both rules. It has really bad consequences if White doesn’t fall for it and also the move 3…Nd4? alerts an opponent about a possible trap.  Now let me show you a good trap.





6. Bd3 

Strictly speaking this move is a trap already, but in reality noone falls for it since the variation 6…cxd4  7 cxd4 Nxd4?? 8.Nxd4 Qxd4 9 Bb5+  is too well known and besides it is a textbook example of discovered attack.  As a matter of fact, this is such a classical case that the Wikipedia uses it to describe discovered attack!



 So, Black avoids this trap and plays


Now the d4 pawn is really hanging (White has no saving Bb5+ anymore), therefore White’s next move is natural.

 7 dxc5 Bxc5

Here Black attacks the f2 pawn, so the next move is also absolutely expected

8 0-0

Here Black has almost finished his development. All he needs to do is to develop his Ng8 and castle, therefore he plays


and suddenly after

9. b4!

Black loses his Bc5.




      I lost count of the number of Black Bishops I collected this way in my early tournaments.  This trap is so powerful because White’s play is very natural and doesn’t alert an opponent.  But what about the first requirement of having no bad consequences if the opponent doesn’t fall for it?  White gave up his strong pawn center by playing 7 dc5, so wasn’t this move anti-positional? Actually this move exactly follows the concept described by Nimzowitch in his famous book “My System”.  I strongly recommend you read this classic if you haven’t done so yet.

      The main point of the 7.dc5 move is that White clears the central squares for his pieces.  The following game of Nimzowitch is a classical example of this approach:




          I strongly believe that when Nimzowitch started playing the 7. dxc5 idea, he didn’t even expect his opponents to fall for it (he played mostly masters who see such traps almost instantly). But the beauty of this trap is that, as you can see, this opening trap is just a part of Nimzowitch’s great concept.  Paraphrasing Yogi Berra’s famous “Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical” we can say that "a good opening trap is ninety percent strategy and the other half is tactics!”

Happy trapping!  


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