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How To Set Up An Opening Trap

How To Set Up An Opening Trap

Gserper
| 129 | Opening Theory

In the age of ChatGPT and artificial intelligence computer algorithms that know everything (or almost everything), a YouTube algorithm started recommending me videos of a doctor who promised to cure most health problems with just one simple recipe.

"You need to include four eggs in your daily diet," insisted the doctor. "You'll get all the necessary nutrients and vitamins." I am not an expert in medicine, but just like most of the people who hear "OK boomer" on a regular basis, I know something about cholesterol. So, I had my doubts about the recommendation to consume four eggs per day. A quick Google search confirmed my doubts. 

The guy, who called himself a doctor, wasn't actually a doctor but a full-time Youtuber who has made tons of money from his health-related videos. Real doctors probably laugh at videos like this, but for people like me, it is very difficult to tell good advice from harmful advice.

Whenever I see YouTube chess videos, I always remember that 'four eggs' pseudo-doctor. How can a beginner chess player know if a video is good or if it is total garbage? We have one thing in chess that doctors don't: titles and ratings. So you might think that videos produced by high-rated titled players would attract most people.

While it is obviously true for YouTube celebrities like GM Hikaru Nakamura or IM Levy Rozman (a.k.a. Gothamchess), it is not always the case. For example, there is a guy on YouTube who produces videos that he claims "guarantee you a quick win." Here is a good example of his recommendation:

It is not a parody, mind you, all of his videos have the same features: they assume that your opponent plays the worst possible way on almost every single move. But you should see comments to his videos: people are very excited and say that they cannot wait till they catch their opponents in these traps.

You would be shocked to know that these videos are insanely popular: this guy has over 180,000 subscribers and this particular trap has over 30,000 views and over 2,000 likes. I remember a big discussion on a chess forum where strong titled players complained that they don't have even one-tenth of the subscribers that guy has. Late GM Stanislav Bogdanovich jokingly explained to them that they produce content that is too "high-quality" and suggested instead this trap:

I absolutely love this parody because it underlines two main features of such videos: promises of a "quick and guaranteed win" and horrible, absolutely unrealistic moves of an opponent.

For instance, if you want to demonstrate a checkmate with a knight in an opening using a pin, as in the first example, why not use well-known and realistic opening traps like these:

As you can see, the most important feature of an opening trap is how probable your opponent's moves are. Case in point is two of the shortest checkmates in chess: Scholars Mate and Fool's Mate.

Scholar's Mate can be seen in any scholastic tournament and I am sure that you, my dear readers, had it in your games at some point in your chess development (I certainly did!). However, in my whole life, I have never seen Fool's Mate in any real game. The explanation is quite simple, while Black's moves are very natural and therefore very probable in the Scholar's mate, it takes a special kind of a fool to play 1.f3? followed by 2.g4?? Therefore, when you are preparing your opening trap, ask yourself, what's the chance that your opponent will play the moves that you hope they will play? I learned this simple logic at the age of eight.

When I was just starting in chess, I played a lot against my dad, who was beating me time after time. I was crying but tried again and again. Then in one of my first books for beginners, I found the following famous game:

I really liked it and decided to trap my dad in the next game we play. So, when Dad asked me what color I would prefer, I casually said that since most of the time I preferred White, it is only fair if I play Black this time.  So my dad played 1.d4 and my heart started beating faster since I felt like I already almost trapped him! Unfortunately, after I played 1...Nf6 my dad responded with 2.Nf3. I didn't give up and told him that masters play 2.Nd2 here. To convince Dad, I even showed him the game in the book, while accurately covering the rest of the game with my little hand. I said, look, it was played in Paris championship, so it is a good move.

In reality, the game is considered a hoax that was never played in Paris championship, but of course, I didn't know it at that point. I was getting agitated, so my dad played 2.Nd2 to just calm me down. I played 2...e5 and when he took the pawn by 3.dxe5, I answered 3...Ng4. I was very excited: everything went according to plan. Then my dad played 4.Ngf3 instead of stupid 4.h3?? played in my trap game. I tried to convince my dad that he should play 4.h3 because this is what a master played, but he was unfazed, saying: "Why should I kick your knight to take my extra pawn e5 when I can simply protect it?" I had nothing to answer to this simple and very logical question. As a result, I lost again.

To give you an idea of what could be a good opening trap in the sense of probability, here are some examples.

1) Fried Liver Attack. This is an extremely popular opening trap because all of Black's moves are very natural. I fell for this in one of my first tournaments:

The positive side of this trap is a very high probability of happening. The negative side is, even if your opponent falls for it, the game is still not over.

2) Damiano Defense trap. Judging by my students' games, this trap is incredibly popular on Chess.com. So, if your Chess.com rating is below 1000 it is not if but when you'll catch someone with this trap. Here is one of my student's games:

3) Copycat trap. This is another very popular trap. I practically fell for it in one of my very first games. You can read the story here.

Share your favorite opening traps in the comments section. Let's make our little collection of opening traps with a high probability of happening in a game!

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