The Universal Opening Trap

  • GM Gserper
  • | Jul 27, 2014

The majority of chess players like opening traps.

I believe the main appeal of setting a trap is not the chance to win the game instantly.  What really makes an opening trap attractive for chess players of all levels is the thrill of a hunter patiently waiting for his prey!

Many openings have their own specific traps, and you cannot be a true expert of an opening if you are not aware of these tricks. But there is a simple but a very powerful trap that can happen in many different openings.  

It is one of the oldest chess traps too!

As you can see, the idea of this 400-year-old ploy is very simple: you leave an unprotected pawn on the 4th rank and wait! When your opponent grabs the bait and captures the pawn with his knight, you check him with your queen and win his knight.

The beauty of this trick is it can be used in almost any chess opening. The trap can be set by both White and Black.  Sometimes you win a knight, and sometimes you win a bishop (if it is a bishop captures a seemingly defenseless pawn).  

In some cases your opponent will move his piece onto the "poisoned" square without any bait, as in the next case:


Opening - 20/52 by Klaus

Now, let's take a look at the wide variety of the openings where you can set this trap.

The following game is from my childhood, and I talked about it already in a previous article.

It was a painful loss, but I learned my lesson and soon set up a similar trap myself:

I was extremely happy and proud, since it was the first opening trap that I invented myself!

Of course, these games from junior competitions are very primitive and naive, but even masters fall into this nasty trap:

Finally, here is a collection of traps from a wide variety of chess openings:

This last trap in the Alapin variation of the Sicilian Defense is especially popular and happened in the following master games: 

  • Jesse, I. (2209) vs. Pacher, M. (2358), Pardubice (Czech Republic) 2007  
  • Kolybin AV (2298) vs. Kabanov Nikolai (2285), Decin (Czech Republic) 1997
  • Kopp Berthold (2259) vs. Mandl Rudolf (2266), Waldshut (Germany) 1981

A funny example can be found in Dresden 1997, when Hermann Tydecks (2200) played Joern Schulz (2263). White missed 5. Qa4+! and played 5.cxd6?? instead, so the game was eventually a draw!

It is impossible to say how many bishops and knights were lost since Greco discovered this crafty trick about 400 years ago.

I hope my dear readers will expand this collection.  Happy hunting!

article image: Bald Eagle - Fish Pouncing by Jason Mrachina



  • 13 months ago


    nice article

  • 23 months ago



  • 2 years ago


    Then I should've thrown myself off a bridge. Oh well, another thing to cross from my bucket list.

    I resigned after 30 moves, blundering a second pawn in an already hopeless position.

  • 2 years ago


    Great article.  Need to know information for the attack and the defense that can often be overlooked.  Thanks

  • 2 years ago


    Very interesting article.

    I will try to remember this for my next game...

  • 2 years ago


    In the Mortimer trap, after Nc4 there is d5! @ I_Say_Hello

  • 2 years ago


    Great examples of this trap. Thanks! Smile

  • 2 years ago


    I think the Mortimer trap fails due to 6.Nc4 followed by 7.Nd6#.

  • 2 years ago


    Here is a classic trap in the scotch

  • 2 years ago


  • 2 years ago


  • 2 years ago


    Nice article. Good to know there are several ways to achieve this one simple trap. :)

  • 2 years ago


    Three days ago I enjoyed reading the article.  Then with my chess-com-5-minute-1300-level skills I attempted to apply the opening trap, but unfortunately not accurately at all.  I have lost three or four games with some ridiculous, comical, amusing misses.  So this really makes the game enjoyable!

  • 2 years ago

    NM GargleBlaster

    Alekhine fell into a slightly similar "trap" once:

    Also interesting is this "counter trap":

  • 2 years ago


    Awesome article, thanks!

  • 2 years ago


    Awesome article, thanks!

  • 2 years ago


    very helpfull will try it in my next game

  • 2 years ago


    Great article. And here's one more thing I need to study up on! Smile

  • 2 years ago


    Excellent topics in this site : I would really apprecaite if you provide me with some useful materials to read . '''' thanks

  • 2 years ago


    Thanks for the article.  Sorry to say I have fallen for tha Alapin variation of the trap - twice!!!!!!

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