Trapping Pieces

  • WGM Natalia_Pogonina
  • | Jun 7, 2011

Winning in chess is not only about reckless attacking and playing for checkmate from move one. Often it is easier to start with gaining a material advantage and then converting it. Today we will be discussing an interesting way in which you can get a serious edge – trapping the opponent’s piece. The consequences of this action are usually one of the following: a) the trapped piece is captured b) the trapped piece remains locked in the cage and is like a prisoner who can’t help his army.  

These are the most typical means of trapping pieces:

1)      Limiting its mobility using pawns/pieces and attacking it/locking it out of the game.

2)      Chasing it to a bad square or corner of the board, where its mobility will be limited.

3)      Luring the piece into one’s own camp and cutting off the ways for retreat. Your opponent is urged to play actively, e.g. capture a poisoned pawn, and after that the trap is closed. A classic example is offering a pawn sacrifice (e.g. b2/b7) to trap the queen or seriously hinder its mobility.

Naturally, the hardest piece to trap is the queen, as it is the most mobile piece. However, when there are many pieces on the board, it is sometimes possible to trap it. Here’s a fresh example from the Candidates Matches where Boris Gelfand got his queen cornered by Kamsky:

Rooks are less mobile, and sometimes can be trapped using just a few pieces. This is due to the fact that diagonals are not available to them. Recently I witnessed a nice game at the Russian Club Cup where a rook got cornered:

Bishops’ mobility can be decreased using pawns, as, unlike knights, they can’t jump over such obstacles and, unlike queens and rooks, files and ranks are not available to them. Here is a classic example of a trapped fianchettoed bishop:

Knights on the rim are grim, so the best way of trapping them is to get them to the edge of the board and lock them out. Myriad endgames have been won in this fashion:

It is worth remembering that not only misplaced pieces can get trapped, but also active ones. Here’s how it happened in my game vs Ikonomopulu from the recent Women’s European Chess Championship:

Black got in trouble after making a strange move 15…Kf8, thus hindering the coordination of the pieces. Another blunder was to trade bishops on g5, after which the active knight on g4 suddenly got trapped. There was no way to save it, but Black should have tried to at least get some compensation for it. Instead, she chose a way that led to a quick loss.  


  • 20 months ago


    No cause then it will be stalemate

  • 22 months ago


    Nice article! My favorite piece to trap is the king. It's the whole point of the game, right?

  • 2 years ago


    Nice article!

  • 3 years ago


    thx for showing us that trapping peices is also gives you an advantage.P.S love your examples.(:

  • 3 years ago


    good stuff!

  • 3 years ago


    wondering why not 18. Qh4 in the first one?

  • 3 years ago


  • 3 years ago

    WGM Natalia_Pogonina

    Let’s stay in touch on social networks! Here are my official accounts:

    Account 1, Account 2, Account 3

  • 4 years ago


    Great article!

  • 5 years ago


    very nice game

  • 5 years ago


    great article thanks natalia

  • 5 years ago


    Thank you for the info..

  • 5 years ago


    Thanks Natalia! Reduced mobility seems to be a key strategy.

  • 5 years ago

    WGM Natalia_Pogonina

    @Gamtum Google will help you. Poisoned pawn

  • 5 years ago


    Chess is interesting game and playing with abroad peaple is more interesting. And Philipcassidy's question " what is a poisoned pawn" is most interesting.

  • 5 years ago


    great learnings here!

  • 5 years ago


    Thanks Natalia! Great demonstrations. The first example with the loss of a Queen is a tragic/glorious example! 

  • 5 years ago


    I salute you from the bottom of my heart for your effort to make chess more enjoyable game to us.

  • 5 years ago


    trapping game pieces at the begining of the game like a bishop or the queen. should be carried out to gain a material gain?

  • 5 years ago


    @Presizhen2 black will simply play 17... Nc5 and white's queen is over.

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