Trapping Pieces

Trapping Pieces

| 61 | Strategy

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.  

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