Trap in Scotch Opening

Jul 23, 2009, 4:11 AM |

Continuing my series of thoughts on opening traps, I would like to look at the Scotch Opening today. In particular, the discussion will look at the trap for black in the Scotch 4 Knights variation, which arose several times in my games.

Here is the setup position of the Scotch 4 Knights.

From here, black has several choices, but a very popular continuation is for both sides to exchange on d4, and continue the development. Here is the position after white's 10. Bg5.

I find that looking at the same position from the other side's perspective is sometimes instructive, so here is the same position with the board flipped.

This position looks very ordinary. In fact, when I first looked at it, I did not see what possible traps can be hidden here. But in fact, if black is not careful, a disaster is just around the corner. Let's look at black's possible responses.

Option: 10. ...Be7

This defensive move, which unpins the knight on f6, is a blunder. First, black is moving the bishop for the second time in the opening. Secondly, white wins the d5 pawn after 11. Bxf6 Bxf6 12. Qh5.

Black is forced to defend h7 because of the mate threat (e.g. 12. ...g6), and white will win the d5 pawn.

Option: 10. ...Re8

This looks like another decent developing move, but it also is a loser for black. White is clearly ahead after 11. Bxf6 gxf6 12. Nxd5.

Black cannot take the knight because of the discovered check 13. Bxh7+, with white winning the black queen.

Option: 10. ...h6

Similar to the options discussed above, this would also lose the d5 pawn.

Option: 10. ...c6

This logical move reinforces the d5 pawn, preventing any tricks with Kxd5. White will try to double black's f-pawns by playing 11. Qf3 Re8 12. Bxf6 Qxf6 13. Qxf6 gxf6.

Even though the position is equal, some black players will search for an alternative to prevent the doubled f-pawns.

Option: 10. ...Bxc3

This continuation is favored by some grandmaster-level players. The position is essentially equal after 11. bxc3 h6 12. Bh4 Qd6.

Black has prevented doubled f-pawns, but lost the bishop pair. In addition, white can un-double the c-pawns by playing 13. c4, and black is forced to take on c4.

In conclusion then, the two most logical options for black are 10. ...c6 and 10. ...Bxc3, both of which give black equal game coming out of the opening.

If you would like to learn more about the Scotch Opening, I recommend using ChessBase Fritztrainer video lectures The Scotch Game by N. Davies, from which some of the above material is drawn.