Chess Terms
Trapped Piece

Trapped Piece

There are many different types of pieces, but a trapped piece is one that is definitely worth learning about. What is a trapped piece? 

Let's find out!

What Is A Trapped Piece?

A trapped piece is a piece that has no escape squares or squares where it can safely move without being captured. A trapped piece can be a bishop, knight, rook, or queen. Pawns are not referred to as trapped due to their limited movement, and kings cannot be captured, although any checkmate is essentially a trapped king! 

In the diagram below, we see the position from game one of the famous GM Bobby Fischer vs. GM Boris Spassky 1972 World Championship match. Fischer's bishop on h2 is trapped, as it has no squares to move to without being captured.

trapped piece
Black's bishop on h2 is trapped.

Trapped pieces are important to recognize because they can often be won. In the position below, we can see that Black's knight on h5 has no squares to move to without being captured.

The knight on h5 has no squares to move to.

If you recognize that a piece has no safe squares to move to, what should you do next? In some cases, simply attacking the trapped piece wins it! After attacking the knight in the above position with the g-pawn, White wins the trapped piece.

White wins the trapped knight!

Don't forget this important step when it comes to trapped pieces!

Examples Of Trapped Pieces

As mentioned, most pieces can be trapped. We have seen a trapped bishop and knight so far, but what about a queen? In the following position, is either queen trapped?

trapped piece
Is either queen trapped?

Yes! Black's queen has no safe squares to move to, so it is trapped! Now let's take it one step further: how can White win the trapped queen on b2? By attacking it, of course! 

trapped piece
Ra2 wins the trapped queen!

Ra2 is the way to attack and win the queen on b2! We have discussed how to recognize and attack trapped pieces, but not all trapped pieces can be won easily. If a trapped piece cannot be attacked or won, it can still be a liability. Take a look at the following position:

trapped piece
Black's bishop on h7 is trapped!

Even though the bishop on h7 is trapped and blockaded, White cannot win it anytime soon. However, White is essentially playing "up a piece" as Black's light-squared bishop is not really part of the game.


Now that you know how to recognize a trapped piece and how to win a trapped piece, let's try a more difficult test! In the following position, Black has just played Ne4. What piece has no safe moves?

trapped rook
What piece has no safe moves?

Correct! The black rook on a8 has no safe squares to move to, as the white bishops control b8 and c8! You know the next step—how can White attack and win the rook on a8?

trapped rook
The rook on a8 has no safe squares to move to!

Yes! Bb7 traps and wins the rook on a8! Very nice!

trapped piece
Bb7 wins the rook!


You now know what a trapped piece is, how to recognize a trapped piece, and what to do when you see a trapped piece! Use this new knowledge of trapped pieces in your own games!

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