10 Opening Traps Every Chess Player Should Know!
Chess Openings

10 Opening Traps Every Chess Player Should Know!

10 Opening Traps Every Chess Player Should Know!

Welcome into the top 10 must-know opening traps for every chess player! I’m sure you’re familiar with a few of them, but I’m also sure that some of these traps will be an interesting surprise for you and definitely, you’ve got to be aware of them all.

Opening Traps to Know

Trap-1: Caro-Kann Defense

Trap-2: Sicilian Defense

Trap-3: Dutch Defense

Trap-4: Counter Trap

Trap-5: GM Igor Smirnov’s Favorite

Trap-6: Caro-Kann and Other Openings

Trap-7: Benko Gambit

Trap-8: Classical Trap after 1.e4

Trap-9: Alekhine/Scandinavian Defense

Trap-10: Scandinavian Defense

(Video lesson) 10 Opening Traps Every Chess Player Should Know!

1) Trap to Know in the Caro-Kann Defense Opening

We’re kicking off with the first trap, which happens in the Caro-Kann Defense. After 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5, the main move is 3.Nc3, but you may surprise your opponent with the move 3.Bd3, which also makes sense since is a development move and is protecting the pawn.

Opening traps to know in Caro Kann Defense
White to play, after …Nf6

The trap to know here is: If Black goes 3…Nf6, developing their knight, then it’s actually a pretty big mistake! Because here you go 4.e5, attacking the knight, and your opponents will most frequently go with their knight to d7. They can’t really go forward with 4…Ne4. If it goes forward, then you just capture the knight by 5.f3, which leaves the knight trapped. It has no squares to escape. Therefore, this just doesn’t work for Black.

Instead, they would very likely move 4…Nd7. But here you have the blockading sacrifice 5.e6 and, after they capture, you’re happily delivering this check, 6.Qh5+, and after 6…g6, a common sacrifice: Qxg6 followed by Bxg6. A beautiful checkmate!

2) Trap to Know in the Sicilian Defense Opening

While the first trap was rather simple, the next one is more advanced, and you can trap even very experienced opponents just like that. The trap here is you’re going pawn to a6 and it’s hard to believe that a move like that can actually set a trap, but it is truly the case. Usually, in the vast majority of the cases in the Sicilian Defense, at this point, White goes pawn to d4, if Black plays any other move instead of pawn to a6. That is why the majority of your opponents will actually still go pawn to d4 right here, even though in this particular case it is a mistake.

Opening traps to know in Sicilian Defense with a6
White to play, after …a6

If they go pawn to d4, you capture here (cxd4, Nxd4), and then you go Nf6: it develops a knight, attacks the pawn and also sets the first trap. If White plays pawn to e5, it may look like a really tempting option to attack your knight, to drive it away. In this case, instead of moving your knight, you just go Qa5+ with a double attack to White’s king and the e5-pawn, thus winning the pawn in the next move. Therefore, that is the first trap that you’ve got here!

Black to play, after e5

Know not just one but Many Opening Traps in the Sicilian Defense

If your opponent is smart enough not to play the move pawn to e5, let’s take a move back. Instead they go Nc3, a fairly standard move, right? Then, you go pawn to e5 to drive away the knight and, after it goes back, you go Bb4, which is another interesting moment for you, where you are likely to win a number of games. By playing Nf3, White seemingly attacked your pawn on e5 and you played Bb4, kind of overlooking the opponent’s threat. But the thing is if White actually goes ahead and captures the pawn, you continue with Qe7, and it turns out that you get back this pawn on e4 in the next move, while also create a whole bunch of problems for White.

White to play, after …Qe7

For example, if White goes Nd3, or any other square, you capture this knight, Nxe4, and now look at this: You’ve got the opposition of your queen towards White’s king. Also, you’re putting pretty strong pressure towards White’s knight, which is pinned. All in all, it can get really, really dangerous for White.

For example, if they just capture your bishop (Nxb4), then you capture their knight on c3 (Nxc3); and notice that it is a discovered check as well as an attack on White’s queen. Therefore, you’ll grab the queen in the next move and win the game!

Discovered check in an opening trap in Sicilian Defense
Discovered check in the Sicilian Defense

We just analyzed one of the pitfalls in this line if White is greedy and is trying to capture your pawn on e5; they get in trouble. Now they still need to do something here on e5 about the central pawns because you’re also still threatening to capture White’s pawn on e4, taking advantage of this pin on the c3-knight. Therefore, your opponents are also likely to go Bd3, just to protect the pawn and develop the bishop. In this case, you go pawn on d5 which creates the final trap.

White to play, after …d5

In this case, the vast majority of your opponents will go ahead and capture the pawn on d5, just because that’s how players typically react to central pawn advancement; they capture it. Also, you’re threatening pawn to d4, or maybe capture here (dxe4). It’s very likely that White is going to capture here (exd5), expecting you to recapture with the knight (Nxd5), and after that, there is a normal game of chess. But that is the point where, first of all, you can do something like this, oh! After that, instead of capturing the pawn, you go pawn to e4. You don’t want a pawn; you want to win one of their pieces: either a bishop or a knight. If White tries to capture the pawn (Bxe4), it doesn’t work because you recapture (Nxe4), and because of the pin, they cannot grab your knight here. Thus, you won a piece plus you’re still having this pressure along this diagonal, and you’re getting a totally winning position! It’s a really cool line by Black.

Black won a piece in this opening trap in the Sicilian Defense

As you may notice here, there are a number of ways for White to lose the game really quickly. Even very experienced opponents up to the level of masters and, occasionally grandmasters, actually lose games like these. At the same time, you can win easily if you know these opening traps. That’s how you can win a number of games playing the Sicilian Defense as Black.

If you’re wondering how you can trap your opponents while you’re playing White against the Sicilian Defense, then you may check out my other lesson: 5 best opening traps for blitz and bullet, where I also share a couple really cool traps in the Sicilian Defense for White.

3) Trap to Know in the Dutch Defense Opening

The next trap happens in the Dutch Defense, where we go Bg5 and, even though this trap is really old, a lot of players still fall victims of this trap. They go here after your bishop, trying to capture it. They play h6, g5 and then f4.

Opening traps to know in the Dutch Defense
The bishop is trapped ― Is Black winning?

At first, it looks like Black just captured your bishop right here on g3 because it has no way to escape, but there is a trick here! You go e3 firstly, and it allows your queen to aim for the h5-square and, from there, it’s going to checkmate the opponent’s king!

Therefore, Black doesn’t have any time to capture your bishop. At this point, they may realize that they’re actually in trouble, but still they may try to play h5 insisting on their idea to somehow capture your bishop because, for example, if you just capture the pawn here (exf4), they can still continue with pawn to h4 and still insist on capturing your bishop; and the position remains very unclear.

But, instead of capturing that pawn, there are a lot of other things that you can do. Well, probably Be2, attacking that pawn is the best move, but Bd3 is just cool because here you’re threatening check mate in one: Bg6. If they go Rh6, trying to cover that square, then you’ve got a beautiful follow up, Qxh5+, followed by Bg6, checkmate.

4) Counter Trap to Know in the Opening

The next one is kind of funny. Among all of these opening traps to know, this is kind of a counter trap. I’ve noticed that in this position, after you go Nf3, quite a number of players play Bc5 somehow believing that White cannot capture the pawn here on e5. The fun fact is that a lot of players actually don’t take it. In the vast majority of the cases, White actually goes Bc4 right here, just continuing a symmetric development. Well, you certainly shouldn’t be afraid of taking that pawn; you can win that pawn for nothing.

Counter opening trap to know
Is Nxe5 possible? White to play

Again, for reasons that I’m unaware of, a lot of players somehow believe that Nxe5 is a bad move because Black can somehow attack you here but, in reality, if they try executing these tactical ideas, sacrificing the bishop (Bxf2, Kxf2) and playing Qh4, there are in fact a number of ways for you to handle this.

One of them, probably the most powerful one is to play pawn to g3 and after Qxe4, at first, it looks like they’re attacking a whole bunch of stuff. You go here first of all Qe2, letting them capture the rook (Qxh1). After that, even more so, you play Bg2, asking them to capture something else in your position because the thing is you’re preparing a discovered attack with your knight here.

Counter opening trap to know with White
Black’s queen has taken many pieces ― Who wins?

Regardless of what Black captures here, for example, they capture the pawn on h2; in this case you deliver the discovered check like this (Ng4+), so Black’s king is checked, and here you’re going to capture the queen in the next move. Or if I take a move back here for Black, instead of capturing the pawn here, if Black’s queen decides to capture your bishop on c1 (Qxc1), then you deliver the discovered check from another side; you go Nd3+, and the idea is still the same. Black’s king is under the check; therefore, Black has to cover the king and, then you grab the queen (Nxc1).

It’s a really interesting line and like I said, a lot of players as Black somehow are not aware of this. They believe that they can go into this line, but in fact, you can win the game just like this.

5) GM Igor Smirnov’s Favorite Trap to Know in the Opening

The next trap is one of my favorite opening traps I know. It starts with the classical moves and, at this point, instead of going Bc4, Bb5, which are the usual options, you go Be2. Such a modest looking move looks like just a bit of a passive option for White but, in fact, it’s a really dangerous one because a lot of your opponents will go Bc5.

One of my favorite opening traps to know
Castle or something else? ― White to play

In this position, most players just castle; they don’t know what to do, but there is a powerful shot, Nxe5, it’s not really a sacrifice because, after Black captures (Nxe5), you go pawn to d4, regaining the material balance just in the next move. But on top of that, if Black captures here (Bxd4), which is something they do very frequently, you recapture (Qxd4) and here, all of a sudden, Black realizes that they have some problems along this d4-g7 diagonal. If they try to keep the knight there on e5, you still push it away by playing pawn to f4 and, after the knight goes back (Nc6), you happily capture that pawn on g7 (Qxg7), winning the pawn, attacking here the rook, potentially the knight there, and all in all, getting a winning position; it’s a really cool variation which starts off really classically, kind of passively, but then, all of a sudden, creates so huge problems for Black.

6) Trap to Know in the Caro-Kann and other Openings

While the line I’ve just shown you is good for some occasional blitz games, of course, I would not recommend that you make it your main opening weapon and you play it against experienced opponents. For those cases, I would recommend that you study a pretty simple, but yet aggressive line: Bc4, the bishop’s opening. I’ll link to my other video where I analyze this opening variation. It’s pretty short and just within some 15 minutes, you can learn how to play it, and you’ll get a really solid opening weapon; so, you may like to check that video as well.

Opening traps to know in Caro-Kann Defense and other openings
Black’s king close to be checkmated!

The next trap is one of the most classical opening traps, and yet it occurs in different openings; and therefore, you’ve definitely got to know this opening motif. Here in this Caro-Kahn position, instead of going Ng5 or Nf3, or whatever, White may play Qe2 to set a clever trap. If Black goes Nf6, then, all of a sudden, their king is checkmated right in the center of the board just due to White’s knight. Even though it’s a classical trap, there were tens, if not hundreds, of people who were trapped like this even in official tournaments.

7) Trap to Know in the Benko Gambit Opening

Here is a more advanced version of a similar idea which occurs in the Benko Gambit here after pawn to b5. In this case, the usual move for White is just accepting the gambit, but you can go Nc3 and, after Black captures (axb5), play pawn to e4.

Opening traps to know in Benko Gambit
Similar to the trap #6

At first, it looks like you’re overlooking Black’s idea of kicking your knight away and, after that, grabbing the pawn on e4, but in fact, you’re aiming for a similar setup of pieces. You go Qe2, attacking that knight and, once it goes back (Nf6), you deliver a similar checkmate with Nd6. All in all, you can see that this is a common idea which works in different openings. Therefore, it’s really useful to know this tactical motif to use in opening traps.

8) Classical Trap to Know after the 1.e4 Opening

The next one is a really classical one, and yet again, it works: I myself have executed it a couple times in my blitz games. Opening traps like this one are fundamentals to know. So, here you go Bc4, instead of the more common move pawn to d4. A lot of players can’t help but go Bg4, just because amateur players love this pin so much that they can’t refrain from putting their bishop right there.

Classical opening traps to know
Checkmating Black ― White to play

It’s just important to notice that you’ve got to play pawn to h3 first. You cannot go for that sacrifice right away (Nxe5) because, in this case, Black can just recapture (Nxe5), and the e5-knight protects the bishop, and White’s idea just fails right away. Therefore, instead of taking there right away, it’s important that you play pawn to h3 first, kicking the bishop away. They’ll go Bh5, and right here it works just perfectly (Nxe5).

In this case, recapturing the knight doesn’t work because then you can grab their bishop on h5. Therefore, in this case it’s all good and if they grab your queen, which is the main motif of this legal checkmate, then you go for Bxf7, Ke7, Nd5, a beautiful checkmate with a couple of minor pieces in the center of the board.

9) Trap to Know in the Alekhine/Scandinavian Defense Opening

I trapped people like this myself, and I also have to confess that once I was trapped myself in a blitz game, I just played the wrong move. It works against the Alekhine’s Defense, which happens after Nf6 or against the Scandinavian Defense, pawn to d5 because they can lead to the same position.

In this case, if you capture (exd5), the main move for Black is Nf6. Here you can go Nc3, Black recaptures (Nxd5), and you go Bc4, attacking the knight. It may go back (Nb6) attacking your bishop. You go here Bb3. Black plays Nc6 at this point. You go Nf3.

Opening traps to know in Scandinavian Defense and Alekhine Defense
White to play, after …Bg4

Again, it looks like just both players are developing their pieces, a standard game of chess and, again a lot of your opponents will play here Bg4, just because it looks active; it looks cool to pin your knight but, in this case, you’ve got a very common tactical motif.

You, first of all, sacrifice the bishop here (Bxf7), winning the pawn and, after they recapture (Kxf7), you go Ng5+, which is a check to Black’s king and, in the next move, you grab the bishop back (Qxg4); and therefore, along this variation, you won that pawn on f7 and, not only that, you weakened the opponent’s king significantly. For example, right now you’re even threatening just checkmate in one: Qe6; therefore, not only you won a pawn; you’re also getting a great attacking position here, thus getting a winning game!

10) Trap to Know in the Scandinavian Defense Opening

There’s one more trap against another version of the Scandinavian Defense, in case Black captures the pawn on d5 with the queen. We just analyzed the move Nf6 here previously, and what if they capture? In this case, you go Nc3, and if they move their queen back to d8, there is another cool line. You go Nf3, Nf6 and Bc4.

Opening traps to know in Scandinavian Defense with White
Guess the move ― How would you play here as White?

How Would You Play here as White?

In this case, again a lot of your opponents will play Bg4; it’s a common move in the Scandinavian Defense, and in general. In this case, I’d like to ask you to think about this position and to let me know how you would play here as White. If you find the following idea yourself, you will actually remember it better, and you will actually execute it in your games. So, please think about it and write it down in the comments below: How would you play here as White?

10 Opening Traps Every Chess Player Should Know!

I hope that you enjoyed to know all of these opening traps and you are going to use them in your own practical games.

Below you can find these traps:

Also, you may wish to check out my free Masterclass: The best way to improve at chess instantly! There you’ll just see, in general, how to progress in chess and what the most efficient ways are. I hope you’ll have a great time playing chess, and I’ll talk to you soon.

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

If you want GM Igor Smirnov to help you get better at chess, watch this Masterclass.

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