If you’ve memorized some opening scenarios and are ready to dig a little deeper into chess strategy and tactics, opening traps are a great way to do that. Some of these sequences are pretty easy to learn and some of them are long and difficult.
These chess opening traps are separated based on playing side, here are some quick links to each section:
I would recommend picking a few of them that are more common (some of them are common enough that they have been used for centuries) and learning them thoroughly. Playing through a trap can be difficult because one slight mistake will break the trap and could potentially give your opponent advantage. Feel confident playing through the opening if the trap doesn’t work.
White Chess Traps
We’ll start off with traps for white. Since white gets first move, they have a slight advantage from the beginning and more options for traps. A key for practicing white traps is to play an opening you’re familiar with so that you can play through it if the trap doesn’t work out.
For instance, I would suggest learning the Queens Gambit opening and the handful of traps that can be initiated from it. If black does not set up for one of the traps, the game is not a loss and you can practice your mid and end game.
Note: Sometimes the examples do not load correctly on Chrome. Simply click the fullscreen box to see the trap in action.
This is probably the most used trap in chess. It’s one of the fastest mates but is easy to spot and respond to. The Owen’s Defense trap is a good way to turn this around if this is played against you.
The name of this mate likely originally referred to someone that was still in school rather than a highly educated person that scholar typically means today.
This trap is based around playing the London System and is pretty easy to pull off against lower level players. It’s a stellar trap because of the extremely tempting queen sacrifice. If your opponent chooses to take the queen you get an immediate checkmate.
This trap is named after Sire de Legal, who was a prominent French chess player in the 18th century.
This trap is based around the London System opening but and plays into the Scotch Gambit which is slightly differently than the others that start with this opening. The key move here is the queen to d5 move which attacks the f7 pawn. Black has to move their knight to castle and you pick up that piece as a reward for a successful trap.
This is a relatively common trap to find and use against an opponent.
This trap for white opens with a queens gambit and uses a line that is very common in lower level matches. The surprising move for white here is the knight taking the pawn on d5. If black doesn’t notice the trap, you will win a queen.
The trap was named after Akiba Rubinstein who lost to it twice in some very high level matches.
This trap based is around the French Defense. The linchpin in this scenario is the knight taking the pawn on d4. If black takes that pawn, you will at least be up a knight. However, they can dig themselves deeper into the trap if they take the white knight on d4 with the queen.
This one is clever and has multiple layers. Decent players will pick up on the queen to d4 trap but most players wont realize it before losing their knight.
This trap is viable when black opens with the Caro-Kann defense (pawn to c6). The black knight to d7 is the move that ends the game for black. It allows for whites knight to d6 which pins the pawn on e7 and checkmates the black king.
Although the Caro-Kann opening isn’t an extremely popular one, this is a nice trap to have in your back pocket in case it comes up.
White opens into Blackmar Gambit. The key here is the queen sacrifice on f3. If black takes the bait, you win the game. There are many ways this could go, so feel comfortable playing this opening through since that’s what will happen 95% of the time.
This trap was named after Hermann Halosar. However, not much is known about the player.
This trap relies on black playing the Damiano Defense. Black is baited into taking the rook on e5. If they take it, you gain the king side rook.
This Damiano defense is one of the oldest openings in chess but was named after author Pedro Damiano for his clever variations of the opening. However, Damiano thought the opening was weak.
The key to this trap is enticing black with knight to g5. If that bait is taken, you’ll be up a whole bunch of material and black will likely resign. This is a longer trap based around the Bogo-Indian Defense, so it’s slightly more obscure than a lot of traps on this list.
This trap was named after Italian grandmaster Mario Monticelli from a game played in 1926.
Black Chess Traps
Since black goes second, there is a slight disadvantage from the beginning but there are many traps that can be set on this side as well. The main thing when playing the black side is to watch what the white pieces open with before deciding which traps to progress with.
It’s good to have a few different openings memorized when practicing with black because the white opening will decide which traps are viable.
This trap is extremely simple to learn and easy to pull off. It delivers a checkmate in the lowest number of possible moves and can only happen when playing black. However, it will rarely come up at lower level matches and will never come up at higher level play.
It’s a good trap to know just in case as you start your journey into learning more advanced traps. You’ll probably never use this in practice though.
Blackburne Shilling Trap
This trap is based around the Italian Game opening. The trap is initiated the white knight takes the pawn on e5 instead of taking the black knight on d4. From there, black has a very good shot at finishing the game.
There are a few ways to maneuver around this trap but few people will find them at lower level games. The Blackburn Shilling Gambit is an old opening with its first mention in 1895.
It relies on white playing the queens gambit. Black declines and, if white takes the pawn on e5, the trap is initiated. The trap uses the Albin Counter to grab some material and, in the best case, black is up a queen by the end of it.
The name comes from the 27 year World Chess Champion Emanuel Lasker.
The knight to g5 essentially gives up the knight for white. Be careful though, once you’ve taken the knight, your queen will be exposed. Of course, you will have a significant advantage at this point so it should be a relatively easy win from here.
This is an extremely common trap used in lower level matches. It’s based around the Slav Defense which gets its name from the many Slavic chess players that developed the opening theory into what it is today.
Here we have a trap for black using the queens gambit declined line. The key here is the white knight taking the pawn on d5. Once that happens, you will be up a knight. From here, white may play into the queen exchange, which is the best scenario for black. If white declines, black is still up material.
This trap is common to find in lower level matches. The name is a play on a phrase which means that only a fool would fall into an elephant trap.
This trap plays off of the Budapest Gambit opening by black. This is one of several traps that can be played off of this opening, but also one of the easiest to achieve.
The pawn taking the knight on e3 is the point at which white loses the game. A check with the queen sets up the checkmate.
Noah’s Ark Trap
This is actually a family of traps using the Ruy Lopez opening to trap the white bishop on b3. You may have even played one of these traps out without realizing it! It is a pretty long trap to memorize but puts black up by a bishop. It also gives black a better board position.
It isn’t clear where the “Noah’s Ark” name came from.
The Fishing Pole Trap (Ruy Lopez)
This is actually a group of traps that use the queen and rook to checkmate an opponent that has already castled. This version is based around the Ruy Lopez opening. Once the black knight is sacrificed, it’s pretty straight forward on how to get to a checkmate.
There are a few ways for white to wiggle out of this trap, so be prepared to play the rest of the game out in case they realize they’re in a bad position. However, this group of traps can work on pretty high level players so it’s worth learning them!
The Fishing Pole Trap (Sicilian Defense)
Here we have the same type of trap but with a Sicilian Defense opening (instead of the Ruy Lopez version). It still centers around the knight sacrifice on g4. Just like with the Ruy Lopez version, there’s a few ways for white to get out of this, so be comfortable playing through the opening and mid game with this one.
This is a weird opening that could net you a knight if they fall into it. Your worst case scenario is the knight declines the pawn on e5 and you’re down a pawn but in a good position by having a pawn on e5.
It’s a low risk, high reward trap that’s fun to try occasionally. However, it doesn’t follow any basic opening so that makes it a little less desirable.
This is a long and complex trap based around the Scandinavian Defense. The setup is kicked off by the queen to a5 move before rolling into the bishop sacrifice. If you get this far with it, be sure to not take with your pawn on h6.
Once you’re at the point that you have a straight line to getting a checkmate.
Panteldakis Countergambit Trap
This trap is useful if white plays the Kings Gambit. Declining the pawn on f4 is crucial to this trap. If you take the pawn on f4 , there will be no reason to check with the queen since the pawn one4 is blocked.
This is a neat trap that can really wreck a game early on for white if they play into it.
Here’s a trap that starts out with the Sicilian Defense and plays into the Smith-Morra Gambit. This trap focuses on white opening with pawns to e4 and d4. The knight to g4 move really opens up the chance to take material (in this scenario, the queen) since white has to take the knight in order to not lose the game.
The trap has appeared a few times in some very high level games and the name of this trap likely comes from the chess player Boris Schipov who was from Southwestern Siberia.
Owen’s Defense Trap
The main downfall for white in this scenario is the queen to c3. It opens up the queen to be pinned and lost. This is a good response to the Scholars Mate.
This is only one of several traps that can be used within the Owen’s Defense opening.
This trap starts with Petrov’s Defense on black before turning into a Russian Game opening. This is a pretty long trap with a few key points. The rook to e1 move puts black into position to start the trap.
Ultimately, the white king being on h2 and queen on f3 is what allows black to take the rook. Those positions are the ones to watch for when trying this trap out.
Old Benoni Trap
This trap starts off with the Old Benoni Defense. It’s makes it pretty easy to gain a knight early in the game but it opens your queen up to attack early on as well.
This opening is pretty common at lower level matches but is only seen occasionally at higher level matches. The name came from an 1825 book on defenses against the King and Queens Gambit openings.