Chess Tricks and Traps A Beginner Must Know

Learn about some of the most dangerous chess tricks and traps you can use as a beginner and against stronger opponents later.

  • Learn how dangerous a queen on e2 can become in the opening.
  • The Siberian Trap is a deadly chess trick and trap for Black in the Smith-Morra Gambit.
  • Instead of letting White have all the fun attacking f7, there’s no reason why Black can’t turn the tables on his opponent and attack f2.
  • Black offers two pawns and a rook to deliver checkmate in the Ruy Lopez Bird’s Defense.
  • Getting your move order right in the opening can prevent an early disaster.

Chess Tricks and Traps You Can use In Your Games

The opening is an essential part of the game because you bring your pieces into the game. You use the opening to prepare for the middlegame, making the opening a vital part of the game. 

Because you often don’t have all your pieces in play, there are many dangerous tricks and traps for a beginner to avoid. Titled players have fallen into these traps.

Forewarned is forearmed, so learning about these traps is a good investment in your training time. No matter how much you improve, knowing these opening traps will prove helpful and may even get you a win against a titled player.

Chess Tricks and Traps: Beware of the Queen on e2

The Caro-Kann Defense is a famous opening for players of all levels. This opening is suitable for beginners because there is not much must-know theory.

Do not play any opening, no matter how well you know it or how long you have played it on auto-pilot.

One of the main lines of the Caro-Kann Defense goes 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7

White is given the opportunity to set up a deadly chess trick and trap in the Caro-Kann Defense if Black plays on auto-pilot.

Black plays …Nd7 to prepare …Ngf6 because if he plays it right away, White will play Nxf6 leaving Black with doubled pawns. By playing …Nd7 first, Black intends to recapture on f6 with the knight, not the g-pawn.

The usual move for White is 5.Nf3, but he can set a trap for Black with 5.Qe2. If Black continues with the theory, he spent lots of time learning and plays 5…Nf6, he loses!

White delivers checkmate with 6.Nd6# The queen on e2 pins Black’s e-pawn.

Caro Kann 6.Nd6

Surprisingly, there are games where White failed to deliver checkmate and instead of 6.Nd6# played 6.Nxf6??

The Qe2 Chess Trick and Trap in Another Opening

The Qe2 trap can also happen in the Scandinavian Defense. The Scandinavian Defense occurs when Black meets 1.e4 with 1…d5.

Play can continue with 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qa4 4.Bc4 c6 5.d3 Nf6 6.Bd2 Bf5 7.Qe2

The queen on e2 sets up the same chess trick and trap as in the Caro-Kann Defense, here in the Scandinavian Defense.

In the Scandinavian Defense, this trap is not as evident as in the Caro-Kann Defense. Qe2 looks like it is only preparing for queenside castle.

Chess tricks and traps are particularly effective if you can conceal them within your opening variation, and make it look like you intend to play the expected move.

White can also benefit from the fact Black can avoid checkmate. This might make him not as alert to the danger of the Qe2 chess opening trick and trap.

Scandinavian Defense 8.Nb5

A standard move in the Scandinavian Defense is …Nbd7, but if Black develops his knight to d7 now, he loses material.

After 7…Nbd7 White can play the winning 8.Nb5 (see diagram on the right) with a discovered attack on the queen from the bishop on d2 and Nd6+ to follow. Black cannot bring his queen to c7 to defend d6 because the white knight on b5 controls the c7-square.

Once again, the Queen on e2 pins the black e-pawn. The king is forced to d8 when White has the pleasant choice of Nxf7+ forking the king and rook or playing Nxf5 winning the bishop.

Chess Tricks and Traps For Black Against 1.e4

Including gambits in your opening repertoire is suitable for beginners. Playing gambits teaches you the value of rapid development, active piece play, and playing with the initiative.

Gambits usually do not have as much theory for you to learn and free up more of your training time to improve your middlegame and endgame technique.

The Smith-Mora Gambit is a good choice for White against the Sicilian Defense. However, White must be careful not to fall into the Siberian Trap.

1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Nxc3

Smith Morra Gambit Accepted

The starting position of the Smith-Mora Gambit, where in return for his pawn White gets easy development and open lines for his rooks.

4…Nc6 5.Nf3 Qc7 6.Bc4 e6 7.0-0 Nf6 8.Qe2 Ng4

Smith Morra Gambit 8...Ng4

Black threatens checkmate on h2. For the moment, White has the knight on f3 defending the h2 square.

Threatening a checkmate in one move is a powerful threat!

Also, very few chess players like having an enemy piece get close to their king, so they are likely to try to exchange it or drive it back. The most natural way to drive the black knight from g4 is h3.

How does black respond after 9.h3? Yes, with the winning move 9…Nd4!

The Siberian Trap in the SMith-Morra Gambit opening is a chess trick and trap for Black to use against 1.e4

The black knight on d4 attacks the white queen on e2 and threatens to capture the only defender of the h2-square. Defending the knight with 10.Qd3 does not help. Black will play 10…Nxf3+ and deliver checkmate on the next move.

Black Takes Aim At White’s Weak f2 Square

Developing your bishop to c5 puts pressure on White’s weak f2 pawn. There’s no reason why White should have all the fun attacking Black’s f7-pawn.

This chess trap is good to keep in mind if you play the Budapest Gambit against 1.d4.

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.d5 Bc5 4.Bg5

A chess trick and trap in the Budapest Gambit can win Black a pawn. The key is to attack the weak f2 pawn with your bishop.

Now Black unleashes 4…Bxf2 5.Kxf2 Ng4+ 6.Ke1 Qxg5

Budapest Gambit

The great thing about learning this chess trap is it works against strong players. In fact, in 2012, this trap was seen at the Istanbul Olympiad.

Make sure you include it in your collection of chess tricks and traps.

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Chess Tricks and Traps in the Ruy Lopez

Black starts by offering the e5-pawn as bait.

Taking your opponent out of well-known theory is an excellent strategy to level the game. In the Ruy Lopez, you can use Bird’s Defense to avoid all the theory of 3…a6.

In Bird’s Defense against the Ruy Lopez instead of 3…a6 Black plays 3…Nd4.

As well as offering the e5-pawn, you entice White with the chance to win a second pawn and fork the queen and rook. How many of your opponents are going to resist such a tempting offer?

The best part of this chess trap is winning the game in only eight moves! No need to remember a long list of moves.

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nd4

Ruy Lopez Birds Defense 3...Nd4

This position is the start of the Ruy Lopez Bird’s Defense variation.

4.Bc4 Bc5 5.Nxe5 Qg5

Black has set White multiple chess tricks and traps in this variation of the Bird's Defense. After taking the e5-pawn, White can capture the f7 pawn forking the rook and queen.

You allow White to play Nxf7, forking the queen on g5 and the rook on h8. Can you see how Black wins after 6.Nxf7?

6.Nxf7 Qxg2 7.Rf1 Qxe4+ 8.Be2 Nf3 checkmate.

Ruy Lopez Birds Defense 8...Nf3

This is one of the most deadly chess tricks and traps. Gerard Welling used this trap to win his game against Smit.

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Learning The Reason Behind An Opening Move Order Is Crucial

When learning an opening, it is essential to make sure you understand why a particular move order is recommended. Otherwise, you are likely to fall into deadly chess tricks and traps.

Sometimes playing a simple developing move too early can cost you the game as early as move 4.

Take a look at how the wrong move order in a Pirc Defense setup can cost Black the game. One variation of the Pirc Defense starts 1.e4 d6 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.Be2 Bg7.

Black can get himself into lots of trouble if he delays playing …Nf6 in favor of …Nd7.

1.e4 d6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Bc4 Bg7 4.d4 Nbd7??

Black has unwittingly walked into a deadly chess trick and trap. White can win the queen in only a few moves.

If you are playing White in this position, don’t let the opportunity to win the queen pass.

5.Bxf7+ Kxf7 6.Ng5+ Ke8 7.Ne6

Pirc Defense 7.Ne6

The black queen is trapped! Trying to defend the e6-square with the king loses more than the queen.

There are more chess tricks and traps hidden within this variation. For example, if Black plays 6…Kf6 instead of 6…Ke8 to keep the knight from e6 allows 7.Qf3 checkmate.

Notice that if Black played …Nf6 before …Nd7, the king could go to g8, and the queen could escape to e8 or f8. The idea behind 4…Nd7 is to prevent White from attacking the knight on f6 with e5.

Now you know that allowing e5 is a much better option than allowing 5.Bxf7+

Final Thoughts on Chess Tricks and Traps a Beginner Must Know

Using chess opening tricks and traps is a sensible approach to opening play. However, it is essential not to choose an opening solely on the availability of a trick or trap. 

Playing sound openings, you can use as you grow stronger will save you time. You won’t need to learn new openings because your chess tricks and traps aren’t working against stronger opposition.

The other danger in choosing an opening because it is trickier than another is if your tricks and traps don’t work, you might find yourself in an inferior position entering the middlegame. 

Play openings that suit your style of play, and think of any chess tricks and traps within them as a bonus.

Chess Tricks and Traps: Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best trap in chess?

There is no single trap that can be considered the best. Although if you were to argue for the best chess trap, a trap that delivers checkmate would be better than those that win material. 
Of course, some chess traps give you a winning material advantage. This can happen as early as move four if your opponent is highly cooperative.

How do you practice chess traps?

The best place to start is with your preferred opening move. Do you like to play 1.d4 or 1.e4? Then you can look online or in books for traps that can occur in your opening repertoire. 
Good chess books or training courses will include the traps and tactics for your chosen opening.
 For example, in the French Defense there is a well-known trap where the black queen is lost. 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nf3 Qb6 6.Bd3 cxd4 7.cxd4 Nxd4 8.Nxd4 Qxd4 9.Bb5+
Every opening has its share of tactics, and if you learn them during your opening training, you can catch your opponent in a trap. One common tactic for White is to sacrifice a bishop on h7.

What is an opening trap in chess?

An opening trap in chess is a series of moves early in the game that wins material or delivers checkmate. This often happens if Black plays …Bg4 without a knight on f6 to defend the bishop.
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bc4 Nc6 4.Nc3 Bg4 5.0-0 Nge7 6.Bxf7+ Kxf7 7.Ng5+ Ke8 8.Qxg4

How do you stop a chess trap?

The best way to stop a chess trap is always to ask yourself, “Why did my opponent play that move?” Before you play your moves, ask, “What attacking moves does my opponent have if I play this move? Does he have any checks, captures, or threats?”

What is the elephant trap in chess?

The Elephant Trap is a trap that Black sets in the Queen’s Gambit Declined. After the moves 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Nbd7, it looks like White can win a pawn because the knight on f6 is pinned.
However, if White falls for the trap, he loses a piece after 5.cxd5 exd5 6.Nxd5 Nxd5! 7.Bxd8 Bb4+
Now the only move to deal with the check is 8.Qd2 when 8…Bxd2+ 9.Kxd2 Kxd8 is winning for Black.

How do you trap a queen in four moves?

Unsurprisingly, you need lots of help from your opponent to trap his queen in four moves. One way to achieve this goal is to meet 1.d4 with 1…Nf6, then your opponent shuts in his queen with 2.Nbd2. Notice that both the queen and king are trapped by their pieces and pawns.
Now it is time to activate your pieces with 2…e5 and if 3.dxe5 Ng4 attacking the pawn while moving your knight into your opponent’s half of the board. When White tries to force your knight back with 4.h3, you win the queen with 4…Ne3!
White cannot capture your knight with fxe3 because this leads to mate in two moves after …Qh4+ g3 (only move) Qxg3 checkmate!

How do you trap a knight?

Knights often get trapped when they move to the edge of the board. When you play e5, and your opponent plays ..Nh5, you can trap the knight with g4 if the pawn is still on g7 or if Black fianchettoed the bishop on g7.

Is a gambit a trap?

A gambit is not a trap because it usually does not lead to winning material or delivering checkmate. In fact, a gambit often leads to the person playing it falling behind in material.
Gambits are usually played to get a lead in development, keep the initiative, or gain more control of the center. 
In the Danish Gambit after 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3 White gambits a pawn for a lead in development and quick access to the queenside for his queen. This happens after Black accepts the gambit with 3…dxc3 4.Nxc3.
In the famous King’s Gambit Accepted (1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4), White gets control of the center in return for the pawn. White can place pawns on e4 and d4, but Black only has one central pawn-the d-pawn.

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