Damiano Trap


The chess opening Damiano Defence is characterized by the opening moves:

  1. e4 e5
  2. Nf3 f6?

The ECO code for the Damiano Defence is C40 (King’s Knight Opening). Ironically, the opening is named after the Portuguese master Pedro Damiano (1480–1544), who condemned it as weak.

[Moves 3. and 4.] In the Damiano Defence lurks a trap; there is a great opportunity for White to win a Rook for a knight or even to force a checkmate. First off is the forceful move 3. Nxe5? which allows Black to capture the White knight with 3. … f4xe5. When a player opposite you sacrifices a piece like this your alarm-bell should go off. Black should start to wonder why White places his knight in great danger. White’s next move starts to explain his intention; 4. Qh5+ forks the Black king and hangs the pawn on e5.

[Hypothetical moves 4. to 8.] Black’s immediate reaction could be to play the pawn move 4. … g6?, the only way to block the check instead of running away with the king. However, this would be a mistake since it allows the White queen to take on e5 with the move 5. Qxe5+! forking the Black king and the rook on h8. Black can then block the check again with 5. … Qe7, Be7, or Ne7, and White wins a Rook.

Note that there is no way for White to lose the Queen except in the rather forced exchange variation 5. … Qe7 6. Qxh8 Qg7, 7. Qxg7 Bxg7. White’s attack may be over, but White is up material, the Black king is in the middle, Black has no development and his pawn structure looks awful.

Note also that after 5. Qxe5+! Black cannot try to dodge the check with 5. … Kf7 since 6. Bc4+ loses the Queen; 6. … d5 (only move) 7. Bxd5+ Qxd5 (forced), 8. Qxd5+. White wins the Queen and three pawns for a Bishop and a Knight and has a completely winning position.

[Moves 4. … to 9.] If Black does not give up material at move 4., the only other option is to move the king out of check 4. … e7. However, this allows White to continue and spring the Damiano Trap and try to force mate with 5. Qxe5+ Kf7 (only move), 6. Bc4+ Kg6 (only move), 7. Qf5+ Kh6 (only move) 8. e4+  which opens up a discovered check with the Bishop on c1, 8. … g5 (only move) blocking the Bishop on c1. Now White should play a subtle move 9. h4 attacking the defender on on g5.

Here, Black can lose the game with one more step out of line. Black has the option to play either: 9. … Kg7, moving the king out the pin, 9. … Be7, adding a defender to the g5 pawn, 9. … d5 blocking and forking White’s Bishop on c4 and attacking the White Queen, or preventing the White Queen shooting down to f7 with moves like 9. … Qf6 or 9. … Nf6.

9. … Kg7, moving the king out the pin,

  • 9. … Kg7 leads to
  • 10. Bxg5 where Black can only defend with
  • 10. … Nf6 to prevent the White Queen from delivering mate on f7.

9. … Be7, adding a defender to the g5 pawn,

  • 9. … Be7 loses to
  • 10. h4xg5++ double check because of the discovery of the Rook on h1
  • 10. … Kg7 (only move)
  • 11. Qf7#.

9. … d5 blocking the Bishop on c4 and attacking the White Queen,

  • 9. … d5 blocks the forks bishop on c4 with the pawn on e4 and opens up  a discovered attack on White’s Queen. After this move there is no immediate way for White to parry and mate. Though, many opportunities to force Black to give up his Queen arise from this move.

9. … Qf6 preventing the White Queen shooting down to f7

  • 9. … Qf6 loses to
  • 10. h4xg5++ double check because of the discovery of the Rook on h1
  • 10. … Kg7 (only move)
  • 11. g5xQf6#

9. … Nf6 preventing the White Queen shooting down to f7

  • 9. … Nf6 quickly loses to
  • 10. Qxg5#

See other: Chess Traps

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