Rubinstein Trap

The Rubinstein trap is better known as the Rubinstein Defence, a variation on the Four Knight’s Opening which opens with the following moves:

  1. e4 Nf6
  2. Nc3 e5
  3. Nf3 Nc6

If White now plays 4. Bb5, Black responds with 4. … Nd4. This is well known as Rubinstein equalising line in the Four Knights Opening. Recent investigations, notably by British Grandmaster John Nunn, had livened the line up slightly, but not greatly dented its reputation.

[Moves 5. to 6.] To open up the path for the Rubinstein Trap, White plays 5. Nxe5 which creates an aesthetically pleasing diagonal of Knights (Ba4 is probably better). Black responds with 5. … Qe7, attacking the Knight on e5. White in turn defends his Knight with 6. f4, opening up the d1-h5 diagonal, which with correct play from Black will pose a problem for White later on.

[Moves 6. … to 8. …] 6. … Nxb5 Black takes the White Bishop and invites the White Knight to recapture. White predictably responds with 7. Nxb5. Now, Black delivers a blow with 7. … d6! attacking the White Knight on e5 as well as preparing to play Bishop g4!, causing big problems for White.

Now White should drop the Knight back to f3, when Black obviously has no problems. However, if White plays 8. Nd3??, Black plays the devastating move 8. … Bg4!, trapping the Queen, and the it’s all over for White.

See other: Chess Traps

Kostićs Trap

The Kostić Gambit in the Italian Game, also known as the Blackburne Shilling Gambit, is a chess opening beginning with the moves:

  1. e4 e5
  2. Nf3 Nc6
  3. Bc4 Nd4!?

The ECO code for the Kostić Gambit is C50 (part of the Italian Game). The Kostić Gambit is named after the Serbian grandmaster Borislav Kostić, who played it in the early 20th century. The trap is also known as the Blackburne Shilling Gambit; the great English master Joseph Henry Blackburne reputedly used it to win shillings from amateurs.

[Moves 4. to 6.] Black is attacking the White Knight on f3, White responds with the capture 4. Nxe5, taking the unprotected pawn which Black left behind on e5. Black responds with the move 4. … Qg5 placing the Queen on the previously guarded square g5, threatening to shoot down to g2. This sequence of moves is quite predictable up until now.

White plays 5. Nxf7! forking the Rook on h8 and the Queen on g5. Note that Black cannot capture the Knight since it is covered by the White Bishop on c4. Black’s only move to keep the game alive is 5. … Qxg2 moving the Queen out of the fork and attacking White’s Rook on h1. Obviously, White moves the Rook to safety with 6. Rf1. Note that the threat on Black’s Rook is still on since the White Knight on f7 remains covered. Therefore, Black needs to keep the up-tempo sequence going and keep White on the move or lose a Rook.

[Moves 6. … and 7.] For this reason, Black plays 6. … Qxe4+, checking the White King. At this stage, Black has closed the trap.

7. Qe2 blocking the check

  • White defends with 7. Qe2
  • Whereupon Black wins the White Queen with  7. … Nxe2
  • The only way for White to save the game is to play

7. Be2 blocking the check

  • White defends with 7. Be2
  • Whereupon Black wins with the smothered mate 7. … Nf3#

Master Graham Burgess noted that the trap is quite a risk: if avoided, it leaves White with a large advantage.

See other: Chess Traps

Paris Trap

The Paris Defence is one of Black’s responses to the Italian Game. It begins with the moves:

  1. e4 e5
  2. Nf3 Nc6
  3. Bc4 d6

The ECO code for the Paris Defence is C50 (part of the Italian Game). The Paris Defence was named after the game Rodzinski–Alekhine, which was played in Paris, in 1913.

[Moves 4. and 5.] White castles early and plays 4. o-o. Black responds with 4. … Bg4 and pins the Knight on f3 to the White Queen on d1. To deploy the Paris Trap, White wants to keep the tension on the f3 knight and use the pin to its advantage later on.

In the next move, White develops its other Knight and plays 5. Nc3, preparing the c3 Knight to jump to d5 in the execution of the trap. Then, Black will most likely seize the opportunity to take control of the centre and play 5. … Nd4, thereby piling up on the White Knight on f3.

[Moves 6. to 8.] White surprises Black with the move 6. Nf3xe5!, capturing the pawn on e5, but more importantly, moving out of the pin and exposing his Queen on d1 to the Bishop on g4. Black cannot but take the hanging Queen and play 6. … Bxd1.

As always, when your opponent sacrifices a piece like this – especially when the Queen is sacrificed – you should be aware that the other player is up to something. (Providing your opponent does not actually blunder.)

At this stage, White actually executes the Paris Trap with 7. Bxf7+, which wins with Ke7 (only move), allowing White to mate in one with 8. Nd5#, and it’s all over.

See other: Chess Traps

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

The Fool’s Mate

The Fool’s Mate, also known as the Scholar’s Mate, or Two-Move Checkmate, is the quickest possible checkmate in chess. There are a few variations; a prime example consists of the moves:

  1. f3 e5
  2. g4?? Qh4#

The pattern can have slight variations; for example White might open with 1. f4 instead of 1. f3 or move the g-pawn first, and Black might play 1. … e6 instead of 1. … e5.

The Fool’s Mate received its name because it can only occur if White plays extraordinarily weakly. Even among rank beginners, the mate almost never occurs in practice.

Nevertheless, the Fool’s Mate principle is known by different names around the world:

  • In French, Turkish, German, Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese: Shepherd’s Mate
  • In Russian: Children’s Mate
  • In Italian: Barber’s Mate
  • In Persian, Greek and Arabic: Napoleon’s Plan
  • In Polish: Scholar’s Mate
  • In Danish, Hungarian, Slovenian and Hebrew: Shoemaker’s Mate
  • In Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian and sometimes in Danish: School Mate

The Fool’s Mate has also occasionally been given other names in English, such as Schoolboy’s Mate and Blitzkrieg (German for ‘lightning war’, meaning a very short and quick engagement).

See other: Chess Traps