For instance, I consider the Queen's Gambit to be such an opening. Most beginners playing Black would accept the gambit, and try to defend their pawn too, leading to inferior lines for Black. Are there any others?

  • 6
    Cambridge Springs defense is riddled with traps. You would be surprise how effective it can be even against masters who are not well versed with the opening's theory. Commented Jan 20, 2014 at 16:43
  • 6
    What openings aren't traps against beginners? They drop queens, the opening is the least of their concern. Commented Jan 20, 2014 at 19:21
  • 1
    fried liver attack, I enjoy it chess.stackexchange.com/questions/75/very-aggressive-openings/…
    – Lynob
    Commented Jan 20, 2014 at 19:41
  • 1
    To play Cambridge Springs, the beginner has to play well into mainline Queen's Gambit Declined.
    – qwr
    Commented Aug 7, 2022 at 20:07

5 Answers 5


There are none. You should play the openings where you are stronger, and you should play normally as if you were facing a strong opponent, because if you let your opponent get some kind of messy position you are risking losing yourself.

All I can say is to play good moves, sooner or later your opponent will blunder something.

  • 1
    None? Really? There's no sound opening which also involves a trap?
    – D M
    Commented Jan 4, 2020 at 4:12
  • 1
    @DM There are indeed sound openings which can lead to traps, but if a player has the opportunity to set a trap, that doesn't mean that it is recommended to do that.
    – Rosie F
    Commented Aug 9, 2022 at 9:25

Depending on the level of the beginner, 60 years ago (age 10) I had great success with the scholar's mate. It seemed very common to get them to copy the bishop move, then they wouldn't see the mate. If they did see the mate the most common response was 3. ... g6 which gives you a rook. I never got Qe7 or Qf6. If they play 2. ... Nf6 I would just play Nc3 and go into standard development with Nf3, d3, Bg5 and so on.

[FEN ""]
1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Bc5 3.Qh5 Nc6 4.Qxf7#

I would warmly suggest you to consider the Vienna Game (and especially the gambit if Black responds with Nf6). The Vienna Gambit cannot be accepted for reasons that are not obvious at first sight, especially not for beginners (who might know, that against the King's Gambit, you can accept the pawn).

The best move, the d5 counter-thrust instead of accepting the pawn is extremely hard to find for a beginner who has never seen that move. Blacks knight will be forced to un-develop after exf4, while White builds an ideal center, will most likely take back the pawn while simultaneously developing his dark-squared bishop and gets the ideal attacking position (in a much improved version of the King's Gambit). Black is significantly worse, in a very difficult-to-play situation and every move is essentially an only-move (trap), where Black loses immediately if he does not play like an engine.

If Black knows the actual main line, you'll get a game of chess (Black has equalized and may be slightly better). This is why it's not played on high levels of chess, but is perfect for games up to 1500.

   [FEN ""]
           1. e4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. f4 {don't take the "free" pawn - it's a trap!!} exf4 4. e5 Ng8 5. Nf3 d6 6. Qe2 Be7 7. d4 dxe5 8. Qxe5 {Black had to find some only moves to even get to here. White is threatening to take back the pawn on f4 with interest and Black is heavily underdeveloped. Expect to crush lower-rated opponents from here on easily}

If Blacks responds with Nc6, there is a well known variation where the Black queen is prone to getting trapped (c3 to follow):

   [FEN ""]
           1. e4 e5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. Qg4 Qf6 5. Nd5 Qxf2+ 6. Kd1 Kf8! 7. Nh3! {The queen finds herself short of moves} Qd4 8. d3+- {White is winning here. Explore this with the lichess opening explorer and see how amateurs go wrong in this line as Black.}

Another opening I would recommend for your purposes is the Schlechter variation of the French Defense, which is very tricky. If Black knows the main line, he equalizes, so it's not a good way to press for an advantage. Therefore it's not well known, as it's not played on high levels. But it's very venomous for lower-rated players.

Schlechter variation explained

If Black plays his "typical French moves", he'll often be much worse. There is even a trap where Black thinks he may win a pawn on g2, only to realize that the queen is short on squares and the queen gets trapped and lost.

It is very unlikely your opponent knows the theory even if he studies openings, because these are neglected side-lines (especially the Schlechter. I played it against a 1600 in a rapid OTB tournament and he got in trouble quickly after not playing theory moves, so even them do not know it. He said he has never seen Bd3.).


Starting with the very natural-looking Two Knights Defense of the Italian Game and aggressively attacking with Knight Attack, 4. Ng5 can setup to some famous traps like the Fried Liver. The most solid move for Black is 4... d5 (Bc5 can lead into the sharp Traxler counterattack), where after 5. exd5 the traditional defense is the funny-looking Polerio Defense putting the knight on the side of the board with 5...Na5.

Black and White are about equal here, but Black must know the correct defenses. A beginner natural move such as moving the queen out of the way with Qe7 is already losing after giving check, forcing Black to lose castling rights, and taking a free pawn.

[FEN ""]
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. Ng5

For many gambits, accepting the material and then trying to hold on to without realising the danger it is a typical beginner mistake. Some (e.g. hypermodern-themed) openings invite the opponent to overextend in the center and then punish it; this is arguably a form of traps to beginners; the bad news is that, it is not easy to play them well.

A list of openings where beginners very often fell into traps are given below (in every opening, beginners can make mistakes; they are not traps unless it is hard to see [e.g., if even professional players fail to notice it occassionally, then it makes more sense to call them traps]). Too dubious openings are avoided as a rule of thumb. Also, I have not included openings where the player initiating the opening is mainly the one who falls into traps (e.g. Damiano Defence, Busch-Gass Gambit). I am not mentining unusual openings since a beginner (or even in intermediate player) is very unlikely to play them.

  • Queen's Gambit
  • Ruy Lopez
  • Budapest Gambit
  • Sicilian Defence
  • Evan's Gambit
  • Italian Game
  • Caro-Kann Defence
  • King's Indian Defence
  • In French Defence,
    • Greek gift sacrifice
    • Milner-Barry Gambit
    • Alekhine-Chatard Attack
    • Alekhine-Maroczy Gambit
  • Pirc Defence: Kholmov System
  • Trompowsky Attack: Adams Trap
  • English Opening
  • Veresov Opening
  • King's Gambit
  • In Dutch Defense,
    • Kortchnoi Attack
    • 2... Bg5
  • Latvian Gambit
  • Lisitsin Gambit
  • Scotch Gambit
  • Vienna Game
  • Morphy Gambit
  • King’s Gambit: Nimzowitsch-Marshall Countergambit
  • Ponziani Opening – Fraser Attack
  • Two Knight Tango
  • Alekhine' s Defence
  • Albin Countergambit
  • Bishop's Opening
  • Reti Opening
  • Bird’s Opening: From Gambit
  • Danish Gambit
  • Lazard Gambit
  • MacLeod Attack

Honorable Mentions: King’s Gambit: Miles Defense, Nimzowitsch Defense: Panov Gambit

Some of the traps work in multiple openings. e.g. Greek gift, Fishing pole, Siberian trap, Legal's mate.

I also recommend to check out openings Hikaru and Levy classified as 'tricks-only' in the opening tier-list videos (except tier list for GM level).

Some links: English Opening: https://chess-teacher.com/7-best-chess-opening-traps-english-opening/ (For many popular openings, similar lists are available online specific to that opening)

There are so many other variations or lines where landmines are common. e.g.: French Defence: Two Knights Defence (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUWQABiygVM)

The following are some of the most commonly used traps (grouped based on opening).

  • Queen's Gambit
    • Elephant Trap
    • Cambridge Springs
    • Lasker Trap
    • Rubinstein Trap
  • Ruy Lopez
    • Mortimer Trap
    • Noah’s Ark Trap
    • Tarrasch Trap
    • Dresden Trap
    • Fishing Pole Trap
    • Rombaua Trap
  • Sicilian Defence
    • Magnus Smith Trap
    • Siberian Trap
    • Bobby Fischer Trap
    • Accelerated Dragon Trap
  • Italian Game
    • Legal Trap
    • Blackburne Shilling Gambit *
    • Italian Belloni Trap
  • Queen’s Indian Defense
    • Queen Amidala Trap
  • Nimzo-Indian Defence
    • Rubinstein Fianchetto Variation
  • Bogo-Indian Defence
    • Monticelli Trap
  • French Defence
    • Milner-Barry Trap
  • Benoni Defince
    • Old Benoni Trap
  • Vienna Game
    • Wurzburger Trap
  • Petrovs defense
    • Marshall Trap
  • Budapest gambit
    • Budapest Trap
    • Kieninger Trap
    • Fajarowicz Variation
  • Two Knights Defense
    • Fried Liver Attack
    • Lolli Attack
  • Caro-Kann
    • Fantasy Variation
    • Keres's Trick (& Bg5 trick)
    • 4... Nd7
  • Trompowsky Attack
    • Adams Trap
  • Danish Gambit
    • Danish Bird Trap
  • Blackmar-Diemer Gambit
    • Halosar Trap
  • Ponziani Opening
    • Flagship Trap
  • Bird’s Opening
    • From Gambit
    • Birds Eye View Trap
  • King’s Gambit
    • Nordwalde Trap
  • Lazard Gambit
  • MacLeod Attack
  • Englund Gambit *
    • Englund Gambit Trap

* - I'm sure this is not a recommended move

Gary Lane, The Greatest Ever Chess Tricks and Traps
John Watson & Eric Schiller, Taming Wild Chess Openings

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