What are some of the most common traps to be aware of?

I am talking about examples such as

While such traps are easy to avoid in long games, they can come up and be quite effective in bullet games.


7 Answers 7


One sort of not-always-obvious trap that players can fall into are pawn forks that aren't immediately apparent in a given position. For instance:

[FEN ""]

1.c4 e5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 Bc5 4.e3 Nc6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Nge2 Be6 $2 7.d4 $1

Here White wins material since 7. d4! gains time against the bishop on c5, and can then push on to d5. I've actually won with this exact tactic in more than one OTB tournament game, even against A-class players; and in internet blitz it's happened countless times. If you're not used to playing the black side here, I think it can be easy to miss the shot before you let go of the bishop on e6. This same kind of scenario can arise in other positions with a lot of centrally-located minor pieces.

  • +1 (tomorrow!): I have fallen for this enough to be wary of it now.
    – Daniel
    Jun 12, 2012 at 20:12
  • Just after you posted this, my favorite channel the Chess Network made a video The best part is the comment: "I have allegedly embezzled some securities and now im in a legal trap myself...any tips?"
    – EPN
    Jun 12, 2012 at 21:51
  • 2
    @EricNaslund, I suppose you meant your comment for Daniel's answer. :)
    – ETD
    Jun 12, 2012 at 21:56
  • @EdDean - Just curious, this only works for white because of the pawn on e3 correct?, because after 7. d4, then it is 7...exd4, 8. exd4 8...Bb3, 9. d5
    – xaisoft
    Jun 13, 2012 at 7:02
  • @xaisoft: Bingo (though there's a typo, 8. ... Bb4 is what I assume you meant).
    – ETD
    Jun 13, 2012 at 7:10

I can also think of the Légal Trap in the Italian Game or Philidor Defense (Black's 2nd and 3rd moves may be transposed). It involves a Queen sacrifice:

[FEN ""]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 d6 4.Nc3 Bg4 5.h3 Bh5 $2 6.Nxe5 $1 Bxd1 $4 7.Bxf7+ Ke7 8.Nd5#

Wikipedia has a list of common chess traps, though it's not exhaustive:

Ordered by chess opening:

Many more opening traps, all ending in checkmate, are given under Checkmates in the opening.

Also, chess.com's blog has a post about traps, which includes some which Wikipedia doesn't (like the Fischer Trap), and you can play through them on that page.

  • 1
    I've always liked that one. I still play e4 + Nf3 + Bc4 regularly just in case someone slips up. Jun 13, 2012 at 5:02
  • 1
    I once managed a Legal's mate around 7 years ago in an informal game on Yahoo! Chess. That and the smothered mate, which I've also only done once, have always been my favorites of the "basic mates". Jul 20, 2012 at 12:54
  • Legal's mate is surprisingly common. One should really watch out for it in the English Opening (where it can turn up as a motif for black). Mar 6, 2015 at 13:02

I've won quite a few games in this line of Cambridge Springs in blitz.

[FEN ""]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 d5 4. Nf3 c6 5. Bg5 Nbd7 6. e3 Qa5 7. Bd3 Ne4 8. Qc2
Nxg5 9. Nxg5 dxc4

And black is winning a piece since, knight on g5 and Bishop on d3 are both attacked.


1)7. Bd3 looks logical, but it not the best move (though it is not losing). Main-line moves are: 7. Nd2 and 7. cxd5.

2)8. Qc2 looks logical, it protects the knight on c3 and attacks the black knight on e4; however, this move loses a piece. Better for white is 8. Bxe4 dxe4 9. Ne5 with roughly equal position.


I have noticed that new players who learn opening principles like "don't move the same piece more than one time", "concentrate on the center" often fall into the trap of blindly following these general principles and totally overlook simple tactical threats. A typical blunder example:

[FEN ""]

1.e4 Nc6 2.d4 e5 3.d5 Nd4?? 4.c3

Black is toast because the knight is trapped.


Videos on many of traps can be found at http://www.thechesswebsite.com/chess-traps/index.php


There are several traps in the Ponziani, e.g. leaving the pawn on e4 unprotected, and if the knight takes it, Qa4+ is winning the knight. Or pushing the d-pawn threatening the knight: If it goes forward instead of b8 or e7, it's lost.


There are 40 traps from wikipedia in an expandable chess openings tree at http://www.chesstree.net

  • Grab the background canvas to drag the tree around.
    – Martin
    Mar 5, 2015 at 12:57
  • Click the checkbox 'trap collection' in that website. Oh, I don't see a simple way to view trap lines alone from it. If you want to check out trap lines in your opening of choice, you can use this. Aug 7, 2022 at 2:24

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