Recently, I noticed that some people have been playing a variation of the Scotch Game involving White retreating the Knight on d4 to b3 after Black’s Bc5. That brought back memories of a beautiful opening trap that I learned from some dusty library book in my childhood, probably by Horowitz or Reinfeld. One thing that I found really remarkable about this opening trap was that there is a similar opening trap that I also encountered in those days that was the exact same position except with one important tempo missing. The tactical ideas are similar, but different in that the tempo means that the win is much, much harder. I think of this other trap as being the most beautiful opening trap I have ever seen. (Correct me if I’m wrong.)
Where did the extra tempo go? Oh, it is a result of the positions being with colors reversed! I always thought that was fascinating.
Here are both traps: the easy one, then the hard one.
The easy trap
The easy trap is one that a student if prompted could find, being told to look for something, even if by just trial and error, because of forcing checks.
The hard trap
The “twin” of the easy trap is much, much harder. I think it would take an advanced player to really work out the solution, with all the sidelines, to conclusion. This is because there is no immediate checkmate, and there are many possible variations. An impatient student might look for checks or look for captures, to no avail, missing the essence of the trap, which is to do what it takes, even if it takes several moves, to completely trap the King, rather than kick it around (in which case it will escape, and because of the huge amount of sacrificed material expended, the failed attacker will have a lost game).
I think this lovely trap contains much that is worth study. Besides the theme just mentioned, here are some additional ideas:
- The “losing” side does not have to take the Queen. Have the student try to continue the game, even at the cost of a Pawn. This will illustrate that you don’t have to give up just because you fell into a trap.
- The forced mate that I saw in the opening trap book is a mate in 7. It turns out that there is a mate in 6 that I did not know about until working on this article and turning on the chess engine. This mate is much more involved but quite beautiful. It’s worth studying the shorter mate as well.