The Most Beautiful Opening Trap Ever, With Its Tempo Twin

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.

Franklin Chen

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About Franklin Chen

Franklin Chen is a United States Chess Federation National Master. Outside his work as a software developer, he also teaches chess and is a member of the Pittsburgh Chess Club in Pennsylvania, USA. He began playing in chess tournaments at age 10 when his father started playing in them himself but retired after five years, taking two decades off until returning to chess as an adult at age 35 in order to continue improving where he left off. He won his first adult chess tournaments including the 2006 PA State Game/29 and Action Chess Championships, and finally achieved the US National Master title at age 45. He is dedicated to the process of continual improvement, and is fascinated by the practical psychology and philosophy of human competition and personal self-mastery. Franklin has a blog about software development, The Conscientious Programmer and a personal blog where he writes about everything else, including his recent journey as an adult improver in playing music.