When chess traps go wrong


There is a very interesting situation that sometimes happens in chess. A player sets a trap and gets very excited when his opponent falls for it. Unfortunately, the euphoria is short-lived, as it turns out that the trap has a big hole, and the “naive” opponent saw it beforehand, so the hunter becomes the prey!

Here’s a good example. In the following game, GM Magnus Carlsen’s opponent left his middle pawn unprotected on move four! Can the world champion accept the gift?

If your opponent is a grandmaster rated well over 2700, he’s very unlikely to make such a pawn mistake. It’s also a well-known opening trap, so Carlsen didn’t capture the pawn and won the game:

13 years ago I wrote an article mentioning that even if White falls into this trap, he can still set his own trap:

I also wrote that if instead of the greedy move 6…cxb5?? what allows a one-move checkmate, Black plays 6…d5! You still win a piece. So my point was that although White falls into a trap, he can set his own trap, which Black avoids with 6…d5! The ever-observant Chess.com readers were quick to point out that I’ve fallen into a trap myself! The move 6…d5 deserves a question mark and not an exclamation! Can you see why?

So to win a piece Black should play 6…d6! instead of the hasty 6…d5?

I’m sure many of you remember the famous “competition” scene from the old classic The Prince’s Bride:

Vizzini’s last words were: “Never go against a Sicilian when death is at stake!” A chess version of his statement would probably be “Never try to outsmart GM Mikhail Tal in tactics”. The Magician of Riga really loved to “fall” into his opponent’s trap, only to demonstrate an unexpected idea that would completely turn the tables. The next game is a good example.

In the following position, Tal wondered: “How could my very strong opponent miss an exchange after a simple combination starting with 27…Nxe2? Of course, he quickly discovered the trap and then found a refutation. Compare yourself to Tal. Can you find White’s idea and also how Tal managed to disprove it?

A very similar brain teaser happened last week at the FIDE Grand Prix tournament. Super GM Alexander Grischuk left his e6-knight unprotected. What happens if Black accepts the gift?

It was easy wasn’t it? I’m sure Grischuk wasn’t really hoping that his extremely strong opponent would fall for it. But in chess you never know. I remember not believing my eyes when GM Alexei “Fire On Board” Shirov got into an identical combo:

Let’s get back to the original game. Of course, GM Dmitry Andreikin didn’t checkmate in two moves. Instead, he discovered a hidden hole in White’s idea. can you find it

In the game, Black quickly turned his material advantage into a win:

So the next time you see your opponent setting a trap, keep this article in mind and try to find a hole in your opponent’s idea just like Tal and Andreikin did!


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