Queen's Gambit Declined, Elephant Trap

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Falling into the Elephant Trap will cost White his queen's knight.

In chess, the Elephant Trap is a faulty attempt by White to win a pawn in a popular variation of the Queen's Gambit Declined. This simple trap has snared thousands of players, generally amateurs.

The earliest recorded occurrence of the trap seems to be Karl Mayet vs. Daniel Harrwitz, Berlin 1848.[1]


The trap[edit]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 Nbd7

This opening sequence usually indicates that Black intends to play the Cambridge Springs Defense with 5.Nf3 c6 6.e3 Qa5, but it can also lead to the Orthodox Defense if Black plays ...Be7. (The Cambridge Springs had not yet been invented at the time of the Mayet–Harrwitz game.)
a b c d e f g h
8
Chessboard480.svg
a8 black rook
c8 black bishop
d8 black queen
e8 black king
f8 black bishop
h8 black rook
a7 black pawn
b7 black pawn
c7 black pawn
d7 black knight
f7 black pawn
g7 black pawn
h7 black pawn
f6 black knight
d5 white knight
g5 white bishop
d4 white pawn
a2 white pawn
b2 white pawn
e2 white pawn
f2 white pawn
g2 white pawn
h2 white pawn
a1 white rook
d1 white queen
e1 white king
f1 white bishop
g1 white knight
h1 white rook
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Position after 6.Nxd5??
a b c d e f g h
8
Chessboard480.svg
a8 black rook
c8 black bishop
d8 white bishop
e8 black king
h8 black rook
a7 black pawn
b7 black pawn
c7 black pawn
d7 black knight
f7 black pawn
g7 black pawn
h7 black pawn
d5 black knight
b4 black bishop
d4 white pawn
a2 white pawn
b2 white pawn
e2 white pawn
f2 white pawn
g2 white pawn
h2 white pawn
a1 white rook
d1 white queen
e1 white king
f1 white bishop
g1 white knight
h1 white rook
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Position after 7...Bb4+
Black has set a trap; if White tries to win a pawn by ...

5. cxd5 exd5 6. Nxd5?? (first diagram)

White thinks that the black knight on f6 is pinned to the queen and cannot be moved.

6... Nxd5! 7. Bxd8 Bb4+ (second diagram)

Black regains the queen as White has only one legal move to get out of check.

8. Qd2 Bxd2+

Harrwitz played the equally good 8...Kxd8, intending 9...Bxd2+.

9. Kxd2 Kxd8

Black comes out a minor piece ahead.

Notes[edit]

References[edit]