Traps for Ruy Lopez: [Mortimer, Noahs Ark, Tarrash, Fishing Pole]

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If you’re a fan of Ruy Lopez opening, you’ll know how positional and solid this line is. But you might wonder – Are there any traps in this opening? It’s very similar to the Queen’s Gambit in this regard. Quiet but deceptive.

In this article, we’ll cover 4 traps in the Ruy Lopez –

  • The Mortimer
  • Noah’s Ark
  • Tarrasch
  • Fishing Pole.

This article uses chess notation throughout. If you have never learned notation before, do not be scared. It is very simple to learn, I have a complete chess notation guide, and you will fully understand it in less than an hour. And your chess will improve heaps.

1 – Mortimer Trap

This trap is named after James Mortimer. It’ll remind you of a famous chess strategy – ‘Play dumb to decieve your opponent.’

Here’s how the trap starts – Click on any move to see the board and scroll through the moves.


1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6
{is the classic Ruy Lopez Opening, and Knight to f6 initiates Berlin Defence}

4. d3 Ne7

{With the opening white pawn on e4 now hanging, d3 is played and here is the beginning of the Mortimer trap, when we move the knight back Ne7.

This is the main idea behind Mortimer Trap. Black intentionally plays a ‘bad move’ [Ne7], leaving the black pawn on e5 hanging and ripe for the picking.

Can white resist the free pawn on e7? of course not..}

5. Nxe5?? c6

{Now we are in full flow. Falling prey to Black’s trap. Play continues attacking the white bishop on b5 by pushing out c file pawn..}

{Opening the d8-a5 diagonal for the queen. White prevents it with}


{…and sets up a mate in one.

6.Ba4 or 6.Bc4 is met with 6…Qa5+ 7.Nc3 Qxe5, winning a piece.}

6… d6!

{Black avoids the mate and now White loses a piece by force.}

7.Ba4 b5!

{Forking the bishop and knight.}

8.Bb3 bxc4 *

{Black wins a piece.}


How to avoid falling into the Trap?

The best line for White is to castle 5.0-0. The position remains equal. Taking the pawn on e5 is poisonous. Don’t be deceived by Black’s unusual tactic.

2 – Noah’s Ark Trap

The structure of Black pawns a6, b5 and c4 resembles Noah’s Ark. This might be the reason behind its name.

The trap starts with 1.e4 – Click on any move to show the board

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 d6 5.d4 b5 6.Bb3 Nxd4 7.Nxd4 exd4

{Up until this point everything’s fine.}

8.Qxd4?? c5

{However, this is a blunder. White’s best continuation is to gambit a pawn with 8.c3! It turns out that it’s Black who is under pressure after 8.c3! move. There are some important lines here, but that’s a topic for another article someday.

In the main continuation, Black plays 8…c5 Threatening to trap the bishop on b3 with …c4.}

9. Qd5 Be6

{White counterattacks the rook, hoping to gain time. Black plays Be6

Supporting the a8-rook and attacking the queen at the same time.}

10.Qc6+ Bd7 11.Qd5 c4 *

{The bishop is trapped and White loses a piece.}


How to avoid falling into the Trap?

As mentioned earlier, 8.c3! is actually a dangerous line for Black if they don’t know how to play. Not White, but Black! White gives up a pawn to accelerate their development and open lines for their pieces.

3 – Tarrasch Trap

The name of this trap comes from the great Siegbert Tarrasch. He played it with the White pieces and surprisingly, two strong players fell for it, including Zuckertort (who played a World Championship match with Stenitz!)

The trap starts with

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Nxe4

This is the Open Variation of the Ruy Lopez.

6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.dxe5 Be6 9.c3 Be7 10.Re1 O-O 11.Nd4

Upto this point, everything is standard opening theory. Now, Black makes a mistake with


And White utilizes the deadly pins along the d-file and a2-g8 diagonal with


Now if 12…Qxe6, White plays13. Rxe4 gaining a piece. Black cannot take with 13…dxe4 as White would capture 14.Bxe6, winning the queen.

And if


White plays


Once again, gaining a piece. 13…dxe4 is impossible because of 14.Qxd7, losing the queen.

How to avoid falling into the Trap?

Instead of 11…Qd7, Black should play 11…Nxd4. The position remains roughly equal and has been tested a lot in top level practice.

4 – Fishing Pole Trap

We aren’t sure about the origins behind this trap. Our guess is that Black offers a bait which White accepts, without realizing that it will take them to their doom. Just like fishing at sea. (please forgive my fishing analogy. I know nothing about fishing so feel free to correct it.)

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6

The Berlin Defense once again!

4.O-O Ng4 5.h3 h5

This marks the beginning of the Fishing Pole trap. Black sacrifices the knight as a bait. This kind of sacrifice is a very common theme in a lot of chess openings, apart from the Ruy Lopez. If White takes the knight with


They land up in big trouble.


The h-file is opened up and the Black rook and queen are ready to join in on the action!

7.Ne1 Qh4

With two heavy pieces staring down the h-file, the White king cannot escape anywhere. White could try the desperate

8. f3

But after


Their king on g1 remains boxed. Checkmate on the next move is unavoidable.

9.Nc3 Qh1#

How to avoid falling into the Trap?

Here it’s important that White doesn’t accept the bait. Instead of 6.hxg4, White must play 6.d3.

The key is to keep the h-file closed until the other pieces are developed. Only once the White king feels safe, they can think of taking on the knight on g4.

In principle, White is slightly better after 6.d3, thanks to their lead in development.


Most of the traps are subtle in the Ruy Lopez. You’ll need to think carefully if you aren’t aware of them. That being said, if you know the correct way to continue, you should have no problems at all. We hope you enjoyed the traps and found them useful to learn.

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