The opening is the most crucial phase in a chess game. It’s where you develop pieces to position yourself better in the middle game. It’s also where you lay traps to tempt your opponent into losing a move or a piece.
One such trick or trap notoriously used against newcomers is the Blackburne-Shilling trap. It’s one of those moves that leaves your opponent stunned for a bit because of its unusual third move.
Black plays this gambit opening to gain either a minor piece or a positional advantage.It’s one of those openings you would want to know, so you don’t get fooled when someone plays this opening.
In this article, you’ll learn the following details of the Blackburne-Shilling trap:
- What is the Blackburne-Shilling opening and its history
- Blackburne-Shilling trap and its variations
- How White should respond to this trap
- Our verdict on the Blackburne-Shilling trap and if you should play this opening.
The Blackburne-Shilling Gambit is an infamous chess opening known for its trap. It’s essentially Black’s response to the Italian Game opening.
The Blackburne-Shilling opening gets its name from Joseph Henry Blackburne, 一 an English master. He’d play this opening against beginners as they’re most likely to fall for a trap early in the game.
The main variation of the Blackburne Shilling opening ends in an impressive smothered mate. However, the Black heavily relies on naive White to capture free pawns.
Now that you know what Blackburne-Shilling gambit opening is, let’s check out the main moves:
Rather than continuing the Italian Game opening by playing Bc5, Black plays Ne5. Here in the Blackburne-Shilling opening, Black hopes for White to capture the e5 pawn with its knight (Nxe5).
Blackburne-Shilling Traps for Black
There are multiple Blackburne-Shilling traps laid out by Black. Let’s first start with the main variation of the Blackburne-Shilling opening below, where White makes terrible decisions one after the other.
1. Main variation of Blackburne-Shilling Trap
The Blackburne-Shilling trap depends on the White knight to capture the e5 pawn 4. Nxe5 and f7 pawn 5. Nxf7. Once the White falls into the trap, Black pulls out its queen to give a fork at Ne5 and g2.
After 5. Nxf7, the Black queen attacks the rook at h1 after capturing the g2 pawn. What follows is an ingenious smothered mate.
This was an actual game played between Muehlock and Kostic in 1911.
There are other ways through which White can delay the loss after Nxf7. But it’ll end up with White losing its queen at the seventh move by playing Qe2 instead of Be2 to save itself from a checkmate.
2. Second variation of Blackburne-Shilling Trap – Bxf7
Instead of playing Nxf7 in the fifth move, White takes the pawn with its bishop (5.Bxf7). Here, White gains momentum and forces Black to rethink their strategy.
The king has two options 一 5…Kd8 or Ke7. Kd8 is better than Ke7 as the king is protected by d7 and c7 pawns at the d8 square. White castles king-side, followed by c3 attack on the Nd4, and then develops its rook at e1.
Although Black is a knight up in this variation, White is at an advantage here as the Black king has been moved. This means Black can’t castle and leaves itself open to attack.
So White is in an overall better position here.
3. Third variation of Blackburne-Shilling Trap – Ng4
Here, White plays 5.Ng4 instead of taking the f7 pawn with its bishop or knight. This is in response to the 4…Qg5 where the Black queen gives a fork at Ne5 and g2.
White hopes to stop the fork by saving its knight at e5 and g2 pawn by moving its knight from e5 to g4.
But, as it turns out, Black plays 5…d5!! and attacks the light-color bishop with its pawn. The bishop at c8 also attacks the knight at g4. Thus, making the previous knight move pointless.
You can say that 5.Ng4 is a blunder for White.
White Response to Blackburne-Shilling Trap
The Blackburne-Shilling Gambit opening counts on White to play into its trap. The traps laid out by Black doesn’t force White to respond the way it wants.
White can play better moves to position itself favorably than black within the first five moves. White just has to remember not to take the e5 pawn.
Black has already moved its b8 knight twice in the opening, which is against the opening principles. So White can either castle king-side or exchange the knight at e5.
Among 4.O-O and 4.Nxd4, White is slightly better off with O-O. This is because you’re free to attack Black from the next move as the White king is safely castled.
TSOR’s Verdict: Blackburne-Shilling Trap
The Blackburne-Shilling Trap is a good opening to play against chess beginners. You can also play this gambit opening in bullet games as your opponent wouldn’t have the time to think about the traps thoroughly.
But beware, this opening trap won’t work against intermediate and above players as they’ll simply exchange the knight or go for a short castle. This will leave you with a positional disadvantage at the beginning itself.
White will have completed the three main principles of the opening development 一 develop minor pieces, get the king to safety, and control the center. In contrast, Black will have completed only one and violated an opening rule of not moving the same piece twice.
So, all in all, Blackburne-Shilling Trap is for those who’re looking to surprise the opponent in a casual online game. We don’t recommend playing it in a serious setting.