What is Noah’s Ark trap in chess?

Answered by Frank Schwing

Noah’s Ark trap in chess is a term used to describe a specific type of trap that can occur in the Ruy Lopez opening. This trap involves trapping a white bishop on the b3-square with black pawns. The reason behind this name is uncertain, but it is often used to refer to a group of traps in which the bishop is confined in a similar manner.

I have encountered this trap a few times in my own games, and it can be quite frustrating if you fall into it. The Ruy Lopez is a popular opening that begins with 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5, and it aims to establish a strong central presence for white. However, if black plays accurately and sets up the trap, white can find themselves in a difficult position.

The Noah’s Ark trap typically arises after the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 b5 5.Bb3 Na5. This move by black might seem strange at first, as it voluntarily moves the knight away from the center. However, its purpose becomes clear in the next few moves.

After 5…Na5, white often plays 6.d4, aiming to open up the center and gain control. Black then continues with 6…Nxb3 7.axb3, capturing the pawn on b3 with the knight. At this point, white might think that capturing the knight with 8.dxe5 is a good idea, but this is where the trap is set.

Black plays 8…d6, attacking the white bishop on b3. White’s only good move is to play 9.exd6, as capturing the knight with the bishop would result in losing the bishop after 9…Bxd6. However, after 9.exd6, black plays 9…Bxd6, and now the bishop is trapped.

The black pawns on a6 and c6 prevent the white bishop from escaping, and it is unable to retreat to b2 or a4. White’s position becomes cramped, and black gains a significant advantage. It is crucial for white to be aware of this trap and avoid falling into it.

The Noah’s Ark trap in chess is a term used to describe a situation in the Ruy Lopez opening where a white bishop becomes trapped on the b3-square by black pawns. It is important to be cautious and avoid this trap to prevent finding oneself in a difficult position.