I would like to learn about a few checkmates using very few moves. I know a one where you develop the knight and march it directly towards the King. Does anyone know the name of this mate and suggest others?

  • If you know the mate you're thinking about, can you post the moves? – Daniel May 24 '12 at 14:38
  • @Daniel why did you change the wordings of the question ? #Admin why are folks editing the questions for no reason ? – Jay D Mar 29 '18 at 17:00
  • 1. e4 e5 2. Qh5 Ke7 3.Qxe5# – Inertial Ignorance May 11 '19 at 17:41

There are probably as many quick mates as there have been first time players (since we all get caught in these at the start!) but here are a few common ones:

Fool's Mate

This is the shortest possible checkmate in a mere two moves:

[FEN ""]

1. f4 e5 2. g4 Qh4# 0-1

White can also play f3 instead of f4 or move the g pawn before the f pawn.

Scholar's Mate

This mating pattern is also sometimes referred to as "Fool's Mate" and there are two main patterns:

[FEN ""]

1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 (2. Qh5 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. Qxf7#) Nc6 3. Qf3 Bc5 4. Qxf7# 1-0

The key is that f7 is insufficiently defended and mate is delivered there.

Légal's Mate

Légal's Mate (also spelled as Légall's Mate) is probably the mate referenced in the question:

[FEN ""]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 d6 4.Nc3 Bg4  
5.h3 Bh5? 6.Nxe5! Bxd1?? 7.Bxf7+ Ke7 8.Nd5# 1-0
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    Legal's mate is quite cute. Isn't it? – rpattabi Nov 18 '12 at 8:48
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    Légal's Mate is the smartest mate on this page, I never thought about it. I could've mated at least 30 opponents with it! Damn I should have read your answer long ago. – Lynob Apr 8 '14 at 12:06
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    is 5.h3 even necessary in Légal's Mate? why bother kicking the bishop at all? I see this line so often it'll be a great one to add to my repertoire. – user1515 Aug 29 '14 at 10:54
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    After 6.Nxe5 black can reply with 6...Nxe5! which nets out to the loss of a pawn after 7.Qxh5 Nxc4 8.Qb5+. If white omits 5.h3, then the black knight on e5 will defend the bishop on g4 and white will be down a piece. – Andrew Aug 29 '14 at 12:33

For a short mating possibility in a very standard mainline opening, one can look to the Smyslov-Karpov variation in the Caro-Kann Defense:

[FEN ""]
[Result "1-0"]
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.Qe2 Ngf6?? 6.Nd6#

The most popular continuations are 5. Nf3, 5. Bc4 and 5. Ng5 (an aggressive try which Kasparov assayed a number of times against Karpov). The sneaky try 5. Qe2 just sets up a pin against Black's e-pawn, making the intended followup 5... Ngf6?? unplayable.

There are a mere 271 games in my database (out of several million) in which this 5. Qe2 appears, but one finds a few GMs giving it a go: Ivan Radulov, Oleg Nikolenko, Joe Gallagher (against as strong an opponent as IM Tibor Karolyi), even some guy named Alekhine (though, admittedly, only in a consultation game against a team of four amateurs). A 2300 player also tried it out against Yasser Seirawan on the black side; Seirawan didn't fall into the trap of course, but the 2300 did manage to get a draw out of the game.

If you're still reading, you're probably curious: out of the 271 games I have on record, in only 34 of them did black fall into the trap with 5... Ngf6. Alekhine's amateur foes were among the victims, and the highest rated victim was in a game Hans Speck (2140) - Nikolaus Mertens (2165) from the 1997 Liechtenstein Open. Most interestingly, on two of those 34 occasions, the white player failed to reply with 6. Nd6#. One was a player rated 1873 who went on to lose to his 2202 opponent; the other was rated 2264(!) and managed to win anyway against a 2113 on the black side.

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    This is an exact game sequence between GM Rapport and a 2050 odd player a few weeks ago. I can't imagine the horror. – RingMaster Aug 18 '14 at 22:05

The Scholar's and Fool's mates that others have cited are the shortest. They rely on two different but highly important principles chess players should remember. Scholar's mate relies on the opponent's insufficiently protected f2 (or ...f7) point, while Fool's mate relies on a weakening of the diagonal from h5 (or ...h4) to the opponent's king.

While you can actively try for Scholar's mate (and many weak amateurs fall for it), Fool's mate pretty much relies on very poor play by the opponent -- advancing the f and g pawns such that the critical diagonal is fatally weakened. A variant of Fool's mate is more likely to occur that involves several more moves and induces the opponent to make the required weakening moves. Consider the following sequence; White's fourth move is a fatal mistake leading to the loss of his queen or getting mated along the ...h4-e1 diagonal.

[FEN ""]
1. d4 Nf6 2. Nd2 e5 3. dxe5 Ng4 4. h3?? Ne3 5. fxe3 Qh4+ 6. g3 Qxg3#

An excellent old book that should probably be a new player's second or third book is "The Art of Checkmate", despite being so old it still uses descriptive notation:


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    White's fourth move is indeed fatal but 2.Nd2 is pretty terrible and the real cause of the problem. In general terms, it's bad because it blocks in the bishop; in this specific line, it blocks the queen's escape after 4... Ne3 and means the king has no escape either. – David Richerby Aug 20 '14 at 7:49

A mate in 2½ move, derived from Wayward Queen Attack, occurs if black moves Ke7 as a panic attempt to "protect" the e5 pawn with the king, which may occur if young players move too quickly:

[FEN ""]

1. e4 e5 
2. Qh5 Ke7 
3. Qe5#
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    The king must have super powers to protect that pawn XD – ferit Dec 29 '15 at 6:30
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    Step 1: touch the king and forget to say "j'adoube". – Federico Poloni Dec 11 '18 at 10:28
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    "j'adoube": To adjust – Morten Zilmer Dec 11 '18 at 10:43
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    @FedericoPoloni Yes, The correct procedure is: 1. e4 e5 (very reasonable moves). Then, while playing 2. Qh5, make a big circular movement which "accidentally" topples the black king. It is very likely that many black players would forget to say j'adoube in such a situation before placing the king upright again. – user1583209 May 11 '19 at 11:32
  • This is also probably more common than you may think, in older games. I seem to recall the penalty for an illegal move was at one stage to move the king – sjb-2812 Jun 9 at 15:27
[FEN "nbqnbrkr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/NBQNBRKR w KQkq - 0 1"]
[StartPly "3"]

1. d3 {Pyt Honisten eröffnet mit seinem Lieblingsbauern} g5 {Retho Riker antwortet mit seiner Standard-Antwort} 2. Qxg5# {Pyt Honisten ging zum nächsten Brett, während sich Retho Riker tränenreich vom Schach verabschiedete.}

With Chess960, also known as Fisher Random Chess, you can achieve it, too.

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The Blackburne-Shilling Gambit could result in a quick loss for White if he plays some fairly plausible moves:

[FEN ""]
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 {Italian opening} Nd4 4.Nxe5 {Free pawn!} Qg5 5.Nxf7 {Forking the queen and rook.} Qxg2 6.Rf1 {Preventing Qxh1} Qxe4+ 7.Be2 {Qe2 Nxe2 drops the queen} Nf3#  0-1
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There's a 2-move checkmate, termed fool's mate:

  1. f3 e5 2. g4 Qh4#

Fool's mate on Wikipedia

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    I played Fool's Mate when I was in the 7th or 8th grade. I decided that the chess match against a neighboring school was a really good time to "invent a new opening." I was wrong. – Tony Ennis May 27 '12 at 14:10
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    I also lost to it in my bizarre-paws-opening period, a careless day :D (as a 1900 ^^) – Nikana Reklawyks Nov 29 '12 at 18:56
[FEN ""]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. cxb5 a6 5. Nc3 axb5 6. e4 b4 7. Nb5 Nxe4 8. Qe2 Nf6 9. Nd6#
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To add to the Fool's Mate idea, this game left enough of an impression on me to remember it.

[FEN ""]
1. d4 f5 2. Bg5 {An enterprising line, threatening to weaken Black's pawn structure after the natural Nf6.} h6 3. Bh4 g5!? {This seems to trap the bishop, but the holes around the Black king are very dangerous. It is objectively OK, but only if Black does not play to win material.} 4. Bg3 f4? {This move is a definite mistake.} 5. e3! {Now fxg3 leads to Qh5#, and White threatens to rescue his bishop with exf4} h5 {Renewing the threat, now 6. exf4 h4 and the bishop is still trapped} 6. Bd3 {Objectively this move isn't the best, but it threatens Bg6#} Rh6?? 7. Qxh5+! Rxh5 8. Bg6#
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