In my first article on beginner mating patterns, we explored back rank mates, Queen mates on h7, Queen mates on g7, and smothered mates. This week we’ll explore the two beginner favorites: Scholar’s Mate and Fool’s Mate. However, though these mates in their purest, most well known form are indeed cheap and simplistic, they both present a key pattern that is easily expanded to some extremely complex, advanced mating combinations. I give them both here so that:
* You can make use of them if the opponent insists on mating himself in such a manner.
* You will avoid falling for them.
* You will fully understand why they work and how to make use of these patterns in more complex scenarios.
As for those players over 1400 who think this is too easy for them, check out the puzzles. You’ll never look at the Scholar’s and Fool’s mating patterns in the same way again!
SCHOLAR’S MATE and the WEAKNESS OF F7
Scholar’s Mate is all about the weakness of f7. If you think about it, you’ll quickly realize that black’s weakest pawn at the beginning of the game is f7 since it’s only defended by its King. This allows White to take liberties against that point:
1.e4 e5 2.Qh5 (threatening the e5-pawn) 2…Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6?? (Threatening white’s Queen, but missing the “small” threat created by white’s 3rd move.) 4.Qxf7 mate.
That was quick! However, Black could have easily avoided this fate by holding the tempting …Nf6 off for a moment and instead defending f7 by 3…Qe7 or 3…g6.
Beginners often get quite excited by this rapid crush, but a bit of experience teaches them that an opponent with any skills at all with easily avoid the mate. Moreover, they will also learn that bringing the Queen out too early is usually a mistake since less valuable enemy pieces can kick her about, causing White to lose valuable time.
Though the Scholar’s Mate is cheap stuff, it DOES teach a very valuable lesson: f7 (it doesn’t matter if there’s a pawn there or not) is a major fulcrum in many kingside attacks (don’t forget that our basic Smothered Mate called for a Knight mate on f7!).
Here’s a little-known (and quite advanced!) opening trap that starts with a “tap” against f7.
Next up is a wonderful example (in Puzzle form) of a lovely attack that starts with that oh-so-vulnerable f7-square:
As you can see, if f7 is weak then the whole a2-g8 diagonal might also cave if White has a Bishop (and/or a Queen) on that line (or able to go to that line). The pure Scholar’s showed this, the previous puzzle also showed it (both f7 and e6 collapsed), and our next puzzle also rams this point home:
FOOL’S MATE – DEATH DOWN the h5-e8 DIAGONAL
During a TV interview (over 30 years ago!), I was asked (off-screen) what the fastest mate is so that the newsman could challenge me to a game, get mated in this manner, and then ask me what the mate is called. He felt that me saying, “Fools mate!” would be a great end to the show.
That epic struggle went as follows (I was Black): 1.g4 e5 2.f3 Qh4 mate.
There are actually quite a few versions of this same mate. One classic is 1.f4 e5 2.fxe5 d6 3.exd6 Bxd6 4.Nc3?? Qh4+ 5.g3 Qxg3+! 6.hxg3 Bxg3 mate.
Bravo to those that noticed the tie-in to the Scholar’s Mate: In both instances (Fool’s Mate and Scholar’s Mate), the f7-square/pawn (or in white’s case, f2) is compromised. In the Fool’s Mate, the whole h5-e8 diagonal gets ravaged, but if a pawn remained on f7, and if it held firm, then neither mate would occur.
Though f7-Armegeddon is an important feature in both the Scholar’s and Fool’s mates, both mates also call for the beleaguered King to be in the center. But while the Fool’s Mate pattern (the breakdown of the h5-e8 diagonal) is only effective if the enemy King hasn’t castled, the Scholar’s pattern, which features f7-Armegeddon, can lead to pain along the a2-g8 diagonal, the h5-e8 diagonal, and the f1-f8 file. In other words, the f7-pattern can and does come into play against both central and castled Kings.
Here is the first recorded game that featured the basic “kill the h5-e8 diagonal” Fool’s Mate pattern:
The funny thing about this game is that it’s been repeated countless times, and has even occurred again and again in the 20th Century!
Here’s a game that featured both a Scholar’s Mate (threat) and a Fool’s Mate (reality):
The following puzzles should help solidify the Scholar’s Mate (death on f7) and Fool’s Mate (death on the h5-e8 diagonal) patterns that we’ve been discussing.
Our next puzzle has tons of hidden notes, so after you solve it (or try to solve it), DO check them out!