Today we'll talk about the positions with the shortest possible checkmates. I almost hear your question: “Are you talking about checkmate in one move?” No, we actually discussed this kind of checkmates here, but today we will talk about checkmates you can deliver faster than in one move! Do they exist? Well, if you read our series about “Impossible checkmates” then you'll know that there is nothing impossible in chess. So let's start with the next position where White checkmates in a half-move!
Checkmate in a half-move?? That's impossible for sure! But if you are reading this article around New Year's eve (the time when all kind of miracles happen) and most importantly have a great sense of humor, then solving this problem will be a piece of cake!
The solution is simple: you lift your Nf6 like if you are going to move it somewhere and this is the first half of a chess move. But now your knight doesn't block the bishop anymore, so it is a discovered check. Meanwhile your knight still covers the g8 and h7 squares, so this is a checkmate! Easy, right?
Now try to solve the next two puzzles on your own. Just like in the diagram above, you need to checkmate Black king in a half-move in both positions.
Puzzle One: White moves his Ra1 to d1 and finishes his castle to the queenside which delivers a checkmate.
Puzzle Two: Since the last move by Black was e7-e5, White removes the black pawn from the board like if he captures it en passant (a half-move), but doesn't complete the move by moving his own pawn from d5 to e6. Checkmate!
So, if it is possible to checkmate in a half-move, why not checkmate in zero moves? Look at the next position:
Here the solution is very simple. You don't make any moves and just turn the board 180 degrees!
And finally let me offer you a super test! It will require all the ‘skills’ you've learned today! It is a checkmate in half a move again!
Are you ready for a solution? OK, here it is: first you turn the board 90 degrees to the left (which requires zero chess moves), which leads to a position with white pawn on the eighth rank. It happened because earlier White played e7-e8 (the first half-move), but didn't finish his move. Now you finish the job by promoting the pawn into a knight (the second half-move), which leads to a checkmate!
Happy New Year, folks!