Mating Calls

Dec 12, 2012, 2:48 PM |


1672 reprint of Barbier's version of ""The famous game of chesse-play"

One of the earliest English-language classifications of mates is found in the 1614 book by Arthur Saul, entitled: "The famous game of chesse-play truely discouered, and all doubts resolued; so that by reading this small booke thou shalt profit more then by the playing a thousand mates. An exercise full of delight; fit for princes, or any person of what qualitie soeuer. Newly published by A.S. Gent."


from the National Biography, vol. 50 (p.313)

A reprint of this same book in 1640 by Jo. Barbier made some additions and modifications.

From Saul's edition:
          The Diversitie of Mates
The Queenes Mate, a gracious Mate. 
The Bishops Mate, a gentle Mate.
The Knights Mate, a gallant Mate.
The Rookes Mate, a forcible Mate.
The Pawnes Mate, a disgraceful Mate. 
The Mate by discovery, the most industrious Mate of all.
The Mate in the corner of the Field, Alexanders Mate. 
The Mate in the middest of the Field, an unfortunate Mate.
The Mate on the side of the Field, a Cowards Mate. 
The Blinde Mate ("Blind Mate is that which is not seen at the moment it is given" -Richard Twiss, "Chess" 1787), a shameful Mate.
The Stale, a dishonourable Mate.
The Mate at two draughts, a Fooles Mate.

From Barbier's reprint:
The French call it Le Mat du Bergier, the Shepherds Mate, as implying, if Peasants would be Chesse-players, such a Mate might a man soone give them.


Two interesting names are Fooles Mate and Le Mat du Bergier.


The name, Fool's Mate, seems appropo and has retained that name since at least the 17th century and probably long before. I found it called, in French, Le Mat de l'Imbécile or simply Le Mat du Sot (both seemingly meaning Fool's Mate). While it's also referred to as Le Mat du Débutant (beginner's Mate), the most common current term seems to be Le Mat du Lion (Lion's Mate).

Now it get's interesting.  I've seen Fool's Mate also referred to in French as Le Mat de l'Écolier.  This translates roughly as Schoolboy's Mate, or possibly as Scholar's Mate.  It seems that a possible origin for the term Scholar's Mate could be derived from the interpetation of "schoolboy" as "scholar."

Scholar's Mate, however, as shown above, in French is called, Le Mat du Bergier (as Barbier called it) or Le Mat du Berger which means Shepherd's Mate.  In German Scholar's Mate is also Shepherd's Mate (Schäfermatt) as it is also in Spanish (Mate del Pastor) and Dutch (Herdersmat).  The Serbian Школски мат seems close to Scholar's Mate, along the same line as the French Le Mat de l'Écolier.
The Italian's called Scholar's Mate,  "Matto del Barbiere" meaning Barber's Mate.

 *According to "A Game at Chess: Thomas Middleton" by H.T. Howard-Hill, 1993, P.28, Barbier's first reprint of Saul's "Famous Game of Chesse-play" appeared in 1618, only 4 years after Saul's original.