You probably know about Scholar's Mate, also called the Four-move Mate (or, incorrectly, Fool's Mate - that's a two move mate). Maybe you've tried it out yourself. But it's really not a good opening for White. Yes, you will win in four moves against opponents who are either weak or asleep, but if they're weak or asleep you'll beat them anyway. So don't try it yourself. And learn how to stop it.

1. e2-e4 e7-e5

2. Qd1-h5

First question: what would you play for Black here?

Do a CCT for your opponent to discover the THREAT. White's THREAT is Qh5xe5+ so first we must stop that.

Whatever you do don't fall for the ZIGZAG ATTACK: 2... g7-g6?? 3. Qh5xe5+ (FORKING KING AND ROOK) followed by 4. Qe5xh8 and Q takes everything else in sight.

So how can we defend Eddie? Think DCK as well as CCT. f7-f6 - not a legal move - Freddie's PINNED! Qd8-f6 - not a good developing move: brings the Queen out and blocks in the Knight on g8. Qd8-e7 - not a good developing move: brings the Queen out and blocks in the Bishop on f8. Bf8-d6 - not a good developing move: blocks in the d-pawn and the Bishop on c8. d7-d6 - not bad but blocks in the Bishop on f8. Nb8-c6 - an excellent developing move so that's what we'll play.

3... Nb8-c6

3. Bf1-c4 (Diagram)

Stop again and think of a move for Black.

Again, do a CCT for White and you'll find that he's THREATENING CHECKMATE with Qh5xf7. How can you stop it? In fact we can't stop it without breaking one of the rules. Ng8-h6 puts a Knight on the side (A KNIGHT ON THE RIM IS DIM!). It's also a bad move because White can play d2-d4 followed by Bc1xh6, and, if Black takes back, Qh5xf7#. d7-d5 stops the mate but loses a pawn. Qd8-e7 and Qd8-f6 are both OK but bring the Queen out early and block in a Bishop or a Knight. f7-f6 is still illegal - Freddie's PINNED! The move I would play is g7-g6, which GAINS TIME by THREATENING the White Queen.

4... g7-g6

4. Qh5-f3

What should Black play here?

Yet again, do a CCT for your opponent. You must learn to do this EVERY MOVE of EVERY GAME. You'll see that White is again threatening mate on f7. How can we stop it? We can block the Queen's line of attack by Qd8-f6, but White's Queen is open to attack on f3 so let's keep it on the board and play Ng8-f6, a simple developing move.

5... Ng8-f6

5. g2-g4 (Diagram)

Now what? Work out what White's trying to do before choosing your move.

White's idea is to play g4-g5, THREATENING the Knight, and, if the Knight moves, Qf3xf7#. So Black must act fast. Try to use your Knights to harass the White Queen.

5... Nc6-d4

That's the way to do it. It breaks our rule about not moving a piece twice, but that's OK as White has to move his Queen a third time in reply.

This move is in fact a KNIGHT FORK, forking f3 and c2. If White plays Qf3-e3 how would reply? Nd4xc2+, FORKING King, Queen and Rook. This is called a FAMILY FORK! So White must move his Queen to DEFEND c2.

6. Qf3-d1 d7-d5

Black's ahead in development so he opens up the position. This move attacks e4 with the Pawn and opens up the Bishop's line to attack g4.

7. e4xd5 Bc8xg4

8. f2-f3 (Diagram)

White's already moved Gerry. Now he moves Freddie as well. Moving both Freddie and Gerry in the opening is really asking for trouble.

How many pieces does White have developed? One! How many pieces does Black have developed? Three! Has White DEVELOPED his pieces? NO! Has he thought about KING SAFETY? NO! White has broken the rules so it's not surprising Black has a strong move. Can you find it!

8... Nf6-e4!

Walking into a FORK! Black sees that a Queen check on h4 will be strong so he moves his Knight to the most aggressive square he can find.

What happens if White plays f3xe4? Black plays Bg4xd1 - Freddie was PINNED. So White tries the other capture.

9. f3xg4

And how do you finish him off?

9... Qd8-h4+

10. Ke1-f1 Qh4-f2#

The KISS OF DEATH! It's only right that White, who tried to mate Black on f7, should end up getting mated on f2.

Let's try again and see if White can do any better this time.

1. e2-e4 e7-e5

2. Qd1-h5 Nb8-c6

3. Bf1-c4 g7-g6

4. Qh5-f3 Ng8-f6

We've seen these moves before. This time White tries a different idea.

5. Qf3-b3 (Diagram)

Again, you can take the Black pieces and try to find the best moves.

5... Nc6-d4

This one's not so easy to find. White's last move ATTACKED f7 a second time, THREATENING to take the pawn with check. Did you see that White has two pieces attacking f7, Bishop and Queen, and Black has one piece defending f7, his King? The obvious move to defend f7 again is Qd8-e7, but this move is better.

If White now plays 6. Bc4xf7+, Black must reply 6... Ke8-e7. Now White's Queen is THREATENED and must remain on the a2-g8 diagonal to DEFEND the Bishop on f7. So he plays 7. Qb3-c4. Now Black plays b7-b5, THREATENING the Queen again. If the Queen moves to a safe square Black will take the Bishop next move.

This variation is difficult to understand, so don't worry if you don't quite follow it.

Anyway, White doesn't fall for the trap and instead plays...

6. Qb3-c3 d7-d5

The same idea as in the previous game, opening up a line for the Bishop on c8.

7. Bc4xd5 Nf6xd5

8. e4xd5

Choose a move for Black here.

8... Bc8-f5

DEVELOPING with a threat. What's the idea of this move? Black's THREATENING a FORK on c2: Nd4xc2+ FORKING King and Rook.

See how both players use their pieces together to attack targets. Chess is a team game - your pieces work best if they work together.

9. d2-d3 (Diagram)

Blocking the Bishop's line to c2. Now Black has a very clever move. Use CCT and see if you can find it.

9... Bf8-b4!

Black sees that the White King and Queen are on the same diagonal. What happens if you put the Bishop on b4? White must take it. Does Black have any Checks, Captures or Threats in that position? Yes: Nd4xc2+, FORKING King, Queen and Rook. A FAMILY FORK.

There's another way to look at it as well. If only White's Queen wasn't there you could play Nd4xc2+ with a FORK. Can you attack the White Queen and force her away? Yes: Bf8-b4.

If you learn how to find moves like this you're well on the way to becoming a good chess player.

10. Qc3xb4 Nd4xc2+

Winning the Queen.

SCHOLAR'S MATE IS A SAD OPENING PLAYED BY SAD PLAYERS TO BEAT EVEN SADDER PLAYERS. Once you know it, and know how to stop it, DON'T play it. It's no better to win a game in 4 moves than in 40 moves. If you play something else instead you'll improve your chess much more quickly.

Some final words of advice:

After the moves 1. e2-e4 e7-e5 2. Bf1-c4, it's safer to play Ng8-f6 rather than Bf8-c5. Now if White plays Qd1-h5 you just take it and if he plays Qd1-f3 you play Nb8-c6 and, if you can, Nc6-d4.

Again, after 1. e2-e4 e7-e5 2. Qd1-f3, the easiest move for Black is Ng8-f6.


1. MAKE SURE YOU KNOW HOW TO STOP SCHOLAR'S MATE. After 1. e2-e4 e7-e5 2. Qd1-h5 you must first defend your e-pawn: Nb8-c6. Then after 3. Bf1-c4 you must defend your f-pawn: g7-g6, Qd8-e7 or Qd8-f6. Watch the f7 square ALL THE TIME until you have castled.

2. DON'T PLAY FOR SCHOLAR'S MATE YOURSELF: Bringing your Queen out early is NOT a good idea.

3. Don't play for traps. Always assume your opponent is going to find the best move.

4. If your opponent brings his Queen out early, use your MINOR PIECES - Knights and Bishops - to attack her.

5. Remember to CCT every move of every game: use it to look at YOUR OPPONENT'S CHECKS, CAPTURES and THREATS as well as your own.

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