# Fool's mate

Fool's Mate
 a b c d e f g h 8 8 7 7 6 6 5 5 4 4 3 3 2 2 1 1 a b c d e f g h
Fool's Mate – White is checkmated.
Moves1. (f3, f4 or g4)
1... (e6 or e5)
2. (g4 if 1. f3 or 1. f4,
or either f3 or f4 if 1. g4)
2... Qh4#
OriginGioachino Greco (c. 1620),
via Francis Beale (1656)
ParentBarnes Opening,
Bird Opening,
or Grob's Attack

In chess, Fool's Mate, also known as the "two-move checkmate", is the checkmate delivered after the fewest possible moves from the game's starting position.[1] It can be achieved only by Black, giving checkmate on the second move with the queen. Fool's Mate received its name because it can only occur if White commits an extraordinary blunder. Even among rank beginners, this checkmate rarely occurs in practice.

The mate is an illustration of the kingside weakness shared by both players along the f- and g-files during the opening phase of the game. Black can be mated in a complementary situation, although this requires an additional move. A player may also suffer an early checkmate if the f- and g-pawns are advanced prematurely and the kingside is not properly defended, as shown in historical miniature games recorded in chess literature.

## Example

The Fool's mate was named and described in The Royall Game of Chesse-Play, a 1656 text by Francis Beale that adapted the work of the early chess writer Gioachino Greco.[2]

Prior to the mid-19th century there was not a prevailing convention as to whether White or Black moved first; according to Beale, the matter was to be decided in some prior contest or decision of the players' choice.[3] In Beale's example Black was the player to move first, with each player making two moves to various squares or "houses", after which White achieved checkmate.

The Fooles Mate

Black Kings Biſhops pawne one houſe.
White Kings pawne one houſe.
Black kings knights pawne two houſes

White Queen gives Mate at the contrary kings Rookes fourth houſe

— Beale, The Royall Game of Chesse-Play[4]

Beale's example can be paraphrased in modern terms (shown above), where White always moves first, algebraic notation is used, and Black delivers the fastest possible mate after each player makes two moves:

1. f3 e6
2. g4 Qh4#

There are eight distinct ways that Fool's mate can be reached.[1] In the sequence there are three independent points where one of two options may be chosen, resulting in ${\displaystyle 2^{3}=8}$ possibilities. White may alternate the order of movement of the f- and g-pawns, Black may play either e6 or e5, allowing the queen to move, and White may move its f-pawn to f3 or f4. Hooper and Whyld expressed this generalized sequence as 1. g4 e5 (or e6) 2. f3 (or f4) Qh4#.[1]

## Variations

Similar mating patterns can occur early in the game. White can mate Black using an extra turn, and historical games illustrate the early weakness alongside the kingside f- and g-files, exploited in Fool's Mate.

### White to mate in three moves

 a b c d e f g h 8 8 7 7 6 6 5 5 4 4 3 3 2 2 1 1 a b c d e f g h
A problem with White to mate instead, given by Fischer and Polgár.

It is possible for White to achieve a very similar checkmate. When the roles are reversed, however, White requires an extra third turn or half-move, known in computer chess as a ply. In both cases, the principle is the same: a player advances their f- and g-pawns such that the opponent's queen can mate along the unblocked diagonal. A board position illustrating White's version of the Fool's Mate—with White to mate—was given as a problem in Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess, and also as an early example in a compendium of problems by László Polgár.[5] The solution in Fischer's book bore the comment "Black foolishly weakened his King's defenses. This game took three moves!!"[6] One possible sequence leading to the position is 1. e4 g5 2. d4 f6?? 3. Qh5#.

A possibly apocryphal variant of Fool's Mate has been reported by several sources. The 1959 game 1. e4 g5 2. Nc3 f5?? 3. Qh5# has been attributed to Masefield and Trinka, although the players' names have also been reported as Mayfield, Mansfield, Trinks, or Trent.[7][8][9][10][11] Further, a similar mate can occur in From's Gambit: 1. f4 e5 2. g3? exf4 3. gxf4?? Qh4#.

There is another possible three move mate for white, 1. e4 e5 2. Qh5 Ke7?? 3. Qxe5#.

### Teed vs. Delmar

Teed vs. Delmar, 1896
 a b c d e f g h 8 8 7 7 6 6 5 5 4 4 3 3 2 2 1 1 a b c d e f g h
After 6...Rh6?? White mates in two moves.

A well-known trap in the Dutch Defence occurred in the game Frank Melville Teed–Eugene Delmar, 1896:[12][13]

1. d4 f5 2. Bg5 h6 3. Bh4 g5 4. Bg3 f4

It seems that Black has won the bishop, but now comes ...

5. e3

Threatening Qh5#, a basic Fool's Mate.

5... h5 6. Bd3?!

Probably better is 6.Be2, but the move played sets a trap.

6... Rh6??

Defending against Bg6#, but ...

7. Qxh5+!

White sacrifices his queen to draw the black rook away from its control of g6.

7... Rxh5 8. Bg6#

### Greco vs. NN

Greco vs. NN
 a b c d e f g h 8 8 7 7 6 6 5 5 4 4 3 3 2 2 1 1 a b c d e f g h
Final position after 8.Bg6#

A similar trap occurred in a game published by Gioachino Greco in 1625:

1. e4 b6
2. d4 Bb7
3. Bd3 f5?
4. exf5 Bxg2?
5. Qh5+ g6
6. fxg6 Nf6??

Opening up a flight square for the king at f8 with 6...Bg7 would have prolonged the game. White still wins with 7.Qf5! Nf6 8.Bh6 Bxh6 9.gxh7 Bxh1 (9...e6 opens another flight square at e7; then White checks with 10.Qg6+ Ke7) 10.Qg6+ Kf8 11.Qxh6+ Kf7 12.Nh3, but much slower than in the game.[14]

7. gxh7+! Nxh5 8. Bg6#

## References

1. ^ a b c Hooper, David; Whyld, Kenneth (1992). The Oxford Companion to Chess (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 143. ISBN 9780198661641.
2. ^ Beale, Francis (29 August 2021). The Royall Game of Chesse-Play. babel.hathitrust.org. p. 17, .pdf p. 49.
3. ^ Beale 1656, p. 10 (.pdf p. 42).
4. ^ Beale 1656, p. 17 (.pdf p. 49).
5. ^ Polgár, László (1994). Chess: 5334 Problems, Combinations, and Games. Tess Press. p. 57. ISBN 9781579121303. Problem No. 14.
6. ^ Fischer, Bobby; Margulies, Stuart; Mosenfelder, Donn (1972). Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess. Bantam. pp. 95–96. ISBN 9780553263152. Problem No. 73.
7. ^ Mike Fox and Richard James (1993). The Even More Complete Chess Addict. Faber and Faber. p. 177.
8. ^ Winter, Edward (2005). Chess Facts and Fables. McFarland & Co. pp. 253–254. ISBN 978-0-7864-2310-1.
9. ^ Edward G. Winter (August 2006). "Chess Notes 4493. Short game".
10. ^ Edward G. Winter (August 2006). "Chess Notes 4506. Short game (C.N. 4493)".
11. ^ Averbakh, Yuri Lvovich; Beilin, Mikhail Abramovich (1972). Путешествие в шахматное королевство (in Russian). Fizkultura i sport. p. 227.
12. ^ "Teed vs. Delmar". Retrieved December 16, 2020.
13. ^ Edward G. Winter (September 3, 2006). "Chess Notes 4561. 1 d4 f5 2 Bg5".
14. ^ Lev Alburt (2011). Chess Openings for White, Explained. Chess Information Research Center. p. 509.