The same mating pattern may be reached by various move orders. For example, White might play 2.Bc4. In all variations, the basic idea is the same: the queen and bishop combine in a simple , occurring on f7 for White or on f2 for Black.
The scholar's mate is sometimes referred to as the four-move checkmate, although there are other ways for checkmate to occur in four moves.
The scholar's mate was named and described in The Royall Game of Chesse-Play, a 1656 text by Francis Beale which adapted the work of the early chess writer Gioachino Greco. The example given above is an adaptation of that reported by Beale.
The Schollers Mate.
White kings pawne one houſe.
Black kings pawne the ſame.
White Queen to the contrary kings Rookes fourth houſe
Black Queens knight to her Biſhops third houſe
White kings Biſhop to the queens Biſhops fourth houſe
Black kings knight to the kings Biſhops third houſe
White queen takes the contrary kings Biſhops pawne gives mate.— Beale, The Royall Game of Chesse-Play
All of the details are coherent from the modern perspective except for the first moves by each player—if Black's pawn advances only one square, this prevents White's bishop from supporting the white queen to give mate. Beale's text was an early modern account of the rules and tactics of chess, including concepts such as the ability of a pawn to advance two squares on its first move, the en passant capture, , and exchanges. However, the document treated a then-exotic subject during the early days of printing; consequently the publisher attached a list of errata at the back, following publication. Thus, the text "one houſe" describing the first move (advancing one square) may have been a mistake.
Avoiding the scholar's mate
Unlike the fool's mate, which rarely occurs at any level, games ending in the scholar's mate are quite common among beginners. It is not difficult to parry, however.
On move 1
After 1.e4, Black can play a semi-open defense instead of 1...e5. Openings such as the French Defense (1...e6) or the Scandinavian Defense (1...d5) render the scholar's mate unviable, while other openings such as the Sicilian Defense (1...c5) make 2.Bc4 a bad move (1.e4 c5 2.Bc4? e6, intending ...d5, gaining by attacking the c4-bishop and attaining easy ).
On moves 2 and 3
After 2. Qh5
White does not threaten Qxf7# yet, but does threaten Qxe5+. The cleanest way to defend against this is 2...Nc6, developing a knight and protecting the pawn. (2...d6 is also good.) After 3. Bc4, Black can stop the mate with 3...g6; White can threaten mate again with 4. Qf3, but this can be stopped with 4...Nf6. Black can later fianchetto the f8-bishop (...Bg7).
After 2. Bc4
The most popular response to 2. Bc4 is 2...Nf6, the Berlin Defence, which immediately renders the scholar's mate non-viable.
In the continuation 2...Bc5 (the Classical Defence) 3. Qh5, Black can defend against both the scholar's mate and the threatened 4. Qxe5+ with 3...Qe7, intending to gain a tempo later with 4...Nf6. The further continuation 4. Nf3 (threatening Nxe5) Nc6 5. Ng5 g6 (diagram) 6. Qf3? Qxg5 7. Qxf7+ Kd8 leaves White with no checkmate and no good way to defend against both ...Nd4, threatening the c2-pawn, and ...Qf6, exchanging queens.
In other openings
Although a quick mate on f7 is almost never seen in play above beginner level, the basic idea underlying it—that f7 and f2, squares defended only by the kings, are weak and therefore good targets for early attack—is the motivating principle behind a number of chess openings.
- After 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 (the Two Knights Defense), White's most popular continuation is 4.Ng5, attacking f7, which is awkward for Black to defend. The Fried Liver Attack even involves a sacrifice of the knight on f7.
- In the Frankenstein–Dracula Variation of the Vienna Game (1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bc4 Nxe4), threatening checkmate with 4.Qh5 is the only way for White to play for an advantage.
- The Modern Defense, Monkey's Bum variation involves White threatening a Scholar's mate with an early Qf3.
Among English speakers, the scholar's mate is also known as the schoolboy's mate (which in modern English perhaps better connotes the sense of "novice" intended by the word scholar's) and Blitzkrieg (German for "lightning war", meaning a quick victory).
The names of the scholar's mate in other languages are as follows:
- in Basque, Catalan, Czech, Dutch, Estonian, Esperanto, French, German, Portuguese, Slovak, Spanish, Turkish: shepherd's mate
- in Czech, Croatian, Danish, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Polish, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian: shoemaker's mate
- in Belarusian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Russian, Ukrainian: children's mate
- in Bosnian, Danish, Finnish, Macedonian, Norwegian, Serbian, Swedish: school mate
- in Arabic, Greek, Persian: Napoleon's mate (plan, trap, move)
- in Italian: barber's mate
- Beale, Francis (1656). The Royall Game of Chesse-Play. Trattato del nobilissimo giuoco degli scacchi. English. London. p. 17, .pdf p. 49.
- Beale 1656, p. 17 (.pdf p. 49).
- Beale 1656, pp. 1–17 (.pdf pp. 33–49).
- Beale 1656, pp. 121–122 (.pdf pp. 161–162).
- Kállai, Gábor (1997). Basic Chess Openings. Everyman Chess. p. 7. ISBN 978-1-85744-113-0.
- (Kidder 1960)
- Hooper, David; Whyld, Kenneth (1996) . The Oxford Companion to Chess (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-280049-3.
- Kidder, Harvey (1960). Illustrated Chess for Children. Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-05764-4.
- Sunnucks, Anne (1970). "Scholar's Mate". The Encyclopaedia of Chess (2nd ed.). St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0-7091-4697-1.