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 mating attack on f7 (or f2 if Black is performing the mate).
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, en passant, s, and exchange. 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 scholar's mate
Unlike the fool's mate, which rarely occurs at any level, games ending in 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 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 time by attacking the c4-bishop and attaining easy ).
On move 3
After 1.e4 e5 2.Qh5 Nc6 3.Bc4, the cleanest way to defend against the mate threat is 3...g6. Should White renew the Qxf7 threat with 4.Qf3, Black can easily defend by 4...Nf6 (see diagram), and develop the f8-bishop later via fianchetto (...Bg7).
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 scholar's mate with 4.Qh5 is the only way for White to play for an advantage.
- The Danvers Opening (1.e4 e5 2.Qh5) and the Napoleon Opening (1.e4 e5 2.Qf3) are both aimed at threatening scholar's mate on the next move (3.Bc4). Although the Napoleon Opening is never seen in high-level competition, the Danvers Opening has occasionally been tried in tournaments by GM Hikaru Nakamura to achieve a practical middlegame position for White.
Name in other languages
- In some languages, including Dutch, Estonian, Esperanto, French, German, Czech, Portuguese, Spanish and Turkish: Shepherd's Mate
- In Italian: Barber's Mate
- In Persian, Greek and Arabic: Napoleon's Plan
- In Belorussian, Latvian, Russian and Ukrainian: Children's Mate
- In Serbian, Croatian, Danish, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Polish (where Fool's mate is known as scholar's mate), Slovakian and Slovenian: Shoemaker's Mate
- In Danish, Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian: School Mate
The scholar's mate has sometimes also been given other names in English, such as 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 and short engagement.
- Beale, Francis (1656). The Royall Game of Chesse-Play. 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.