The same mating pattern may be reached by various move orders. For example, White might play 2.Qh5, or Black might play 2...Bc5. 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).
Scholar's Mate is sometimes referred to as the "Four-Move Checkmate", although there are other ways to checkmate in four moves.
|This article uses algebraic notation to describe chess moves.|
Avoiding Scholar's Mate
Unlike Fool's Mate, which rarely occurs at any level, games ending in Scholar's Mate are quite common among beginners. However, it is not difficult to parry.
On move 1
After 1. e4, Black can play a semi-open defense. Openings such as the French Defense or the Scandinavian Defense render Scholar's Mate unviable, while other openings such as the Sicilian Defense makes 2.Bc4 a bad move (1.e4 c5 2.Bc4? e6, intending ...d5, gaining time by hitting the c4-bishop and attaining easy equality).
On move 2
On move 3
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).
If Black played 2... Bc5 instead of 2...Nc6, then 3...g6?? is a blunder because after 4.Qxe5+ Black also loses the h8-rook to 5.Qxh8. The best move is 3... Qe7!, which protects both the f7-pawn and e5-pawn, and threatens 4...Nf6 to gain a tempo on the h5-queen. Play might continue 4. Nf3 (threatening the e5-pawn) Nc6 5. Ng5 Nh6, when White has no way to keep up the pressure and will soon have to pull his exposed pieces back.
Although a quick mate on f7 is almost never seen in play above beginner level, the basic idea underlying it—that the 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.
For example, 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. Another opening in which Scholar's Mate plays an important role is the Frankenstein-Dracula variation of the Vienna Game, 1. e4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. Bc4 Nxe4, when 4. Qh5, threatening Scholar's Mate, is the only way for White to play for an advantage.
Danvers Opening (1. e4 e5 2. Qh5?!) and 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, Danvers Opening has occasionally been tried in tournaments by Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura to achieve a practical middlegame for White.
Name in other languages
- In some languages, including Dutch, French, German, Portuguese, Spanish, and Turkish: Shepherd's Mate
- In Italian: Barber's Mate
- In Persian, Greek and Arabic: Napoleon's Plan
- In Russian: Children's Mate
- In Latvian: Shepherd's Mate or Children's Mate
- In Polish (where Fool's Mate is known as Scholar's Mate), Danish, German, Croatian, Hungarian, Slovenian, Slovakian and Hebrew: Shoemaker's Mate
- In Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian and Danish: School Mate
- In Esperanto: Stultula Mato (Fool's Mate)
Scholar's Mate has also occasionally been given other names in English, such as Schoolboy's Mate—which may be seen as better reflecting in modern English the sense of 'novice' which was the word Scholar's original connotation—and Blitzkrieg (German for "lightning war", meaning a very short and quick engagement) (Kidder 1960).
- Hooper, David; Whyld, Kenneth (1992), "Scholar's Mate", 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, St. Martins Press, ISBN 978-0-7091-4697-1