Chess Openings Posts

Chess Noob #12- Simple Checkmates

Now that you know notation, we can start looking at some positions and games and analyzing, etc.  In other words, now you can really start to learn to become a better chess player by reading books and blogs and solving puzzles, etc.

Let’s look at a few simple checkmates that are standard 1st time player mates to learn.

Fool’s Mate

This first simple mate (and actually entire GAME) we’re going to learn is titled “Fool’s Mate” because “only a fool would make such moves”!  It is the fastest possible checkmate where the entire game lasts only TWO MOVES!

1. f3   e5; 2. g4   Qh4#

Scholar’s Mate

Scholar’s Mate gets attempted quite a lot in novice play and even some higher ranked players will go for it as a type of fear tactic, so it’s good to learn both what it is and how to stop it.

The moves for a Scholar’s Mate are: 1. e4   e5; 2. Qh5  Nc6; 3. Bc4   Nf6; 4. Qxf7#

There are a few variations of this from white’s side(such as bringing the Bishop out before the Queen, or bringing the Queen to f3 instead of h5), but that’s the basic idea.  As black, there are many ways to guard against this particular mate.

One way NOT to block is to threaten the Queen with g6.  This results in a dangerous trap that allows White to check with the Queen (Qxe5+), forking the King and Rook:

You may think of answering 2. Qh5 with Nc6.  This will still drop the e-pawn with check… not the worst thing in the world, but still not very ideal. 2. … Nc6 is still a good answer to block against the e-pawn capture.  When White brings the Bishop to c4 for the threat of a mate, you can now push the g-pawn to stop the mate as the King/Rook fork is no longer an issue thanks to the e-pawn being protected by a knight.

Quick Smothermate Trap

A Smothermate, as talked about in a previous blog, is when Checkmate with a Knight when the opponent’s King is blocked in by pieces (and can’t move) that can’t capture said Knight.  Here is a cool little smothermate I saw recently that was very fast…

1. e4  e5; 2. Nf3  Nc6; 3. Bc4  Nd4; 4. Nxe5  Qg5; 5. Nxf7 (forking the Queen and Rook and can’t be captured by the King because it’s protected by a Bishop):

then black resumes- 5. … Qxg2; 6. Rf1 (so it doesn’t get taken) Qxe4+; 7. Be2 (moving the queen there would just result in a queen capture… which, given the circumstances might be the better idea for white at this point) Nf3#

These three fast mates are all possible (and infact, Scholar’s Mate happens quite frequently in beginning chess players’ games).  Now that you know them, you can try them out on your friends, and protect against them when your friends try them on you!

Have a topic you’d like me to cover or a question you’d like to ask? send me an e-mail at

Opening Tips For Beginning Chess Players

For many beginners, the opening stage of the game can be intimidating. What pieces do you move? What should be your plan? There is also confusion because there are so many openings and variations to study. Opening study is important, but not nearly as important as many beginners think. Nonetheless, it is important to understand the basics of opening play. Let’s face it if you can’t start a game, how do you expect to win one! Here are some opening principles for beginning chess players. Keep in mind that these are general rules; of course there are exceptions.

1) Start the game with either 1. e4 or 1. d4. These are the most popular opening moves for a reason. It’s not enough to just play these moves, you have to understand why you are playing these moves. 1.e4 or 1. d4 immediately fight for central control.  1. e4 also opens the diagonals for the white queen on d1 and the white bishop on f1. The move 1. d4 has similar goals by controlling the center and opening up a key diagonal.

2) Move each piece only once in the opening. In chess there is a concept of time or tempo. If you move a piece more than once you are losing time that could be used to develop other pieces.

3) Fight for control of the center. The four central squares e4, e5, d4, and d5 are the most important squares on the board. The reason is that when most pieces are placed on one of these squares they control the most territory on the board.

4) Don’t bring out the queen too early. Since the queen is your most valuable piece, if you move her too early your opponent can gain time by attacking her. Although there are famous openings where this principle is violated(i.e. The Scandanavian Defense), it is a wise rule to follow for beginning players.

5) In general develop knights before bishops. The reason for this is that the best squares for the knights in the opening are usually f3,c3,f6,or c6. A knight placed on one of these squares controls the important central square. The best squares for your bishops are dependent on what is happening in the opening, and that may take a few moves to unfold.

We hope these guidelines help you in your opening play!