Achieving a checkmate usually involves a very strategic and tactical approach coordinated by multiple pieces at the right square during the right time.
Just the effort of achieving one makes me tremble with joy sometimes even when I played the game for years.
But I have wondered what is the least possible of moves for a player to even achieve a checkmate?
Believe it or not, I’ve never even thought about this even when I’ve won a tournament already! And yes, I never encountered it before (not until last week).
A fool’s mate is a theoretical checkmate equating the least amount of moves possible to end the game that works only with Black (where one move per player be counted as one), which sums up a total of a two-move game.
Otherwise known as the 2 move checkmate, it is a winning situation achieved by two consecutive pawn pushes by white, that enables the black Queen an opportunity to deliver mate on the opened diagonal without any escape tile or blocking piece able to prolong the game.
Why call it Fool’s Mate
The name already signifies a degree of foolishness just for the fun of falling into such a checkmate.
Have you ever wondered why was it called that way? Maybe perhaps the one who named it was just a depressed world hating sucker?
A beginner is of course more likely to fall for such a mistake, which just makes it that much important to know this in the first place!
Because it’s a blunder
A blunder is a decision made by a player that causes unprecedented positional failure and therefore, compromises certain desired advantage or equal opportunities for both players causing a losing game.
Blunders are a natural part of the game that every player hates but must live side by side.
This phenomenon occurs in all levels of chess from complete beginners to proud professionals (although beginners are more likely to commit the mistake).
It is a move that appears justifiable at first glance that however causes a very unfavorable result, usually only noticed by the player right around the time the move has already been played.
This can usually be classified by only one or a few sets of moves described to be so horrible that it single-handedly loses any winning chances for the player.
The decision can override any good moves committed by the player up until that point, as a blunder is all it takes for a position to be completely taken over by the opposing side.
It’s important to note that mistakes are not the same as blunders as their inherent characteristics to impact the game as well as the necessity to be taken advantage of are just naturally different.
Blunders are really terrible moves that usually cannot be remedied if an opponent is able to play even just sensible moves without executing a blunder on his own (it’s easier to spot a blunder than a mistake).
On the other hand, mistakes are more subtle and usually positional losing moves that are hard to take advantage of or even identify.
Most players can get away with such plays even those played amongst a very competitive and serious setting where little nuances matter.
And guess what? This is a blunder! The decision from white to push the f pawn is just literally asking for it (every beginner has fallen for something like this though) and is just one of those things that make your chest somewhat heavy (especially if you’re the one who’ve fallen for this).
Not every blunder though is considered just a temporal single move, as there are cases where a whole set of positional decisions made by the player has become the blunder itself (which makes it a series).
Maybe you can say the query as the “blunder of all blunders” making it the ultimate blunder, which is why it is the only blunder that ever been named a fool’s mate.
Adding to that, it is also the quickest possible way to lose in any Chess game! Imagine that a player can be so horrible to do something like this.
The player has to make the greatest blunder of all just to shorten the amount of time it takes to defend a checkmate, there are many ways after all to prevent the capture just by blocking and making escape tiles.
It doesn’t happen between pros
A blunder played between professional participants has never even hosted this kind of Checkmate, as most players hadn’t even allowed such a position to arise in the first place.
Of course, mistakes and blunders are everyday consequences of playing that occur even among the best of the best with the major difference being the quantity of these mistakes as well as the actual quality that made the huge difference to the result.
This one in particular I think would never even have a shot of appearing in the future, as this is just a well-known pattern on delivering a deadly check against the king using the queen that is usually easy to spot when such opening arises.
If pros can’t make the same mistake, it only further validates the idea that this is a more of an experience likely committed by beginners at that level hence why it may be called a fool’s (noob game’s term) mate.
The f4 pawn move might have accomplished a little in the opening (controlling the center square tiles of the early) but at a cost of making the king vulnerable temporarily (which is ok) with the proper follow-up (Nf3), this case however demonstrates how the weakness can be taken advantage of.
Pawn advances early in the game are usually executed in order to gain control the center, in hopes of furthering influence on tiles that allows more space to be had, such area gives room to establish piece development, creating a proper pawn chain, etc.
The usual approach to accomplish this task would be the popular e4, d4, or even c4, which are moves that directly seek influence among the targeted center tiles. F4 of course accomplishes some of these directives, well kind of, esshhh but there’s a problem.
The Kingside is a very vulnerable target at this phase of the game, as it is the side that is most likely where the castling (a move that displaces the king with the Rook) would be played.
It may not be that big of a problem with the side when played correctly, but usually have to be very careful when establishing long-term objectives.
Adding to the incredibly suspicious blunder of allowing the Queen to checkmate without any piece available to block the attack, the moves from White don’t even make sense from a positional point of view.
Even in a circumstance where the Queen land doesn’t deliver a direct checkmate, the position in itself is not acceptable taken into consideration the cost of opening the king too much (which is a weakness the opponent can take advantage of).
Pawns nearly advanced too far becomes liabilities as they create openings or vulnerabilities that can take advantage of.
The openings left in this particular pawn advance is an example of a bad decision applicable not only in the short term but also that long-term disadvantages.
The opposing player could easily block and undermine the two puny pawns advanced that far, as the player can’t even make a decent pawn chain (pawns side by side) to remedy the consequences of being attack multiple times.
Especially in this case, where the two pawns become so weak that they can’t even block the position on their own (fairly advanced pawns can prevent being undermined by defending each other or chaining side by side).
The F-pawn diagonal Pattern
Now you might wonder what can I take from all this? knowing that actual mate is pretty cool and all, but how can this be a lesson that last and not just a one-time thing and get done with it?
Glad you asked! There’s actually a pattern to be taken at the heart not just in this position, but to similar positions as well where this principle could be applied.
The idea can be critical when taking advantage of the F-pawn opening where Queen and Bishop could access the said diagonal.
It’s important after all to equip yourself with proper knowledge in converting a victory in any way you can.
Diagonal that Queen can access King
Upon start of the game, each player’s Kings are usually distant from any threats posed by any individual pieces (that includes the Queen of course).
Although there are certain positions where the king could be pressured early on, such doesn’t usually end in significant losses.
On a flip note however both f pawns are only defended by the king!(most pawns are defended once or twice by minor and major pieces).
This weak pawn is a tempting target for early attacks that could potentially introduce the king in a dangerous situation.
These are f-pawn for both sides btw :p (The ones that gets advanced)
A double attack after all to that specific weakness would force an immediate reaction to defend the diagonal that could threaten the King.
Even worse, a situation where the player actually relieves any pawn blocks to the diagonal making any check a potential checkmate!—This fool’s mate is a perfect sample of that;)
Every time an advance to the diagonal f pawn has been made, an opportunity for the opposition to deliver the potentially fatal check arises due to the diagonal access a Queen or a Bishop has.
This pattern is very helpful to remember especially in cases where this should apply, you should be able to encounter these one time or the other, as lots of popular openings take advantage of this particular principle.
This could help you score quick wins in situations where opponent has given the opportunity to execute the said vulnerability.
I hope you’re ready to tackle new possibilities with this knowledge in mind.
Power of the opening
In order to demonstrate just how much initiative this slight of inaccuracy can bring I’ve prepared a special game that we can analyze a little bit.
This game features a funny little trap that almost anyone can fall for some point (at least I do) and would be a good sample to express how important it is to keep watch of instances where the f pawn has been advanced.
Frank Melville Teed vs. Eugen Delmar (1896)
Here is the game that perfectly demonstrates how a weakened pawn structure from excessive King side pushes get thrashed, in a way that will be remembered for years to come ( I mean this was played in freaking 1896 and people like me still cite it till now).
To make a recap, players should take notice of too much King push that occurs in their own games, and so should you.
Before advancing those f-pawns you should ask yourself ” Am I putting the King in danger?” .
It helped me a lot in avoiding many known traps (even when I don’t even know them lol), so does this helped you too? I hope so.