6 Top Checkmate Moves
Why Speed Matters
Chess is known as one of the oldest and best games of strategy. Since its inception and earliest form, it has left an indelible mark on the history of board games. Throughout its development, speed became the focus of new theories of victory.
Because chess was designed with unspoken rules allowing copious amounts of time for each player to make a move, matches could take hours to complete. Sometimes a day would pass before a victor was named.
As chess gained popularity, time constraints were added to increase the competitive nature of the game. This allowed more structured competitions, the increase of international play, and eventually the development of the International Chess Federation (FIDE).
Chess has always been the subject of intense study. Theories of the quickest path to victory have been produced in books for decades, and experts on the subject are always looking for new and innovative ways to play the game.
Some of the best checkmate moves have become the stuff of legend among chess enthusiasts. Dropping a name like Boden or Légal in the right company sets you apart as an insider in the sphere of experts.
While checkmate moves are abounding in the world of chess, we will examine six of the best moves for victory.
1. Fool’s Mate
Sometimes called the two-move checkmate, the Fool’s Mate is the oldest and most popular strategy for a quick chess game. The name comes from the opening mistake that White must make for this simple trick to work.
As the first player to move, White must make two crucial errors. First, they must open the game with their kingside pawn moving to f3. If their second move is a knight’s pawn to g4, then the Fool’s Mate is almost guaranteed.
The reason these two moves are so detrimental to White’s game is that they immediately weaken the position of the king. Left with no means of defense, the king is vulnerable to checkmate when Black swings their queen to h4.
While the Fool’s Mate is more likely to happen among beginners to the game, it’s an important strategy to keep tucked away as it delivers a quick victory.
2. Smothered Checkmate
This four-move checkmate trick mimics the Fool’s Mate in that it capitalizes on the inability of White’s king to escape, thereby “smothering” it and offering a quick victory.
This trick is less common than others, as more experienced players will rarely leave their king to be smothered by its surrounding pieces. It also requires some valuable sacrifice on Black’s part to compel White to leave their king smothered.
A simple illustration of the trick begins with White’s pawn moving from e2 to e4. Black can respond with a pawn to e5. White’s next move should be the kingside knight to e2. Black then releases its queenside knight, sliding to c6. If White’s next move is to free the queenside knight to c3, Black can quickly trap the king by moving its active knight to d4.
These particular steps need not occur at the beginning of the game. The Smothered Mate can occur at any point in the match if the opponent’s king becomes surrounded.
3. Scholar’s Mate
This well-known pattern of victory is centered around attacking the weak f7 pawn. Because the king only defends it, the pawn is a good target for an opening move. For this reason, the Scholar’s Mate is one of the fastest ways to bring about a checkmate.
A skilled player will likely see this opening attack coming. It’s relatively simple to defend against if you know what you’re doing. But for someone just starting in their exploration of chess, the Scholar’s Mate is an excellent four-move checkmate to have at hand.
4. Légal’s Mate
This common trap tends to come about within the first few opening moves. It is characterized by White sacrificing their queen. If Black accepts the sacrifice and moves to take the queen, a checkmate can occur with a follow-up move from a minor piece.
The trap is named for Sire de Légal (1702-1792), a famous French chess player who was considered one of the best players in the world in the 1730s.
5. Hippopotamus Mate
Also called the Hippopotamus Defence, this pattern is used to describe multiple irregular chess openings. In this move, Black moves all their pawns to the sixth rank in the opening and develops some other pieces to the seventh rank.
When it works, you can provoke your opponent to make an extreme move that allows you to put the king in checkmate. Ideally, Black would have a solid position from which to gauge appropriate reactions to White’s actions in three moves.
6. Boden’s Mate
English chess master Samuel Boden once employed a shocking sacrifice that cleared diagonal space, allowing him to put his opponent’s king in checkmate.
Boden’s Mate is characterized by two bishops on crossing diagonals with the opponent’s king blocked in. This move is almost always preceded by some incredible sacrifice on White’s part, as that sacrifice opens up the diagonals and allows the bishops to find their positioning.