Scholar’s Mate is an Initiation
As soon as most players find out someone is new to the game of chess, they try to beat them as fast as possible to embarrass them. Scholar’s Mate (the “four-move checkmate”) is a big part of that.
And if someone tells you they’re so gifted they’ve never lost a game within ten moves, don’t believe them.
Anyway, the whole premise of Scholar’s Mate is an attack on the f7-square.
This is the only square in the starting position that is protected by only the king. One defender…if white can hit f7 with two attackers, it might be checkmate. Many new players don’t know how to deal with this assault.
(Please note: Since white moves first, tricks against f2 are much easier to prevent. The “extra” move so early in the game is crucial to avoiding immediate danger.)
The Mechanics of Scholar’s Mate
The two attacking pieces white can quickly bring out to attack f7 are the queen and light-squared bishop, like this:
The white queen will capture on f7, and the white bishop on c4 will protect her from recapture by the black king. Checkmate!
It could happen something like this:
Look at the second mini-game. Black moved the knight to f6 to deal with the queen, but it was too late. The key to stopping white’s silliness is to get the knight to f6 before the white queen reaches h5.
You can do this right away if white brings out the bishop first:
Now, if white plays 3.Qh5, the Nf6 can capture her majesty.
What if the Queen goes first?
A common way to cause confusion is to lead with the queen first:
The important thing to remember here: White is not yet threatening mate on f7!
The white queen is one attacker, matched by the black king, one defender. Everything is still okay there.
The real threat is to the e5-pawn:
Many players just hope to scare you so they can steal a center pawn! They hope to win a rook, too, like this:
A classmate in middle school loved to spring this one!
A foolproof recipe
There are a few ways to stop these ideas, but I’ll give you the simplest one, which is just as good as others:
Now black covers the e5-pawn AND the f7-square!
Even if white brings out the bishop as a second attacker against f7, black already has two defenders, king and queen. White’s stunts go nowhere, and next move the queen gets chased away:
Black is doing just fine. Just keep bringing out the pieces and castle.
By the way, white should not insist on capturing the f7-pawn:
Black has won a bishop for only a pawn, and is in no danger. In fact, the second player will win from here if both sides play their best moves.