Chess is a complex and elaborate game, which can take hours to play. On average, casual games usually last 10 to 60 minutes, whereas some tournament games can last up to 6 hours or more. There are also fast or so-called blitz chess games, which are faster than usual games and give up to 15 minutes of game time to each player. Generally speaking, beginners tend to play chess rather fast similar to a game of checkers. Professionals, on the other hand, take their time to strategize and think long and hard before they make a move.
Over the years, players and chess masters have developed special moves, strategies and tactics that help win the game faster. One of such moves is the “Scholar’s Mate.” As you know, the basic principle of chess is to trap the king and “Scholar’s Mate” allows players to do it only in 4 moves. So, if you are wondering how to win chess in 4 moves, make sure to keep reading.
This history of 4 move checkmate
The first official record of 4 move checkmate is in a text called “The Royall Game of Chesse-Play” written by Francis Beale in 1656. It was essentially an adaptation of a work by a chess writer Gioachine Greco. This and other works of Beale are some of the earliest accounts of various rules and tactics of chess. Here is what Beale wrote:
The Schollers Mate.
White kings pawne one houſe.
Black kings pawne the ſame.
White Queen to the contrary kings Rookes fourth houſe
Black Queens knight to her Biſhops third houſe
White kings Biſhop to the queens Biſhops fourth houſe
Black kings knight to the kings Biſhops third houſe
White queen takes the contrary kings Biſhops pawne gives mate.
— Beale, The Royall Game of Chesse-Play
The 4 move checkmate or the “Scholar’s Mate” that we know today is a bit different from what Beale described in his text. The pawn advances two squares on its first move instead of one as mentioned in Beale’s writing. However, following the publication of “The Royall Game of Chesse-Play,” the publisher attached a list of errata at the back noting the ability of the pawn to advance two squares. So, we have a reason to assume that the “one houſe” was actually a mistake. Given that pawns advancement by only one move goes against winning in 4 moves, it was most likely a mistake.
So … how to checkmate in 4 moves
Now that we have had a brief history lesson, let’s understand how to win a chess game in 4 moves and then we will discuss how to defend against the “Scholar’s Mate.” This is actually a very popular move used by many players both professional and amateur. Nearly all professional players have attempted to win with some kind of variation of the 4 move checkmate. And if you want to impress your opponent and win a chess game in 4 moves, the idea is to target f7-pawn with queen and bishop. Here is the basic pattern of “Scholar’s Mate:”
- White goes e4-pawn, which paves way for both the queen and the bishop.
- Black responds with e5-pawn (a rather basic response).
- White targets f7-pawn by moving the queen to h5.
- Black goes either c6-knight or d6-pawn.
- White brings bishop to c4
- Black is tempted to bring g8 knight to f6.
- White queen takes f7-pawn and checkmate.
This is how to win a chess game in 4 moves given that the Black does not defend accordingly.
Defense against a potential “Scholar’s Mate”
The “Scholar’s Mate” basically depends on the opponent’s inability to respond to a threat. It is a so-called “hope chess,” when you make a threatening move even though you know it is bad and hope they won’t respond well, so you eventually win. In chess 101, they will tell you that bringing the queen out early is not very wise but the whole 4 move checkmate is built on the queen and bishop attacking early in the game. So, when your opponent brings out these two figures, it is your sign that they might be attempting a “Scholar’s Mate” and you have to respond accordingly.
The key is to always ask yourself “What is the threat?” Determine the threat and defend against it in a convenient way meaning opt for long-term solutions instead of temporary fixes. So, when the White queen moves to h5, knight to c6 is not a bad response but what do you do after bishop goes to c4? The possible defense options are the following:
- Pawn to g6
- Queen to e7 or f6
- Knight to h6
As they say in sports, the best defense is offense, so you can meet an attack with a counter attack and go pawn to g6, which threatens the queen and allows you to carry on the game.
Final thoughts on 4 move checkmate
Winning a chess game in 4 moves is tempting but it is also a risky move. If you’re playing with a friend and you want to give it a try the go ahead by all means. However, if it’s a more professional setting then don’t count on the “Scholar’s Mate” magically winning you the game. It is “hope chess” and if you focus all your energy on winning in 4 moves, you will most likely lose in 5.