Sunday, November 29, 2009

Scholar's Mate: the Movie

Check out this hilarious film clip.



Of course, the opening sequence commonly known as Scholar’s Mate (1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Bc5 3.Qh5 Nf6 4.Qxf7#) is not just a funny video; it is, as Chess Corner observes, “the most common trap a beginner falls into.”

It’s common because it’s an easy way for the attacker to get a fast and, some would say, cheap victory. Scholar’s Mate works by exploiting the weakness of the opponent’s f7 pawn, which at the beginning of the game is guarded only by the King. If you can quickly build up an attack on that square and send in your Queen with protection, your opponent’s King can neither escape nor capture the attacking piece. The heartbreaking result: checkmate on Move 4.

Because Scholar’s Mate is so widely played in scholastic tournaments and chess clubs, it should be one of the first things every new player learns. Learning the right defensive moves is all it takes.

Scholar’s Mate raises ethical questions, most notably: Should you yourself use it when you suspect your novice opponent may not be prepared for it? One could argue that every new player should be on the receiving end of Scholar’s Mate once, just so he or she knows what it’s like and learns to combat it. I won’t pass judgment on the issue, but if nothing else all chess kids should know Scholar’s Mate and how to avoid it. Note: I'd like to thank Bill Brock for inviting me to join his distinguished stable of bloggers at this site. I'm humbled to be among them. Bill made a special call for introductory instructional material, and Scholar's Mate is about as introductory as you can get.

5 comments:

GreenCastle said...

In the first couple scholastic tournaments I played when I was first learning chess, there were 2 openings being played: 1) Scholar's Mate, 2) failed Scholar's Mate.

For Black I adopted the sequence 1.e4 c5 2.Bc4 Nc6 3.Qf3 Ne5!

Tom Panelas said...

My son loved to play Scholar's Mate as much as he could in elementary-school tournaments. Of course, after he'd beaten one or two (if he was lucky) unsuspecting kids this way, he'd get paired with savvier players who were hip to the obvious traps. He was okay going 2.5/5 in these tournaments, but when he got to the point where none of his opponents would fall for Scholar's Mate he decided the effort it would take to really master the game wasn't worth it and he gave up chess. Happens all the time, I suspect.

The Chess Dad said...

I think it is OK to play the Scholar's Mate, only the very beginner will fall in the trap, but maybe only once. He or she will lean a lesson and hopeful remember the lesson.

The Chess Dad said...

I think it is OK to play the Scholar's Mate, only the very beginner will fall in the trap, but maybe only once. He or she will lean a lesson and hopeful remember the lesson.

Anonymous said...

What a great resource!