Sunday, April 29, 2007

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. Go here to learn how to do that.


Chess Teaching said...

I like to teach something like the Fried Liver attack as a replacement for this Scholar's Mate. The Fried Liver attack is a sound opening and also exploits the weakness of the opponent’s f7 pawn.

Tom Panelas said...

I like the Fried Liver Attack, too, and I have a feeling most scholastic players aren't prepared for it.

Of course, with a player who is prepared you have to know what you're doing. There are some strong and clever responses that Black can make.