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Coach's Corner #1

Trouncing the Four-Move Checkmate
(a.k.a. the Scholar's Mate or the Queen Raid)

Coach Pete says:  Do not attempt to use the four-move checkmate on your opponents!  Why not?  If for no other reason, this one:  if the scheme fails, White is simply throwing away his/her advantage.  However, everybody should know how to defend against the four-move mate, because it will always be around in competition.  Why?  Because this opening is so often successful for White, when Black is unaware of it (i.e., "there's a sucker born every minute").  Perhaps you have already experienced losing to this opening and want to know how to best turn things around next time.  If you haven't faced it, you'll need to be on the alert for it whenever you're playing Black. 

1.e4 e5
The simplest way to meet 2.Qf3 or 2.Bc4 is 2...Nf6. 

White starts his queen raid, hoping either to achieve the four-move checkmate, or to win a rook after 2...g6?? 3.Qxe5+.  


The first key element in Black's response is to defend the e5 pawn. 

3.Bc4 g6!
The second key element in Black's strategy is to avoid getting checkmated.  Many Black players have been mortified to find 3...Nf6?? met by 4.Qxf7 mate! 

4.Qf3 Nf6 

Black meets the second mate threat (5.Qxf7 mate) by developing a piece and attacking the center.

White continues his attack on f7 by threatening 6.g5, which would win the f6 knight (since any knight move allows an instant checkmate).  

[White's other typical approach here is 5.Qb3 when play might continue 5...Nd4! 6.Bxf7+ Ke7 7.Qc4 b5! 8.Qc5+ Kxf7 9.Qc3 Bb4! 10.Qd3 (10.Qxb5?? loses to 10...Nxc2+) d5! 11.exd5 Bf5 12.Qg3 Nh5 13.Qxe5 Re8 14.Qxe8+ Qxe8+ 15.Kd1 Bxc2 mate.]

5.g4 makes a powerful threat, but it will take another move to execute it, and that gives Black a chance to "go active" and grab the initiative.


This central counterattack is the third key piece in Black's master plan for meeting the four-move checkmate.

6.Qd1 d5! 

This central counterstroke is the fourth key idea in meeting the four-move checkmate.  By playing ...d7-d5 (instead of ...d7-d6), Black opens a line for the c8 bishop and threatens white's bishop.  White now faces nothing but horrible alternatives. 

White is also unlikely to survive after 7.exd5 Bxg4 8.Be2 Qxd5 9.f3 Bf5 10.d3 0-0-0, though Black still has an extra pawn and an overwhelming position.  White might also try 7.Be2, but after 7...Nxe2 8.Qxe2 Bxg4 survival remains a monumental challenge.

7...Bxg4 8.Ne2
White avoids getting checkmated immediately by playing 8.f3, but after 8...Nxd5 9.exd5 Qh4+ 10.Kf1 Nxf3 11.Nxf3 Qh3+ 12.Kf2 (12.Kg1 Bxf3) 12...Bc5+ 13.d4 (13.Ke1 Qg2) 13...Bxd4+ 14.Ke1 Qg2 the White king won't live long.

8...Nf3+ 9.Kf1 Bh3 mate.  
Thus White is trounced!   


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