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How to Win at Chess

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chess pieces in different formations for victory.

Chess is a game with a long and venerable history, mysterious origins, star players and complex computer strategies. Chess tends to be a long game, with players often devoting a lot of thought to moving a single piece. It can also be played through the post, making some games last for years in extreme circumstances.

There are, however, a few ways that a game can be completed very quickly. Be warned though, any player worth their salt will not fall for any of these strategies and will most likely make you suffer for even trying. Equally, analysis given to the moves described here, is merely rudimentary - an experienced player would, not doubt, be able to examine them in greater detail and probably do you a great deal of damage as well. Therefore, such moves could only be deployed against someone who doesn't know the game that well, or is ignorant of the intricacies involved. They also require your opponent to make some very silly decisions, becoming increasingly more silly as we progress through this entry.

Four Move Checkmate

Possibly the best-known quick ending to a game of chess is the four move checkmate1. Any player worth beating will already know the sequence of moves off by heart and though the first move is fairly commonplace, they could well cast a baleful look at you as soon as you move the second piece. Once you move the third piece they will most likely begin to throw everything at you, forcing a quick retreat. These are the moves you want to make:

  1. Move the pawn in front of your king forward (it doesn't matter whether you move it one or two squares)2.

  2. Move the king's bishop diagonally three squares, so that it looks along a diagonal toward the pawn in front of your opponent's king's bishop.

  3. Move your queen diagonally two squares, so that it comes to rest in front of the king's bishop's pawn.

  4. Move your queen vertically up the line to take the pawn in front of your opponent's king's bishop.

Though the middle two moves could be swapped around, if you so desire. The formal notation for these moves, assuming white is performing the mate, looks like this:

  1. e3(or e4) [...]
  2. Bc4 [...]
  3. Qf3 [...]
  4. Qxf7++

Your queen now has your opponent's king in check, which the king could get out of by taking your queen, except that your queen is being protected by your king's bishop, and so we have checkmate.

The problem with the four move checkmate is that if your opponent works out what you are doing, then they can easily stop you. They could move their king's bishop's pawn, to stop you moving to your desired square. Moving their king's knight in front of the king's bishop's pawn would have the same effect. Equally moving the king's pawn forward one square would prevent your bishop from protecting your queen, and so make the whole thing pointless.

Three Move Checkmate

This quick checkmate is probably best performed by white, though black should also be able to manage it. Unlike the four move checkmate, which just requires your opponent to not obstruct you, for this checkmate you need your opponent to make a few moves in order to open up the king. It works like this3:

  1. Move the pawn in front of your king forward (just like you did for the four-move).

    • Following this move, you want your opponent to move the king's bishop's pawn forward one square.

  2. Move your queen diagonally three squares, so that it rests on the rank of your king's knight.

    • Now you want your opponent to move their king's rook's pawn forward. It doesn't really matter how far they move it, just so long as they do.

  3. Now move your queen up the rank two squares, so that it comes to rest in front of your opponent's king's knight's pawn.

Again, the formal notation with white winning is:

  1. e3(or e4) f6
  2. Qg4 h6(or h5)
  3. Qg6++

So you have checkmate. The king cannot move, there is no piece that can be put between the king and your queen, and, despite your queen being completely unprotected, no piece can attack her either. One interesting feature is that the first move you want your opponent to make is also one of the moves that could be made to prevent the four move checkmate.

Two Move Checkmate

Though the previous two checkmates can be performed by either white or black, the two move checkmate4 can only by implemented by black. This is because you need your opponent to make two moves, and so white would have to include an extraneous move5, making this an alternative three move checkmate for white. The moves are as follows:

    • Before your first move, you want your opponent to move their king's bishop's pawn forward one square.

  1. Move your king's pawn forward (in the same way that you did for the three- and four-move).

    • Now your opponent would have to move their king's knight's pawn forward two squares.

  2. Move your queen diagonally to the edge of the board.

Formal notation is given with a win for black this time, but remember that the first move on each line is white's move:

  1. f3 e6(or e5)
  2. g4 Qh4++

Your queen is now attacking the king, and there's no way out. The main problem with this mate is that your opponent would have to be completely ignorant of the tactics of the game for this to work. So ignorant that it's unlikely ever to happen in a real game, but it is technically possible.

But is it Right?

As mentioned, no experienced player of the game will fall for any of these mates. Which, therefore, means that only novices are likely to be duped in this way. And none of these mates is particularly sportsmanlike, and so performing them against a 'green' player would be quite cruel. So choose your sucker well, and always wear a warm smile when declaring, 'Checkmate!'

1Also known as Scholar's Mate.2Though if your opponent is a total novice and likely to copy your moves, it may be best to move it forward two squares, as them moving their pawn one square would block the diagonal.3For ease of reading, your moves are numbered, and your opponent's are not.4Also known as Fool's Mate.5Many accounts give the movement of the knight's pawn as the extra move for white.

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