Quick Chess Checkmates are rare, but possible in two moves and in this example three moves. The key is your opponent providing the opportunity.
If you look at the starting position of the game, do you see the pawns in front of the larger pieces? The pawn in front of the king is called the King's pawn or because the modern game assigns letters to columns and numbers to square, the King's pawn is on the square e2. The column is e and the row is 2.
The pawn on e2 is protected by three pieces behind it: diagonally from the queen, diagonally from the bishop, and the king right behind. This is the key to quick checkmates, the pawn on f2, right in front of the bishop is the weakest pawn because only the king protects the pawn.
All of the quickest chess checkmates involve your opponent moving the weakest pawn. So, the quickest checkmate is in two moves by a player using the black pieces. Let us have a look:
White starts the game by moving a pawn from g2 to g4. You will see this opening often as a surprise or in a quick game of blitz chess. However, the pawn move to g4 combined with White's next move offers the player with Black an opportunity to win the game in two moves. Let's have a look:
The player with the black pieces moves their king's pawn to the square e5. And the player with the white pieces plays the fatal move. The weakest pawn is moved! Now, nothing can stand in the way of the black queen checkmating the white king. Take a minute to see where the black queen will move.
The key to chess is noticing possible opportunities as each move occurs. When you see chess players thinking at the chess board, they are pondering the possibilities. They are looking ahead and judging the possible positions. Chess is a game where the board tells all and each game starts from the same position and there is no hidden card or random dice. As you study the game, look to recall positions and plan for the possible!
The black queen moves to the h4 square and checks the white king along the diagonal. Because the player with the white pieces has moved the weakest pawn and the pawn that could block the black queen, the game is over, the white player is checkmated in two moves.
Have I won a game like this? Yes. Nothing to celebrate though. A great game of chess will be the one that pushes you to think.
How to Win a Chess Game in 3 Moves
The player with the white pieces can win the game in three moves in a similar manner to the checkmate in two example. Look at the position just prior to checkmate:
Similar to the way the player with the black pieces can win in two moves, no? Chess has similar patterns for either player. Here, the player with the white pieces starts the game by move the pawns in front of the queen and king to take control of the center of the board.
Chess has a bit of geometry. Control of the center of the board offers space, movement, and the ability to move around the board with ease. It does not win the game, but limits the possibilities for the opposing player. There is a fancy word one of the best chess trainers in the world taught me, prophylaxis.
The literal definition of prophylaxis is to prevent disease, but in chess, the term is applied to actions preventing loss. Often, when you have a winning position on the chess board, you can limit your opponent's winning actions by exchanging pieces or preventing attacks. In life, this fancy term has an equivalent principle: Keep it simple, stupid (KISS). If you already have a winning position, convert the position to a win in the simplest manner.
Scholar's mate or watch out for the Queen
The most common quick checkmate seen as you begin to play chess is an aggressive player with white coordinating the bishop and queen to attack the weakest black pawn on f7. Here is how the game begins:
The player with the white pieces moves the king's pawn to e4, you counter with the same, moving a pawn to the square e5. For centuries, this is how most games began. Now, white places the bishop on the square c4. You should immediately get your spidey-sense on alert. The white bishop attacks the weakest black pawn on the diagonal, the pawn on f7.
A lot of players will next move by rote and play the queen's knight to the square c6.
This move is fine, but offers white the possibility to play for checkmate.
The white queen is moved to the same square h5 as the two and three move checkmates. Notice a pattern? Knowledge and patterns are a key to chess.
Now, if you see this aggressive move. There are a couple responses to protect the pawn on f7. You can (1) move the black queen to protect the square or (2) move the black pawn to g6 and attack the white queen and block the white queen from attacking the weak pawn. Instead players who are beginning see a chance to attack the queen with a knight and play the knight to the f6 square.
The move is a blunder, a mistake. Now see where the white queen can checkmate the black king. That same weak pawn on f7 is now taken by the white queen.
This is a quick checkmate. If you lose this way, learn and play again! Here are a couple better responses from above. I generally play the pawn to g6 and attack the white queen.
White will often move the queen to the f3 square. This continues the threat on the weak pawn on f7. But, do not worry.
You can do the same too! Move the queen to f6, blocking the queen from attacking the f7 pawn and offering to exchange queens. The black knight protects your queen and will take the white queen after taking your queen.
Have a look. If the white queen takes the black queen, the position looks like:
And you can take the white queen with the knight and get on with a fun chess game:
- This move can also be used to defeat some simpler computer chess programs, so you can use it to test a game for quality.
- Your queen will be unprotected.
Paul Rohwer is a U.S. Life Chess Master and rated above 2500 on chess24. He enjoys playing card games, sudoku, programming, and solving puzzles. Kings in the corner, chess, and chinese checkers were his favorite games growing up. Euchre in college and nowadays, the nytimes spelling bee keeps him busy looking for the elusive pangram.