Quickest Checkmates in Chess (Names, Moves and What to Look For

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Everyone that plays chess will come across the three fastest ways to win, but in most cases will experience the quickest checkmate moves on the wrong side of the board. Whilst one player has to make the correct moves to win the chess game super quick, the other has to play their part by making the mistakes that lead to these quick wins.

The fastest way to win a game of chess is in two moves in an opening called ‘Fool’s Mate’ which takes advantage of the player with the white pieces making two consecutive moves with pawns on the F and G files opening the King to a defenseless, lost position.

In addition to the Fool’s mate two-move checkmate, there is also the Scholar’s Mate with which is often confused as the fastest but takes four moves.

There are more basic checkmates including the Smothered mate, which can be achieved in just 3 moves for black from the starting position, and those three moves use only one piece (Who says you shouldn’t move the same piece twice in the opening? Well, you shouldn’t really.

These wins do require some effort on your part but in most cases, and especially in the case of the Fool’s Mate, as a player, you have to advantage of opponents’ mistakes rather than forcing the win yourself.

In essence, the player across the board is gifting your the opportunity to win the game with a fast checkmate strategy by jumping on their poor mistakes, probably as a real novice chess player.

Let’s have a look at the fastest mates of the enemy King in more detail, so you can understand how to identify the moves and jump on the chance to win by one of these methods should the opportunity arise. And then we will move on to some more quick checkmate you might not have heard of.

Fool’s Mate (2 Move checkmate)

The fastest checkmate moves possible in chess

What is Fool’s Mate?

  1. g4 e5 2.f3 Qh4#

Is winning by Fools mate easy?

It’s not as easy as the example shows, as most people will not make this mistake, and will be aware of the moves. Anyone who has lost to fools mate will rarely lose to it a second time, or at least admit they have fallen foul of the fastest checkmate combination.

How to Avoid Fool’s Mate

Read my complete guide to Fools mate, which provides more in-depth information about the quickest checkmate, moves to look for and what to do if you are a chess beginner, have heard of fools mate, and want to avoid falling into the trap against a more experienced player who might try it out on you.

Scholar’s Mate (4 Moves)

A very versatile 4-move checkmate that can be gained quickly in the opening of a game of chess. not quite the fastest checkmate, it is close and does rely on some bad moves from your opponent.

What is Scholar’s Mate?

There are a great many variations of how Scholars mate can come about in a game of chess, here is the chess annotation of just one way, with the example played out on a board below. the Scholars mate centers around checkmate on F7.

  1. e4 e5
  2. Qh5 Nc6
  3. Bc4 Nf6??
  4. Qxf7#

Is winning by Scholars Mate Easy?

On occasion, it is surprising how easy it can be to win using the scholar’s mate double attack on the weak pawn square of f7 or f2.

Even good players can get a little caught up in their own opening strategy to miss it, not often, but it does happen.

Be aware of a trap that can be used to capture your Queen when you attempt the Scholars mate. If it doesn’t go to plan, get your Queen out of there as quickly as possible, you may be about to get attacked by the knight and bishop and you’ll get little in return.

My complete guide to the Scholars Mate in chess will give you more details and a visual example of how you can lose your Queen to this trap.

How to Avoid Scholar’s Mate

Again take a look at the Full Scholars mate guide, but in the quickest possible terms, it is just a matter of ensuring that your weakest square, be that F7 for black or F2 for white is not entirely undefended and defended by more than the King on its own.

Smothered Mate (3 Moves)

A very satisfying checkmate that can be achieved at any time during a game of chess but can be done as quickly as in just three moves of a single chess piece from the black pieces

What is Smothered Mate?

There are many ways to win by smothered mate, you’ll find full details of the quickest way on the dedicated Smothered Mate guide.

But one way is covered in this annotation and visual example below

 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e5 3. dxe5 Ng4 4. Bf4 Nc6 5. Nf3 Bb4+ 6. Nbd2 Qe7 7. a3 Ngxe5 8. axb4?? Nd3#

Is winning by Smothered Mate Easy?

It can be if your opponent is not aware of your impending intention of trapping the king and mating with your advancing knights

How to Avoid Smothered Mate

The absolute, fundamental rule to not getting beaten by smothered mate is to ensure your king has an escape route, or any squares which Knights could occupy to deliver the mate are defended with one of more of your own pieces.

More Quick Checkmates

The velocity of gaining a checkmate is subjective of course, a quick checkmate does not have to be delivered in just a few moves, indeed, a checkmate in the first 10-12 moves would still be considered a quick victory in most cases.

A quick checkmate in chess doesn’t have to be named either. We have three checkmates above that are quick and because of the limitations of the moves they require, have been named from certain chess theory texts written in days gone by.

Some others have separate names but are derived from the checkmates already discussed here, including from Fool’s mate

  • Grob’s Attack
  • Dutch Defense
  • Bird’s Opening
  • Owen’s Defense

Each has a relation to the Fool’s mate and indeed, if not aware of the pending danger, you are going to be left feeling a fool after, in a few cases here, being tempted by a sacrifice and leaving yourself open to a brutal mate.

Then some variations of the smothered mate

  • Caro-Kann Defense Smothered Mate
  • Budapest Defense Smothered Mate

I cover the Caro-Kann variation in the smothered mate guide here on chessquestions, so please do go check it out. it is super effective and you can try it out, usually, with some success against novice players who do not recognize the incoming danger, it is not obvious at first glance.

The Budapest defense mate is a little more in-depth, and similar to the Englund Gambit back rank checkmate but is simple from the book opening. It is worth remembering the lines here as is it super-effective.

Again, you can find full details and a step-by-step move guide in the smothered mate article.


I hope this guide on the fastest checkmates and quickest ways to win at chess has been helpful, and do encourage you to take a look at the links to analyze the step by step moves for each variation by hitting the links and committing them to memory

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