Phooey on Scholar’s Mate!

Scholar’s Mate is an opening trap employed by patzers who wish to take advantage of the inexperience of their opponent, rather than play good, principled chess. Though the traditional Scholar’s Mate is performed from white’s perspective, black can also use a similar trick against an inexperienced player playing white.

The typical Scholar’s Mate sequence looks like this:

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

White’s target is the f7 pawn. The attack on the queen by the kingside knight doesn’t take this into account.

To defeat Scholar’s Mate, we will use solid chess principles that will not only prevent our opponent from succeeding with this stunt, but will also give us a bit of an advantage.

Let’s look at our strategy…

1. e4 e5 2. Qh5 Nc6

Attacking the white queen directly with the g6 pawn would give away our rook in something called the Parham Attack. Instead, we protect our king pawn – the queen is attacking it as well as the target f7 pawn.

White responds by bringing out her bishop, the next stage of her Scholar’s Mate plan. Now we attack the queen with g6.

3. Bc4 g6 4. Qf3 …

White will retreat her queen to f3 because it still allows her to attack the f7 pawn.

You’ll notice that we are developing our pieces while forcing white to repeatedly move the same piece – her queen. This will give us an edge in development further down the road.

Last move, we deflected white’s queen by moving our pawn to attack. This time we will block the queen from being able to attack her target at f7.

4. … Nf6 5. Qb3 …

White continues her attack on the f7 pawn by preparing to capture it with her bishop, forcing us to move our king and eliminating our ability to castle. This is why she moved the queen to b3.

We aren’t worried. Now for our attack!

5. … Nd4 6. Bxf7+ Ke7

Our knight is attacking her queen, and threating a fork of her king and queenside rook at c2. Out of desperation, she takes the f7 pawn to force us to move our king.

At this point, if white moves her queen to b4 to put us in check, she immediately loses her bishop and has to waste another move protecting her foolish queen. If she moves away from c2, we will fork her king and get her rook.

From here, the typical sequence continues…

7. Qc4 b5 8. Qd3 Kxf7 9. Nf3 Nxf3+ 10. Qxf3 d5

The result? Black may have lost the ability to castle, but he clearly has the edge in development, with solid attacking lanes for both bishops and almost half of his pawns attacking the center.

However, white has moved her queen six times in the first ten moves, and has lost a bishop – a just payment for trying to pull a Scholar’s Mate stunt on a chess player!

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