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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Fool’s Mate

Fool’s Mate

When I was a chronological kid, I used to play chess.  We played lots of board games, checkers, backgammon, and card games.  We didn’t have the computer games and TV was often boring, what with only six channels.

We especially played games on rainy days.  When I was eleven, my best friend was Johnny Pear.  Johnny was two years older than I, but we still got along pretty well.  The Pears lived about a block away from us in Manhasset, L.I.  Believe it or not they lived on Bartlett Drive.

Being two years older than I, Johnny beat me at most physical games.  I had two older brothers, I was used to losing.  When it rained, Johnny and I played chess.  We were both pretty good, but certainly not students of the game.  By pretty good, we knew all the rules and how to move the pieces.  Generally Johnny beat me at chess also.  He was a pretty smart kid.

There is a series of moves in chess where a person can win by checkmate in four moves.  It is known as fool’s mate*.  One day playing Johnny I found the series of four moves and he did not take the obvious defense.  I won in four moves. 

Johnny was flabbergasted.

We played again, and Johnny was flabbergasted once again.  He fell for the fool’s mate four times.

Once he figured it out, I don’t think I ever won another game.  Johnny was a pretty smart kid.

I don’t think I played chess for years after Johnny figured out the fool’s mate.

Many years later I played someone in college.  My first three moves were the fool’s mate moves.  After my third move my opponent made the correct defensive move and commented as he did it,

“What do you think I’m an idiot? I’ve played before; I’m not going to fall for a fool’s mate!”

“Maybe not, but that’s all I’ve got.”

I lost that game too, and have not played since.

But on one day, for four games, I was a chess genius.

*actually 2 moves, so 4 is a semi-fool's mate.


  1. I played a lot of chess over the years, never heard of Fool's Mate or Semi Fool's Mate, so obviously I wasn't that good of a player. I knew how to defend the king and queen but did lose some key players sometimes doing so. Its definitely a game of thinking and skill, no matter how many plays it might take you to checkmate someone.

    I wonder if kids these days are getting those skills with the various games they are playing.


  2. I learned how the pieces move but didn't know about any rules, I think I was about ten or so when I played and lost. My youngest son plays and one day taught my grand daughter who was about five. By game three, she was winning, she's a smart kid!
    I've heard there are all types of different chess games with different strategies. too much for me to bother with. I'll leave it to the highbrows and read books instead.

  3. Chess is a fabulous game. I thought I was reasonably good at it until my son learned to play. It was a downward trend from then on.

  4. I also played chess and I remember that four-move trick and won a few games using it. I was never a good chess player because my mind wandered and I couldn't plan my moves.

  5. Yes you were kind during those four games. Good for you.

    Have a fabulous day Joe. ☺

  6. I stink at any kind of game that involves the least bit of strategy. In Scrabble,I get so enamored of the letters and the words they might make that I forget to pay attention to double and triple word scores. I generally lose.

  7. I've never had a mind for chess, or any other game where you have to think ahead.

    Our rainy day game was Monopoly. The games could last days, and we had practically a book of our own rules to make the game last longer...

  8. Ok, now I have to Google Fool's Mate. Wish I had know about it when I was a kid. Then I could have also had a brief moment in the sun.

  9. Heh; I was in the 5th-grade chess club at my school, and one of the guys discovered the Fool's Mate in a book somewhere, and then systematically went around the room, trying to pull it on every other member of the club. We were generally bright enough that, once it got pulled on us once, we figured out how to defend against it. So, once he'd pulled it on a few of us, we went around kibitzing the other players, showing them how to defend it, so he probably didn't even get four games' worth of cheap thrills out of it. But we all became better chess players in the process. . .

  10. Deleted from Craig somehow?

    Thing is, the Fool's Mate really isn't very good chess; if it doesn't work (and it never will, once your opponent has seen it), you're positionally out-of-whack, and a decent player will make you pay. Sort of like those novice players who just send their queen out marauding, capturing whatever she can, willy-nilly - they're really annoying to play against, but in the long run, it's a losing strategy. . .

  11. Chess is a game where you have to think several steps ahead of your opponent, and i'm not the person who can do that. It's amazing to me to watch people who are masters at the game trying to outthink each other.

  12. I've always enjoyed playing chess, but it's been a few years since I last played. One of the more interesting games occurred when I was in high school. The chess club met after school, and I'd never attended before, but decided to drop in one day. One fella, who was an insufferable egotist, challenged me to a game. Said, since I was a girl, he'd play with his back to the board, to make it a more level playing field. The snob would call out his moves, and someone else would move for him. He lost. He actually cried, and I never went to another meeting.

  13. Chess is a game I never learned to play but wished I had.

  14. you had your 15 min of glory. :)

  15. I used to play chess a long time ago. When he was in second grade or so, my son wanted to learn. So I showed him. Three days later he started winning against me. I hate him.

    (Not really.)

  16. I love chess but I suck at it. You could probably fool's mate me easily :)

  17. For four games, you were Bobby Fischer!


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