Every book for beginners answers the most fundamental question: What is the fastest way to deliver a checkmate? The oldest-known record of the Fool’s Mate is probably the one from the works of Gioachino Greco, very likely the strongest player of his time (the first half of the 17th century). More precisely, an English writer, Francis Beale, adapted Greco’s work into his text in 1656:
The Fooles Mate
Black Kings Biſhops pawne one houſe.
White Kings pawne one houſe.
Black kings knights pawne two houſes
White Queen gives Mate at the contrary kings Rookes fourth houſeFrancis Beale, The Royall Game of Chesse-Play
How many ways can you deliver the Fool’s Mate?
The answer is four, as there are two combinations of the first two moves of White, and two possibilities to make the first Black’s move. Let’s list them:
- 1. f3 e5 2. g4 ♛h4#
- 1. f4 e5 2. g4 ♛h4#
- 1. f3 e6 2. g4 ♛h4#
- 1. f4 e6 2. g4 ♛h4#
Of course, it would be possible to switch the order of White’s moves, thus increasing the number to eight, but if we consider only the unique final position configurations, it is just four.
Did it ever happen in real games?
Yes. It’s written on the internet, so it must be true. Heh, heh. 😎 Seriously, there are several sources that mention Fool’s Mate games with the names, places, and years, so it’s not unlikely that at least one such a game was real. For example:
- Sperber — Bender, Baden 1992: 1. f4 e5 2. g4?? ♛h4#
- NN — Hamlisch, Vienna 1890: 1. f4 e6 2. g4?? ♛h4#
- Lance Darling — Richard Wood, Washington State 1983: 1. g4 e6 2. f4?? ♛h4#
- NN — Richard Buchanan, Dayton 1971: 1. f4 e6 2. g4?? ♛h4#
What about my favorite source, The Database?
My script discovered ten games, all played in 2003. Perhaps some early users had been testing the chess engine?
Fun fact: One of the first chess games ever played on BrainKing.com (game ID = 4) featured a modified version of the Fool’s Mate. I believe that my colleague and I had been testing the beta version of the engine, and my friend wasn’t actually the master-class player. The chess engine passed the test:
The mate is an illustration of the king side weakness shared by both players along the f- and g-files during the opening phase of the game.