8 Fastest Checkmate Openings

Checkmates are the ultimate goal in chess, marking the end of a game and declaring a winner. But what about the games that end in a matter of seconds? These lightning-fast checkmates have amazed chess enthusiasts and casual players alike, showcasing the incredible speed and strategic thinking of the players involved.

From grandmasters to amateur players, the fastest checkmates in history have pushed the limits of what is possible in this ancient game.

This article will look at some of the quickest checkmates ever recorded, exploring the moves and strategies behind these lightning-fast finishes.

8. Owen’s Defense

Number of moves: 8-12
 Parent: King’s Pawn Opening
Origin: 17th century
 Other Names: Greek Defence, Queen’s Fianchetto Defence

Owen's Defensephoto source: The Chess World

Owen’s Defense, initiated by the moves 1.e4 and b6, is a unique and uncommon approach in chess. Black adopts a hypermodern style of play, positioning their light-squared bishop at b7 through a fianchetto.

Despite its rarity, Owen’s Defense presents a challenge for White in their development as it grants them control over the central pawns on e4 and d4, which can prove difficult for Black to disrupt. However, the lack of established theory on this opening can make it a favorable option for some players seeking a fresh challenge.

Did You Know:

This opening takes its name from the English amateur chess player and vicar, John Owen, who was known for his strong play in the 19th century and was one of its earliest practitioners.


7. Bird’s Opening

Number of moves: 8-12
 Parent: 
Origin: 15th century
 Other Names: The Dutch Attack

Bird's Openingphoto source: iCHess.net

The Bird’s Opening, also known as the Dutch Attack, is a bold and aggressive chess strategy that ranks 6th most frequently used opening. Named after English player Henry Bird in the 19th century, it begins with the move 1.f4, which aims to control the e5-square and create attacking opportunities by weakening the kingside.

While not commonly used in top-level play, some of the most stunning games in chess history have been played with Bird’s Opening. Black can respond with From’s Gambit (1…e5), but this approach is highly risky and requires extensive preparation.

Did You Know:

The opening can be traced back to the late 15th century with mentions in Luis Ramírez de Lucena’s book “Repetición de Amores y Arte de Ajedrez con Cien Juegos de Partido.”


6. Dutch Defense

Number of moves: 8-12
 Parent: Queen’s Pawn Game
Origin: 18th century
 Other Names: None

Dutch Defensephoto source: The Chess World

The Dutch Defense is a chess opening that can often be misconstrued as a reverse version of the Sicilian, given that both involve using a pawn on the side of the board to prevent the formation of a solid pawn center by the opponent.

However, this opening is distinct from the Sicilian, as it aims to secure more space on the kingside while risking certain weaknesses. The Dutch Defense typically commences with the move 1.d4 f5, with black occasionally playing 1…e6 followed by 2…f5 to avoid the Staunton Gambit.

Despite its limited popularity among top-level chess players, the Dutch Defense has been utilized with success by prominent figures such as Alexander Alekhine, Bent Larsen, Paul Morphy, Miguel Najdorf, and Hikaru Nakamura. Perhaps its most notable appearance was in the 1951 World Championship match between Mikhail Botvinnik and David Bronstein.

Did You Know:

The defense is named after Elias Stein, a Frenchman who lived in the Netherlands and claimed it to be the best reply to 1.d4.


5. Italian Game Smothered Mate

Number of moves: 8-12
 Parent: King’s Knight Opening
Origin: 15th or 16th century
 Other Names: None

Italian Game Smothered Matephoto source: Chess.com

The Smothered Mate is a notorious checkmate that arises when a king is enclosed by its own pieces, leaving no room for escape. A player in this position must remember that too many pieces surrounding their king can be dangerous. Typically, a player must be willing to sacrifice material to make this kind of mate possible.

The Italian Game, on the other hand, is a well-regarded and extensively used opening in chess, beginning with the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4. The defining feature of this opening is the development of the white bishop to c4, which attacks Black’s vulnerable f7 square. It has a long history, dating back to the 16th century, and has been extensively analyzed for over 300 years.

Did You Know:

The Italian Game was popularized by players such as Damiano and Polerio in the 16th century and later by Greco in 1620, who gave the opening its main line.


4. Grob’s Attack

Number of moves: 8-12
 Parent: 
Origin: Early 1600s
 Other Names: Genoa Opening, Spike Opening

Grob's Attackphoto source: OoCities

The Grob’s Attack is an atypical and uncommon opening in chess, where White begins the match with the move 1. g4. This unconventional opening has garnered a reputation for being one of White’s weaker options, as it does not target the center of the board. As a result, it can compromise the safety of the king.

However, the rarity of the Grob’s Attack can also be an advantage, as most opponents are unlikely to have any experience facing it. This can create a surprising dynamic, especially in fast-paced games such as blitz or bullet chess, where opponents can quickly fall into one of the many traps the opening offers.

Some of the most skilled players, including International Master Michael Basman and Grandmaster Spyridon Skembris, have embraced the Grob’s Attack as a formidable weapon. Its uncommonness can lead to overconfidence in opponents, resulting in mistakes, and its element of surprise can give the player the upper hand.

Did You Know:

It was named after Swiss International Master Henri Grob, who conducted extensive research and played hundreds of correspondence games using the attack.


3. Englund Gambit Mate

Number of moves: 8
 Parent: Queen’s Pawn Game
Origin: 1656
 Other Names: Charlick Gambit

Englund Gambit Matephoto source: The Chess Website

The Englund Gambit is a rare and daring chess opening that begins with the move 1.d4 e5?!, where Black attempts to steer clear of the more traditional closed queen’s pawn games and establish an open game with tactical opportunities. However, this comes at the cost of losing a pawn.

The Englund Gambit Trap is Black’s attempt to tempt White into making calculated but risky moves. By giving up the e-pawn early on, Black can quickly bring out the queen for an aggressive attack on the queen side of the board, with the crucial move being 5…Qxb2.

Compared to other gambits like the Budapest Gambit and Albin Countergambit, the Englund Gambit is considered a less advantageous option for White as the b4-square hasn’t been weakened by c2–c4.

However, since 2.c4 is a requirement for Budapest and Albin, the Englund Gambit is easier to employ as it can be played against other openings, such as 2.Nf3, avoiding the typical queen’s pawn type of game.

Did You Know:

The main line of the Englund Gambit (2…Nc6, 3…Qe7) was first introduced by Kārlis Bētiņš, who was also known for establishing the Latvian Gambit.


2. Scholar’s Mate

Number of moves: 4
 Parent: 
Origin: 1656
 Other Names: Four-move checkmate

Scholar's Matephoto source: Chessable

The Scholar’s Mate is a unique and recognizable checkmate pattern in the world of chess that White can execute in just four moves. This sequence takes advantage of a common weakness in the opponent’s defense: the vulnerable f7 square.

The move order of the Scholar’s Mate is typically 1. e4 e5, 2. Qh5 Nc6, 3. Bc4 Nf6??, and 4. Qxf7#, although variations may exist. The basic concept remains the same: the queen and bishop coordinate in a swift and decisive attack aimed at either f7 for White or f2 for Black.

It is worth mentioning that different cultures refer to the Scholar’s Mate by different names, such as “Children’s Mate” in Russian or “Shepherd’s Mate” in Spanish. However, regardless of the name, this checkmate pattern is a recognizable and well-known concept among chess enthusiasts worldwide.

Did You Know:

This checkmate pattern has been dubbed the “Scholar’s Mate” due to its frequent appearance in the games of novice players who are still learning the ins and outs of the game.


1. Fool’s Mate

Number of moves: 2
 Parent: Bird Opening, Barnes Opening, Grob’s Attack
Origin: Early 1600s
 Other Names: None

Fool's Matephoto source: ChessFox.com

The Fool’s Mate, a two-move checkmate in chess, is considered one of the rarest and fastest checkmate patterns that can happen in a game. It’s a unique combination of the opponent’s lack of experience, blind chance, and errors that make it possible for Black to deliver the checkmate with their queen.

The key to this checkmate lies in White’s opening move and their ability to make terrible mistakes, which is why it’s often referred to as the “Fool’s Mate.”

Although White can also deliver a similar checkmate in three moves, the Fool’s Mate remains rare, even among novice chess players. The chance of employing this mate is minuscule, making it all the more significant when it does occur. In chess, exploiting your opponent’s errors is a significant skill; the Fool’s Mate is a testament to that.

Did You Know:

The Fool’s Mate was first described in the 1656 book “The Royal Game of Chess-Play” by Francis Beale, an adaptation of the works of early chess writer Gioachino Greco.

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