Features Mar 24, 2021 | 5:00 PMby Sean Marsh

Fast checkmates in the opening

Vishy Anand once had to resign on move 6 of a serious tournament game, while Magnus Carlsen was lost in 7 moves against Ian Nepomniachtchi in the first Magnus Carlsen Invitational. Such accidents are incredibly rare for the best, but for the rest of us they tend to happen all the time! Sean Marsh takes a look at some potential speedy checkmates in the opening that you should keep your eyes out for – either to avoid them or to catch out your opponents.    

Opening disasters can happen even to World Champions

You may or may not encounter these exact checkmates in your own games, but remembering the basic patterns will undoubtedly be of use.

Catastrophe in the Caro-Kann

1.e4 c6

The Caro-Kann Defense is normally very solid, but there are ways to go wrong in every chess opening.

2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7

Black wants to play 5…Ngf6, which would enable him to recapture with a knight rather than pawn after 6.Nxf6+ thus avoiding having to accept doubled pawns.


This is not the best move, but it does set a trap for the unwary.

5…Ngf6?? 6.Nd6 checkmate

Note that White’s queen pins the e-pawn, which means the knight is immune to capture on d6.

There are similar smothered mates in other openings too. Here is another example of the same theme.

Beaten by the Budapest

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5

The Budapest Gambit.

3.dxe5 Ng4 4.Bf4 Nc6 5.Nf3 Bb4+ 6.Nbd2 Qe7 7.a3 Ngxe5

The trap is set.


Greed is often a contributory factor when one falls for a trap.

8…Nd3 checkmate

Greed is also a factor in our next example.

The Legal Way

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6

The Philidor Defense is solid enough but Black has to accept a cramped position.

3.Bc4 Bg4 4.Nc3 g6

Black mixes his systems and misses White’s big idea.


A big surprise, for those unfamiliar with the trap. White sacrifices the queen.


5…dxe5 is the lesser of the two evils, but 6.Qxg4 gives White an extra pawn and a big advantage in development.

6.Bxf7+ Ke7 7.Nd5 checkmate

Once seen, never forgotten. This is Legal’s Mate, named after the French chess player François Antoine de Legall de Kermeur, whose name varies from source to source.

A Rare Bird


There is nothing wrong with Bird’s Opening, but it is an acquired taste. It is named after Henry Bird. The first move does leave a strange impression, as White opens up his king, allowing Black to dream of an early knockout.


This is From’s Gambit, named after Martin Severin From. I recall, many years ago, a local wag at my chess club claiming it was called the From’s Gambit ‘because nobody knows where it came from.’


When two gambiteers play each other, we sometimes see the amusing sequence 2.e4 (transposing from a From’s Gambit to a King’s Gambit) 2…d5 (transposing to a Falkbeer Counter-Gambit).

2…d6 3.exd6 Bxd6

White needs to tread very carefully here.


A blunder, of course – but it does happen. White needs to play 4.Nf3 to stop Black’s next move. Black will then continue to have fun with 4…g5, trying to dislodge the defensive knight.


Big trouble for White.


The pawn attacks the queen, but Black does not need to retreat.


5…Bxg3+ is also possible, with the same outcome – but nobody ever bothers to play that way, because everyone loves sacrificing the queen for a checkmate.

6.hxg3 Bxg3 checkmate

There are plenty more examples of speedy checkmates in the opening and we will feature other cases in future posts.

Chessable Course

If you enjoyed speedy checkmates in the opening, you may like to know that there are many more beautiful checkmating patterns in the course, The Checkmate Patterns Manual, by International Master John Bartholomew and CraftyRaf. This course won third place in the Chessable Awards for 2020.

There is a shortened, free version of the course here.

Sort by Date Descending Date Descending Date Ascending Most Liked Receive updates

Comments 4

Guest 12616581301
Join chess24
  • Free, Quick & Easy

  • Be the first to comment!


Create your free account now to get started!

By clicking ‘Register’ you agree to our terms and conditions and confirm you have read our privacy policy, including the section on the use of cookies.

Lost your password? We'll send you a link to reset it!

After submitting this form you'll receive an email with the reset password link. If you still can't access your account please contact our customer service.

Which features would you like to enable?

We respect your privacy and data protection guidelines. Some components of our site require cookies or local storage that handles personal information.

Show Options

Hide Options