What is Scholar’s Mate in chess? How to defend against it?

Scholars mate in chess

The Scholar’s mate is one of the most popular checkmates in chess. If you’re a beginner, chances are someone might have tried to checkmate you with it. It’s very popular among people who are just starting to play chess. But don’t worry, there is a very simple way to defend against this mate. 

In this article, we will show you what the Scholar’s Mate is, the other way in which it could appear on the board, the main strategy on how the Scholar’s mate is used and how to defend against it.

Let’s begin.

The Scholar’s mate

It’s four move checkmate that occurs after 

1.e4 e5 2.Qh5

Eyeing the weak-f7-pawn and directly attacking e5-pawn.


Defending the e5-pawn

3. Bc4

Threatening a mate on f7.


A blunder after which Black gets checkmated in one move.


And it’s a checkmate!

The other ways in which it could occur on the board are given below. 

The Queen’s Gambit Special Scholar’s Mate 

1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nc6 3.Qf3 

Threatening a mate on f7.


Black blunders and gets mated on the next move.

This route to checkmate was shown in the Netflix super-hit TV-series Queen’s Gambit. 

Now let’s understand the strategy behind the Scholar’s mate. This way, you will also get a better picture on how to defend against it.

The Strategy behind Scholar’s mate

There is a very clear plan that White wants to execute –

  • They want to target the weak f7-pawn. In the opening the f7-point for Black is the weakest of all the spots. That’s because it’s only being defended by the king, the most vulnerable piece on the board. As a result, any huge attack on the f7-pawn will turn out to be dangerous, as the failure to defend against it would mean the end of the game. For white the weakest spot is the f2-pawn.
  • So in order to create a huge attack on the f7-pawn, White develops 2 of their main pieces, the queen and the bishop, in such a way that they eye the weakness on f7. 
  • With that, White’s main strategy is to simply overwhelm Black’s only defender by attacking twice. If Black fails to defend the pawn well, their king will be checkmated.

Now we know what is White’s key strategy here, let’s understand what Black’s strategy should be.

Black’s Defensive Strategy You Must Remember

“Block either of White’s pieces, bishop or queen, from eyeing the weak f7-pawn.” 

Simple as that.

Defending the weak f7-pawn with moves like …Nh6 isn’t recommended as White would then play d4, opening up the diagonal for the c1-bishop and threatening to chop off Black’s …Nh6 knight. This would once again create enormous pressure on Black’s position as the capture of the h6-knight would mean that f7-pawn is once again under 2 attacks, and defended only once by the king.

Now let’s see how to defend against the Scholar’s Mate with the blocking strategy.

A Concrete Approach To Defend Against The Scholar’s Mate

1.e4 e5 2.Qh5 Nc6

Defending the e5-pawn.

3. Bc4

Threatening a mate on f7. And now instead of going 3…Nf6, it’s important to block White’s queen from capturing on f7. How to do that?


Blocking the queen from attacking f7-pawn.


White is persistent. Once again, apply the same strategy – block the queen’s path to capture on f7. How?


And now White has no attack left. Now it’s Black’s turn to take the initiative. White could try 


With the idea to go Ng5 and eye the f7-pawn, but Black plays


Attacking the f3-queen and c2 pawn. After White retreats with


Black can continue development with

6..Bg7 7.Ng5 0-0!

The f7-pawn is now firmly protected by the king and the rook and at the same time White is lagging behind in development. A plan for Black would be to play …c6 and …d5 or play …h6 and kick White’s Ng5. 

Black is slightly better.

Defending Against The Queen’s Gambit Special Scholar’s Mate 

1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nc6 3.Qf3 

Once again threatening mate on f7. Black must continue to block the White queen’s attack on f7-pawn. Therefore, they should play


White can try 


To pressurize the pawn on f7. 

Black has different options here – 4…Nd4 is the strongest and after 5.Bxf7+Ke7 6. Qc4 b5, White loses their bishop on f7. But the simplest is


Defending the pawn on f7 and now threatening …Nd4. Black has nothing to be worried about and they already have a better position.


With this, we hope you are now aware of the most important things you need to know about the Scholar’s mate – from what it is to how to defend against it. 

It’s not played at the professional level because White simply gets a worse position if Black avoids the mate. For that reason, we don’t recommend playing it with the White pieces, unless you are trying to have fun and are looking for a quick win.

The next time someone tries to checkmate you with this, remember the Black’s main defensive strategy – “Block out the attack.” This will give you a better position and you’ll teach a good lesson to all those who’re trying to checkmate you with the Scholar’s mate.

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