One of the most common checkmates at the beginner and novice level is the checkmate by the queen on f7 (for white) or f2 (for black). This kind of checkmate typically happens very early in the game. A well known example is the Scholar's mate, where white aims for this checkmate right from the first move. Even if you don't know the name, you might have seen it played (or even been the victim of it). It comes in a few varieties, as black's moves can vary, but a typical sequence can be seen below.
Scholar's mate is a favourite of novices, because it can result in an easy win against an inexperienced player. Many new players can even end up losing interest in the game because they keep losing to this simple plan. It can be frustrating to lose game after game in only four moves. The good news is, white's plan is easy to parry if you know how. In fact, it's so easy to parry that playing in this way as white is not to be recommended. Let's take a look at how to avoid this checkmate.
White may try to get around this defence by bringing out the queen first. Black should take care to avoid the following:
It's not just scholar's mate we have to look out for in the early stages of the game. The f7 square (for black) and the f2 square (for white) are prime targets early on before the kings have castled. Why are these squares weak? Take a look at the starting position on the board below:
If you look at the f2 and f7 squares, you'll notice that the only pieces guarding those squares are the two kings. Furthermore, as we have seen in the earlier examples on scholar's mate, the queen and bishop can quickly move into positions to attack those squares. While scholar's mate is easily parried, there are other tricks and traps to watch out for early in the game that take advantage of the weakness of f7. Take a look at the following short game.
Now that we know about the weakness of the f2/f7 square, how can we avoid being checkmated there? The best way to avoid any checkmate in the early stages of the game is to get your pieces out from between the king and rook, and castle your king to safety at the edge of the board. Take a look at the example below.
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