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Miguel Illescas: Fool's Mate

Knowledge of the basic mate structures is essential to improve your play. This article is intended to help players in the range 1600-2200 elo rating. One of the best known mates which at the same time is one of the less appreciated is the Fool's mate. Every beginner learns this mate when he starts to play chess. The reason behind the name becomes quite clear when we realize how it appears on the board: 1.f3? e5 2.g4?? Dh4# XIIIIIIIIY 9rsnl+kvlntr0 9zppzpp+pzpp0 9-+-+-+-+0 9+-+-zp-+-0 9-+-+-+Pwq0 9+-+-+P+-0 9PzPPzPP+-zP0 9tRNvLQmKLsNR0 xiiiiiiiiy White has weakened the e1-h4 diagonal decisively and immediately receives his punishment. Of course, this is the fastest check mate in a chess game, and therefore White must certainly be quite mad to allow his position to collapse in only two moves. In fact, in my 5-million game database, I have only found four games with this sequence of moves, so one could easily question the practical utility of knowing this mate. However, experience shows us that chess knowledge must never be underestimated. Let's take a look at a game I played against the great champion Gary Kasparov: Dutch Defence 1.d4 f5 2.Lg5 h6 3.Lh4 g5 4.Lg3 XIIIIIIIIY 9rsnlwqkvlntr0 9zppzppzp-+-0 9-+-+-+-zp0 9+-+-+pzp-0 9-+-zP-+-+0 9+-+-+-vL-0 9PzPP+PzPPzP0 9tRN+QmKLsNR0 xiiiiiiiiy FIDE SURVEYS Miguel Illescas

It seems that White has allowed his bishop to be shut in. Of the 244 games that arrived at this position, in none less than 18 Black was too ambitious and fell straight into the following wellknown opening trap: 4...f4? 5.e3! fg3?? 6.Dh5 mate XIIIIIIIIY 9rsnlwqkvlntr0 9zppzppzp-+-0 9-+-+-+-zp0 9+-+-+-zpQ0 9-+-zP-+-+0 9+-+-zP-zp-0 9PzPP+-zPPzP0 9tRN+-mKLsNR0 xiiiiiiiiy And here we have it: the Fool's Mate. By the way, two of the games in my database ended in mate. Of course in the other two games Black played 5...Sf6 but after 6.ef4 White has already won a pawn. The correct continuation is to defend the mate with 4...Sf6 5.e3 d6 as in Kasparov-Illescas, Dos Hermanas 1996, which finished in 52 moves. There are other cases in which an oversight can lead to a quick Fool's ending: Bird Opening 1.f4 e5!? 2.fe5 d6 3.ed6 Ld6 XIIIIIIIIY 9rsnlwqk+ntr0 9zppzp-+pzpp0 9-+-vl-+-+0 9+-+-+-+-0 9-+-+-+-+0 9+-+-+-+-0 9PzPPzPP+PzP0 9tRNvLQmKLsNR0 xiiiiiiiiy The From gambit, clearly the most aggressive line against the Bird. Black's threat is so obvious that White missed it in only 1 out of 1.650 games: 4.Sc3?? Dh4 5.g3 Lg3 XIIIIIIIIY 9rsnl+k+ntr0 9zppzp-+pzpp0 9-+-+-+-+0 9+-+-+-+-0 9-+-+-+-wq0 9+-sN-+-vl-0 9PzPPzPP+-zP0 9tR-vLQmKLsNR0 xiiiiiiiiy Personally, I would have captured on g3 with the queen but in any case White resigned. Naturally, the
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correct move was 4.Sf3, protecting the vital h4 square, after which Black obtains good compensation in exchange for the sacrificed pawn, both, in the aggressive 4...g5, as in the slow 4...Sf6 or 4...Lg4 variations. Generally, when the queen gets to h5 (or h4 for Black) the attack becomes very strong. I recall a theoretical discussion from my junior years: Owen Defence 1.e4 b6 2.d4 Lb7 3.Ld3 f5? XIIIIIIIIY 9rsn-wqkvlntr0 9zplzppzp-zpp0 9-zp-+-+-+0 9+-+-+p+-0 9-+-zPP+-+0 9+-+L+-+-0 9PzPP+-zPPzP0 9tRNvLQmK-sNR0 xiiiiiiiiy This reckless move is currently considered to be refuted but years ago the assessment wasn't so clear and we can find 109 games in the database. Nowadays, theory has established that the modest 3...e6 is much better. 4.ef5! Surprisingly, White only plays this energetic move that sacrifices his rook on h1, in 63 games. The following moves are forced. 4...Lg2 5.Dh5 g6 6.fg6 Lg7! There are four games with 6...Sf6? 7.gh7 Sh5 8.Lg6# including one published in Greco's 1620 book and a more recent one played in 2009; 389 years later the Fool's mate makes a comeback! XIIIIIIIIY 9rsn-wqkvl-tr0 9zp-zppzp-+P0 9-zp-+-+L+0 9+-+-+-+n0 9-+-zP-+-+0 9+-+-+-+-0 9PzPP+-zPlzP0 9tRNvL-mK-sNR0 xiiiiiiiiy Let's return to the main line. We can see that in spite of Black's ingenious defense, White's attack quickly becomes devastating: 7.gh7 Kf8

XIIIIIIIIY 9rsn-wq-mkntr0 9zp-zppzp-vlP0 9-zp-+-+-+0 9+-+-+-+Q0 9-+-zP-+-+0 9+-+L+-+-0 9PzPP+-zPlzP0 9tRNvL-mK-sNR0 xiiiiiiiiy Black hopes that after 8.hg8D Kg8 9.Dg4 Lh1 the compensation for the exchange will be insufficient, but White has a much stronger reply. 8.Sf3! The knight joins the attack without paying attention to the smaller details, such as the rook that is now being sacrificed. Certainly, after 8...Lh1 9.Se5 Le5 10.de5, with the idea Lh6, White will mate quickly. Therefore, first Black brings his knight into play. 8...Sf6 9.Dg6! XIIIIIIIIY 9rsn-wq-mk-tr0 9zp-zppzp-vlP0 9-zp-+-snQ+0 9+-+-+-+-0 9-+-zP-+-+0 9+-+L+N+-0 9PzPP+-zPlzP0 9tRNvL-mK-+R0 xiiiiiiiiy And now the black bishop must choose the piece it prefers to capture. If it captures the knight, the rook that we had left dying joins the attack via g1, for example: 9...Lf3 10.Tg1 Th7 11.Dg3, and White recovers the material by force, and has a better position: 11...Le4 12.Le4 Se4 13.Df3 Kg8 14.De4 Sc6 15.d5 Sa5 16.Sc3, with a huge advantage. Therefore, finally Black has to act in a consequent way and capture the rook but he will soon find himself in a mating net. 9...Lh1 10.Lh6! Th7 If 10...Lh6 11.Dh6 Kf7 12.Sg5 Ke8 13.Lg6 mate. 11.Sg5! XIIIIIIIIY 9rsn-wq-mk-+0 9zp-zppzp-vlr0 9-zp-+-snQvL0 9+-+-+-sN-0 9-+-zP-+-+0 9+-+L+-+-0 9PzPP+-zP-zP0 9tRN+-mK-+l0 xiiiiiiiiy The following sequence is forced.
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FIDE SURVEYS Miguel Illescas

11...Lh6 12.Sh7 Sh7 13.Dh6 Kf7 14.Dh7 Ke6 15.Dg6 Kd5 16.Sc3 Kd4 17.Dg5 XIIIIIIIIY 9rsn-wq-+-+0 9zp-zppzp-+-0 9-zp-+-+-+0 9+-+-+-wQ-0 9-+-mk-+-+0 9+-sNL+-+-0 9PzPP+-zP-zP0 9tR-+-mK-+l0 xiiiiiiiiy and obviously with his king stranded in the center Black receives mate on the next move. After considering the previous examples we might think that the ideas derived from the Fool's Mate can only be applied in marginal opening lines but this is not true. Let us transport ourselves to an emblematic city, Linares, with two world class Grand Masters and one of the most solid and respectable openings, the Caro-Kahn. The Fool's Mate decided to make an appearance in such a magnificent event: Caro-Kann Defence Nunn J. : Georgiev K. Linares 1988 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Sc3 de4 4.Se4 Sd7 Black prepares the development of the other knight avoiding the doubled pawns that would arise after 4...Sf6 5.Sf6. 5.Sg5!? An interesting idea that became popular precisely in the eighties. White plans ahead of his opponent and makes it clear that he doesn't want an exchange of knights. Also, moving to g5 hinders the development of the c8 bishop, as the attack on f7 will force Black to advance his pawn to e6. 5...h6? XIIIIIIIIY 9r+lwqkvlntr0 9zpp+nzppzp-0 9-+p+-+-zp0 9+-+-+-sN-0 9-+-zP-+-+0 9+-+-+-+-0 9PzPP+-zPPzP0 9tR-vLQmKLsNR0 xiiiiiiiiy It is highly probable that Georgiev missed his FIDE SURVEYS Miguel Illescas

opponent's reply. Normal development was correct, for example 5...Sgf6. Now White plays a nice move, under the shadow of the Fool's Mate. 6.Se6! XIIIIIIIIY 9r+lwqkvlntr0 9zpp+nzppzp-0 9-+p+N+-zp0 9+-+-+-+-0 9-+-zP-+-+0 9+-+-+-+-0 9PzPP+-zPPzP0 9tR-vLQmKLsNR0 xiiiiiiiiy Here is the key. The knight can't be touched because of the mate on h5. 6...Da5? Mistakes come in pairs, as Black tries to justify his previous oversight. More sensible was 6...Db6, although after 7.Sf8 Kf8 White enjoys a comfortable advantage with his pair of bishops in an open position. 7.Ld2 Db6 Thanks to the check Black now attacks the d4 and b2 pawns, as well as the knight, but Nunn doesn't seem to be too worried and calmly continues his development. In his turn Georgiev, clearly affected by the course the game has taken, turns mad and decides to eliminate the enemy knight at a stroke, omitting an elemental reply. 8.Ld3!? fe6?? 9.Dh5! Kd8 10.La5! XIIIIIIIIY 9r+lmk-vlntr0 9zpp+nzp-zp-0 9-wqp+p+-zp0 9vL-+-+-+Q0 9-+-zP-+-+0 9+-+L+-+-0 9PzPP+-zPPzP0 9tR-+-mK-sNR0 xiiiiiiiiy Black has saved his King but lost his queen. An unbelievable ending to a top-level game Precisely 1988 was my first time playing in the great Linares tournament, so I was there when the battle-hardened Bulgarian, after putting up a useless resistance, finally resigned on move 42. After the round had finished, as the last players and spectators abandoned the playing hall, the Fool's happy laughter could still be heard behind the stage ...