Your move, mate! What's the fastest possible checkmate in chess?

It’s funny the things that go through your head, in the shower. I was thinking about an essay on ecological validity when, for no reason, a question scenario for The Chase pops into my head and I remembered a game of postal chess I had over 30 years ago. The friend I was playing had a really high ranking and was considered almost unbeatable in the league, yet I beat him in just four moves (as black, so 8 total). Really, he should have seen it coming a mile off and blocked but he was concentrating on his own clever move and hadn’t seen my opener before; Game over, Nick. He mentioned he’d never played such a short game before. I replied, "I’ve seen shorter…"

So, here you are, a contestant on the Chase and the presenter (currently Bradley Walsh in the UK) reads out the next question:

What is the least possible number of moves to win a game of chess? a) 2, b) 3 or c) 4

They wouldn’t ask that for the simple reason all three answer are correct, depending how you interpret the question and how pedantic you are. The answer here is that there isn’t enough information to answer the question. The contest would be right to cautiously ask, "Umm, as white, as black, or in total?"

It goes like this:

White: p-kb4 (p-f4)
Black: p-k3 (p-e6)
White: p-kn4 (p-g4)
Black: q-kr4 (p-h4), mate

Black can win in just two moves.
White cannot win in 2, the least possible is 3.
Least possible total moves to win a game of chess is therefore 4.

There are plenty of chess websites and youtube uploads about this, now, but I learnt the moves in the 60’s – when I was about 5!

How to achieve checkmate in 2 moves:

(The Chess photo in the banner is from Unsplash, by Maarten van den Heuvel)

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