- 17 Oct '07 11:30What is the “shortest” possible game of chess ending in checkmate?

Although the shortest possible game would be a forfeit in which no moves have been played (Fischer-Spassky, Reykjavik 1972, World Championship Game 2, for example) and the shortest game between Grandmasters is the famous Fischer-Panno game in 1970 in Palma de Majorca, there are three further ways to define the term “shortest.” One of the ways to define the word is by time on the clock. Another way is to define it by the fewest number of moves. With this definition, the shortest possible game ending in checkmate is the famous fool’s mate which is occasionally seen in children’s tournaments:

1. f3 e6, 2. g4 Qh4#. There are variations: White’s first move could be 1.f4, not 1.f3; White’s first and second moves may be transposed; and Black’s first move could be 1. ... e5, not 1. ... e6.

However, let us consider the geometrical length of each move, since the word “short” can be a measure of distance too. Using this notion, we define the “length of a move” as the distance between the centres of the starting and ending squares of each move.

Therefore, assuming that each square is one unit of length, the length of a king’s vertical or horizontal move is 1, as is a queen’s vertical or horizontal move of one square, a rook’s move of one square, or a pawn’s move of one square. However, a king’s diagonal move, or a queen’s diagonal move of one square, or a bishop’s move of one square, or a pawn’s capturing move, is, according to the Pythagorean theorem in geometry, √2. The knight’s move is √5. Therefore, in the fool’s mate, the total length of all the moves is (1 + 1 + 2) + 4√2 = (4 + 4 √2) = ca. 9.65685, or (1 + 1 + 2) + √32 = (4 + 4√2), which is exactly the same thing.

However, the fool’s mate is not the “shortest” possible game geometrically. With this in mind, the intention of the question concerns the geometrical length of each move. What is the “shortest” possible game of chess ending in checkmate?

Answer: The shortest possible game of chess, ending in checkmate, with the minimal possible length of moves is:

1. d3 e6, 2. Qd2 Ke7, 3. Qe3 e5, 4. Qxe5#. There is one variation which does not alter the answer: Black’s second and third moves may be transposed.

Although this game has more moves than the fool’s mate, the total length of all the moves is (4 x 1) + √2 + (1 + 2) = (7 + √2) = ca. 8.4142 which is about 1.24 units shorter than the fool’s mate and is therefore the “shortest” possible game of chess that ends in checkmate.

Unfortunately, the knowledge of these details does absolutely nothing to help one play the game better. - 17 Oct '07 13:53 / 1 edit

There is a two move game: 1. g4 e6 2. f4 Qh4#*Originally posted by AttilaTheHorn***What is the “shortest” possible game of chess ending in checkmate?**

Although the shortest possible game would be a forfeit in which no moves have been played (Fischer-Spassky, Reykjavik 1972, World Championship Game 2, for example) and the shortest game between Grandmasters is the famous Fischer-Panno game in 1970 in Palma de Majorca, there are three ...[text shortened]... nately, the knowledge of these details does absolutely nothing to help one play the game better.

this is "fools mate"; what you were refering to is "Scholar's Mate"

also: familiarity with these mates has been useful in helping me avoid these themes at later stages in the game; so, they are not useless to know. - 17 Oct '07 15:40

No, that is the Fool's Mate, and in fact there are eight ways to reach it. The Scholar's Mate to which you refer is: 1.e4 e5, 2. Qh5 Nc6, 3. Bc4 d6, 4.Qxf7#. I see this mate frequently in school tournaments with very young children. Of course, I guess it's all a matter of semantics.*Originally posted by preachingforjesus***There is a two move game: 1. g4 e6 2. f4 Qh4#**

this is "fools mate"; what you were refering to is "Scholar's Mate"

also: familiarity with these mates has been useful in helping me avoid these themes at later stages in the game; so, they are not useless to know. - 18 Oct '07 01:45

I beg to differ, the Shortest Chess Game was the one where Nigel Short got caught in a fool's mate for the first time by some cruel older adolescent at the time.*Originally posted by AttilaTheHorn***No, that is the Fool's Mate, and in fact there are eight ways to reach it. The Scholar's Mate to which you refer is: 1.e4 e5, 2. Qh5 Nc6, 3. Bc4 d6, 4.Qxf7#. I see this mate frequently in school tournaments with very young children. Of course, I guess it's all a matter of semantics.** - 18 Oct '07 15:00

There is even a shorter game: The 2nd game in Reykjavik 1972. Fisher on the white side and Spassky on the other.*Originally posted by AttilaTheHorn***In the 1970 candidate's matches, Bobby Fischer opened 1.c4 and Oscar Panno resigned, and that's exactly what the score sheet read, officially signed by both players. What can be shorter than that, other than a forfeit in which no moves have been played?**

Spassky won just by being there. Fisher didn't. - 18 Oct '07 17:43

have a look at a couple of my games !!!!!!*Originally posted by AttilaTheHorn***What is the “shortest” possible game of chess ending in checkmate?**

Although the shortest possible game would be a forfeit in which no moves have been played (Fischer-Spassky, Reykjavik 1972, World Championship Game 2, for example) and the shortest game between Grandmasters is the famous Fischer-Panno game in 1970 in Palma de Majorca, there are three ...[text shortened]... nately, the knowledge of these details does absolutely nothing to help one play the game better. - 18 Oct '07 22:38

I knew about that, just didn't know the other GM's name...*Originally posted by AttilaTheHorn***In the 1970 candidate's matches, Bobby Fischer opened 1.c4 and Oscar Panno resigned, and that's exactly what the score sheet read, officially signed by both players. What can be shorter than that, other than a forfeit in which no moves have been played?**

good call, did you have to research it?

or just off the top of your head you knew Oscar Panno? - 22 Oct '07 11:07

I read it somewhere in a book once and just made a note of it, largely because Bobby Fischer almost always opened with 1.e4, so his opening 1.c4 was very surprising to me. In fact, since this occurred in the candidate's matches leading to the 1972 World Championship, which he won, it was an indication that he was preparing to alter his opening repertoire. The Russian team helping Spassky refused to believe he would change his repertoire, and so Spassky was not as prepared as he could have been. Fischer used several openings in that match that were highly unusual for him. That "short" game against Panno tipped his hand, but no one took note of it.*Originally posted by rubberjaw30***I knew about that, just didn't know the other GM's name...**

good call, did you have to research it?

or just off the top of your head you knew Oscar Panno?