Can You Checkmate Without Check?

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When you checkmate the opponent’s king you win the game. Right? But then questions like these may come to your mind, can you checkmate without check, or do you have to check before checkmate.

In a chess game, it is not mandatory to check before checkmate because in many cases it may happen that the king is not in check but suddenly gets checkmated. The best example of this is Fool’s Mate in which the white queen directly checkmates the black king on the second move.

Don’t worry if you didn’t understand some terms because ahead I am going to explain everything right from scratch.

Actually, check and checkmate are the concepts that many beginners struggle to understand. If you are also having many doubts related to these two then just relax because after reading this article all of them will be solved.

Without further ado let’s start!

What Is The Difference Between Check And Checkmate?

Check means the king is under attack but still has the chance to escape it. While checkmate means the king is under attack and there is no way to protect it.


Check means the king is under threat but still there is some way to escape from it. There are actually three ways a player can respond to a check:

  1. To capture the attacking chess piece.
  2. To keep a piece between the attacking piece and the king.
  3. To move the king to a safer square.

Here in the above example, the black king is in check (under attack) by the white queen but still, it has ways to protect itself. The squares which are marked with a green tick are safe squares for the black king. The square that is marked with the red cross is unsafe. Now from the three ways of responding to a check as discussed above, here the black king can respond in a third way. So it can either move on the square h7 or g8 to get out of check.


Checkmate (or simply called mate) means the king is under attack and has no means to get out of it. The side that checkmates the king wins while the side that gets checkmate loses the game.

Here in the above example as you can see the black king is under the attack of the white queen. But the black king can’t capture the white queen since it is protected by the white bishop. Also, there are no other safe squares left for the black king to move. Hence black king gets checkmated.

In an article I wrote previously, can a king take a queen in chess, I have explained when a king can take (capture) the attacking piece and when can’t. If interested then you can check that out.

Now after understanding the difference between check and checkmate let’s see the examples in which checkmate occurs without check.

Suggested Read: 7 Checkmate Rules Every Chess Player Should Know!

Examples In Which Checkmate Occurs Without Check

Fool’s Mate


1. In this mating pattern white first moves the pawn to f3 square. In response, black moves the pawn to e5 square.

2. Now on the second move, white moves the other pawn to g4 square. Black in response moves the queen to h4 square and checkmates the white’s king.

Notice that now white’s king can’t move on any other safer square. Moreover, the attacking piece can’t be killed and no other white piece can be kept between the attacking piece and the white king.

Read Related: What Happens If You Put Yourself In Check?

So, here the white king gets checkmated directly even without being in check. Since black checkmates, the white in two moves, fool’s mate is also known as two-move checkmate.

Similarly, let’s see the next example.

Also Read: Do you Lose If You Falsely Call Checkmate?

Scholar’s Mate


1. White moves the pawn to e4, in response black moves the pawn to e5.

2. Then white moves bishop to c4 attacking f7 pawn. Black moves knight to c6.

3. White moves queen to h5 further attacking f7 pawn. Black in response moves knight to f6.

4. Finally white captures the f7 pawn and checkmates the black king.

Here checkmate occurs because the king can’t capture the black queen since it is protected by the white bishop.

Secondly, the black king can’t move anywhere else as all the squares are blocked, and also no pieces can be kept between the king and the queen.

Thus this shows how clearly checkmate can occur without check. As this checkmate occurs in four moves so it is also known as a scholar’s mate.

Read Related: What Happens If You Forget To Say Check In Chess?

One thing you might have noticed is that the f7 pawn is very weak. Right? This is because initially it is only protected by the king. And we can’t use our king to protect a pawn as losing the king means losing the game.

Hence to avoid getting this kind of early checkmate our goal should be too, first of all, know all these patterns and also safeguard the f7 using proper strategies. We should not fall into the trap set by our opponent and that’s the key.

Also Read: How Many Checks Are Allowed In Chess?


Check and checkmate have some similarities but it is not necessary that first check should occur and then checkmate.

The basic idea is about the king is under attack or not. Whether the king could get out of it or not. In simple words, if the king can get out of the attack then it is checked, and if it cannot then it is called checkmate.

Another concept that is necessary to mention here is the idea of a stalemate. Stalemate is quite different from check and checkmate.

In short, it is a condition in which the king is not in check but it has no legal moves left to continue the game. So the game ends in a draw as soon as the stalemate occurs.

Here are some helpful articles are written by me that you can read to get more information on this topic:

-> Difference Between Stalemate And Checkmate (Helpful Guide For Beginners)

-> Difference Between Stalemate And Draw (+Types Of Draw)

-> Why Do I Keep Getting Stalemate? (& How To Stop It)

Thanks 🙂 and have a nice day!

Related Questions:

Can a king be killed without check?

Technically, a king can’t be killed but can only be checked or checkmated. Now, yes, a king can be checkmated without a check because in many situations the king can get checkmated instantly without even needed to be in check. Especially, in the quick checkmating patterns like fool’s mate and scholar’s mate.

Can you win chess without saying check?

Yes, you can win chess even without saying check. In fact, it is not necessary to say check or checkmate in an official chess game. Most of the time, the players are professional enough to identify whenever they are in check or checkmate. In casual games, it is totally your choice.

Can you go straight to checkmate?

Yes, you can go straight to checkmate as it is not mandatory to check before checkmate. In many cases, it may happen that the king is not in check but suddenly gets checkmated. For example, in Fool’s mate, the white queen directly checkmates the black king on the second move.

What happens if your king moves into check?

If the king moves into check then either two things can happen. First, if the king has any legal way to get out of it then the player is forced to do so before making any other move (otherwise it will be considered an illegal move). Secondly, if there are no legal ways left for the king to get out of check means the king is checkmated and the game ends.

Wait! Before you go I highly recommend you to check out my free, how-to-play chess guide. In that, I have explained chess basics from start to finish. So if you are a beginner and looking for a complete guide then it will help you a lot.