The Wayward Queen Attack is an unusual King’s Pawn Opening beginning with 1. e4 e5 2. Qh5
White develops the queen as early as move two, putting black’s e5 pawn under attack. Often this is played by beginners with the aim of achieving the infamous “four move checkmate,” but no less than World Champion Magnus Carlsen has given it a try in a tournament!
Of course, this move appears to violate the Opening Principles of chess, which state that it’s not often a good idea to develop the queen too early – especially not to a square where it can be easily attacked!
Indeed, it’s easy to imagine this queen getting attacked with …g6 or …Nf6 soon, when the queen would have to move again.
That said, this move isn’t as bad as it looks. For starters, the e5 pawn is attacked, so black will need to deal with this!
Black’s most popular move is 2…Nc6, developing a piece and defending the pawn. Now white can play 3. Bc4:
And White is already threatening checkmate! Many beginners have fallen for 3…Nf6?? (perhaps getting excited to attack the queen!) 4. Qxf7#, and white wins.
Instead, 3…g6 is a rational move, attacking the queen and preventing the checkmate. White can play 4. Qf3 to renew the checkmate threat, but black can continue to develop their pieces with 4…Nf6 and defend this threat once again.
Now white has a choice:
This move is consistent with white’s play – white has twice threatened to take the f7 pawn, and twice black has defended. White moves the queen yet again to renew the threat a third time – this time with the bishop out in front!
Black can defend with 5…Qe7, but black actually has a way to make white pay immediately for this transgression of opening principles. 5…Nd4!, sacrificing the f-pawn, is very good for black.
After 6. Bxf7+ Ke7, white cannot defend all of black’s threats (to the queen, bishop, and the c2 pawn with a king/rook fork). White’s only attempt is 7. Qc4:
But after 7…b5!, black wins. White is losing at least a piece.
This move is much more sensible than the disastrous 5. Qb3 covered above. White realizes that he has pushed the boundaries of the opening principles long enough, and it’s time to get some other pieces into the game!
This line is perfectly playable for white, though it’s not considered an ambitious attempt to get an opening advantage. After 5…Bg7 6. d3 d6 7. h3 a6 8. Nbc3:
The game is roughly equal.
Of course, most players don’t play the Wayward Queen Attack to reach the equal, rather dull position in the above diagram. Most victims of this opening are beginners who fall for an opening trap!
We already saw how black can fall for the Four Move Checkmate above. After learning about this checkmate as a beginner, I remember responding to 1. e4 e5 2. Qh5 with 2…g6??
This seemed sensible to me at the time. I knew that white wanted to checkmate me in four moves, so I immediately cut off the queen from the f7 square! Of course, white is completely winning after 3. Qxe5+.
The Wayward Queen Attack can intimidate beginners – the prospect of an early checkmate and the presence of a couple opening traps can be frightening to deal with.
However, simply taking the game a move at a time, always identifying your opponents threats each turn, and calmly preventing them guarantees black a good game here. These skills are essential for any chess player to develop, so the Wayward Queen Attack is good practice!
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