Essential checkmate patterns


4.1 20 basic mates

BCF Certificate of Merit

Class 1 (Elementary)

 

"The game is won by the player who has mated the opponent's king. This immediately ends the game" - Article 10.1 of the official laws of chess, FIDE.


4.1.1 Material advantage


1+2. Mating the lone king at the edge of the board with the queen

You can't mate a K with K and Q in the middle of the board, but you can at the edge where there's less room for him to wriggle out. The Black Kings in the first diagram are all in checkmate.

 

j+-+-+-+
+qK-+-+-
-+-+-+qJ
+-+-+k+-
-+-+-+-+
+-+k+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-+j+q+-

But how do you get to that point? Let's try from a starting position below:

-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+j+-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-+qK-+-

We know we must get to the edge. So the winning plan is:

1. Centralise your own K

2. Drive the king to the edge of the board using the Q, stepping in with your Q or K every time the K gives way

3. Bring up your own K, and arrange the K and Q to mate the K

N.B. Don't allow stalemate!

  In practice from the diagram below, you might play:

 

-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+j+-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-+qK-+-

1 Ke2, Ke5; 2 Ke3, Kf5; 3. Qd5+ Kf6; 4 Kf4, Ke7; 5 Ke5, Kf8; 6 Kf6, Ke8; 7 Qb7! (not 7 Qd6?? stalemate!) Kd8; 8 Kd6 mates.

 


Training exercise for one person Try doing this sort of mate as quickly as you can from different starting positions - count how many moves you make as the attacker, and see if you can get it as low as possible. Have another go tomorrow, and next week, to see if you improve.

3 +4. Mating the lone king at the edge of the board with the rook

Same again: you can't mate a K with K and R either in the middle of the board, but you can at the edge. The diagram shows more or less the only mate with the rook (others are possible if there are other pieces on the board).

 

-+-J-+r+
+-+-+-+-
-+-K-+-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-

So the winning plan from the diagram below is:

 

-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-+-J-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-+-K-+r

1. Drive the king to the edge of the board using both K and R, stepping in every time the K gives way

2. Arrange the K and R to mate the K

 

  So, we can go 1. Ke2, Ke4; 2 Rh4+ Kd5; 3 Ke3, Ke5; 4 Rh5+ Ke6; 5 Ke4, Kd6; 6 Re5, Kc6; 7 Kd4, Kc7; 8 Kc5, Kb7; 9 Rd7+ Kc8 (or 9...Ka6; 10 Rc7!); 10 Kc6, Kb8; 11 Rg7! Ka8; 12 Kb6, Kb8; 13 Rg8#

  The variation at move 9 is interesting. Black's K might be better off where it is, but does have to move even if it means walking into a mate. This unpleasant obligation is called zugzwang. Did you get this? In the next diagram we see a similar position where White could mate in 2.

 

-+-+-J-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+r+k+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-

With you as White to move, if you try and arrange things with 1 Kf6, he sidesteps with 1...Kg8. If it was Black's turn to move, he would have to go 1...Kg8 and you could play 2 Re8#. But if it's your turn to move? Make it Black's turn! Play 1 Re5! then its easy: 1...Kg8; 2 Re8#

 


5+6. Mating the lone king at the edge of the board with other pieces

With some combinations of pieces you can mate in the middle of the board, but it's usually easier and sometimes necessary to do it at the edge. For some piece combinations, you need to get the king into the corner! You can do this with K+BB vs. K. You can arrange a mate in a corner with K+NN vs. K, but this cannot be forced. You can also mate in a corner with K+NB vs. K, but this is very tricky to force. You can try it against yourself if you like!

 

j+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-
nKb+-+-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-

-+-+-+-J
+-+-+-+-
-+-+bB-K
+-+-+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-

The diagram above shows the mate with two bishops, which is not too much of a struggle to force because the two bishops together form a barrier like a rook does. Let's have a go from the diagram below:

BCF Certificate of Merit

Class 2 (Intermediate)

 

-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+j+-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-B-Kb+-

1. Bd2, Kd4; 2 Kf2, Ke4; 3 Be2, Kd4; 4 Kf3, Ke5; 5 Be3, Kd5; 6 Kf4, Kd6; 7 Bf3, Ke6; 8 Bc5, Kd7 (8...Kf6; 9 Bc4); 9 Ke5, Kc7; 10 Ke6, Kd8; 11 Bd6, Kc8; 12 Bc6, Kd8; 13 Bb7, Ke8; 14 Bc7, Kf8; 15 Kf6! Ke8; 16 Bc6+ Kf8; 17 Bd6+ Kg8; 18 Kg6, Kh8; 19 Be8, Kg8; 20 Bf7+ Kh8; 21 Be5#

Capablanca recommended the study of this mate, not because it comes up very often, but to show the power of the two Bishops in combination. You try with two Knights, but don't hold your breath... ;-) You should see the differences in the nature of the pieces straight away.


[cool blue cat says:]

COOL TIP: That probably isn't the most efficient but is easy to understand. And that's the secret of good chess - understanding. I hope you can see this pattern of driving the king back, cutting off squares, pushing it back to the edge of the board, in all these examples. Do try to repeat all these on a board yourself.

[cool blue cat says:]

Training exercise

 for two people

 Try doing various mates as quickly as you can from different starting positions - count how many moves one of you makes as the attacker, and see if the other can get it lower. Have another go tomorrow, and next week, to see if you both improve.



7+8. Mating the lone K in the middle of the board with various pieces

Just to show it can be done.

 

-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+-K-+
+-+j+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-+-+p+-
-+-+-+-+
+-Rr+-+-

-+-+-+-+
+-+-Xx+-
-+-+j+-+
+-N-B-+-
-+-K-+p+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-


9+10. Mating the uncastled king

You must know the mate with 1 e4, e5; 2 Bc4, Nc6; 3 Qh5, Nf6; 4 Qxf7#, and there are several others like it. These are important formations, and most amusing if you can pull it off is the epaulette (shoulder-pad?) mate, in the second diagram below.

 

-+-DjL-+
+-+-+q+-
-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-N-
-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-

-+-TjT-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+q+-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-


4.1.2 Mating the castled king:


11,12. mates on the back rank

This is a very common mate, and easy to overlook if you have been sensible enough to leave your K behind a nice safe wall of pawns!

 

-+-+r+j+
+-+-+xXx
-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-

back rank mate

 

-+-+-+jR
+-+-+x+-
-+-+-+x+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-
-B-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-


13,14. mates on the second rank

These are very common and important mates; in the first diagram it is a luxury to have both Bishop and Rook supporting the Queen!

 

-+-+-Tj+
+-+-+xXq
-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+b+-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+-+or+
+-+-+-+r

-+-+-Tj+
+-+-+xQx
-+-+-+-B
+-+-+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-

t+-+-T-J
+-+-+xXx
-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-N-
-+q+-+-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-

The last of these three is known as Philidor's Legacy: 1 Nxf7+ and if 1...Kg8; 2 Nh6++! Kh8; 3 Qg8+! Rxg8; 4 Nf7, a terrific smothered mate. So Black must play 1...Rxf7, losing the exchange in most situations.

 


15-20. other mates

-+-+-+-J
+-+-+-+r
-+-+-N-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-

arab mate

 

t+lDjLsT
Xx+sXxXx
-+xN-+-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-
pPpPqPpP
R-B-KbNr

smothered mate

 

tSl+jLsT
XxXx+xXx
-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+-+-D
+-+-+-+-
pPpPp+-P
RnBqKbNr

fool's mate

 

-+-+r+-R
+-+-+-Xj
-+-+-+x+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-

-+-+j+-+
+-+-+-+-
-+b+-Q-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-

-+-+-+-J
+-+-+x+x
-+-+-B-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+-+r+
+-+-+-+-


[cool blue cat says:]

COOL TIP: Obviously, there are loads of mates. You must develop a feel for the sorts of ways pieces work together to create checkmates.

 


[cool blue cat says:]

Training exercise

  for one person

  One way to do this is to set up one corner of a board with a castled king's position and try and mate the king using different combinations of pieces - Q+B, Q+N, Q+R, R+B, and so on.
Also, as above, set up positions with a K (perhaps with some help) against other pieces, e.g. Q and R, so you practice finishing off won games.

Chess Quotes

"I don't know what I am going to play, so how can she know what I am going to play!"
— GM Arthur Bisguier, commenting on the virtues of opening preparation. (via Rachel Landry)