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13 Checkmates You Must Know

Written by Yury Markushin

Sunday, 17 January 2010 16:51
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13 Checkmates You Must Know
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As we all know, the ultimate goal of chess is to deliver a checkmate. Fortunately
not all checkmates in chess are as complicated as the one discussed here. Today
well focus on 13 most common checkmates in chess. You should always look to
setup one while playing a game and also be aware of these structures in order to
avoid nasty surprises prepared by your opponents.
By looking at this positions you will learn basic checkmating patterns and will train
your ming to create and find similar position in your own games.
White to move in each position.

Two major pieces back rank mate

This is by far the simplest possible mate in the game of chess, which usually occurs in the late stages
of the game (i. e. endgame). Stronger side cuts the opponents King from 7th rank with one major piece
and delivers a mate with the other one. One the diagram above white mates with 1.Ra8#. This mate is
very common and thus important to know and to be aware of.

Note: If the opponents king is stuck in the middle of the board, the stronger side should walk him
onto the 8th rank to the shown position by given interchangeable checks with the rooks, and then
mating on the back rank.

Two Pawn checkmate

This is a very common endgame, where one side has two pawns and the other side has none. On the
positions above, Black has nowhere to move: d7 and f7 are guarded by the Whites King; d8 and f8 are
guarded by the e7 pawn which obviously cannot be captured.

If it were Black to move, White would feel silly since it is a stalemate a draw. However in this case it
is White to move and mate in one: 1.d7#.
This mate is also often occurs in more complex positions with other pawns and pieces present on the

Back rank checkmate

This is a classical example of the back rank checkmate which is a very powerful weapon which is used
by all players as a serious weapon or a threat. In the position above Blacks King is blocked by his
own pawns on the 8th rank (i. e. back rank) and any check by a major piece on the back rank would
turn out deadly.

If we take a look at the Whites pawn structure it is pretty similar to the Blacks with one big
exception: h pawn is advanced from h2 to h3 freeing and escape square or an escape window on h2,
illuminating back rank checkmate threat.
White continues with 1. Ra8# delivering checkmate in one.
Note: You should be always aware of the back rank threats even when no immediate checkmate is
available, position can change very rapidly and therefore it is a good practice to create an escape
window in the endgame where major pieces are present.
Tip: There are a lot of cases of the back rank mate in the Middle game also.

Diagonal checkmate
The setup Queen + Bishop lined up on the same diagonal was proven to be very powerful. In this case
the setup is even more powerful since black dominates the so-called long (a1-h8) diagonal.

White mates with 1.Qxg7#. The diagonal checkmate should be in arsenal of every practical chess
player. At the same time players should be aware of this kind of setup when on defensive side.
Note: Similar type of mate is possible if Whites Queen and Bishop are lined up on b1-h7 diagonal,
double attacking the weak h7 square which is often guarded by the King alone.

Smothered checkmate
It is a mate given by the knight alone when an opponents king is unable to move because its blocked
by its own pieces or pawns. This mate is quite hard to see sometimes because players usually dont
expect the knight to be a mating piece.

In the diagram above the Blacks King is tightly surrounded by its own pawns and the rook. In fact,
Blacks King cannot move at all! Any check delivered to White would be a checkmate. The knight is a
perfect piece for doing that since it can check without changing Blacks pawn structure.
White checkmates with 1.Nf7#.
Note: When you see that your opponents King cannot move due to surrounding pieces, smothered
mate theme should click in your mind.

Bishop and Knight fianchetto checkmate

It is a common checkmate which exploits the 3 weak dark squares around the Black Kings castle: f6,
g7 and h6 can be occupied by the Whites pieces.
It is always dangerous to exchange the fianchetto bishop, which would be the Blacks dark square
bishop (not present on this diagram below), it will create many weak squares, especially if your
opponent has dark square Bishop. Do not exchange the bishop if there is no extreme necessity of
doing so.

White mates with 1.Nh6#, since Blacks King already couldnt move due to White bishop controlling
h8 and g7 and f8 is blocked by Blacks own rook.
Note: You should always feel danger when you dont have fianchetto bishop but your opponent does.
Alternatively, if you have the bishop and your opponent has a weak fianchetto you should look for
opportunities to attack.

Anastasias checkmate
This checkmate is another great example of how the knight can be used in mating schemes. In
Anastasias mate knight and rook work together to lock an opponents King on the h file (it works as
well on a - file too, in case of a long side castle) and to checkmate thereafter.

The knight controls g6 and g8 squares, while rook will take care of entire h-file and deliver a
1. Rh5#.
Note: The Anastasias mate shows an importance of a rook lift in the middle game, which is a
technique when one player lifts his rook from the back rank to an active position, usually close to an
opponents King.

Two bishop checkmate

It was once said that a pair of bishops on an open position is twice as strong as these bishops far away
from each other. Doubling the bishops is like doubling rooks a very effective tool. On the diagram
above pair of bishops show its true power by checkmating the Blacks King without the own Kings
support: 1.Bb2#.

Interesting Fact: Two bishops when working at its best cover 28 squares. Queen can do the same:
also 28 squares.

Queen and Bishop pin checkmate

Queen works great in pair with a bishop. In the example above the g7 pawn could not capture the
Bishop on h7 since its pinned to the King by Whites Queen. That is a very common and useful
mating pattern which should be recognized and used frequently.

White proceeds with 1. Qxg7#, mating in one.

Queen and Bishop fianchetto checkmate

That is another example of how bishopless fianchetto can be exploited. Whites sees it and smartly
sets up the mating net. Squares h6, f6 and g7 are very weak and White takes advantage of that fact.

White checkmates with 1.Qg7#. Now you know what to do when dealing with weak, bishopless
Note: Once again, think twice before exchanging that fianchetto bishop!

Queen and Rook checkmate

We already know that queen and bishop work great together. In this example we will see that queen
and rook work as well or even better in pair. Black has his Kings side castle setup, but the h-pawn is
missing, making it a very unsafe place for the King to be at.

Once again White just exploits weak squares in order to develop a checkmate: 1. Qh8# or 1.Qh7#.
Note: When you have an open file available it is a must to occupy it with major pieces, double up and

Queen and King checkmate

It is a very simple yet useful mate which almost always occurs in the endgames. It is very easy to
checkmate a lone King with a King and Queen working together. You need to setup position similar to
the one on the diagram and declare a mate: 1. Qh7# or 1.Qg7#. Else you can play 1.Qa8# or even

Note: Most players would probably resign before that positions occur, but there are some players who
will play till the very end. You must now how to win this simple positions quickly and effortlessly,
even if short on time.
Rook and Bishop checkmate
This is a very common checkmating theme not only in the endgame, but in the middle game as well.
The basic idea is that the Rook is used to cut the Blacks King on the edge of the board and use
Bishops long range abilities to deliver a mate.

White continues with 1.Bb2# and checkmates.

Note: This mate is also known and Morphys Mate since it was first employed by Morphy in one of
his games.