A chess checkmate is a situation in which a player’s king is in check and there is no way to remove that check. A checkmate is usually a win for the player who is checkmating, although a game may continue if it is possible for the player having a checkmating advantage to cause a stalemate or for the player having a checkmating disadvantage to set up a fortress.
The chess game can end in a few different ways.
The most common is checkmate, which occurs if one player’s king is in check, and he cannot get out of check. This is the most exciting way for a chess game to end, with a checkmate occurring.
There are also a few other ways a chess game can end:
- Stalemate, which occurs when a player’s king is in check, and he cannot get out of check, and his opponent cannot move, and there is no piece that can be moved that would get the king out of check or force the opponent to move the king.
- Draw, when both players agree that the position is a draw, or if there are not any more pieces on the board, and neither player can move any of his remaining pieces to get his opponent in checkmate.
Different Types of Chess Checkmate
Following are the different types of chess checkmate that players should be aware of to sharpen their game plan and skills.
In Anastasia’s Mate a knight and rook cooperate to checkmate the opponent’s king on the side of the board.
The following two examples show Anastasia’s Mate.
1.Rh3# checkmates the black king against the side of the board.
Note: White’s knight is perfectly placed to cover the escape squares.
White plays 1.Rd8# This variation of Anastasia’s Mate reminds us of the Back Rank Mate.
Note: White’s knight covers the opposing king’s escape squares instead of his own pawns.
This pattern is named after Adolf Anderssen, a German chess master from the 19th century. In this checkmate pattern, a rook is supported by a pawn as it checkmates the opposing king along with the eighth rank from the corner. The pawn is then also defended by another piece or pawn.
This is the original example of Anderssen’s Mate from the game Anderssen vs Zukertort, 1869.
1.Rh8# demonstrates the Anderssen Mate. Adolf Anderssen sacrificed a lot of material to reach this checkmate pattern–which was eventually named after him.
White plays 1.Rh2+ and prepares to execute Anderssen’s Mate on the next move. Black is forced to play 1… Kg8.
2.Rh8# White concludes the game with the Anderssen Mate.
Note: White’s pawn is defended by his king.
Wilhelm Steinitz, the first official world chess champion, used this checkmate pattern brilliantly in a game against Reiner, Vienna, 1860. Here’s the position.
Steinitz played 1… Qxh2+, forcing white to capture the queen with their rook. Black loses the queen but for the purpose of clearing the g-file for black’s rook.
Note: The Arabian Mate is a checkmate pattern that features the unique abilities of a knight with the help of a rook.
The first example shows what the Arabian Mate looks like in a simplified situation.
White knight defends the rook on h7 and at the same time covers the escape square, g8.
Note: This demonstration of the knight’s unique abilities is the main feature of the Arabian Mate.
2… Rg1# is a beautiful example of the Arabian Checkmate executed in a high-level game.
Back Rank Mate
It happens when a king is trapped behind its own pawn shield and gets mated by a rook or queen.
White plays 1.Rd8#
The black king is trapped on the back rank, behind his own pawn shield, hence the name “Back Rank Mate”.
It’s a typical Back Rank Mate.
White plays Rd8#.
Note: The black king cannot escape to the g7-square, because white’s bishop on a1 has it covered.
In most situations the pawn shield really does a great job to protect the king, but you should know the potential back rank weakness. One way to deal with this weakness is to play a move known as creating “luft” (German word for “air”), a chess term which means you open an escape square for your king, usually by advancing the g-or-h-pawn one square.
Black plays 1… h7.
This move creates an escape square for black’s king and prevents the possible Back Rank Mate.
The name “Balestra Mate” (performed by a queen and bishop) was first used as a tag on chesstempo.com–in order to distinguish it from Boden’s Mate (which involves two bishops).
The Balestra Mate is a checkmate pattern that features optimal coordination between a queen and bishop. It is similar to Boden’s Mate. The difference is that the latter involves two bishops instead of a queen and bishop.
1.Bc6# shows how the white bishop and queen coordinate perfectly to checkmate the black king on the side of the board.
Blackburne’s Mate is one of the rare checkmate patterns that involves two bishops and a knight against a castled king. The pattern is named after Joseph Henry Blackburne’s, a British chess player who once demonstrated this checkmate in one of his games.
1.Bh7# demonstrates the typical coordination between two bishops and a knight that resembles the checkmate pattern.
This is the original pattern of the game.
1… Qxh3+ White is forced to play 2.gxh3, which will expose the white king on the h1-e4 diagonal.
After 1… Qxh3+ 2.gxh3, black plays Bxe4#
Note: Black has only three minor pieces remaining, yet they coordinate perfectly to deliver checkmate. Although white has a lot of pieces on the board, they’re not doing anything to help defend their king.
Blind Swine Mate
This checkmate pattern got its name from David Janowski, a Polish grandmaster who referred to a pair of rooks on the seventh rank that could not find a mate as “blind swine”, implying that they should be able to find mate.
Blind Swine mate pattern that demonstrates the power of two connected rooks on the 7th rank. Blind Swine Mate is often impossible to defend against this checkmate pattern–which is why you should be very aware of the danger presented by two connected rooks on the 7th rank.
1.Rdg7# demonstrates the checkmate pattern. The two white rooks on the 7th rank coordinate to trap the castled king, with the “help” of the obstructing black rook on f8.
1.Rg7+ Kh8 2.Rcc7 gets the two rooks on the 7th rank and there is nothing black can do to defend against the coming checkmate.
The position is from the game Swiderski – Nimzowitsch, 1905.
Note: How difficult it is two stop two rooks on the 7th rank.
White plays 2.Rcc7! White is threatening 3.Rh7 Kh8 4.Rcg7#
Black can only delay the eventual outcome, but he cannot prevent it.
2… Nd7 is a futile attempt to defend against the checkmate, but after 3.Rcxd7 Rf7 4.Rcxf7 there is still nothing black can do to prevent the checkmate.
Black tried desperately to find a way out, but now it’s clear they can’t prevent Rh7+, Kg8 Rfg7#
Note: Help of white’s knight to cover the f8-square.
This checkmate pattern is named after Samuel Boden–even though he wasn’t the first player to use it. It was however named after him when the game he used it in became well-known.
Boden’s Mate is a checkmate pattern that demonstrates the power of two bishops on open diagonals. The pattern is similar to the Balestra Mate, but the latter involves a queen and bishop instead of two bishops.
The first example is a simplified position that demonstrates the essence of the pattern:
1.Ba6# shows how the two white bishops work together to deliver a checkmate. They require the “help” of black’s rook and pawn which occupy their own king’s escape squares.
1… Qxc3+ forces white to play 2.bxc3–which clears the way for black’s dark-square bishop to deliver the checkmate on the next move.
2… Ba3# shows why black was willing to sacrifice the queen on the previous move–checkmate ends the game!
Corner Mate is a checkmate pattern against an enemy king that is trapped in a corner. The actual checkmate is often executed by a knight.
1.Nf7+ demonstrates the checkmate pattern known as the Corner Mate. Note how the white rook on g1, with the help of the black pawn on h7, traps the black king in the corner.
1… Qxf1+! The purpose of this move is to remove the defender of the f2-square, so that black can play 2… Nf2# on the next move.
2… Nf2# checkmates the white king in the corner.
Note: This example is from the game Myers vs Poliakoff, 1955.
1.Qf8# is a fairly common corner checkmate that demonstrates the unique abilities of the queen.
In this checkmate pattern the enemy king can’t escape from check because it’s trapped along a rank, file or diagonal (corridor). This type of checkmate is sometimes referred to as the Back Rank Mate but it’s not quite the same thing.
This demonstrates the checkmate pattern on a rank.
Rd8# is known as a Back Rank Checkmate. In this case the 8th rank represents the “corridor”.
The second example illustrates a checkmate pattern executed on a file:
1.Qc2+ proves the black king is trapped in a corridor on the c-file. The best black can do is to delay the checkmate with 1… Qc3 (or Qc5), in which case white will simply capture the black queen, 2.Qxc5, and say checkmate.
The last example illustrates a corridor mate on a diagonal:
1.Rb8+ Qg8 2.Be5# demonstrates the corridor checkmate along a diagonal.
2.Be5# demonstrates how the black king is trapped on the e5-h8 diagonal. Note that the black queen is pinned by the rook.
Note: The Corridor Mate is actually a broad term for a number of checkmate ideas, one of which is the Back Rank Mate.
Cozio’s Mate (Dovetail Mate)
Cozio’s Mate is a fairly common checkmate pattern. Cozio’s Mate was originally demonstrated by Carlos Cozio, an Italian chess player from the 18th century. As the arrangement of the pieces visually resembles a dove’s tail, it is also known as the Dovetail Mate.
1.Qf3# demonstrates Cozio’s Mate. There are only two squares surrounding the black king that aren’t covered by white’s queen. These two squares are occupied by black’s own queen and pawn though.
Note: The arrangement of the pieces resemble the visual appearance of a dove’s tail.
At a first glance, it gives an impression that white is in trouble. Fortunately for white, they can force Cozio’s Mate on the black king. 1.Qh7+ Kg4 (forced move).
2.Qh3# concludes the checkmate.
It’s a checkmate pattern where a queen and a pawn (or a bishop) coordinate their efforts against a castled king. It can only work if the pawn shield in front of the enemy king has been compromised.
1.Qh7# demonstrates the basic idea in Damiano’s Checkmate.
Note: The white pawn covers the escape square, f7.
It’s often used as a tactical puzzle because the solution is unique and beautiful.
Note: It’s a game between Alexander Baburin and Utut Adianto, in 1993.
Black starts the combination with 1… Rh1+. The point is that black wants to execute Damiano’s Mate, but needs to get the queen into the action.
In order to achieve this black gives up both the rooks in order to get the queen into the action. 2.Kxg1 is forced.
2… Rh8+ Black wants to sacrifice the second rook also. 3.Kg1 is essentially forced, or else 3.Bh6?! Rxh6 is checkmate in any case since black’s bishop on c5 then covers g1.
3… Rh1+ On the next move the queen will get into the action.
Note: Black uses the sacrifices to gain time and not allow white to make a defensive move. Again, 4.Kxh1 is forced.
4… Qh8+ and now the point is clear–after 5.Kg1, the black queen will deliver Damiano’s Mate.
5… Qh2# concludes this beautiful checkmate combination. Note the important contribution from the black pawn on g3.
Note: This example illustrates why it’s very dangerous when the pawn shield in front of the king is compromised.
The well-known advice “If you see a good move, try to find a better one”, is often attributed to Lasker and other modern chess writers, but this advice is found in Damiano’s book–written more than 500 years ago!
David and Goliath Mate
The David and Goliath Mate is a checkmate pattern characterized by the fact that a humble pawn checkmates the opponent’s king.
1.h4# proves it is quite possible for a pawn to deliver a checkmate, with the help of other pieces and/or pawns though.
Averill Powers employed this checkmate pattern against an opponent in a simultaneous event, Milwaukee, 1937:
1.Qf7# is a surprising move. It’s almost comical to notice that white is willing to sacrifice the queen in order to get the pawn to finish the checkmate. 1… Qxf7 is forced.
2.exf7# proves that a pawn should never be underestimated! This checkmate would not be possible without the help of white’s knight (and even the black pieces that obstruct their own king).
There are many different ways to reach this checkmate pattern–the only “requirement” is that the actual checkmate is delivered by a pawn.
Note: Maybe it appears unusual to deliver checkmate with a pawn, but it is quite common in actual games.
Note: The David and Goliath Mate can happen at any stage of the game
- Even the opening, as seen in the first example
- Most of the time though, this pattern will occur towards the endgame stage when the pawns are advanced and become a threat to the enemy king.
The Epaulette Mate gets its name from the decorative shoulder piece that is sometimes worn on an item of clothing, especially on the coat or jacket of a military uniform. The Epaulette Mate resembles the visual appearance of an ornamental shoulder piece sometimes worn by elite military personnel. This pattern is very similar to the Swallow’s Tail Mate.
White plays 1.Qf6#
Note: The black rook and pawn resembles the visual appearance of “decorations” on the king’s shoulders, hence the name Epaulette Mate.
1.Rxh5+ gxh5 2.Qf5#
Fool’s Mate (also known as the 2-move checkmate) is the quickest possible checkmate pattern in chess.
Note: It should not be confused with the 4-Move Checkmate.
The Fool’s Mate is reached after the moves 1.f3 (or f4) e5 2.g4?? 2.Qh4#
The white king can’t move to a safe square and he can’t block the check either.
Note: It is unusual for white to move the f-pawn and g-pawn on their first two moves, but it is still a fairly common occurrence among beginners.
Black just played g7-g5, threatening to capture the white bishop on f4.
1.Bh5+ Nxh5 2.Qxh5# uses the fool’s mate pattern to checkmate the black king.
Note: Even if the Fool’s Mate might never happen in your own games (though it probably will at some point), it is still useful to know the pattern. This is because the basic pattern in the fool’s mate can be used in other situations too (as illustrated in Example 2).
It is a checkmate pattern where the enemy king is trapped in a corner with the help of a bishop. It is a great example of how a rook and bishop can coordinate to deliver a checkmate.
1.Rh1 demonstrates Greco’s Mate.
The white bishop covers the escape-square, g8. The g7-square is occupied by one of black’s own pawns and the white rook delivers the checkmate along the open h-file.
1… Ng3+! The point is to open up the h-file and follow-up with Greco’s Mate. 2.hxg3 is forced.
2… Rh4+ (or even Qh4+ leads to the same outcome).
Black concludes Greco’s checkmate with 3.Qxh4# The point is that black’s bishop covers g1.
Note: English chess grandmaster, Michael Adams, demonstrated Greco’s Mate beautifully in this game.
1… Qa2+! If white plays 2.Kc1, then 2… Qa1# is checkmate right away. Therefore white accepts the sacrifice, 2.Kxa2.
2… Bc3+! is a discovered check by the black rook on a8, but at the same time the black bishop now covers both the b1-and-b3-squares. White can only delay checkmate with one more move, 3.Ba5 Rxa5#
Note: It is from a game by Edward Lasker. It is a unique take on how Greco’s Mate can be executed.
Note: Greco’s Mate often occurs on either the h-file or a-file. Therefore it is one of the checkmate patterns that relate to other H-file Mates.
It’s a very common attack-method in chess to destroy the pawn shield in front of an enemy king (often with a sacrifice). This leads to various other checkmate patterns that become possible as a result of the open h-file.
This position is known as Anderssen’s Mate, but it became possible as a result of the open h-file.
1.Rxg6+ hxg6 is a sacrifice that opens up the h-file. White wants to play 2.Rh8# on the next move.
Note: 1.Rxg6+ Rg7, then 2.Rxg7+ Kh8 3.Rhxh7# reminds us of the Blind Swine Mate.
Now that the h-file is open, white can execute the Morphy Mate on black’s king.
Note: Examples shown above show how the open h-file often precedes the execution of another checkmate pattern.
Note: The h-file is a common path of attack on a king-side castled king. Therefore, the h-file Mate is not really a checkmate pattern in itself. Instead, it’s a method of attack that often makes the execution of other checkmate patterns possible.
The Hook Mate is a very useful and instructive checkmate pattern that demonstrates optimal coordination between a rook and knight. The pattern is named after its visual appearance that resembles a hook.
1.Rd8# demonstrates the Hook Mate.
Note: The optimal coordination between the rook and knight. The knight must be supported though, in this case by the pawn on c5, else the black king could simply capture the knight.
In a famous game between Frank James Marshall and William Ewart Napier, Brooklyn, 1898, Marshall demonstrated that he knew the hook mate very well–by promoting his pawn to a knight, instead of a queen:
Instead of promoting to a queen, which would give black a draw by perpetually checking the white king, Marshall chose a checkmate combination that starts with 1.f8(N)+ Black is forced to play either Kh8 or Kg8.
Both moves lead to the same outcome.
2.Ng6+ is a discovered check that prepares for checkmate on the next move. Note the important role of the pawn on f5–to protect the knight.
3.Rf8# is checkmate. Alternatively, if the black king went to h7, then 3.Rh8# would be a checkmate.
Kill Box Mate
The Kill Box Mate is a checkmate pattern where a queen and rook work together to checkmate the enemy king. An important feature of this pattern is that the queen defends the rook whilst at the same time trapping the enemy king “in a box.”
1.Rd8# is a simple demonstration of the Kill Box Mate. Note how the queen protects the rook whilst also containing the black king in a “box”.
Example 2: In the game Efim Geller vs Kogan, Odessa (Ukraine), 1946, Geller used the Kill Box Mate to finish off his opponent:
Geller played 1.Qc6+. This move forces the black king to go to a7 and at the same time the queen now supports a8.
Checkmate is coming on the next move.
2.Ra8# closes the box on black’s king.
Note: The Kill Box Mate pattern is also used as an “ingredient” in another checkmate method–the RailRoad Mate.
The Lawnmower Mate is an easy checkmate typically performed by a queen and rook (or just two rooks). The two pieces work together to push the enemy king to the side of the board.
Note: It is one of the checkmate patterns that beginners should learn since it is a very common pattern.
1.Rb7+ will force the black king to move to the last rank, onto the side of the board. Note the important role of the rook on a6, which prevents the black king from escaping towards the middle of the board.
Black’s king is forced to move to the side of the board. 1… Ke8 or Kf8 or Kg8. They all lead to the same outcome:
2.Ra8# completes the Lawnmower Mate. Again, note now the important role of the rook on b7–the black king can’t return to the 7th rank. Beginners often make a mistake and check with the wrong rook, allowing the king to escape.
Giving a check with the wrong rook will allow the black king to escape to the 7th rank. This is an inconvenience for white and they will have to return the rook to the 7th rank.
Légal’s Mate is a checkmate pattern named after the French chess player, Sire de Légal (1702–1792). He commonly used the pattern in his games. Since it is actually an opening trap, it’s also known as Légal’s Trap.
White plays the surprising move 1.Nxe5! Doesn’t this move blunder the queen since black can now play 1… Bxd1?
If black plays 1… Bxd1? then white will execute a forced checkmate (which I’ll show you in a moment).
Instead, black’s best try is to play 1… Nxe5 (threatening 2… Nxc4) and we will reach the position shown:
Instead of 1… Bxd1, black might play 1… Nxe5.
White should then play 2.Qxh5 (regaining the lost piece) and if black plays 2… Nxc4 then 3.Qb5+, followed by 4.Qxc4 leaves white a pawn ahead.
Now returning to the main question–what happens after the moves 1.Nxe5 Bxd1?
We then reach the position shown:
2.Bxf7 initiates the Legal’s Mate combination! Black is forced to play 2… Ke7, after which 3.Nd5# is checkmate.
3.Nd5# White just gave up their queen, but Légal’s Mate ends the game!
It’s a common checkmate pattern performed by the cooperation between a queen and pawn, typically against a castled king. Lolli’s mate is named after Giambattista Lolli, an Italian chess player from the 18th century.
White plays 1.Qg7# The pawn defends the queen. This pattern is fairly common and is known as Lolli’s Mate.
In many cases it becomes almost impossible to defend against the Lolli’s checkmate pattern if a similar position appears on the board, particularly if the rook is still next to the castled king.
White plays 1.f6, threatening 2.Qxg7# The only way black can block the checkmate is to play 1… g6, but this will then allow white to execute the Lolli’s checkmate pattern.
After 2.Qh6 there is nothing black can do to prevent 3.Qg7# on the next move.
You can play chess in many different ways. You can play against another player, the computer or an online opponent. Whichever way you choose to play, it is important to know the different types of checkmate patterns that exist and how to use them in your game. These checkmate patterns will definitely help you to improve your checkmate skills.
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