- This post examines 31 checkmate patterns players should study.
- It looks at all sorts of checkmates, with a brief history of them and practical examples from games or common positions.
- Ranging from basic and common to rare and complex, studying these mates will help you with your overall game.
We are foregoing openings today and instead are focusing on the endgame and checkmate patterns! We are looking at 31 fundamental checkmates you must know in order to finish off your opponents.
This one is not very common beyond the beginner level, but most people have faced it at some point starting out. The reason that it is not so common is because one has to basically play the worst, most weakening moves possible. It is the quickest way checkmate may be delivered. It is also known as the “two move checkmate”.
It involves White opening up the diagonal to their king so that Black may swing across the board with their queen and deliver checkmate. Here is one example of a move order allowing a Fool’s Mate
This is one you need to always have your eyes peeled for, both on your end as well as your opponents. Even some of the best players get caught out by this elementary checkmate sometimes.
The back rank mate occurs when a rook or queen moves to the first rank (or eighth for Black) while the king is trapped by its own pieces (usually pawns).
Here is an example of a top-level game won by delivering a back rank mate.
The lawnmower mate is delivered by two major pieces. Major pieces refer to rooks and the queen, so any combination of these two pieces. Checkmate is delivered on the edge of the board. One of the major pieces prevents the king from moving away from the edge while the other delivers checkmate on the same rank/file as the king.
This is a crucial checkmate to learn how to execute and is very common in endgames. It is called the Lawnmower Mate because the king is forced to the edge of the board one rank or file at at a time, similar to how a lawnmower cuts grass one strip at a time.
A smothered checkmate is one of the most satisfying checkmates to deliver. It occurs when a knight traps the enemy king, who may not escape as it is surrounded by its own pieces.
Here is a beautiful example of a real-life smothered mate, delivered in just five moves!
A suffocation checkmate is similar to the smothered mate, but instead of the king being completely trapped, the bishop covers any escape squares.
An example from a classic game:
The Arabian Mate is the result of the powerful duo of a rook and knight or queen and knight teaming up to deliver checkmate. This checkmate occurs when the rank in front of the king (second for White, seventh for Black) is cut off by a rook or queen.
For this mate to work, the king under attack must be stuck in the corner.
In this classic example executed by Steinitz, Black sacrifices their queen in order to deliver the Arabian Mate. Beautiful!
As seen in the last example, a long-range piece (queen or rook) teamed up with a knight is often a deadly combination.
Anastasia’s Mate is such a combination where a knight and a rook trap the opposing king on one side of the board. The side being attacked often has one of their own pieces blocking what would be a flight square.
Here is an example from a game. It is mate in two.
1…Qxa2+ A queen sacrifice as after 2.Kxa2 the rook swings over for …Ra6#. White’s pawn on b2 prevents the king from escaping. While the knight covers the b1 and b3 squares.
Named after Joseph Henry Blackburne, who was nicknamed “The Black Death”, this is a rare checkmate where the opponent’s king is confined to the edge of the board, while one of their own pieces (usually a rook) prevents escape.
1.Bh7#. Black’s rook is covering their only flight square.
Also known as the “Seventh Rank Mate”, this is a checkmate where two rooks team up on the seventh file. It gets its name from Polish master Dawid Janowski, who affectionately referred to to two rooks on a player’s seventh rank, “swine”.
Another checkmate where the king is trapped by his own pieces and the enemy bishops make it impossible to escape.
White gave up their rook on move 33, but it was not needed. With the pawn and the queen on the sixth rank, checkmate was imminent.
This is another classic mate named after Pedro Damiano. It involves a bishop supporting a queen. When bishops and queens are coordinated, they can form a potent force. With a queen on the same diagonal as a bishop, this is known as a battery.
Can you spot how the queen and bishop can deliver mate here?
1.Qxh6+ The pawn cannot recapture as the king is pinned. …Kg8 2.Qxg7#
Named after Italian chess player Gioachino Greco, in this checkmate a rook or a queen delivers mate and a bishop covers escape squares. One of the opponent’s own pieces blocks escape. This is usually a pawn.
The knight sacrifice is thematic here. The bishop on c5 controls the king’s escape square. 2.hxg7 and Qh6#.
In the Hook Mate, checkmate is delivered by a rook (or sometimes a queen), while a knight protects the rook and also covers an escape square. The knight is protected by a pawn, preventing the king from capturing the knight. This pawn also covers a flight square.
The mate is called this because the pieces resemble a hook.
This checkmate normally comes after a series of rook and knight checks. A rook protected by a king or a pawn delivers checkmate at the edge of the board while a knight covers the remaining flight squares for the king.
This mate is named after IM Vladimir Vukovic which he illustrated in his book “The Art of Attack in Chess.”
In this checkmate, a knight delivers mate with the king in the corner, with a rook or queen covering the adjacent file (the b- or g-file). One of the opponent’s pieces blocks escape. This is usually a pawn.
This checkmate is named after one of the most influential players in history whose games are still studied as masterpieces.
The mate is often preceded by a check with a protected rook, followed by one or several discovered checks to eliminate defenders of the king.
A bishop (or rarely a queen) delivers checkmate, while a rook prevents horizontal or vertical escape. Other flight squares are covered by the opponent’s own pieces (often a pawn).
In this checkmate, a rook delivers checkmate while a bishop (or rarely a queen) prevents the king from escaping diagonally. The opponent’s own pieces block other flight squares.
The mate is named after American chess player Harry Nelson Pilsbury.
In this checkmate, a rook delivers checkmate on the bank rank while a bishop protects the rook and also prevents the king from escaping diagonally.
This game is named after the famous Opera House Game played by Paul Morphy and Duke Karl/Count Isouard. It is one of the most famous miniatures and is highly recommended as a first game to memorize.
Memorize the game with the help of Chessable for free here.
In this checkmate, a queen on the seventh rank delivers checkmate, while a pawn on the sixth protects the queen. That’s it, no other pieces are involved in this one.
It is named after Italian chess player Giambattista Lolli.
In this checkmate, a queen delivers checkmate at the edge of the board while being protected by a bishop. The bishop also covers the flight square. One of the opponent’s own pieces also blocks escape which the queen and bishop do not cover.
This checkmate was named after German player Max Lange, and the end position from the following game:
Lange did not get to use the mate here, but if play continued, it would have gone on 20.Kh1 Bf2+ 21.Kh2 Qg1#.
This checkmate is named after Italian player Carlo Cozio, who published this checkmate in a study in 1766.
In it, a queen delivers checkmate from a square diagonally adjacent to the king, supported by a friendly piece.
In this mating pattern, a queen delivers checkmate from a vertically or horizontally adjacent square, supported by a friendly piece.
This checkmate is one of the most satisfying to deliver. It is delivered by a protected pawn. There is just something so nice about checkmating with a pawn.
It is named as such as the pawn represents the underdog (David) while the king is Goliath.
This mate occurs with a bishop delivering checkmate while the queen blocks most flight squares. There is no help from the opponent’s pieces in this checkmate. The queen and the bishop are always placed on different color squares, usually with two squares in between.
A very tricky one to pull off, but fun when you finally do it. The double knights checkmate is delivered by two knights pairing up, almost always on different color squares, either next to each other or protecting each other. As such, they cover the maximum amount of squares.
Two knights and a king alone cannot checkmate a sole king, so there needs to be some extra material in order for the two knights to deliver checkmate.
Unlike the Double Knights Mate, it is possible for there to be a checkmate with two bishops against the enemy king. This usually occurs on the edge of the board.
The Triangle Mate consists in the queen delivering checkmate, supported by the rook, which also covers some flight squares. The rook, queen, and king are all on the same color squares and form a triangle.
If the king is on the edge of the board, no other pieces are involved. Otherwise, one of the opponent’s own pieces will cover the square not covered by the rook and queen.
This lethally named checkmate occurs when a rook delivers mate, supported by a queen covering most escape squares. The rook is on a square adjacent to the king. The rook and queen form a 3×3 box (i.e. the killbox). Like the triangle mate, if the king is on the edge of the board, no other pieces are involved, otherwise, other pieces prevent its escape.
In this checkmate, a queen or protected rook delivers mate to a king that is stuck between two of its own pieces (many times rooks), or a rook and the edge of the board.
This mate gets its name due to its similarity to epaulettes, which are ornamental shoulder pieces worn on military uniforms.
Also known as the Legal Mate, this checkmate is delivered on the kingside. It features a queen sacrifice, and if the opponent accepts the sacrifice, the checkmate is delivered by the minor pieces.
These checkmates are examples of some common and not so common checkmates and practical examples of them. By studying them, you will train your tactical vision and can employ them in your own games.
Even the less common ones teach valuable lessons about piece interplay, so it is worth studying all of them.
CraftyRaf and IM John Bartholomew’s “The Checkmate Patterns Manual” goes over a great deal of them, explaining how they work and showing real games in which they have been executed. Check it out!
- What are the rules of checkmate?The rules of checkmate state that the king must be under attack “in check” and may not escape by moving, capturing, or blocking the check.
- What is the best checkmate in chess?There are so many checkmates to choose from that it is hard to say one is better than the other. Many players find the visual appeal of the “Smothered Mate” to be particularly satisfying.
- How do I checkmate in 2 moves?The Fool’s Mate, or two-move checkmate arises after the following move order: 1. (f3, f4 or g4)
1… (e6 or e5) 2. (g4 if 1. f3 or 1. f4, or either f3 or f4 if 1. g4)
- What is the 4 move checkmate called?The four-move checkmate is called the Scholar’s Mate and arises after the move order: 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nc6 3.Qh5 Nf6 4.Qxf7#
- Why is it called checkmate?The term checkmate comes from the Persian phrase, “shah mat” which means “the king is helpless.”
- How many types of mates are there in chess?The possibility of combinations of checkmates is an astronomical number. However, for known checkmate patterns, there are a couple dozen that have their own name.