Learn chess with Pete

Lesson 2 Ė More about checkmate


One thing I forgot to say in the last lesson was that when a king is in checkmate, it is not captured like other pieces. The game is over immediately the checkmate is delivered.

In this lesson, Iím going to tell you a bit more about how to checkmate your opponent. First of all, what do you think is the minimum force needed to checkmate?

The answer is a King and Rook against a lone King. It is also supposed to be possible with King, Knight and Bishop against a lone King, but this is very rare. In other words, you cannot give checkmate with King and Bishop against King, or King and Knight against King. This can be useful to know, because if it is getting towards the end of a game, and your opponent has a Knight or Bishop more than you, it is worth trying to swap everything else off, because if neither side can checkmate the other, the result is a draw. I will talk more about draws in a later lesson.

The situation is more complicated if other pieces are still on the board. For instance

this position shows a checkmate with Knight against Queen and Rook (Iíve stopped mentioning Kings because they are both always on the board). I made this position up. To achieve anything like it in a real game, your opponent would have to be asleep or drunk! The only move that Black has in this position, is to move his King next to the White King. This is not allowed because both Kings would be in check at the same time!

So how do we checkmate with just one Rook? There are two endings shown. The first is the way that many beginners try to win this ending. It doesnít work. The second is the way it should be done.

How NOT to mate with a Rook

How to mate with a Rook

The main thing to remember in this ending is that White must force Black into a corner or edge of the board to be able to checkmate with just a rook. Therefore Black must try to keep his king as near the centre of the board as possible. Of course the same applies in reverse if Black was the one with the Rook!

So checkmate can happen very early in the game, as we saw in Lesson 1, or at the end of a long game like we have seen here.

Remember that Chess is a War game, based on ancient warfare, though it has evolved and changed a bit over the last few thousand years. The Pawns represent the foot soldiers, Knights are the cavalry, Rooks are chariots (from the old Persian rukh). This is why the game is over when the King is dead. In ancient times, the King always fought with his army, and if he was killed the army would surrender or run away. There were exceptions, like the English at the Battle of Hastings, but the English are special.

In the next lesson, you will learn about common checkmating patterns that can occur at almost any stage of the game.