Learn chess with Pete

Lesson 3 – Checkmate patterns

A lot of how a human player (as opposed to a computer) plays chess is by recognising patterns. Patterns can be seen at all stages of the game – the opening, middle game and ending – and also in pawn structures, piece deployment and what we will talk about here – checkmate patterns.

Following on from last week, I’ll start off with a back-rank mate. This is mate, usually with a rook, but sometimes a queen, where the enemy king can’t escape because he is hemmed in by his own pawns.

Here’s the basic pattern

You should be able to see that this is a fairly common type of position where the Black king has castled. This mate crops up quite often in chess, and though it rarely actually happens in games between good players, the threat of it happening can often decide the result of a game.

Here’s a more realistic example which could come from a real game

Back Rank Mate

Castling is nearly always a good idea, but do not imagine that your king is invulnerable just because you have castled. He is usually safer than he would be in the middle of the board, but he also makes a good target because he usually doesn’t have much freedom of movement (at least to begin with).

Here’s an example of a checkmate against a castled king

Castled King Mate

There’s another lesson in this position. If Black wasn’t already mated himself, he could checkmate White by Qxh2 (Queen takes the h2 pawn). So it’s no good just threatening checkmate – you’ve actually got to do it before your opponent does!

Any piece, even a mere pawn can give checkmate, though this is unusual. Here’s an example from one of my own games

Mate with a Pawn.

There are lots of special kinds of checkmate such as the epaulette mate, I might show you that one later, or you can look it up for yourself. Some checkmates are so famous that they are named after a particular player. Here is one called Philidor’s Legacy

Philidor's Legacy

And to see one called the Blackburne Trap, this is one of the games from the games section of the Halesowen Chess Club site.

Pete Banks v John Pakenham

The next lesson will be the first of a section on tactics, which will cover themes such as forks, pins, skewers, and ‘the old one-two’.