Basic Checkmate Patterns – Tactics #1

In this instalment, I am going to show you the basic checkmate patterns in their simplest form. Once you understand how to checkmate in one position, there will be a vast number of similar positions that you can apply the same idea to.

Once you recognise how to achieve checkmate, then you can start to think about how to get there in a game. This will often involve bringing many pieces into an attack against your opponent`s king, a pawn storm perhaps, to remove the pawns in front of a castled king, or even a sacrifice pieces to prise open the enemy position. Here is the first pattern:

The Back Rank Mate

Typically, this checkmate will be allowed by carelessness on your opponent`s part. However, as you progress, you will notice that what is defined by ‘carelessness’ becomes increasingly subtle, and the back rank problems can arise from a seemingly ‘safe’ position to the untrained eye, when the choice may arise for them whether to forfeit material, and enter a losing endgame or to lose on the spot by an immediate checkmate.

It is white to move and win.

Re8# delivers the back rank checkmate.

Now, I will show you an example where a choice must be made between losing material or losing on the spot… On the board below, black won by the following combination 1…, Qxh7 2. Rxh7 Rd1#

Black can win the white queen. If white recaptures, there is a surprise in store…

… Black checkmates white with Rd1#

The Kiss of Death Checkmate

This one is when the queen lands on a square that is defended by an ally piece (often a pawn or a king) and checkmates the opponent as shown in the diagram below: 1…, Qg5#

Here is another example:


Smothered Mate

Out of all the different checkmates, this one is by far and away the most satisfying one to play. There is nothing more humorous than the situation where one`s king is trapped in by his own men and can`t escape checkmate – it is like an own goal in football.


Here is another example (a purer example). Black can win by the following combination: 1…, Qg1+ 2. Rxg1 Nf2#

The Lawnmower

This is a checkmate that two rooks against a lone king can make. The rooks drive the king to one edge of the board until the king is trapped and becomes checkmated. The easiest way to do it is to be methodical. Move your rooks are far from the enemy king as possible, then start to slide them down the board, and force the enemy king to the edge. If the king attacks your rook, simply slide it across to the other side.

In this position, white could checkmate black by the following sequence of moves:  1. Ra4+ Kd5 2. Rb5+ (figure 2) 

Kc6 3. Rh5 Kd6 4. Ra6+ Kc7 5. Rh7+ (figure 3) 

Kb8 6. Rg6 Kc8 7. Rg8# (figure 4)

You should now have a foundation in understanding these basic checkmate patterns which you will no doubt get a chance to use in your own games. If you want to practice your tactical skills further, then you could use tactics trainer on If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below…


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