The Lonely Knight Checkmate

The Lonely Knight Checkmate

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After my very first lesson at the chess club of the Pioneer Palace, our coach gave us a simple checkmate-in-three-moves puzzle. Immediately our most advanced players started shouting that it is an absolutely impossible task.

Some 40 years later I give the same puzzle to my students at our school's chess club and the kids' response is generally the same.

If you read my old article, then you might already know what position I am talking about.


Can you find the above-mentioned checkmate in three moves?

Yes, indeed a lonely knight cannot checkmate, but only if the opponent has nothing but a king. Add at least a pawn and a checkmate becomes theoretically possible. The key word is "theoretically."

It looks like a checkmate is absolutely impossible in this position, but if Black really wants to help, then the "impossible" thing becomes quite possible. All that Black needs to do is to promote his pawn into any piece but a queen, then move his king into a corner and...ta-da, Black's king gets checkmated. I am sure you'll be able to figure out all the details on your own.

Today we are going to look at positions where the knight that delivers a checkmate is the only piece the winner has (we don't count pawns here). This kind of a position is quite popular in chess composition. Here are two such positions for you. In both of them White starts and wins. Try to solve them on your own (I should warn you that it is not easy at all!).

A checkmate with a lonely knight is usually so dramatic that you can see it on a big screen:

A very nice lesson from a homeless guy (well played by the world champion Anatoly Karpov)! But if you still didn't get the concept of the smothered checkmate, here is one more demonstration from another famous Russian grandmaster:

It is actually a bank commercial where they are trying to lure you with an interest rate of 9.25 percent! Carry trade, anyone?

While there are many "lonely knight" checkmates in chess composition and movies, it is not that easy to recall many games where the knight that delivers a checkmate is the only piece the winner has. As a matter of fact, I personally witnessed only one such game:

There is one little-known game that features a spectacular combination that ends with the lonely knight checkmate. Can you find it in the following position?

I am sure that there are more games like this. If you know of any such games, please share them in the comments.

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