Mate with a Lone Knight

GM Illingworth

In this post, I will share some beautiful endgame studies and composed problems on the theme of checkmating with a lone Knight! 

Of course, the motif of the opponent's king being trapped in a corner by their own pawn, allowing a smothered mate, are well-known to most players, and with this hint, our first puzzle, a mate in 3, becomes very obvious:

However, more advanced studies may involve some complex or otherwise clever idea to force Black into a position where the pawn must smother its own king, like the following easy but cute example:
The next example, by Galitzky, is not much harder, but still quite beautiful. White to play and mate in 3!

A more complex version can be found in the following Horwitz puzzle - a true endgame study, in that White must find exactly the right move on each turn to win the game:

There is another theme I often noticed when playing through endgame studies with this theme, but I don't want to spoil it for you with a big hint! See if you can find it for yourself in this endgame study by Nyeviczkey, 1933:
There is also a really nice endgame puzzle by Salvioli, 1888, where White allows the opponent to promote to a queen, only to be able to win the queen back with a small combination. However, this puzzle has two solutions (a 'cook', as it is called in endgame study metalanguage), so let's go with another example. This is one of the most famous ones, a Troitzky study where the Black king ends up in trouble: 

Here is a very complex example, where White sets up a long and lovely combination, playing for the 'domination' theme to set up the desired final position with the knight winning against the King, trapped in by its own rook's pawn:

Finally, this is the Troitzky study that was my inspiration for this post. It will be quite easy, now that we've studied the theme of the Knight dominating, and checkmating, the king in such a schematic way, but I'll share it with you anyway as the last puzzle:

All of these endgame studies are from Harold van der Heijden's Endgame Study Database - the largest collection of endgame studies in the world. There are so many endgame studies in this amazing resource (with 85619 games) that you can easily get lost, and finding a study you vaguely recall can take some real detective work! The explanations were included by me for illustrative/educational purposes.

With this post, we've made a start towards categorizing the different endgame study themes in a way that is most useful for practical players, so that we can see the patterns much more easily in our games, for better results. 

Let me know if you'd like me to continue this series with some other endgame study themes! I am not exactly an expert in this area, but there are lots of endgame study experts - including titled chess composers and solvers - in my free Facebook group 'Chess Endgame Studies and Compositions'. 
Wouldn't it be nice to solve beautiful and challenging chess studies and problems in a supportive, friendly community, where you can discuss ideas and learn from the many chess problems shared each day while following a proven method to get better at chess?