Mate with Knight and Bishop

Jun 10, 2010, 5:23 PM |

There was a recent post about the minimum amount of material needed on the chessboard to force mate to a lone king.  Everyone seems to agree that it is a king, knight, and bishop.  (Or, one or two well placed pawns that can be promoted.)  A king and two knights can not force a checkmate; though, in the right position they can give checkmate.

At around the same time, there was a thread on the board about what a person can do to improve their play.  I agree with the majority of posters of that thread that one must play, play, and play.  Another idea that I think helps with both play and endgames is to play oneself; trying to checkmate the lone king against the other king and queen, king and rook, king and both bishops, and king, knight, and bishop.  (To help improve Pawn play, set up the board as you normally would for a game and remove all the men except kings and pawns.)  Try your best to mate the enemy king as if you were playing an another person.  First, you are attacking the lone king; then, using the lone king you are defending---trying to block and negate the attack.

I like to start my practice/training sessions with the pieces in their starting positions.  For the queen and king, there is only one position:  WK on e1, WQ on d1, and BK on e8.  (If you want Black to be the victor it would be WK on e1, BK on e8, and BQ on d1.)  For the rooks there are two possible starting positions.  The first:  WK on e1, WR on h1, and BK on e8.  The second:  WK on e1, WR on a1, and BK on e8.  The bishops have only one position:  WK on e1, WB on c1, WB on f1, and BK on e8.

For king, bishop, and knight there would be four different starting positions.

  1. WK on e1, WB on f1, WN on g1, and BK on e8.
  2. WK on e1, WB on f1, WN on b1, and BK on e8.
  3. WK on e1, WB on c1, WN on g1, and BK on e8.
  4. WK on e1, WB on c1, WN on b1, and BK on e8.

I decided to practice the above four variations using Chessmaster 6000, (supposedly with 2600 ELO rating).  Yes, it is an old program that runs on Win95SE.  (The computer I use to access the internet is not mine.)

My strategy was simple.  Keep the king off the squares where check could be given by the bishop.  Keep the king near the center of the board (d4,d5,e4, and e5) for maximum mobility.  And, when driven back, head toward the corner where the bishop could not give check.  If given the chance, head back toward the center or capture one of the pieces.

In all four sessions, CM would hang the bishop at move 51.  The program apparently could not drive me back to the edge of the board and the corner for checkmate.

I can tell you when I play a regular game with CM, it beats the 'crap' out of me.  I have yet to beat one of its personalities rated 1000 or above.  The program gives me a rating of 897.  (Is this proof that ratings are only numbers?  :-) )