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Essential Checkmate Patterns

FM Thomas Wolski Avg Rating: 1204 Attacks

Essential Checkmate Patterns, by FM Thomas Wolski. This module contains 130 challenges that cover all common checkmates and most uncommon checkmates that occur regularly in middlegame positions and sometimes in openings. Nearly all of the positions come from actual games, and the various themes are repeated from simple to more complex examples. This module is suitable for novice players up to intermediate players with Elo or USCF ratings up to 1600, and will enable them to recognize checkmate possibilities in their own games. The most advanced examples will even challenge expert players.

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  • The Classical Back Rank Mate

    The Back Rank Mate is the most common of all mating patterns and can arise in many different shapes and forms. We will now look at the cleanest and most straight forward one.
  • The Classical Smothered Mate

    The Smothered Mate is one of the most satisfying mates to deliver during a game. Not only is it artistically pleasing, but it usually requires the sacrifice of some material. Its motifs are quite common and appear in many middlegames.
  • The Classical Epaulettes Mate with Queen

    The board is wide open. Both sides have several threats.
  • Two Rooks Mate

    The double rook mate can be achieved when the rooks control two adjoining files. The king to be mated has to be on the edge of the board.
  • Not Two Rookie Mate

    This position is almost identical to the one we just observed in the challenge called "Two Rooks Mate".
  • Anastasia's Mate

    Anastasia's Mate is a distant cousin of the Back Rank Mate. One of the key features is that the attacking side has a knight that takes away two of the defending king's escape squares from the back rank. The third escape square right in front of the king has to be occupied by one of the king's fellow kinsmen. This is usually a pawn, but can also be a rook in some cases.
  • Anastasia's Mate on the side

    We have previously seen how a king may get trapped by Anastasia's Mate on the back rank. But Anastasia's mate often also occurs on the side of the board.
  • Bishop and Knight Mates (1)

    The bishop and knight often work very well together when the knight controls the squares of the color that the attacking bishop cannot cover. We will now see a few examples of this.
  • Bishop and Knight Mates (2)

    The attacking bishop can sometimes be very far away and have the same affect.
  • Bishop and Knight Mates (3)

    There are a few other less common bishop and knight mates.
  • Legal's Mate

    It is estimated that Legal's Mate first occurred in the early 1700s. Legal's Mate cannot be forced and only arises due to extreme negligence of one player. The mate always features an early attack against the weakest spot (the f-pawn) before the king has time to castle.
  • Convincing Teamwork

    White has sacrificed a queen to reach this position. Black is also dreaming of mating White's king and will surely be on top unless White finds something good real fast.
  • Smothered Mate with Pawn

    The smothered mate with an attacking pawn is a close relative of the Classical Smothered Mate. The attacking pawn, in this case Black's c3-pawn, performs a similar function that a White pawn would perform on b2.
  • Gueridon's Mate

    Black's king was pulled out from its defensive cover by a double sacrifice. White is now down two pieces, but has the initiative.
  • Reaching Greco's Mate

    White has been pushing Black's king around for several moves.
  • The Corner Mate

    White has given up a queen for a rook to reach this position.
  • Blackburned in the Corner

    This is a slightly different aspect of Blackburne's Mate
  • Lolli's Mate

    Lolli's Mate features a queen and an advanced pawn on the sixth rank.
  • Mayet's Mate

    Mayet's Mate occurs when the attacking side has a strong bishop that controls the long diagonal that ends on the square next to the attacked king.
  • Anderssen's Mate

    Anderssen's Mate is a variation from Mayet's Mate. It occurs when the attacking side has a pawn directly in front of the defending king. This pawn must be protected by another piece. Due to the pawn's control of the two squares next to the king, powerful mating combinations can arise.
  • Pillsbury's Mate

    Pillsbury's Mate is usually reached with a rook and a bishop. There are some similarities to Mayet's Mate.
  • Damiano's Pawn Mate

    Damiano's Pawn Mate is very common. Often a lot of material is sacrificed to reach this position.
  • Morphy's Mate

    Morphy's Mate has similarities to Pillsbury's Mate and various back rank mates.
  • Easy Choice

    Sometimes the coordination of the knight and bishop vs. the defending king varies slightly.
  • Gueridon's Mate on the Side

    Black has just sacrificed an exchange to remove a White bishop on c2 and open up White's king more.
  • Surprise from Behind

    This position could have occurred in the Evergreen game Andersson-Dufresne, Berlin 1954.
  • The Arabian Mate

    The Arabian Mate always involves a knight near the opponent's king in the corner. Teaming up with the valiant horse is either a rook or a queen. This mate arises when the rank in front of the king (second rank for White and seventh rank for Black) is cut off by a rook or a queen. The king that is getting mated has to be stuck in the corner for this mating pattern to work. The mate threat of the Arabian mate is very common in tournament play and can often not be stopped when it arises.
  • The Epaulettes Mate with Rook and Bishop

    Black has sacrificed a queen to reach this unusual position.
  • The Epaulettes Mate with Rook and Knight

    Black has sacrificed a queen and a rook to reach this unusual position.
  • The Epaulettes Mate with two Rooks

    Black has sacrificed a queen to reach this position. However, White has several mate threats against Black's king.
  • The Lateral Epaulettes Mate

    White went on a sacrificing spree and gave up a queen and two knights to reach this messy position. Black has most of his pieces developed, yet the king is not safe.
  • Stuck in the Middle

    Both sides have played some odd moves in the opening. This has left their kings in the middle of the board.
  • A Poor Greco's Bishop Sacrifice

    Sometimes Greco's Bishop Sacrifice on h7 gets played without adequate preparation or analysis.
  • Aiming for Legal's Mate

    The possibility of reaching Legal's Mate can arise only when the losing side moves a bishop to an unprotected square where it appears to be safe. An example of this arises after the opening moves 1.e4 e5 2.Ne2? Nf6 3.d3 Bc5 4.Bg5?
  • Anastasia Refuted

    Generally speaking it is difficult to defend against Anastasia's Mate once the forced sequence of moves has started. One of the prerequisites for Anastasia's Mate to work is that the attacking knight controls two of the king's flight squares from the edge of the board. The knight is usually in place when the mating combination is about to start. The king's third escape square needs to be occupied by a pawn or a rook of his own army. The attacker's job then is to open up the file on the edge of the...
  • Blackburne's Mate from afar

    This is one of the variations from Blackburne's Mate.
  • Caught in the corner

    White sacrificed a queen to reach his position. Yet now all of his three attacking pieces (the h4-rook, the d3-bishop and the e5-knight) are attacked by Black pieces.
  • Finding Greco's Mate

    It is almost impossible to defend against Greco's Mate once certain conditions are reached and the combination leading to mate has started.
  • Finding the correct check

    This position arose in the game Andersson-Dufresne, Berlin 1854. White has just sacrificed a lot to keep his attack going and is now down a queen, a rook and a knight.
  • Finishing the Exposed King

    White has used Greco's Bishop Sacrifice to open up Black's King. Note that Black doesn't have any defensive piece anywhere near Black's king.
  • Futile Attempt to escape

    In many cases it is very difficult to protect the mating square in Damiano's Pawn Mate (here the h7-square). This is especially the case when there is a piece on g7 blocking the seventh rank.
  • Greco's Mate

    Greco's Mate should not be confused with Greco's famous bishop sacrifice on h7. This mate can be reached when the defending side has a king in the corner and there is no piece protecting the pawn in front of the king.
  • Leading to the Arabian Mate

    Black has tried to attack White's kingside and sacrificed a piece for a pawn to reach this position. But it appears as if White is still holding everything together.
  • Legal's Relative

    White has made many mistakes in this opening, including not castling, moving the knight to h4 and allowing Black to favorably sacrifice a queen for a knight.
  • Looking for Twisted Gueridon

    Material is even in this sharp position. Both sides have a slightly exposed king.
  • Not Blackburne

    Black had an advantage due to his control of the long a8-h1 diagonal. Rather than trying to build on this edge slowly, Black was eager to deliver Blackburne's Mate and played ...Qd8xh4.
  • Not Boden

    Since Boden's Mate is usually reached with a forcing sequence of moves, it is hard to defend against it. It is more a case of it either working for the attacker or not.
  • Not Legal's Mate

    White's opening looks a little suspect due to the position of the knight on e2 and the unprotected bishop on g5. But is this enough to justify Black's last move ...Nxe4?
  • Not the Arabian Mate

    Black sacrificed many pieces to reach this attacking position, thinking that he could force the Arabian Mate.
  • Shepherd's Mate

    This type of pawn structure often occurs in a middle game resulting from the Benoni Defense.
  • Slight Miscalculation

    Many players feel more comfortable attacking than defending. Good players, however, need to know how to do both.
  • Smothered or Surviving?

    White has sacrificed a piece to start a combination culminating in the Smothered Mate.
  • Stopping the Corner Mate

    Material is roughly even in this position with Black having an extra pawn for the exchange (White has an extra rook vs. a Black knight).
  • The Two Knights Mate

    Two knights can never mate a king by themselves. Similar to the Smothered Mate, there need to be some defensive pieces obstructing the king to be mated.
  • Too Optimistic

    On his previous move Black moved his rook on to the e-file. White didn't pay much attention to Black's ideas and instead attacked Black's h6-pawn by moving the dark-squared bishop from a5 to d2.
  • A Big Surprise

    White is up an exchange for a pawn. This is considered almost level. Had Black played the correct ...f7-f5 on his previous move, a long battle would have been guaranteed.
  • Attack or Defense?

    Material is even. Black has decided that it was time to mate White's king. After playing ...Nh6-g4, Black exerts pressure against h2.
  • Bishop in Disguise

    Sometimes a queen can fulfill the role of a bishop!
  • Blackburne's Mate

    Blackburne's Mate is delivered by two bishops and one knight. There are a few different variations of it. Often the attacking side sacrifices material in order to break open one of the diagonals leading to the king that is to be mated.
  • Ruthless Penetration

    White has just played Rf1-e1 to avoid Blackburne's Mate. We have seen in the main line how White gets mated quickly after he played e2-e3 instead.
  • Blackburne's Pawn

    The players have castled on opposite wings and tried to attack each other's kings. So far, both defenses appear to remain in control.
  • Blackburne's Pawn

    This variation examines the consequences of Black's other capture on b6, 1...cxb6.
  • Boden's Mate

    Boden's Mate has surprised many strong players over the board. The main features are the attacker's bishop pair and the defending king's lack of space.
  • Boden's Relative

    One careless move is often what makes the difference between a normal balanced position and running into a mate.
  • Cutting the Defense in Half

    The position appears to have a very drawish character. Material is even and the opposite-colored bishops are both rather ineffective since they are on the color of their central pawns.
  • Damiano's Bishop Mate

    Damiano's Bishop Mate is similar to Damiano's Pawn Mate. The supporting piece will be on the same square. But instead of a pawn it is a more versatile bishop.
  • Damiano's Pawn Power

    When there isn't a pawn on the square diagonally from the corner (g2, g7, b2 or b7), then the king can try to run for his life and won't get mated on the typical square (h2, h7, a2 or a7).
  • Deadly Diagonal

    Certainly one needs to use all means possible to reach a checkmate.
  • Defending against Anderssen's Mating Attack

    Black has sacrificed a piece and is now threatening Anderssen's Mate.
  • Defending Against Damiano's Mate Threat

    Without sacrificing any material, White was able to start a mating attack on the kingside. His last move, Qh5, created a serious threat.
  • Defending against Greco's Bishop Sacrifice

    After Black played ...Bb7 previously, White advanced the e4-pawn to e5 and attacked Black's f6-knight. After Black moved this knight with ...Nd5, White found the time ripe to deliver the famous bishop sacrifice on h7.
  • Defending against Lolli's Mate

    Sometimes the defense has to be creative in order to avoid falling to Lolli's Mate.
  • Defending against the Arabian Mate Threat (1)

    Defending against the Arabian Mate is often impossible because the attacking rook controls the seventh rank cutting off the cornered king. The possible ways the defending side may try to defend against the threatened Arabian Mate: 1) capturing one of the two attacking pieces; 2) blocking the attacking rook's access to the mating square or challenging the rook's control of the entire rank by placing a rook or a queen on that rank; 3) placing a knight on f1 or g4; 4) when possible, control the h2-mating...
  • Defending against the Arabian Mate Threat (2)

    The Arabian Mate can also occur on the other side of the board after one has castled queenside. In this situation, Black has opened up the b-file with the hope of attacking White's king. This, however, has exposed Black's king quite a bit.
  • Defense too slow

    Sometimes the defender is able to fend off Lolli's Mate, but will be helpless against a different mate.
  • Diverting the Defense

    Black has sacrificed a piece to reach this position. He has two pawns for it and was hoping to make use of his earlier initiative.
  • Double Smothered

    A lively middle game battle is taking place in this position. Black has sacrificed two pawns for some attacking chances.
  • Doubled Pawns at Their Worst

    Doubled pawns are usually seen as a positional burden, especially as one gets closer to an endgame. In this position, White has doubled g-pawns. Sometimes doubled pawns can give the king good shelter. But here the open h-file and f-file give Black a lot of counter play.
  • Ever heard of Boden?

    The Boden Mate has several different aspects to it. It is important to be familiar with them and recognize them quickly when they occur in a game.
  • Fighting for control of the mate square

    Sometimes the attacking side must go to great lengths in order to be able to deliver Lolli's Mate.
  • Fighting for control of the mate square

    Now we will see how White can force a win if Black had played the tougher defense 2...Bf8 in the main line.
  • Finding Mayet's Mate

    Sometimes Mayet's Mate occurs in an unusual form.
  • Finding Morphy's Mate

    Morphy's Mate usually features a rook and a bishop. Several friendly pieces have to obstruct the king for a mate to be possible.
  • Finding the Smothered Mate with Pawn

    To reach any smothered mate generally requires a sacrifice that pulls one of the king's defenders away from the mating square. While doing so, this defender often ends up smothering the king as well.
  • Grazing for Shepherd's Mate

    Black has sacrificed an exchange to obtain active piece play. His last move, ...Nc5-d3, leaves White's pieces on c1, b2 and d5 attacked.
  • Insufficient coverage

    Many of the most exciting positions occur when both players attack each other's kings on opposite sides of the board.
  • Keeping Tight Control

    There are a few different aspects of Damiano's Bishop Mate. It largely depends on the position of both the defending and the attacking pieces. In this case, the attacker has the queen on h3 and not on h4 and the bishop is still in the background.
  • Leading to Anastasia's Mate

    Both sides are attacking each other's king. Black is up a knight for two pawns, but his king is wide open.
  • Leading to Pillsbury's Mate

    Pillsbury's Mate can be reached when the pawn shelter in front of the enemy's king is ripped open.
  • Leading to The Two Knights Mate

    Black has barely been able to defend his king. Finally, he thought, he was able to start some counter play with ...g4-g3.
  • Looking for Anastasia

    Material is even in this position where both sides try to attack each other's king. Having the initiative, i.e., being able to move first in a sequence of moves and making the other person react to one's moves, often makes the difference between winning and losing.
  • Looking for Epaulettes

    White has invested two pieces to stop Black's king from castling to safety.
  • Looking for the Classical Smothered Mate

    The Smothered Mate can often be reached by the combination of queen and knight. In most cases it requires the losing side to have his king run out of air in the corner of the board.
  • Not an Absolute Pin

    White is already engaging in plans that should only be pursued in the early middlegame after the opening phase has been completed. White is lacking in this respect due to his uncastled king in the center of the board.
  • Not Anastasia's Mate

    Some positions can look very similar to the ones that produce fantastic mating nets. It is important to be able to distinguish between the real thing and the positions that are illusions.
  • Perpetual Check or More?

    The two sides have castled on opposite wings and have tried to create some pressure against each other's monarchs.
  • Queen and Rook vs. an Exposed King (1)

    Time is of the utmost importance in a chess battle. The player who wastes too much time with useless maneuvers will certainly find himself reacting to his opponent's moves.
  • Queen and Rook vs. an Exposed King (2)

    This is the variation that could occur if Black doesn't accept the original rook sacrifice 1.Rxg7+ and tries to hide in the corner with 1...Kh8.
  • Queen and Rook vs. an Exposed King (2)

    Again the two players have castled on opposite wings and are attacking each other's king. Black's last move, ...Nc4, has crated a strong double threat of ...Qxb2+ mate and ...Nd2+, forking White's king and queen.
  • Reaching Lolli's Mate

    Lolli's Mate can be reached on either side of the board by either player.
  • Reaching the Corner Mate

    White is down a pawn, but his knight is more actively placed than Black's.
  • Reaching the Two Rooks Mate

    White's last move, Bf5-d3, pinned Black's rook on b5 to Black's queen. White was hoping that the exchange of rooks would leave him with a superior endgame.
  • Searching for Anderssen's Mate

    Anderssen's Mate can arise from seemingly ordinary and harmless positions.
  • Searching for Damiano's Pawn Mate

    To reach any checkmate the defender must have made a mistake. In this case the root of the problem was carelessness and a premature attack.
  • Setting up Pillsbury

    Sometimes it appears as if Pillsbury's Mate is close, but cannot be reached.
  • Smothering Assistance

    Whenever a player has more attacking pieces near the king than the defender has defending pieces, tactical combinations are likely to work.
  • Stuck in the Middle

    Both sides have played some odd moves in the opening. This has left their kings in the middle of the board.
  • Superior Pieces

    After a series of piece exchanges, Black was quite happy to have won the exchange.
  • X-Ray Vision

    Often the defender will think he has the mate square adequately covered.
  • Borrowing from Mayet and Anastasia

    When you are familiar with certain mating patterns, you will recognize them in different types of positions. Sometimes you can combine different mating patterns to reach the desired result.
  • Breaking Down the Arabian Defense

    White is up a pawn in this position. But he has been fully immersed in defending against Black's efforts to create an Arabian Mate. If White can exchange some key pieces, he will have the edge in an endgame.
  • Cutting off Communications

    Material is even, but Black's pieces are more active. White, on the other hand, is hoping to win the c4-pawn.
  • Decisive Edge in Development

    White has an edge in development. But Black's last move, ...Ng8f6, attacked White's queen. Since White's knight on d4 is also unprotected, White appears to be in trouble.
  • Defending against Mayet's Mate

    Often one will have a free move to defend against Mayet's mate threat. But not always does one have enough defensive resources available to survive such an attack.
  • Defense or Attack?

    Black is up a pawn and has just created some mate threats by moving his queen from c5 to a3. Yet his lack of development could be a problem.
  • Extraordinary Efforts

    Sometimes the attacking side must make extraordinary efforts to break through.
  • Giving up Everything for Mate

    Sometimes there is only a very narrow path to victory.
  • Greco's Delightful Sacrifice

    This position could occur in a French Defense if Black plays carelessly. However, the overall characteristics of this attack can be found in many positions in the late opening or early middlegame.
  • Mayet's Mate with Heavy Pieces

    Again we see the absence of a defensive dark-squared bishop in Black's king position. This makes it possible to think about reaching Mayet's Mate.
  • Pillsbury's Original

    This position occurred in the game Pillsbury-Lee from 1899.
  • Rook Power

    When players have opposite colored bishops in a middle game, it is common that one attacks the opponent on the squares of that color. The defender will then often have a difficult time to match such an attack. In our case, both players didn't think highly of trying to defend and threw everything they had at each other.
  • Rook Power

    In this variation we will observe how White wins if Black plays 2...Kg8 instead of moving the king to e8.
  • Searching for Gueridon's Mate

    This type of position can easily arise from common King's Pawn Openings (after 1.e4 e5). Both sides have made normal developing moves until Black's last move, Nf6-d7.
  • Setting up the Epaulettes Mate

    This complex middlegame position is full of tactical complications. White's king is more exposed than Black's, but his advanced pawns promise victory if Black doesn't find a quick solution.
  • Stalling the Eager Defense

    When the defending side has a rook next to the king (here c8) and a full pawn shelter (here pawns on c7, b7 and a7), then the attack gets executed in a slightly different manner. We have seen similar situations in Damiano's Pawn Mate already.
  • Straight forward

    The two sides have castled on opposite wings with the intention of throwing everything they have at each other's kings. It is surprising how quickly the second player will collapse.
  • The supremacy of the double check

    Material is even, yet Black is attacking two of White's pieces with his pawns. Black's position also appears very solid, so White must create something special.
  • Defensive Collapse

    White has played an opening similar to the Hedgehog defense with an extra tempo. However, things got messy quickly when White opted to win a pawn on g7.
  • Favorable Simplifications

    The board is on fire with many pieces facing each other. These are some of the hardest positions to evaluate because one often has to calculate four or more moves ahead and then evaluate the final position correctly.
  • Morphy's Paralysis

    Sometimes a sacrifice doesn't lead to immediate checkmate, but to a dominating position that will lead to mate sooner or later.
  • Sacrificing the House

    Sometimes a seemingly innocent position can turn into a wildfire if one is willing to tolerate the heat and escape victorious.
  • Staying in Control

    When your opponent has a difficult position it is important to know which move(s) would allow him to end his troubles. Then it is your task not to give him the time to complete his recovery.
  • The Evergreen Game

    The current position arose in the game Andersson-Dufresne, Berlin 1954. Due to the fantastic finish, it has been called the Evergreen Game.
  • The Evergreen Variation

    We will now explore a highly fascinating variation that could have occurred in the Evergreen game Andersson-Dufresne, Berlin 1954. Some annotators have wondered if playing ...Qxf3 was the decisive mistake made by Dufresne and instead suggested opening up White's king by playing ...Rxg2+ Kxg2 Ne5. We will now see how White handles this idea.
  • The Original Anderssen

    A similar position to this one occurred in the game Anderssen- Zukertort from 1869. We have changed a few aspects of the position in that game as White had numerous other winning moves. Our composed position gives Black a lot more counter play and thus forces White to find the same famous combination. Otherwise Black would be able to defend.

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