Chess Terms
Smothered Mate

Smothered Mate

Smothered mate is one of the trickiest checkmates that exists! This checkmate is delivered by the devious knight. How can you deliver a smothered mate? Find out below!

Here is everything you need to know about smothered mates:

What Is Smothered Mate? 

A smothered mate is a checkmate that occurs when a king is mostly (or completely) surrounded by its own pieces. Almost every chess player brings their own pieces to the aid of their king when it is being attacked. However, if too many pieces are around a king, be aware of the dreaded smothered mate!

As mentioned, a smothered mate is delivered by a knight (the sneakiest piece) so to defend against smothered mates you should always be alert for any knight in the vicinity of your king!

Examples of Smothered Mates

There are many different types of smothered mates, but here we look at some of the most common. In the example below, the black king is stuck in the corner and is surrounded by its own pieces.

trapped king
The black king is trapped in the corner and surrounded by its own pieces.

Once the knight hops onto f7, we have a smothered mate!

smothered checkmate
Smothered mate!

In the following example, we see an opening trap in the Caro-Kann Defense. Black has just played Ngf6, but their king is completely surrounded by their own pieces.

smothered mate!
What can White play here? 
White has a scary and game-ending resource. Do you know what it is?
smothered checkmate
Smothered mate!

You guessed it! A smothered mate! After White’s knight on the e4-square moves to the d6-square, a smothered mate is delivered. Please note that Black cannot capture the knight on d6 because theIr e-pawn is pinned by White’s queen.

Smothered Mate Tests

Now that you have seen a couple of smothered mate examples, let’s see if you can recognize smothered mates on your own! It is White's turn to move in the following position. Black's king is stuck in the corner, but is there a smothered mate? If so, what is the move?

smothered checkmate
White to move!

Yes! If White plays Ng6, it is a smothered mate!

smothered checkmate
Smothered mate!

Let's try one more. In the following position, White's king is completely surrounded by its own pieces. Can Black deliver a smothered mate?

smothered mate
Black to move.

Yes, Black can deliver a smothered mate! In fact, Black has a choice of smothered mate as either Nxf3 or Nd3 is a smothered mate! Nice job!


You now know what a smothered mate is, how to recognize a smothered mate, and how to perform a smothered mate. Enjoy your new checkmate knowledge, and may you deliver many smothered mates!

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