If you’ve played much chess at all, you have probably gotten to the point where you understand that being a piece down (or even a couple of pawns down) means you’re probably going to lose. Unless there is some strong edge or the possibility of an attack, being significantly down in material means you’re going to lose. And you resign.
And your opponents feel the same way. You win a Knight; opponent resigns.
Or you get to an endgame with a good passed pawn. Winning ending; opponent resigns. You Queen a Pawn; opponent resigns.
And so it goes. Most games played with long time controls end with either very simple mates (Queen and King against King) or one of the players resigns in an obviously losing position. (Unless, that is, the game ends in a draw.)
In any case, relatively few games end with checkmate or the impending threat of checkmate.
So how is the average player to get practice with checkmate patterns when the opponent always resigns long before checkmate?
One solution is just to get a book with checkmate patterns (such as Reinfeld’s book 1001 Brilliant Ways to Checkmate). But that isn’t quite the same as practicing against an opponent.
The solution – Play Speed Chess
The solution to the problem of practicing checkmates against a live, resisting opponent, is to play speed chess. Preferably 5-minute games or shorter.
A much higher percentage of fast time-control games end in checkmate than longer games do. The reason is because of the time control. With a short time control, your opponent knows that though you may be a Knight ahead, turning that Knight into a win might be difficult — it might not be obvious what to do to win with that extra Knight, and you end up losing on time. A lot of speed chess games end with one of the players losing on time, but a lot of them end with checkmate. The reason is because players are less likely to resign when behind by a Pawn or even a piece. The possibility of winning (or drawing) the game because the opponent’s time runs out keeps players playing in positions that they would otherwise resign.
The way to use this to your advantage is to take advantage of the increased possibility of studying interesting mating patterns. If you play even a few speed games, you will likely have one or more games end in checkmate. After the game, review the game, especially the checkmate, and see if you can learn anything about the pattern. Is there a better way to do it? Did the opponent have a defense he overlooked? Then review the mating pattern a few days later.
You could even make a database of checkmate patterns from your own games. I find this to be very helpful for review.