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descriptionTen Basic Checkmates to Know EmptyTen Basic Checkmates to Know

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One of the best ways to improve your chess is by learning common patterns that show up time and again in games. By building this pattern recognition, you'll start to see more possibilities in your games, by recognizing simple patterns in more complicated positions.

This article looks at basic checkmates -- the kind every chess player has to recognize on the board in order to finish off a win. These basic checkmates will all be presented as mate-in-one problems; if you like, you can try to find the checkmate in each diagram first, and then read the explanation and answer below to see if you were right.

Our first example uses a queen and rook together to deliver a checkmate. However, this same pattern can be accomplished with any two major pieces.

A lone king against the edge of the board is easily checkmated by any two major pieces. While one piece prevents the king from moving away from the edge, the other can move to the same rank or file as the king to deliver checkmate.

In the example above, the White rook is patrolling the seventh rank, preventing the Black king from moving off of the eighth rank. Since the rook is already doing a good job of keeping the king hemmed in, it can stay where it is. Instead, making the move Qa8++ finishes the game, as the queen and rook combine to take away every square the king might flee to.

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The back rank checkmate may not look much like our first example, but the pattern is very similar. While we will still be using a major piece to deliver checkmate on the edge of the board, this time the king's own pawns prevent him from escaping from our attack.
The diagram above is a typical example of back rank mate. White's king is trapped behind his own pawns, and is therefore stuck on the first rank. Black can deliver checkmate by playing Rc1++.

Back rank mates are easy to see, but in most cases they are also easy to prevent. In general, they occur only when a king has castled, there are too few defenders on the back rank, and the pawns in front of the castled king have not been moved.

There are several ways to avoid being the victim of a back rank mate. Keeping sufficient defense on your back rank will prevent any enemy pieces from safely attacking your king. In addition, if you are worried about a back rank mate threat, you can always move one of the pawns to give your king an escape square. For instance, if it were White's move in the diagram above, playing h3 would prevent the checkmate, as the king could now move to h2 if Black played Rc1+ on the next move.

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The queen is a powerful attacking piece, but it usually needs some help to deliver checkmate. Many basic checkmates use the queen to deliver the checkmate, supported by a minor piece.

The diagram above shows a queen and a knight working together to checkmate a king. White can finish the job by playing Qe7++.

Although this example is simplified, it illustrates an important checkmate pattern that can be utilized with the queen along with a supporting piece. Against a king stuck along one of the board's edges, a queen -- supported by another piece -- placed directly in front of that king will always deliver checkmate, provided it cannot be captured by a piece other than the king.

This pattern works because the queen takes away every square the king might flee to. For example, in the diagram above, a White queen on e7 attacks d8, e8, f8, d7 and f7, meaning the Black king has nowhere to run. There are no squares between the queen and the king, so there is no chance to block the check. The queen is supported by a knight, meaning the king cannot capture the queen. Black has no other pieces that can capture the queen either; with no way to avoid capture, Black's king is checkmated.

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