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Basic Checkmates: Checkmate in the endgame

In the later stages of the game when there are fewer pieces left on the board, checkmate can become harder to achieve because of a lack of firepower. When you only have one or two pieces left, it can be difficult to round up the enemy king and stop him escaping. If you have pawns still on the board, then you should try and get them to the far end and turn them into queens - checkmate is easy even for beginners when you have two or three queens on the board! Otherwise, you will need to know how to achieve checkmate when you only have a king and one or two other pieces.

One thing you will have noticed about all the checkmates so far in this tutorial is that they take place at the edge of the board or in the corner. Checkmating a king in the middle of the board is a difficult proposition, because he has so many directions to run in. For the player who has only a king left on the board, instead of sitting around in the corner waiting to be checkmated, the best option would appear to be to head for the centre and give the enemy pieces the run around.

So the question you might ask is, how do we force a contrary king against the edge of the board so we can checkmate him? Remember, you only have a maximum of 50 moves to pull it off, before the game is drawn. The first thing you might think to do is attack the enemy king by giving check. However, running around checking willy-nilly is actually counterproductive. The enemy king will just keep moving out of check and heading back to the centre of the board. Take a look at the example below.

All white's checks have done nothing - the black king just dances around and stays put in the centre of the board. The good news is, there is a technique to king-herding which can be easily learned and applied. In this chapter, we will look at the most common examples.

King and queen vs king

This one is easy. The queen can drive the enemy king into the corner all by herself, and only needs her own king to arrive in time to assist with the final checkmate. The technique is quite simple - keep your queen a knight's move away from the enemy king and drive him back move by move.

At this point, it's important not to get carried away. If white now plays 10. Qf7, we get the position below.

It's black to move, but the black king has no squares - stalemate! This is a draw, which is obviously not what you want when you have a whole extra queen on the board! Instead, it's time to bring the white king up to assist in checkmating his black counterpart. Let's continue from where we left off:

King and rook vs king

This one is a little tougher, but still very easy. The rook cannot drive the enemy king back alone like the queen can, but with support from its king it can get the job done. The technique is similar to the king and queen example above - instead of giving checks, use your pieces to close down the area the enemy king can move in.

King and two bishops vs king

This one is somewhat harder, but fortunately for beginners, rarely happens in actual games. It is worth taking a look at though, because you can learn a lot about how to make your pieces work together by studying this endgame. As always, the technique involves using the pieces to gradually close off the board to the enemy king until you have him in the corner.

King, bishop and knight vs king

This is renowned as a difficult mate to pull off, but as with the two bishops, it rarely happens in practice. Many players will go their whole chess career without seeing this in a game, so it's debatable whether it's worth learning the technique. There is a method that most strong club players should be able to learn without difficulty, yet there have even been grandmasters who have failed when called upon to carry out the bishop and knight mate. Because this is quite an advanced technique, and the position of king, bishop and knight vs king comes up so rarely in practice, we will not be looking at it in this tutorial.

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