10 Essential Checkmating Patterns
“Chess is 99% tactics”, Richard Teichmann
It is possible to win a game without chess tactics? No, not really.
Even the most perfect positional game need some calculation of variations. When the time of finishing the game arise, tactics are all we have. You can have a great knight, but if you can’t mate then it’s useless!
For that reason, in this video-post I will show you some of the most important checkmating patterns that every chess player should know. Tons of games were played with them, and so you will surely play them in your own games!
Study these patterns, understand why they work, and start looking for them when playing!
Next, I will present you a summary of the video, so you can check and refresh what you have learnt.
To better organize the checkmating patterns, we will only discuss the most usual ones against the king on the center. And we will separate them into 3 categories: the weak f7-pawn, the weak h5-e8 diagonal and others.
The Weak f7-Pawn
At the start of the game, the f7-pawn (or the white’s f2-pawn) is the weakest point in the black’s position. It’s a pawn near the king and your majesty is its only defender. So, attacking this pawn is the easiest way to checkmate in the opening!
There are 4 typical combinations around this poor pawn:
- Scholar’s mate: The most common mate for beginners. The pawn is so weak that the coordinated attack by a bishop and the queen can be killing. The classic 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Bc5 3.Qh5 Nc6 4.Qxf7# is very well known. But how about this position? Can Black defend the critical f7-pawn? (solution on the video)
- Legal’s Mate: Legal’s Mate is perhaps the most spectacular mate of the four in this section. After 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bc4 h6? 4.Nc3 Bg4? Black is losing material. 5.Nxe5! is a beautiful way of winning a pawn after 5…dxe5 6.Qxg4, as 5…Bxd1 allows checkmate with 6.Bxf7+ Ke7 7.Nd5#. Wonderful piece coordination in the center of the board.
- Bxf7+: A common tactic to take advantage of a hanging Bg4. It’s like the Legal’s Mate, but in reverse order. For example, see the second diagram. White to play and win material.
- Nxe5: Sometimes, the same trick as in the Legal’s Mate can be used, but with another idea in mind. With a knight on e5, a check with Bb5 can be winning, as it’s difficult to interpose some piece.
The Weak h5-e8 Diagonal
Closely related with the previous topic is the weakened h5-e8 diagonal. If this line is opened, then a check can be fatal, as there is no piece that can go to f7 or g6.
- Fool’s mate: I’m pretty sure that nobody will ever let you mate with 1.f3 e5 2.g4 Qh4# in a real game, but knowing the importance of this diagonal will give lots of killing alternatives if the enemy king not castle quickly. Even Nakamura forget about this key tactical element!
- Alekhine’s Mate: The fourth World Champion was a tactical monster. When playing in simultaneous games, he used to display all his tactical ability to crack the amateurs in dazzling fashion. In one miniature, he used a queen sacrifice to weaken the h5-e8 diagonal to create a kind of fool’s mate. Again, the power of knowing checkmating patterns allowed Alekhine to easily find this beautiful combination.
- Smothered Mate: Also known as the Lucena mate, this shocking queen sacrifice has the power to make happy every chess player. If you think that this chess tactic has nothing to the with the topic’s name, then you must see the first mate of this kind, played by the great Greco in 1620 (!). In the position of the right, it’s Black to play and win (watch the video for the solution).
There are lots of other important checkmating patterns against a king in the center. But I want to focus in two spectacular mates that have big games attached to them.
- Morphy’s Mate: Paul Morphy is one of the must-know players, especially for amateurs. His didactical play can teach you a lot about piece development and attack. In his most famous game, called the Opera Game, he finished the game with an elegant queen sacrifice and a rook mate. If you don’t know the game, you have to watch the video!
- Reti’s Mate: Another miniature game, this time from Richard Reti, with another queen sacrifice. Reti simply crushed one of the best players at the time. Do you want to win like him? Then, you just need to find the winning move. White to play!
Yes, your math is correct. I only present you 9 checkmating patterns. The 10th is for you.
What combination do you think that needs to be here? Comment below and let us know your thoughts!