How to mate with bishop and knight

bishop_knight

INTRODUCTION

Finally we have arrived to the most difficult “elementary” checkmate – The bishop and knight checkmate.

First of all I would like to enter a short theoretical discussion. There is much to be said about the point of learning this checkmate in great detail.

Because the main argument against bothering yourself with this relatively complicated mechanicsm is the probability of its occurence over the board.

I can talk from my experience. During the course of the last 6 years I have played around 150 tournament games.

Not even once was I even close to reaching the afore mentioned endgame. To be honest, that is pretty lucky for me, since I am not at all certain that I have fully mastered the checkmate.

And the fact that I am writing a post about the very same checkmate merely reminds me of a joke about the university professor, who complains to his colleague about  his students:

Imagine, I explain them the theorem for the first time, and nothing.

I explain the theorem for the second time, and still nothing.

I explain the theorem for the third time. Even I finally understand it, but they once again nothing..”

quantum-physics-lecture

Therefore, a very good question is whether one should focus on other areas of chess instead of the specific checkmate that is very unlikely to appear over the board.

Too be honest, I don’t have a very convincing answer against that. It would make me quite a hypocrite to advocate learning this checkmate as a must, when I have gone for so many years without bothering to do it.

And also, there were quite stronger players who embarassed themselves in this area of the chess game. Check this video of World Chess Champion Anna Ushenina, or this game by a strong grandmaster Vladimir Epishin, for instance.

I think that not learning the bishop and knight checkmate isn’t something I should be very proud of. I think that learning the bishop and knight checkmate should be considered the basic chess culture.

It was quite lucky that I have never had the opportunity to exercise it over the board, because it would be quite shameful to lose the half point because of your own chess incompetence.

Additionaly, there is an argument that learning the bishop and knight checkmate deepens the understanding of the coordination of these two minor pieces. And that can be very important factor in the middlegame.

To sum up, there are both PRO ET CONTRA arguments considering the bishop and knight checkmate. But my opinion is that it can’t do much harm to study it, and it also shouldn’t consume much time.

In the remainder of the post we will initially consider the basic mating picture. Then we will introduce the typical position with the so called W MANEOVRE, which is crucial in performing the checkmate. Finally, an example of the whole checkmate consisting of forcing the black king in the corner will be presented.

BASIC MATING PICTURE

The most important thing to remember about the bishop and knight checkmate is that it typically occurs with the black king in the corner whose colour is THE SAME TO THE COLOUR of the white bishop. (Please note that the Black will once again be the weaker side of this checkmate).

Some typical mating pictures are shown on the diagrams below:

It is important to note that these aren’t the only possible mating pictures. For instance, there is also the possibility of mating the king on the edge of the board, as depicted on the diagram below:

However, considering that Black plays the optimal defensive moves, mating the king in the right corner is the only way of doing so. A big mistake by black is neccessary in order to allow the other form of the bishop and knight checkmate.

W MANEOVRE

Having in mind the things said above, Black’s perfect defence involves running in the CORNER OF THE OPPOSITE COLOUR OF THE WHITE BISHOP. 

White’s aim is to force the king into the adjacent corner without allowing the king to escape. The key of doing that is the so called W maneovre.

To get the better idea behind the maneovre (and the name behind it), please consider the following diagram:

White first gives a check:

1 Nf7+ Kg8

White wants to force the Black king out of the corner. In order to do that he needs to put the bishop on h7. For the he needs to play one waiting move.

2 Bb1 Kf8 3 Bh7

Black has no choice

3… Ke8 4 Ne5

The knight controls the d7 escape square. The knight route against the toughest defence is f7-e5-d7-c5-b7, which has the shape of the letter “W”.

Black has two possible tries from the diagram position. We will examine them in turn:

A) Staying in the right corner

4… Kf8

The weaker defence. Black stays in the “RIGHT CORNER”, but with the given piece configuration it loses even more quickly.

5 Nd7+ Ke8

6 Ke6 Kd8 7 Kd6

7… Ke8 8 Bg6+ Kd8 9 Bf7

Forcing the king further down the road.

9…Kc8 10 Nc5!

White continues with the knight maneovre.

10 … Kd8 (10… Kb8 11 Be6 Ka7 12 Kc7 loses more quickly)

11 Nb7+ Kc8 12 Kc6

12… Kb8 13 Kb6

The Black king is forced in the right corner. Very soon a checkmate will be given.

13… Kc8 14 Be6+ Kb8 15 Bd7

The black king can move only between the a8 and b8. Thus the mate in a couple of moves follows:

15… Ka8 16 Nc5 Kb8 17 Na6+

Giving the check to the king on b8 and announcing the mate in two.

17… Ka8 18 Ba6 mate

B) Running towards the wrong corner

Returning to the fourth move, Black’s better try is trying to run towards the WRONG CORNER and escape. White has to know the technique very well in order to keep him confined.

4… Kd8

It seems that White is unable to “catch” the Black’s king. Therefore, remember the following maneovre:

5 Ke6! Kc7

Going back with 5… Ke8 would bring us to the familiar positions after 6 Nd7.

6 Nd7!

Controlling the b6 square.

6… Kb7 (eyeing the a6 square). 6… Kc6 is met by the same move

7 Bd3!

You can see from the diagram how the  white minor pieces cooperate together with the king, restricting the black king’s movement.

The job is much easier from this point onwards, although it is nearly not complete:

7.. Kc6 8 Be2 Kc7

The most consistent and easily grasped technique is continuing the W MANEOVRE, by bringing the knight via c5 to b7.

9 Bf3 Kd8 10 Kd6 Ke8 11 Bh5+

And now after

11… Bd8 12 Bf7 we have reached the position that was reached in the variation A after White’s 9th move. Thus we can see that mating variation B is three moves longer.

In the end, we will consider an example of whole checkmate, which includes forcing the Black king in the corner. We will consider the best defence by Black, where he immediately heads in the OPPOSITE COLOURED corner. We will see how White accomplishes the position from which he can perform the afore mentioned W MANEOVRE.

THE WHOLE CHECKMATE

Please consider the following starting position (source: Wikipedia)

We will examine only the basic idea. Obviously there are many diversion for Black on every move, and trying to cover them all would be pretty pointless.

1 Bg2 Kd4 2 Kd2

In principle, White’s king should always try to “follow” the movement of the Black’s counterpart, in order to restrict his movement.

2…. Ke5 3 Ke3 Kf5

4 Nd3!

Now is the right moment to bring the knight, in order to control the e5-square.

4… Kg5

Black naturally tries to escape via g5

5 Be4!

White has completed a “wall”, pushing the Black king. Notice how White’s knight controls the dark squares from a light square.

From here Black has many continuations. We will examine only two:

A) Running towards the h-file

5… Kh4 6 Kf4 Kh5 7 Ne5

White aims for the position of the W maneovre.

7… Kh6 8 Kf5

8… Kg7 (8… Kh5 9 Ng4 and we have reached the familiar position)

9 Bd5

9… Kh7 (9… Kh6 10 Be6 Kh5 11 Ng4 is familiar position)

10 Kf6

Now 10… Kh8 11 Nf7+ brings us to the position examined before. And 10… Kh6 11 Ng6 forced the king toward h1 corner (instead of a8). Which is basically the same mechanism.

B) Running backwards

5… Kf6 6 Kd4

6.. Ke6 7 Kc5 Ke7 8 Kd5

The Black king can now choose where to go. He goes in the corner where he can’t be mated that quickly.

8… Kf6 9 Kd6 Kf7

10 Ke5 Kg7

10… Ke7 would allow White to continue with Bd5+ and Nc5, bringing the pieces forward and forcing the king once again to choose between different corners.

11 Ke6

The activity of the king

11… Kg8 12 Ne5!

Centralizing the knight

12… Kg7 13 Bd3 Kg8 14 Kf6

Now almost all the prerequsites for the W maneovre position are set.

14… Kh8 15 Nf7+

And this is the familiar position. From here White can proceed s described above.

CONCLUSION

Phew… This was very lenghty and hard. Still, I hope this post has given you idea behind performing this complex checkmate, or at least clarified that it is not THAT DIFFICULT.

The only thing I can advise from this point onwards is … PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE.

On this link, you can practice the checkmate against the chess computer.

Any comments, suggestions and improvements are welcomed very much.

Good luck 🙂

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