If you recall the basic chess rules, the next piece on the relative strength scale is the bishop. However, from the bishop onwards, a single piece can’t deliver the elementary checkmate to the bare opponent’s king.
Therefore, as a next elementary mate we will study the typical mate of the two bishops, a mate that every chess player should be familiar with.
And I only wish to add that it is very useful that “double figures” mates start with the bishops, instead of the rooks.
Because it would be much harder for everyone to avoid the rookie mistake and call the rook “THE TOWER” instead.
First of all, we shall follow the familiar track and get acquainted with the mating picture. Similarly to the other elementary mates, the mate itself takes place either at the edge, or at the corner of the board. Some of the possible mating pictures are demonstrated on the diagram below (Hint: Note that once again White will be the mating side throughout the whole post)
Here it is important to note that White’s light squared bishop controls all the light squares around the Black king, while the dark squared bishop controls all the dark squares. I guess you were very surprised by this fact.
But I am emphasizing this nevertheless, since the elementary mating mechanicsm will consist of two bishops supplementing each other.
Naturally, a careless player can rather easily spoil a game, which in bishop checkmate context means stalemate. Since both bishops operate on only one diagonal, it is much harder to miss that the opponent’s king will be stalemated. But still, it is worth reminding ourselves of some possible stalemate pictures, in order not to lule our vigilance too much.
After covering the basic DO’S and DONT’S in terms of mating pictures, we can finally start learning the mating mechanicsm. In contrast to the queen and rook checkmates, we will examine only one basic mechanicsm, since there is no “dumber” or “smarter” way of executing the mate.
Let us start “deus ex machina”..uhm..I mean “in medias res”.. and consider the initial not-very-likely-to-meet-over-the-board position.
There are many paths to the same goal from the given position, but I like moving the bishops at the start. The reasons for that will be apparent very soon.
1 Bd3 Kc5 2 Bc3
What has White accomplished? Well you can see that his bishops are “cutting the board” and restricting the Black king.
This is the “supplementary” action we have mentioned earlier. And also one of the reasons why the bishop pair is often so valued in the other phases of the game as well.
You can see that with each bishop covering the squares of his own colour, the Black king’s moving space is restricted.
2 … Kd5 3 Kd2
The next step is to bring the king near the bishops. Because without the king it is not possible to push the black king further down the board, and bring him to the final destination – the edge or the corner of the board.
3… Kc5 4 Ke3
Black will keep the king in the corner for the purposes of this post. If Black goes backwards toward the edge, than simply bring the bishops or the king up the board earlier.
The point of bringing the king up. The bishop on d4 is now supported and the Black’s king is forced to take a step back.
5… Kd6 6 Bc4
It is also possible to move the king up first, but I will stick to the “Jin-Jang” action of the bishops whenever the opportunity arises. From the diagram above the restriction of the Black king is very apparent, since he only has 12 squares left.
6 … Kc6 7 Ke4
The “huddling up” continues.
7… Kd7 8 Bd5
I have deliberately moved the Black king backwards on move 7. White shouldn’t be taken aback with that, but simply continue with the method. His light squared bishops takes another square under control .
8 … Kd6 9 Be3
In the given instance 9 Bc5 was not possible since Black would simply capture the bishop. Therefore, White waits for one move in the given position. Black’s king has to retreat after which Bc5 will be possible.
9… Kd7 10 Bc5
Voila. Job complete. The Black king has only 6 squares remaining.
10 … Kc7 11 Ke5
A familiar picture.
11…. Kd7 12 Bd6
4 squares. White only has to be careful not to turn that number into zero squares.
12… Kd8 13 Bc6
We are now getting very close to the goal. Black king is forced to the edge of the board and has only two squares remaining.
It has to be mentioned that the further course of action will include forcing the king into the edge. Since mate on the edge can occur only if Black allows that, and not by force.
13… Kc8 14 Ke6 Kd8
The method of forcing the king into the corner begins by taking some squares from him.
Taking the c8 square and forcing the King to e8.
15… Kd8 16 Bc7
Also taking the d8 under control and forcing the king to f8.
16… Kf8 17 Kf6!
Remember this alingment of the kings. We haven’t mentioned it yet, but this position of the kings is called the opposition.
But it is easier to remember that you can use your king to stop the enemy king escaping via the g7 square.
17… Ke8 18 Bc6
Forcing the king back toward the corner.
18… Kf8 19 Bd6
And further he goes.
19 … Kg8 20 Bd5 Kh7
Now the king is trying to escape via h6, so just take that square under control.
Now it is just neccessary to be careful not to stalemate the king with the Kg6.
Therefore, the right move is:
Letting the king have the h7 square.
22…. Kh7 23 Be4
Forcing the king back in the corner.
23 … Kh8 24 Be5
And finally the checkmate is on the board.
Hopefully, after reading this it will be easier to perform the bishops checkmate once you encounter it over the board.
Since this example was meant to be educational, it hasn’t followed the fastest way towards the goal. Once you get some experience, you can always consult the Nalimov Tablebase tool, a specified computer engine that gives the final evaluation of the endgame position that containes up to 6 pieces on the board.
From the practical point of view, it is worth remembering the following:
- The example started from the hardest possible starting position, and still the sub-optimal mate was performed in only 24 moves, which is way below the maximum allowed 50 moves which player has according to the rules to perform the mate.
That concludes this post. If you ever get confused during the mating proces, just remember that bishops have to be in synergy.