The Bishop and Knight Checkmate is a notoriously difficult endgame situation that requires careful coordination of your king, bishop and knight. With that said, this checkmate is not for beginners!
Is it Possible to Force Checkmate with Bishop and Knight?
Yes, but you will need the help of your king. However, once you know what to do, you will discover it is very doable. On this page I will show you 2 powerful maneuvers that will make the checkmate a lot easier to accomplish.
But first, let’s take a look at what we want to achieve in the end.
Diagram above: Ne7# This is an example of the typical checkmate situation that we want to eventually achieve.
- White managed to force the black king into a corner that is the same color as the square the bishop is on.
- White’s bishop covers h8 and f8.
- The white king covers h7 and f7, whilst also defending his bishop.
- White’s knight delivers the checkmate.
Important note: You must trap the enemy king near a corner that is the same color as the squares on which your bishop moves, else he will be able to escape your attempts to checkmate him. (You can verify this fact on the chessboard if you want to.)
Once you’ve managed to trap the enemy king in the correct corner, the checkmate is fairly straight-forward.
Diagram above: 1.Bg7+ Kg8 2.Ne7# (or Nh6#) Since the enemy king has only 2 squares to move on, you can now use your knight and bishop to cover those squares. Simple enough? Sure. However, the hard part is this: How can we force the enemy king into a corner that is the same color as your bishop’s squares?
It’s fairly easy to use your king, bishop and knight to drive the enemy king into a corner, but if your opponent is an experienced player, they will always run towards the “wrong corner”. In other words–a corner that is not the same color as the color of the square your bishop occupies.
In the position below, you want to drive the black king towards h8. How you achieve this is essentially what the Bishop and Knight Checkmate is all about.
Diagram above: A key position to study. White plays 1.Nc7! to prevent Ka8. Black is forced to play 1… Kc8. Note also how white positioned the bishop to control the a7-square, making it impossible for black to play Ka7.
After the moves 1.Nc7 Kc8 2.Ba7 Kd8 3.Nd5, we reach the critical position in the diagram below:
Diagram above: This is the critical the position. White just played 3.Nd5! Memorize this move–you will soon understand why this move is so great! Black has 2 options here: 1)Kc8 or 2)Ke8. If you study just these two variations, with the help of the comments below, you will be well on your way to master the Bishop and Knight Checkmate!
- Variation 1 covers 3… Kc8
- Variation 2 covers 3… Ke8
3… Kc8 4.Ne7+ Kd8 5.Kd6! Ke8 6.Ke6 Kd8 7.Bb6+ Ke8 8.Bc7 Kf8 9.Nf5 Ke8 10.Ng7+ Kf8 11.Kf6 Kg8 12. Kg6 Kf8 13.Bd6+ Kg8 14.Nf5 Kh8 15.Bf8 Kg8 16.Bh6 Kh8 17.Bg8+ Kg8 18.Ne7# (or Nh6#)
Comments on Variation 1
In variation 1 you will mainly employ the “Knight-Hook” maneuver.
The Knight Hook Maneuver
Diagram above: 4.Ne7+ Kd8 5.Kd6 Ke8 6.Ke6 Kd8 7.Bb6+! Ke8 demonstrates the “Knight-Hook” maneuver. White made a lot of progress driving the black king towards h8.
Now white can repeat the same maneuver.
Diagram above: 7.Nf5 Ke8 8.Ng7+ Kf8 9.Kf6 Kg8 10.Kg6 Kf8 11.Bc5+ Kg8 and now the black king is trapped in the corner where we want him to be. This is the power of the Knight Hook maneuver!
Now it’s just a matter of figuring out how to deliver the final checkmate.
Diagram above: There’s a few ways to deliver the checkmate. (Just make sure the black king doesn’t escape via f8 and that you don’t stalemate him!) You may need to make a waiting move with the bishop in order to manipulate the black king onto the square you want him to be. For example 1.Nf5 Kh8 2.Bf8 Kg8 3.Bh6 Kh8 4.Bg7+ Kg8 5.Nh6# is one way to achieve the mate.
3.. Ke8 4.Bd5! Kf7 5.Nf4! Ke7 6.Kc7 Ke8 7.Bf6! Kf7 8.Bh5 Ke8 9.Kc8 Kf7 10.Kd7 Kf8 11.Be7+ Kf7 12.Kd8 Kg7 13.Ke8 Kh6 14.Kf7 Kh7 15.Bf8 Kh8 16.Nh5 Kh7 17.Nf6+ Kh8 18.Bg7#
Comments on Variation 2
In variation 1 you will mainly employ the “Bishop & Knight Wall” maneuver.
The Bishop & Knight Wall Maneuver
The black king is trying to run for the hills via e8-f7-g6. If white doesn’t act quickly, the black king will soon be in the other “wrong corner”, h1.
Diagram above: 4.Bd5! Kf7 5.Nf4 creates a wall that he black king can’t penetrate. Theoretically this isn’t the quickest way to checkmate, but it is easy to remember.
Diagram above: After 5.Nf5! note how the knight and bishop work together. White’s king will eventually move to d7 to further restrict the black king.
A Few More Important Notes on the Bishop and Knight Checkmate
It is unlikely that you will encounter this situation more than a few times in your chess career. Even so, it is still useful to study it because the Bishop and Knight Checkmate method is a very instructive lesson on piece-coordination.
If you want to master the Bishop and Knight Checkmate, there is just one more thing you need to do–practice. Go through the variations again. Play the position out against a computer, or better yet–a friend who plays chess. A thorough understanding of the “Knight Hook” and the “Bishop Knight Wall” will give you the tools you need to perform this checkmate. For additional reading you can also go through the examples on Wikipedia.
Back to Checkmate Patterns.