Checkmate Combinations

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Note: These checkmate patterns and ideas are fairly common. If you study them you will certainly find opportunities to execute at least some of them in your own games.

In the position below it’s white’s turn to move. Can you find the combination that leads to checkmate?

White to move

Scroll down to see the solution.




Checkmate combinations and patterns #1 Solution

When you calculate moves you should always consider all the checks, captures and threats you can make.


1.Rd8+ forces black to play 1… Bf8, which would expose the black king on the g-file.

1… Bf8 is the only legal move black can play.

Now white can gain a tempo and bring the queen into the attack at the same time:

2.Qg5+ If black plays 2… Kh8, then Rxf8# is checkmate.

Instead, black blocks the check by playing 2… Qg7.

2… Qg7 blocks the check. Now white has mate in 2.

White can now take advantage of the fact that black’s queen is pinned.


Black’s response is forced. Also that the g7-square is now occupied by a black piece. which means black can’t use it as an escape square for the king.

3… Kxf8 is forced.

And now next move is checkmate:


The final move is easy to find but it was quite as simple to spot this idea from the initial position. By studying checkmate patterns such as this one you will improve your chances to find similar checkmate combinations in your own games.

In the position below it’s black to move. Can you find the combination that leads to checkmate?

Black to move

Scroll down to see the solution.




Note that 1… Qh2+ 2.Kf1 Qh1+ 3.Qg1 and white escapes.

Checkmate Combinations #2 Solution

1… Bh2+

1… Bh2+ forces the king to the h1 square, which would give black a discovered check on the next move.


Black can now use the discovered check to place his bishop on a more useful square.

2… Bg3+

The point is that this move attacks the f2-square. This is important because the black queen will now be supported by the bishop.


And now black has mate in two:

3… Qh2+




4… Qxf2# (or Qh1#)

Since the black bishop blocks the path of the white queen on the g-file 4… Qh1# would be mate too.

The key move in this checkmate combination is 1… Bh2+ and not Qh2+, which would give white the opportunity to escape. By playing 1… Bh2+, black gives himself a free move by first forcing the white king into the corner and at the same time prepare a discovered attack.

This is a useful checkmate pattern to know. If you play chess a lot there is a good chance you will come across this idea again in your future games.

Checkmate Combinations #3 Epaulet checkmate

The next moves in the position below illustrates a checkmate pattern that is useful to know since it is not uncommon.

White just played a7. What can black do?

Scroll down to see the solution.




The Solution | Epaulettes checkmate

Qh1+ forces white to block with Rh2.


Rh2 places the second epaulette on the shoulder of white’s king. The h4-pawn resembles the other epaulette.


Nf4+ The key move. White is forced to capture the knight with gxf4 – which will expose the white king on the 3rd rank.


Qf3$ completes the sequences that lead to an epaulette checkmate pattern.


An Epaulette.

An epaulette is an ornamental shoulder piece on an item of clothing, especially on the coat or jacket of a military uniform.

This checkmate pattern is known as the epaulette (or sideways epaulette in this specific example) since the pattern occurs when a king stands on the edge of the board, whilst the squares on either side of him are occupied by one of his own pieces, resembling an epaulette on his shoulders.

Important Checkmate Patterns: Legal’s Checkmate

The checkmate below is named after the French player, Sire de Légal (1702–1792), who used it in the 1800’s. This checkmate pattern is sometimes referred to as Blackburne’s Trap, since J Blackburne (1841–1924), a British chessmaster, also set this trap on many occasions.

In the position below, black just moved their bishop to safety, Bh5. What can white do?

White to move.

Scroll down to see the solution that features Legal’s checkmate pattern.




Legal’s checkmate pattern Solution

1.Nxe5 is a surprising move that seems to lose the queen to 1…Bxd1?

1.Nxe5 wins, at the very least, a pawn. If black plays Bxd1? then white will execute a forced checkmate (which I’ll show you in a moment). But black’s best try is to play 1… Nxe5, threatening 2… Nxc4.

However, white still wins a pawn in the combination shown below:

If instead of 1… Bxd1, black plays 1… Nxe5, white plays 2.Qxh5 (regaining the lost piece) and if black plays 2… Nxc4 then 3.Qb5+, followed by 4.Qxc4 leaves white a pawn ahead.

But what happens if black captures the white queen, 1… Bxd1?

1… Bxd1? allows white to demonstrate Legal’s checkmate trap.

According to wikipedia, Légal disguised his trap with a psychological trick: he first touched the knight on f3 and then retreated his hand as if realizing only now that the knight was pinned. Then, after his opponent reminded him of the touch-move rule, he played Nxe5, and the opponent grabbed the queen without thinking twice. Most player’s would definitely be tempted to capture the white queen, but it loses on the spot.


Black is forced to play 2… Ke7.

2… Ke7

Now it’s mate in 1…

3.Nd5# is checkmate. This is what Legal’s checkmate trap looks like.

Legal’s checkmate pattern (or trap) is not all that uncommon and it’s definitely one you should know.