A checkmate pattern is a particular and recognizable arrangement of the pieces that deliver the checkmate. You can further improve your chess tactics skill by studying all the different checkmates that commonly occur in chess games.
List of Checkmate Patterns
The first checkmate pattern in the list illustrates Anastasia’s Mate:
Diagram above: 1.Rh3# checkmates the black king against the side of the board. Note how white’s knight is perfectly placed to cover the escape squares.
More Examples: Anastasia’s Mate
Anderssen’s Mate is a checkmate pattern that features a rook supported by a pawn as it checkmates the opposing king along the eighth rank from the corner. The pawn is then also defended by another piece or pawn. The pattern is named after Adolf Anderssen, a German chess master from the 19th century:
Diagram above: 2.Rh8# White concludes the game with the Anderssen Mate. A particular feature of this position is that white’s pawn is defended by his king.
More Examples: Anderssen’s Mate
The Arabian Mate is a checkmate pattern that features the unique abilities of a knight (horse) with the help of a rook:
Diagram above: 1.Rh7# Note how the white knight defends the rook on h7 and at the same time covers the escape square, g8. This demonstration of the knight’s unique abilities is the main feature of the Arabian Mate.
Back Rank Mate
The Back Rank Mate happens when a king is trapped behind it’s own pawn shield and gets mated by a rook or queen:
Diagram above: White plays 1.Rd8# The black king is trapped on the back rank, behind his own pawn shield, hence the name “Back Rank Mate”. This proves that your own pieces can sometimes work against you!
More Examples: Back Rank Mate
The Balestra Mate is a checkmate pattern that demonstrates optimal coordination between a queen and bishop:
Diagram above: 1.Bc6# shows how the white bishop and queen coordinate perfectly to checkmate the black king on the side of the board.
Interesting Note on the Balestra Mate
It appears that the name “Balestra Mate” (performed by a queen and bishop) was first used as a tag on chesstempo.com–in order to distinguish it from Boden’s Mate (which involves two bishops). An important observation here is that the case of Balestra Mate, the bishop MUST be the checking piece if the queen has the task to block all escape squares (without the help of the opponent’s own pieces).
More Examples: Balestra Mate
Blackburne’s Mate involves two bishops and a knight against a castled king:
Diagram above: 1.Bh7# demonstrates the typical coordination between two bishops and a knight that resembles Blackburne’s Mate.
The pattern is named after Joseph Henry Blackburne’s, a British chess player who once demonstrated this checkmate in one of his games.
More Examples: Blackburne’s Mate
Blind Swine Mate
The Blind Swine Mate demonstrates the power of two connected rooks on the 7th rank:
Diagram above: 1.Rdg7# illustrates the checkmate pattern. The two white rooks on the 7th rank coordinate to trap the castled king, with the “help” of the obstructing black rook on f8. It’s often impossible to defend against this checkmate pattern–which is why you should be very aware of the danger presented by two connected rooks on the 7th rank.
According to an article on chesskid.com, this checkmate pattern got its name from David Janowski, a Polish grandmaster who referred to a pair of rooks on the seventh rank that could not find a mate as “blind swine”.
More Examples: Blind Swine Mate
Boden’s Mate demonstrates the power of two bishops on open diagonals:
Diagram above: 1.Ba6# shows how the two white bishops work together to deliver checkmate. They require the “help” of black’s rook and pawn–they occupy the escape squares.
This checkmate pattern is named after Samuel Boden–an English chess master from the 19th century. He wasn’t the first player to use it, but he used it in a game that became well-known–Schulder–Boden, London 1853.
More Examples: Boden’s Mate
Corner Mate, as the name suggests, is a checkmate pattern against an enemy king that is trapped in a corner. The actual checkmate is often executed by a knight:
Diagram above: 1.Nf7+ demonstrates the checkmate pattern known as the Corner Mate. Note how the white rook on g1, with the help of the black pawn on h7, traps the black king in the corner.
More Examples: Corner Mate
The Corridor Mate is reached when the enemy king can’t escape from check because it’s trapped along a rank, file or diagonal (corridor):
Diagram above: 1.Qc4# is checkmate because black king is trapped on the c-file “corridor”. The Back Rank Mate that we studied earlier is also a type of corridor mate.
Diagonal Corridor Mate
Diagram above: 1.Be4# demonstrates how a king could also be trapped and mated on a “diagonal corridor”.
More Examples: Corridor Mate
Cozio’s Mate (Dovetail Mate)
Cozio’s Mate was originally a study published by Carlos Cozio, an Italian chess player from the 18th century.
Cozio’s Mate is also known as the Dovetail Mate since the arrangement of the pieces visually resemble a dove’s tail.
More Examples: Cozio’s Mate (Dovetail Mate)
Damiano’s Mate is a checkmate pattern where a queen and a pawn (or queen and a bishop) coordinate their efforts against a castled king. It can only work if the pawn shield in front of the enemy king has been compromised:
Diagram above: 1.Qh7# demonstrates the basic idea in Damiano’s Checkmate. Black’s rook obstructs f8. Another important aspect of this mate is that the white pawn covers the escape square, f7. The same could be accomplished if white had a bishop on g6, instead of a pawn.
Interesting Note on Damiano’s Mate
User KingBishop on chess.com reveals that this checkmate idea was first published by Pedro Damiano, a Portugese chess player, in 1512. Furthermore, the well known advice “If you see a good move, try to find a better one”, is often attributed to Lasker and other modern chess writers, but according to wikipedia, this advice is found in Damiano’s book–written more than 500 years ago!
More Examples: Damiano’s Mate
David and Goliath Mate
The David and Goliath Mate is a characterized by the fact that a humble pawn checkmates the opponent’s king:
Diagram above: 1.h4# proves it is quite possible for a pawn to deliver checkmate, with the help of other pieces and/or pawns though. Although it appears unusual to deliver checkmate with a pawn, it is quite common in actual games.
More Examples: David and Goliath Mate
The Epaulette Mate resembles the visual appearance of an ornamental shoulder piece sometimes worn by elite military personnel.
Diagram above: White plays 1.Qe6# The black rooks “decorate” the king’s shoulders.
More Examples: Epaulette Mate
The Fool’s Mate (also known as the 2-move checkmate) is the quickest possible checkmate pattern in chess:
Diagram above: The Fool’s Mate is reached after the moves 1.f3 (or f4) e5 2.g4?? 2.Qh4# The white king can’t move to a safe square and he can’t block the check either.
It is unusual for white to move the f-pawn and g-pawn on their first two moves, but it is still a fairly common occurrence among beginners.
More Examples: 2-Move Checkmate (Fool’s Mate)
Greco’s Mate occurs when the enemy king is trapped in a corner with the help of a bishop. It is a great example of how a rook and bishop can coordinate to deliver checkmate:
Diagram above: 1.Rh1# demonstrates Greco’s Mate. The white bishop covers the escape-square, g8, whilst g7 is occupied by one of black’s own pawns. The white rook delivers the checkmate along the open h-file.
More Examples: Greco’s Mate
A fairly common attacking method in chess is to destroy the pawn shield in front of an enemy king (often with a sacrifice). Various other checkmate patterns can become possible as a result of the open h-file.
Diagram above: 1.Rh8# The open h-file allows white to execute Anderssen’s Mate.
More Examples: H-file Mate
The Hook Mate is a very useful and instructive checkmate pattern that demonstrates optimal coordination between a rook and knight. The pattern is named after it’s visual appearance that resemble a hook:
Diagram above: 1.Rh8# demontrates the Hook Mate. Note the optimal coordination between the rook and knight. The knight must be supported though, in this case by the pawn on f5, else the black king could simply capture the knight.
More Examples: Hook Mate
Kill Box Mate
The Kill Box Mate occurs when a queen and rook work together to checkmate the enemy king in a box:
Diagram above: 1.Rd8# is a simple demonstration of the Kill Box Mate. Note how the queen defends the rook whilst also containing the black king in a “box”.
More Examples: Kill Box Mate
The Lawnmower Mate is an easy checkmate typically performed by a queen and rook (or just two rooks). The two pieces work together to push the enemy king to the side of the board. Since it is a very common checkmate pattern, it is one of the first checkmate methods that a beginner should learn.
Diagram above: 1.Ra8# The Lawnmower Mate is named after the alternating advance of the 2 rooks that push the enemy king all the way to the edge of the board. It is because of this “rolling” action that the pattern is sometimes referred to as the Rook Roller’s Mate.
More Examples: Lawnmower Mate
Légal’s Mate is named after the French chess player, Sire de Légal (1702–1792). He commonly used the pattern in his games. It’s important to note that the position below was reached after white played Nxe5, allowing the black bishop to capture white’s queen on d1:
Diagram above: 1.Bxf7+ is not checkmate yet, but it will be mate after 1… Ke7 2.Nd5#
More Examples: Légal’s Mate
Lolli’s Mate is a common checkmate pattern performed by the cooperation between a queen and pawn, typically against a castled king:
Diagram above: White plays 1.Qg7# The pawn defends the queen. This pattern is fairly common. Once the queen arrives on h6 it is often impossible to defend against the mate threat.
This pattern is named after Giambattista Lolli, an Italian chess player from the 18th century.
More Examples: Lolli’s Mate
Max Lange’s Mate
Max Lange’s Mate demonstrates great coordination between a queen and bishop:
Diagram above: 1.Qg8# demonstrates the Max Lange Mate. Note how white’s bishop covers g6, whilst black’s own pawn obstructs the h6-square.
This checkmate is named after a German chess player from late 19th century, Max Lange.
More Examples: Max Lange’s Mate
Mayet’s Mate occurs when a rook is placed right next to the enemy king whilst the rook is supported by a distant bishop. The king is further obstructed by his own pieces:
Diagram above: 1.Rd8# demonstrates the checkmate pattern. The rook is supported by a distant bishop whilst the enemy king is also obstructed by his own pawns.
Mayet’s Mate is very similar to the Opera Mate. The difference is very subtle:
The Opera Mate (diagram left) vs Mayet’s Mate (diagram right). Notice the difference in the placement and role of the bishop. In the case of the latter, the bishop plays an even more important role by covering the square in front of the enemy king.
More Examples: Mayet’s Mate
Morphy’s Mate is named after the legendary American chess player, Paul Morphy. The checkmate is executed by a bishop and rook:
Diagram above: This is a theoretical position that illustrates the concept of Morphy’s Mate. The black king is trapped in the corner behind its own pawn. The king is also cut off by the white rook. White’s bishop delivers the checkmate.
From this discussion on a chess.com forum, you will notice that there is a fair amount of confusion about Morphy’s Mate. There are mainly 2 reasons for this confusion:
- The checkmate never actually happened in the game it was named after and
- Paul Morphy was better known for other checkmate patterns, such as the Opera Mate (which coincidentally is also a rook and bishop checkmate pattern).
More Examples: Morphy’s Mate
The Opera Mate is a checkmate pattern that was demonstrated by Paul Morphy–while watching Opera with the Duke of Brunswick and Count Isouard, in Paris, 1858:
Diagram above: 1.Rd8# is the move that earned the Opera Mate it’s name. Paul Morphy played this game whilst watching an opera show.
More Examples: Opera Mate
Pillsbury’s Mate occurs when a bishop controls the corner square next to a castled king, whilst a rook delivers the mate. For this to happen, the pawn shield in front of the king must be compromised and black’s rook must still be next to the king:
Diagram above: 1.Rg1 demonstrates Pillsbury’s mate. The main feature of this pattern is the role of white’s bishop that covers the escape-square, h8.
More Examples: Pillsbury’s Mate
The Railroad Mate is a checkmate method that combines the features of the Triangle Mate and the Kill Box Mate. Together, it resembles an unstoppable train moving along a rail:
Diagram above: 1.Rh7+ Kg8, 2.Qf7# is the Railroad Mate. This interesting checkmate method demonstrates powerful coordination between a queen and rook.
More Examples: Railroad Mate
Reti’s Mate is named after a famous game between two chess legends, Richard Reti and Savielly Tartakower. The pattern is based on the X-Ray ability of a bishop (or queen):
Diagram above: 1.Bd8# A distinct feature of this checkmate pattern is that the bishop also covers b6 through its X-Ray ability. This checkmate is further made possible by the fact that black’s own pawns and pieces further obstruct their king.
More Examples: Reti’s Mate
Scholar’s Mate (also known as the 4-Move Checkmate) is a very common checkmate pattern among beginners:
Diagram above: Qxf7# is checkmate because the black king can’t move to a safe square. At the same time, the white queen is supported by the bishop on c4. Most of the time, Scholar’s Mate is reached by the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Qh5 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6?? 4.Qxf7#
More Examples: 4-Move Checkmate (Scholar’s Mate)
Smothered Mate is only possible if the enemy king is completely surrounded by his own pieces. This pattern also features the unique jumping ability of the knight:
Diagram above: 1.Nf7# This simplified position demonstrates Smothered Mate. Note how the black king is completely surrounded by his own pieces.
How Smothered Mate is Typically Executed
It’s useful to see an example of how Smothered Mate is usually achieved:
Diagram above: 1.Nh6+ Kh8 2.Qg8+ Rxg8 3.Nf7# demonstrates how Smothered Mate is usually achieved.
Even though it’s very unique, the Smothered Mate is a fairly common checkmate pattern. If you play chess often there is a very real chance that you will someday get the opportunity to use this checkmate on your very surprised opponent. (Or see the danger before it happens to you!)
More Examples: Smothered Mate
The Suffocation Mate is a checkmate pattern with a bishop and knight. The knight checks the king and the bishop suffocates him (with the help of a few enemy pieces that further obstruct the king):
Diagram above: 1.Ne7# demonstrates the Suffocation Mate. The king is mostly obstructed by his own pieces and the white bishop covers the open squares from a distance.
More Examples: Suffocation Mate
Swallow’s Tail Mate (Gueridon Mate)
Swallow’s Tail Mate visually resembles the appearance of a swallow’s tail. It’s also known as Gueridon’s Checkmate and it’s similar to the Epaulette Mate:
Diagram above: 1.Qg5# The Swallow’s Tail Mate is an example of a checkmate pattern that is named after its visual appearance. The two black pawns behind the king, which also prevents the king from escaping, visually resemble a “swallow’s tail”. The white king (or another piece that supports the queen) can be seen as the swallow’s head.
The Dovetail Mate (also known as Cozio’s Mate) is another checkmate pattern named after the visual appearance of a bird’s tail.
More Examples: Swallow’s Tail Mate (Gueridon Mate)
The Triangle Mate, also known as the Fish Tail Mate, resembles the visual appearance of a triangle (or a fish tail for that matter). The checkmate also demonstrates good coordination between a queen and rook:
Diagram above: 1.Qf5# is a simple demonstration of the Triangle Mate. Note how the white queen, white rook and black pawn on g7 resemble a triangle around the black king.
More Examples: Triangle Mate
The Vukovic Mate is named after the International Master, Vladimir Vukovic, who showed this checkmate pattern in his book “The Art of Attack in Chess”.
The pattern demonstrates powerful coordination between the rook and knight, with the help of a supporting piece:
Diagram above: 1.Rf7# is the Vukovic Mate. Note the important role of the knight (covering the escape squares e8 and g8). The white pawn on e6 supports the rook, but this task could also be accomplished by any other piece that would defend the rook.
More Examples: Vukovic Mate
The set of checkmate patterns below are the ones most likely to occur during the endgame stage of the game. Learning these endgame checkmates is an important part of improving your endgame technique.
- King and Queen Checkmate
- King and Rook Checkmate (Box Mate)
- King and Bishop Checkmate
- King and Knight Checkmate
- King and Two Pawns Checkmate
- Queen and Knight Checkmate
- Queen and Bishop Checkmate
- Queen and Rook Checkmate
- Queen and Pawn Checkmate
- Rook and Bishop Checkmate
- Rook and Knight Checkmate
- Two Rooks Checkmate
- Two Bishops Checkmate
- Two Knights Checkmate
- Bishop and Knight Checkmate
Learn the Names of Famous Checkmate Moves
It is a good idea to learn and memorize the names of all the essential checkmate patterns. Why? Because knowing the name of a checkmate pattern helps embed in your mind what the particular pattern looks like. This may in turn help you identify possible opportunities in your games that you otherwise may have overlooked.
How Famous Checkmate Patterns Got Their Names
The best checkmate moves in chess, or famous checkmate patterns, are usually named either after the first person who executed the pattern or after the visual appearance of the mating pattern. In some cases their is another reason as to why the mating pattern was named after the name of a chess player. Morphy’s Mate is an example of this.
Morphy’s Mate is a theoretical checkmate pattern that might have appeared in one of Paul Morphy’s game, but never actually did! This causes some confusion as to why it’s named Morphy’s Mate, particularly because Morphy is also known for a few other famous checkmate moves.
Diagram above: Morphy’s Mate is a theoretical checkmate pattern where the enemy king is trapped behind his own pawn and cut off to the side of the board with a rook. A bishop then delivers the checkmate.
Tail Mate (or Swallow’s Tail Checkmate)
Some checkmate patterns are named after its visual appearance. The swallow’s tail mate is an example of this.
Diagram above: The swallow’s tail checkmate pattern is named after the visual appearance of the “swallow’s tail” behind black’s king that also prevents the king from escaping.
Conclusion: Checkmate Patterns
It is a good idea to learn and memorize the names of all the essential checkmate patterns. Why? Because knowing the name of a checkmate pattern can help you remember it better. This may in turn help you identify possible opportunities in your games that you otherwise may have overlooked.
More Checkmate Patterns
This page is a fairly comprehensive list of checkmate patterns. You may also enjoy going through the lists of checkmate patterns on other chess websites:
In the 7 Skills Chess Training Model, Checkmate Patterns fall under: