checkmate Posts

Chess Noob #12- Simple Checkmates

Now that you know notation, we can start looking at some positions and games and analyzing, etc.  In other words, now you can really start to learn to become a better chess player by reading books and blogs and solving puzzles, etc.

Let’s look at a few simple checkmates that are standard 1st time player mates to learn.

Fool’s Mate

This first simple mate (and actually entire GAME) we’re going to learn is titled “Fool’s Mate” because “only a fool would make such moves”!  It is the fastest possible checkmate where the entire game lasts only TWO MOVES!

1. f3   e5; 2. g4   Qh4#

Scholar’s Mate

Scholar’s Mate gets attempted quite a lot in novice play and even some higher ranked players will go for it as a type of fear tactic, so it’s good to learn both what it is and how to stop it.

The moves for a Scholar’s Mate are: 1. e4   e5; 2. Qh5  Nc6; 3. Bc4   Nf6; 4. Qxf7#

There are a few variations of this from white’s side(such as bringing the Bishop out before the Queen, or bringing the Queen to f3 instead of h5), but that’s the basic idea.  As black, there are many ways to guard against this particular mate.

One way NOT to block is to threaten the Queen with g6.  This results in a dangerous trap that allows White to check with the Queen (Qxe5+), forking the King and Rook:

You may think of answering 2. Qh5 with Nc6.  This will still drop the e-pawn with check… not the worst thing in the world, but still not very ideal. 2. … Nc6 is still a good answer to block against the e-pawn capture.  When White brings the Bishop to c4 for the threat of a mate, you can now push the g-pawn to stop the mate as the King/Rook fork is no longer an issue thanks to the e-pawn being protected by a knight.

Quick Smothermate Trap

A Smothermate, as talked about in a previous blog, is when Checkmate with a Knight when the opponent’s King is blocked in by pieces (and can’t move) that can’t capture said Knight.  Here is a cool little smothermate I saw recently that was very fast…

1. e4  e5; 2. Nf3  Nc6; 3. Bc4  Nd4; 4. Nxe5  Qg5; 5. Nxf7 (forking the Queen and Rook and can’t be captured by the King because it’s protected by a Bishop):

then black resumes- 5. … Qxg2; 6. Rf1 (so it doesn’t get taken) Qxe4+; 7. Be2 (moving the queen there would just result in a queen capture… which, given the circumstances might be the better idea for white at this point) Nf3#

These three fast mates are all possible (and infact, Scholar’s Mate happens quite frequently in beginning chess players’ games).  Now that you know them, you can try them out on your friends, and protect against them when your friends try them on you!

Have a topic you’d like me to cover or a question you’d like to ask? send me an e-mail at flannelmann@yahoo.com

Chess Noob #10 – How the Rules of Chess Have Changed

Josh from New Jersey asked me “Why is it that Pawns are allowed to move 2 spaces in the beginning?”

This is a great question on the history of chess, and so rather than writing a mini-blog to answer that question alone, I thought I’d go over several rules of chess that have changed over the centuries.  Some of these changes include how various pieces move, the appearance of the chess board, and how to win a chess game.

Pawn Movement

Originally, Pawns could only move forward one space at a time on every turn.  Around the 1500’s, it was decided that the game of chess needed to be sped up and made more exciting.  One of the things done to accomplish this was to allow the Pawn the option of moving up to 2 spaces on it’s first turn and therefore adding variety to the game (would the pawn move just one space or 2) and new strategies.  When it became apparent that a player could use this rule to avoid capture (by moving the Pawn 2 spaces instead of 1 space in which it might get captured by a Pawn on the 5th rank), the rule for En Passant was added.

Pawn Promotion

Originally, Pawns did not promote when they reached the 8th rank, there merely could not move any more during the game.  It wasn’t until the middle ages that it was decided to allow Pawns to be promoted to other pieces if they made it all the way across the board, but they could only turn into a Queen (which, at that time, was the weakest piece in the game).  In the late 1400’s, when the Queen became a much more powerful piece, players were given the option of promoting their Pawns to any other piece.  In the 1700’s, it was ruled that a Pawn could only be promoted to a piece that had already been captured (essentially putting a fallen piece piece back on the board in the Pawn’s place).  This changed again in the 1800’s to it’s current form where a Pawn, when reaching the other side of the board, can be promoted to any piece, even one that has not been captured (essentially allowing a player to have multiple Queens on the board).

Bishops

Bishops have always been able to move diagonally.  However to start with, a Bishop could only move up to 2 spaces at a time.  Modern day chess has the Bishop moving diagonally as many spaces as it likes.

Queens

The Queen was originally the weakest piece on the board!  The very first time it was moved it could be moved in any direction up to 2 spaces, but for every move after that it could only move diagonally 1 space at a time!  It wasn’t until the late 1400’s that the Queen was increased to it’s current powerful status as a piece that can move any direction as many spaces as it likes.

Stalemate

Stalemate has changed often throughout the history of chess.  Up until the 15th century, a Stalemate was considered a win for the person that could force one to happen.  Then, until the 16th century, it was considered an “inferior win”… it would still count as a win for the person who caused the Stalemate to happen, but in a tournament with money prizes they’d only be eligible for half the winnings.  For a while (and in certain countries) a Stalemate was not allowed.  If a player made a move that caused a Stalemate to occur, they were forced to take the move back and make a new move instead.  In the 19th century, it was declared that a Stalemate should be treated as a draw, although to this day there are still many chess experts who believe it should once again be considered a win for whomever can force the stalemate to happen.

Checkmate

Up until the 1300’s, there were 3 ways to win a chess game: 1) Checkmate your opponent, 2) your opponent resigns, 3) capture all of your opponent’s pieces (minus the King).  In the 1300’s, it was declared that taking all your opponent’s pieces no longer counted as a win, you had to Checkmate them.

Threefold Repetition

The threefold repetition rule (if the same position is repeated on 3 consecutive turns, the game is a draw) did not come about until the 1880’s.

The 50-move Rule

The 50-move Rule (if 50 moves are made without capturing any pieces or moving any pawns, the game is a draw) was introduced in 1561 by Ruy Lopez.  In the 1600’s, Pietro Carrera said it should be 24 moves.  In the 1800’s, Bourdonnais said it should be 60.  For a while it was decided that all winnable endgames could be won in 50 moves or less, but then in the 20th century there were a few exceptions found.  Because of these exceptions, for a while, it was declared you could have up to 100 moves in certain endgame situations.  In 1989 that number was reduced to 75 moves, and in 2001 it was changed to 50 moves for all endgames, no matter the position.

Time Control

The first use of time control for games (which we’ll talk about in the next blog) was not introduced until the mid-1800’s.

White moves first

The rule that white moves first was not introduced until 1889.

My how things change!

Have a topic you’d like me to cover or a question you’d like to ask? send me an e-mail at flannelmann@yahoo.com

Chess Noob #6 – Castling

Before we get started talking about a few special moves you can do in chess, let’s give you the answers to the quiz from the last blog on if each position was a Check, Checkmate, or Stalemate.

QUIZ ANSWERS

1) Checkmate!  This sort of Checkmate is also referred to as a “smother-mate”.  Notice how the black King is completely blocked in by his own pieces?  This allows white to Checkmate black using nothing but his Knight!  These are always fun because your opponent is almost helping you to beat him.

2) Checkmate!  The white King is in Check by black’s Pawn at e2.  He cannot take this attacking pawn because then the white King would capture him.  He also cannot move to any other square because he’d be under attack by other pieces (a Bishop at e1, a Rook at c1 and c2, and the opposing King at c2 and d2).  There is also nothing that can intercept.

3) Stalemate!  Well… at least if we say it’s black’s turn!  If it’s black’s turn, black is unable to move his king anywhere without being attacked by either the Pawn at g7 or the opposing King.  And his other pieces are blocked and unable to move.  If it’s White’s move, he can win very easily in a couple of moves.  But for the sake of this quiz, we’ll say it’s black’s move and he’s been stalemated.

4) Check! The white Queen threatens the black King, but black can simply intercept with the Knight.

5) Checkmate!  This is a NEARLY identical position as 4.  The only change is that now black cannot use the Knight to intercept the white Queen, because then white’s Rook at c8 would be able to capture the King.

How’d you do?  If you missed any, go back and look at the position again to figure out why you got it wrong.

Moving on… Today, we’re going to talk about 3 special moves: Castling, En Passant, and Pawn Promotion.  These are moves that can be done, but I didn’t include them in our initial discussion of how the pieces move (with exception of Caslting) because they’re special circumstance moves.  But we’re going to talk about them now that you have a better understanding of what’s going on.

Castling

As mentioned before, when you Castle, you are giving your King a little extra protection.  Thank of it as moving him from the courtyard to the nearly impenetrable tower!  You can Castle either to the kingside or queenside by moving the King 2 spaces toward the Rook, and then placing that Rook immediately to the other side of the King.  This is demonstrated n this illustration:

You may Castle only once per game, and there are a few rules about Castling you must obey.

1) The King must not have moved from his starting square before you Castle.

2) The Rook that you Castle in-tandem with the King must not have moved from its starting location.

3) You cannot Castle while in Check.  If a piece is attacking your King, you can’t escape it by Castling.

4) You cannot Castle THROUGH Check.  If a piece is not attacking your King, but it’s pointed sniper-style at one of the spaces your King would have to go through for a Castle, then you cannot Castle.  This last rule may seem a bit tricky, but it’s very simple.

In this picture, you can Castle:

In this picture, you cannot castle because the King would have to move through a space that’s being targeted by black’s Bishop:

Castling is usually a good idea because it gives the King extra protection by placing it behind a wall of Pawns one one side and the Rook on the other, as well as getting it further out of reach of the opposing Queen.  ONLY Castle, though, if it puts your King in a more protected area.  For instance, in the following image, you would NOT want to Castle kingside, because the King would actually become MORE exposed to danger.

Do you see how Castling now would cause problems for white?  If  white castles, then black will bring his light-square Bishop to h3, which threatens a 1-move checkmate by the Queen taking the pawn at g2:

White can try to stop this mate by pushing the g-pawn, but then he loses a rook for a bishop:

Or if he moves the Knight to h4, he’ll lose a Knight and a Pawn for a Bishop and a torn open king side:

So while Castling is USUALLY a good defense, keep your eyes peeled to make sure it actually protects you.


Chess Noob #5 – Check, Checkmate, Stalemate

Now that you know how the pieces move (at least, you do if you read the last 2 blogs… if you haven’t read them, please go back and do so now), you need to learn how to win!  There are two ways to win: 1) get your opponent in checkmate, 2) your opponent realizes it’s futile for him/her to continue and simply resigns.  Be careful though, as your opponent could try to force a draw from a stalemate.

So what do “check”, “checkmate” and “stalemate” mean, and what are the differences?  Well I’m glad you asked!  Let’s start with the one that’s not a game-ender…

CHECK

In “All About Pieces (part 1)” I made the comment that the King is worth so many points you can actually potentially win the game just by threatening to capture him.  Well, that’s if the threat is so powerful there’s nothing the opponent can do.  If the opponent CAN stop the threat, the threat is simply called Check.

Check is when a piece is placed in a position where it threatens to capture the King on its next move, BUT the side being threatened is able to put a stop to the threat.  Let’s look at a couple examples.  (Please forgive the numbers and letters not being as neat as they should be.  My chess software doesn’t have the board labeled, so I have to do it myself in MSPaint).

In this position, the black bishop has the white king in Check- it is threatening to capture the King on it’s next move.  Black does not win, however, because White can easily block the check by pushing his c-Pawn (the pawn in front of his queen-side bishop), or by moving his Knight to c3.

There are 3 ways to get out of Check.  1) intercept- this is the example I just used, where you put something in the way of the check. 2) capture the attacking piece. 3) move the King out of Check.  Here’s one more example of a check, which the threatened side has the choice of doing all 3 options:

The white Bishop has the black King in Check.  Black has numerous options here.  He can capture the white bishop with his h-Pawn, he can block the Bishop’s path with either one of his Knights, he can block with his light-squared Bishop, he can block with his Queen, or he can simply move the King out of the way at D2.

So what’s the difference between Check and Checkmate?

CHECKMATE

Checkmate is when you put your opponent in Check (threatening the King), and there is nothing they can do to stop it! For instance

In this position, the white Queen has the black King in Checkmate.  Why?  Well, the King is obviously in Check because the Queen threatens to capture the King on her next move.  With the Queen so close to the King, there aren’t any spaces for any piece to intercept. There are no pieces that can take the Queen (do you see that if the King captures the Queen, white’s Bishop will then capture the King?), and anywhere the King tries to flee to, the Queen will capture him.  The Queen threatens the King and there’s nothing black can do to stop it, black is therefore in Checkmate, and has lost the game.

So then, what’s the difference between Checkmate and Stalemate?

STALEMATE

A Stalemate is a draw.  It’s where one side is NOT in check, but anything he does will cause him to BE in Check.  Let’s look at an example.

In this diagram, it’s currently black’s move.  He is in Stalemate.  Sure, it looks like white wins because he has a King and a Queen left where as black has only his King.  But, like I said, it’s black’s move… and he can’t go anywhere!  In his current position, the black King is NOT in check!  However, anywhere he moves, he would be placing himself in check (he’d get taken by the Queen at d1, d2, c2 and b1; he’d get taken by the white King at c2 and b2).  This is therefore a Stalemate and counts as a draw!

Let’s end this blog with a little Quiz.  Below are 5 positions.  See if you can figure out if each position is a Check, Checkmate, or Stalemate.  I’ll post the answers in the next blog, where we’ll talk more in depth about that special move I told you about once before: Castling.


  2  

3  

5


Basic Checkmates

As a beginner it’s important to learn which material imbalances lead to a clear win. In this post I’m going to show two very basic checkmates that every beginning chess player should know. The first is checkmating a lone enemy king with your own king and queen. The first concept to understand is that you cannot checkmate the enemy king in the middle of the board. The king must be driven to the edge of the board. The way you do this is by using your queen to cut off escape squares. Take a look at the graphic below:

In the above diagram, white has two moves that will lock the enemy king on the edge of the board. Do you see what they are? They are Qg7 and Qb7. In this case however Qg7 is superior, can you see why? Once the enemy king is driven to the edge of the board it’s a simple matter of moving your own king to support your queen as she gives checkmate. The final position usually looks like this:

 

Notice how the king is supporting the queen while she is delivering checkmate.

The second basic checkmate a beginner should learn is checkmating a lone king with a king and rook. This checkmate is a little bit harder because it requires the use of temporizing moves. Once again the king must driven to the edge of the board. Let’s take a look at the diagram below where it’s white turns to move:

Notice how if it were black turns to move and our opponent played Ke8 we could play Ra8#. It is however our turn to move. If we play an immediate Kf6 black will escape via Ke8. The key in this position is to make a waiting move. Either Rb7 or Rc7 work fine. Then if black plays Ke8 we checkmate by either Rb8 or Rc8. More likely black will play Kg8, and then the winning sequence is:

1. Rc7 Kg8

2. Kf6 Kh8

3. Kg6 Kg8

4. Rc8#

The final position is in the diagram below.

Although these positions are basic for most chess players, do not underestimate their importance. A good way to practice is to set up the position against a computer and keep practicing until you win every time. Good luck!