It is now time for me to unveil an inconvenient truth:
the goal of chess is not exactly to capture your opponent’s King. In fact, the rules do not even allow to capture a King.
In fact, the game does not stop when a King is captured, the game stops when a King is “checkmated“. So what is a “Checkmate” ?
Definition of Checkmate
Here is the definition:
“If, after one of your moves, your opponent is checkmated, it means that whatever move he does, his King is going to be captured on the next move.”
So the game actually stops one move before the King being captured, when the King has no way to escape this capture, it is then checkmated.
Checkmate means that the King is attacked and cannot escape. This was achieved by the conjonction of the Rook’s attack and the configuration of the pieces around the King. This particular pattern is called a back rank mate.
Being in check means that the King is attacked by an enemy piece. We now have to take a close look at this situation.
Getting Out Of The Check
When a King is under attack by an opponent’s piece, it is mandatory to get the King out of check on the following move (else it would be captured on the next move). This can be achieved in 3 ways:
- Capturing the checking piece
- Moving the King to a square where it will not be in check
- Blocking a check by moving a piece to a square in line in between the checking piece and the checked King
A very important consequence of the previous point is that the rules of Chess do not allow a player to put his own King in check. I agree that, should the rules allow you to do this, putting your own King in check would be a stupid move…
Now, some examples to let those new principles sink in.
It is time to assess your understanding of the checkmate now.
For the record, the previous checkmate is called a Smothered Mate, one of many famous checkmate patterns in Chess.
The Pin is a very common tactical pattern that deserves its own page. I will nevertheless speak more in details about the Pin at the end of this page.
One word about being in check: we have seen that above, but it is forbidden to put your King in check following one of your moves. As a consequence:
- some of the King moves are forbidden
- a new concept appears: the pin
More about the Pin
Conclusion on Checkmate
So many new concepts in such a short article ! In a short time-frame, you have learnt:
- that the game does not stop when the King is captured but rather when it is checkmated
- how to checkmate the opposing King
- the 3 possible options to parry a checkmate
- the particular case of the double check
- why the pin exists and how it works
- how to analyze complex checkmate positions
You are now quite advanced in your learning of Chess. However, you still need to learn a few special moves to say “I know how to play Chess”. These moves are:
Once you know this, and once you are sure to distinguish between checkmate and stalemate, you will be able to start basic strategic lessons !