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Checkmates with Names
Some mating patterns are seen so frequently that they have names.

Some checkmates are so notorious or so common that they have been given names. Here are some of the best known mating patterns.

Fool's Mate

The Fool's Mate is the shortest possible checkmate starting from the initial position. White cooperates by opening a narrow road to the White King.

The position in the diagram occurs after 1.g4 e5 2.f3 Qh4 mate. The game is also known as a Fool's Mate when Black is mated the same way.

Scholar's Mate

The Scholar's Mate has different variations which all follow the same pattern. First, the e-Pawn moves to make way for the White Queen and Bishop. Then the Queen and Bishop move to attack the natural weakness at f7. The initial moves 1.e4 e5 2.Qh5 Nc6 3.Bc4 are typical.

Finally, Black ignores the attack and is mated by, for example, 3...d6 4.Qxf7 mate. The move 3...Nf6 is no better.

White's move Qd1-h5 violates the opening principle that the Queen should not be developed too early. If Black defends properly, White's opening advantage will disappear quickly and the initiative will pass to Black when the Queen is attacked by a timely ...Nf6.

Back-rank Mate

Our first examples were checkmates in the opening. Back-rank mates usually happen later in the game after many of the pieces have been developed. Here's a typical example.

White wins with 1.Rxd7 Rxd7 2.Rc8+ Rd8 3.Rxd8 mate. Back-rank mates are undoubtedly the most common type of checkmate to occur in practice. Here's another, more complicated example from a real game (Alekhine - Freeman 1924).

White wins with 1.Nh6+ Qxh6 2.Rxf8+ Kxf8 3.Qd8 mate.

Smothered Mate

The Smothered Mate is a checkmate by a Knight on a King surrounded by its own pieces. Here is a well known example from the Caro-Kann opening. After 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.Qe2, Black must be careful.

If 5...Ngf6, then 6.Nd6 is checkmate. Most smothered mates happen in a corner, where the King is already restricted by the sides of the board. Here's a simple example.

White wins with 1.Qxh7+ Qxh7 2.Nf7 mate.

A smothered mate pattern which arises frequently is illustrated in the following diagram.

White forces checkmate with 1.Qe6+ Kh8 2.Nf7+ Kg8 3.Nh6+ Kh8 4.Qg8+ Rxg8 5.Nf7 mate. The sequence of White's 3rd, 4th, and 5th moves is in every good player's arsenal of tactical tricks.

Arabian Mate

Another corner mate is known as the Arabian Mate.

Black is helpless to prevent 1.Rc7 g5 2.Rh7 mate.

Legal's Mate

Named after the Frenchman Legall De Kermeur (1702-1792), Legall's Mate (accent on the second syllable of Legall) is more commonly known as Legal's Mate, where Legal rhymes with beagle. Legall tutored Philidor and is sometimes considered to have been an unofficial world champion before his protégé assumed the title.

The mate can follow different variations. Legall's name is taken from his only recorded game, which started 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 d6 3.Nf3 Bg4 4.Nc3 g6...

...and continued 5.Nxe5 Bxd1 6.Bxf7+ Ke7 7.Nd5 mate. White's 5th, 6th, and 7th moves are typical of the many similar variations.

Epaulet Mate

The Epaulet Mate (also known as the Epaulette Mate) is a mating pattern where the King is hemmed in by its own Rooks. Here's an example.

White wins with 1.Rf8+ Qxf8 2.Rxf8+ Rxf8 3.Qxg6 mate. The unfortunate Rooks reminded someone of military epaulets and the name stuck.

Pedestal Mate

Similar to the Epaulet Mate is the Mat du Guéridon (guéridon mate), another mating pattern with French origins. Since guéridon means pedestal table, let's just call it the Pedestal Mate. Some writers prefer the colorful term Swallow's Tail Mate.

White wins with 1.Rxf6+ gxf6 2.Qg8+ Ke7 3.Qf7 mate. The Black King's escape squares are again blocked by its own pieces.

Boden's Mate

Our last mating pattern, named after Samuel Boden (1826-1882), is a disaster befalling a King castled on the Queenside. Our example is a position which could have happened in a game (Nimzovich - Alekhine 1912) from an early Russian championship.

White won with 1.Qc6+ bxc6 2.Ba6 mate. The White Bishops cooperate to cover all of the Black King's escape squares.


Our list of Checkmates with Names is not exhaustive. The important point is not that they have names, but that they represent mating patterns which arise frequently in real games. Knowledge of these patterns, plus many more, comes early on the learning curve of every improving player.