The bishop and knight checkmate is one of the most difficult and skillful checkmating patterns in chess. Even grandmasters have failed to win a game with only these pieces remaining.
So, before we dive into the pool of complicated thoughts and strategic ideas, here’s my advice:
Don’t do it. Unless you feel like an expert on this specific endgame configuration, don’t get yourself into the situation where you have to use only a bishop and a knight to checkmate the opponent in less than 50 moves. Yes, the fifty-move rule is usually the last resort of the defending player to enforce a draw. The reason is that in the case of a perfect defense, it can take up to 33 moves to finally deliver the checkmate, and only if the attacking player doesn’t make any mistake. The slightest deviation from the plan can easily add 10 more moves to the winning line, making the forced draw a very probable outcome.
Very well, you have been warned. Now, let’s break down the strategy into building blocks:
1) Understand the checkmate conditions
This is the successful checkmate example:
- The checkmate will be delivered by the bishop, so the opponent king’s final position must be in the corner that matches your bishop’s color. The defending player who knows the strategy will surely try to get to the opposite corner, so it’s your task not to let them.
- Your king and knight must cooperate to trap the king in the corner. The king usually cuts off the seventh rank, while the knight would block the enemy from escaping to the other corner. Always think ahead because the final approach is prone to unintentional stalemates.
2) Learn to substitute the second (missing) bishop with the knight
As we know, it is pretty simple to create “bridges” with a bishop pair to isolate the enemy king. But we have only one bishop now, so we need help from the knight to cover the fields of the opposite color.
- The knight pushes, the king follows, the bishop supports. This rule isn’t without exceptions, but the strategy is basically built upon this simple principle.
- You achieve the goal more quickly by preventing the black king from reaching the longest diagonal of the color opposite to that of the bishop. In the example above, keep the king away from the diagonal h1-a8.
3) Push the king to the board edge
Click through the following game moves. I tried to add as many explaining comments as possible. If something isn’t fully clear, please post a comment or question at the end of this article, and I will gladly improve the instructions.
4) Checkmate the king in the corner
Remember, Black will attempt to reach the wrong corner – h8. If it happens, our pieces will make him reverse the course. Follow the moves of the second part:
Don’t be upset if the strategy still looks too complex to you. If you are as lucky as the author of this blog, you’ll never have to face this endgame. And if not, just keep practicing. It’s important for beginners to take their time and not rush their learning process. Chess is a complex game that requires patience, practice, and dedication to master. By focusing on the fundamentals and gradually building their skills, beginners can develop the foundation needed to tackle more challenging endgames like this one.