lundi 23 décembre 2013

How to checkmate with King and Rook

Do you know how to checkmate with a Queen ?

This post is about what may be the most important fundamental checkmate to master: King and Rook vs a sole King. In practice, this endgame appears when your opponent sacrifices his Rook against your remaining pawns: you now only have one Rook left to deliver the mate.
To be clear, this is also a must-win situation: one Rook is enough to deliver the mate whatever the starting position is. This checkmate is however slightly harder to execute, and this post is here to show you how to master it, step by step.

All screenshots are taken from Chess Trainer, a free app dedicated to help you improve your Chess. The lessons aimed at beginners and intermediate players are available for free. Download the app now !

Now let's start this lesson, in a few minutes, you will be comfortable with the Rook checkmate.
First, this is the type of position you want to achieve:

In a first part, I will show how to get to this checkmate when the opposing King is already trapped to the side.

If the Kings were facing each other (for instance with the black King on d8), the Rook could move to a8 and deliver checkmate. The goal of the following moves are therefore to get to this face-to-face position before your move.

The good move here is 1. Rb7 !
You may wonder what the purpose of this move is. White is just losing a tempo to improve his position. And the reason becomes clear if we look at the following diagram:

Black to play. Now let's follow the moves from this position.
1... Kf8
The only move
2. Ke6
The best move for White: the black King is forced to the side of the board (if Black puts the King on d8, the mate would follow)
2... Kg8
3. Kf6
White keeps the same strategy during the following moves
3... Kh8

1. Kg6
1... Kg8
This time, Black has no other choice
2. Rb8#
Checkmate, finally !

White managed to checkmate the black King with:

  • accurate waiting moves
  • pushing the black King to the corner
Now what is left is to learn how to force the black King to the side. Basically, the idea is the same than in a Queen checkmate: you trap the enemy King into a virtual rectangle with your Rook, and with the help of the Rook and your King combined, you manage to narrow the box until the King is trapped to the side.
Once the opposing King is blocked to the side, you can apply the method we have just studied together.

Let's start with a totally random starting position and see what a good continuation could be:

1. Rh4
The first thing is to cut off some of the King's escape squares with the Rook.
1... Ke5
2. Rd4
The Rook confines the black King in the box.
2... Kf5

From this position, here is an example of a winning series of moves:

1. Kd3
The King comes to support the Rook
1... Ke5
2. Ke3
A waiting move from White to force the black King away from the e5 square (Hint: waiting moves like this one are key in this endgame).
2... Ke6
3. Kf4
At this point, the move Kf4 is excellent: the Rook would not have been able to move efficiently, so the King's advance is the best solution, especially linked with the next move.
3... Kf6

We come to this position, compared to the previous diagram, the white King is now much better placed:

4. Rd6+
Yes ! Rook d6 ! Look at how useful the King on f4 is, preventing any escape of the black King.
4... Ke7
5. Ke5
It is necessary to protect the Rook with the King.
5... Kf7
6. Re6
The box is getting smaller, but Black keeps resisting.
6... Kg7

The black King is now very close to the side. A few more moves and the game will be decided !

7. Kf5
Moving the King a little closer.
7... Kf7
8. Re1
Here again, a waiting move is probably the best choice, to force the King away from f7.
8... Kg7
9. Re7+
Now that the black King has moved, this check is possible.
9... Kf8

The black King is on the eight rank. We can now apply the well-known strategy for the last moves.

10. Kf6
Again, necessary to protect the Rook. The end is near...
10... Kg8
11. Ra7
You already know the last part: waiting move, advance the King and checkmate with the Rook !
11... Kh8

12. Kg6
12... Kg8
13. Ra8#


In conclusion, to checkmate with a lone Rook, you have to keep in mind the following points:

  • Trap the opposing King into a box and try to make the rectangle as small as possible
  • When no useful moves are possible with the Rook, try to get your King closer to the action
  • Learn to recognize when a waiting move should be played with the Rook: when the opposing King is well placed, give him the opportunity to leave that square
This Checkmate is much more subtle to play, essentially because waiting moves are sometimes necessary. However, the good news is that there is no risk of Stalemate in this configuration.

If you want to learn more about Chess, Chess Trainer is probably the application you need, with a lot of training lessons to help you improving your chess.

Thanks for reading this far. Let's continue talking about this checkmate in the comments.

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