Well technically, you can always deliver checkmate with two or even one minor pieces sometimes. However, you don’t have to be concerned about forcing a checkmate with two knights because you can’t! Let’s do a brief breakdown of this declaration, shall we?
Reason Why You Cannot Force Checkmate With Two Knights
Squares, not lines, are under the power of knights. Knights, unlike the queen, the rook, and the bishop, lose control of all the squares they were previously protecting when they move. In other words, they are not long-ranged pieces. Imagine an endgame opposition between kings at the center of the board—say maybe on d4 and d6 squares.
They obviously cannot advance towards each other, but they have the squares by their sides and behind them to move to.
Now, if one of the kings is forced to the edge of the board—maybe Black king on d8, and the White king is on d6, Black can no longer retreat to squares behind him.
White now has to worry about the squares on the side that opposition cannot control. Typically, an opposed king on d8 by a king on d6 has c8 and e8 as his flight squares. But if a White knight bars the king from using the c8 flight square, there’s just the e8 square left to scramble for safety.
If the e8 square is also barred by another white knight, we’d be looking at a stalemate position. So, there goes our two knights. If any of those two knights neglect their flight-square guard duties to deliver a check, the king could always scamper to the relieved flight square. In such a case, a move rule draw could settle things if a threefold repetition doesn’t beat it to the punch. Why don’t we take a look at what happens when the king has just one flight square.
While the king and two knights can force the lone king close to a corner, they can’t trap him in the corner without causing a stalemate or letting him to flee. Remember our previous illustration on the opposed king having two flight squares? Well, imagine a flight square is barred permanently by one knight, while the other knight forces the king to the only available flight square.
The horsey knight requires a couple of galloping moves to complete the next process of cornering the king, and this is the problematic aspect. The lack of an instant blow is the reason why a checkmate with two knights cannot be forced. Imagine the Black king now on g8 with the White king opposing on g6 and the f8 flight square is barred by a White knight.
Now, the other knight maneuvers around to either use a check to claim the g8 square and force the king to h8 or maneuvers to prevent the return of the king on h8 to g8. The latter is obviously a stalemate because now, the king has no valid move to make. Meanwhile, maintaining a hold of the g8 square following the check with a hope of relieving the
But when the king is at the board’s edge, a checkmate with two knights is feasible, but your opponent must make a particularly silly blunder to allow you to mate him. In fact, he can only lose if he fails to notice a basic mate-in-one!
Consider the position below:
If white plays 1. Nf6+ and black makes a terrible blunder by moving to h8, then white plays 2. Nf7# effectively landing the checkmate with two knights.
So the King should not move to the edge of the board to prevent a checkmate with two knights.
Sometimes, the attacking knights are a bit far away from the black king and hence, might not pose an immediate threat. The black king needs to understand these principles to achieve that crucial draw:
- Maintain a safe distance from the opposing king.
- Try to threaten a knight that threatens you.
It’s wise to follow these simple principles because getting in close proximity with the king limits flight squares. Limited squares increase the probability of checkmate.
The advantages of understanding the theory of the possibility of a checkmate with two knights are avoiding terrible blunders in a two knights endgame that could lead to a loss in a drawn game and capitalizing on your opponents’ inefficient defending. You can as well choose to save yourself the stress once you understand that a checkmate with two knights cannot be forced.