The 2 Bishop Checkmate: Understanding Checkmate Patterns

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Introduction

What to do when you arrive at this position?

The king and 2 bishop checkmate is another sort of fundamental checkmate that can be observed on the board. While this type of mate is unusual in many games, it is critical that you are familiar with the concepts involved in the 2 bishop checkmate. This is due to the fact that the checkmate pattern is extremely technical and must be played with care to avoid stalemate. These rules are to be understood for a 2 bishop checkmate to be properly executed.

Opposition

Opposition

There can be no 2 bishop checkmate in an endgame with the position above without the help of a king. How exactly does the king help? Firstly, the dominant king must help to limit the flight squares of the distressed king by coming in close proximity with the distressed king. The dominant king also helps to achieve the 2 bishop checkmate by protecting the bishops that will deliver the final blow. Basically, this means that the king leads the charge to victory!

Pyramid Rule

Triangles look like one side of a pyramid, but “pyramid” is a cooler word.

This rule might look quite unusual to an average chess player. Well, we came up with this theory, because it sums up what you have to do to ensure that the distressed king is pushed back to the edge of the board. While forcing the distressed king to the edge of the board, forget about checks temporary. Instead, learn to identify flight squares and limit the king from using these diagonals as escape routes.

As you limit the king with your bishops, the lines controlled by the bishops form a triangle-shaped prison that keeps getting smaller as the attacking pieces advance.

Waiting Moves (Zugzwang)

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Black has been zugzwang-ed to play Kh1.

Zugzwang is a word used to describe when your opponent is forced to make a bad move. In other words, whatever they play will lead to their downfall. This rule must be employed to both corner up the king and to land the final checkmate blow. When the distressed King is away from the edge of the board, the bishops, assisted by the dominant king, use zugzwang to restrict such king to the edge of the board.

READ ALSO: WHY IS CHESS HARD TO PLAY?

Example

A well-thought-out example goes as thus.

White to play

White has the two bishops—the light and dark squared bishops—and is entrusted with checkmating black’s king in the position above. With the help of the active bishops, white must confine the black king to a corner in order for this mate to occur. White chose the h1 corner in this case. So, how does one go about accomplishing this? Let’s get started;

1. Bc2 preventing the king from fleeing to the queenside via d1 1… Kf1 2. Kf3 Bd2

Black to play

The bishops must work together to ensure that the black king has a limited number of flight squares. 3.Bd3+ 4. Kg3 Kf1 White can now launch the final onslaught, attempting to push the king to the desired corner.

White to play

4…Kg1 5. Be3+ Cutting off more flight squares from the board

5… Kh1 The black king has finally been settled in my agreed corner.

6. Be4# The work is completed by the light squared bishop. 

Checkmate!

Conclusion

Unlike the two-knights checkmate, the two-bishops checkmate can be forced. You might be wondering why. Well, it’s the same reason why some chess players prefer to preserve their bishop pair heading into the end game; they are long-ranged pieces.

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