King and Queen checkmates

So how do you checkmate with a king and queen. Or, more importantly and more interestingly, how do you teach the king and queen checkmate?

Here’s what I do. I start by demonstrating (or, for older children, asking them to discover) the different types of checkmate. There’s the ‘corridor mate’ with the queen checking on the side and the mate with the queen next to the king, supported by her consort. I also demonstrate the stalemate positions (I hope they understand stalemate): king in the corner, queen a knight’s move away, and, for example, black king on e8, white queen on d6, white king on f6, or any square controlling f7.

I then invite them to checkmate me. They start with their royal family on d1 and e1, with my lone king on e5. If they get stuck I demonstrate this algorithm:

1. Place your queen on the next rank to the enemy king.
2. Get your king two ranks away from the enemy king.
3. Force the enemy king back one rank.
4. Continue with the above three steps until the king is on the edge of the board.
5. When the enemy king is on the side put your queen on the next rank to stop him escaping (make sure you do this before moving your king in to avoid stalemates).
6. Move your king in and get checkmate.

I would expect them to play something like this:

There are several short cuts available but this follows the algorithm precisely.

Sometimes I come across children who’ve been taught a very different procedure, and teachers who teach in this way. They keep on moving the queen a knight’s move away from the king until he’s reduced to two squares in the corner, then they approach with their king and deliver checkmate. They will do something like this:

This all seems very long-winded to me. But many respected coaches use this method and no doubt they would tell me their pupils find it easier to learn than my method, so it must have something to be said for it.

As a practical player I want to learn the most efficient technique. I don’t want to run out of time in a blitz game because it takes me 16 moves to do what I could have done in half the time. The most efficient technique, as it turns out, is to combine the two ideas. Move the queen a knight’s move away from the enemy king but force him towards your king, not to the opposite corner. Here’s how the computer does it.

The idea of moving the queen a knight’s move away from the king is very useful if you want to finish off your opponent efficiently. This position often occurs in practical endings, especially at junior level: White has just promoted a pawn. The game almost always concludes like this:

Almost inevitably they fail to find the mate on move 5 because they only know the corridor mate. But, if they know the idea of moving your queen a knight’s move away from the enemy king they’ll easily be able to mate in two from the starting position.

Ideally, your students will know all these techniques and will be able to combine them in the most efficient way from any starting position. You might want to give them random positions with this material and see if they can find the quickest kill.

But which way do you prefer to teach the king and queen checkmate? Do let me know on Facebook.

Richard James

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About Richard James

Richard James is a professional chess teacher and writer living in Twickenham, and working mostly with younger children and beginners. He was the co-founder of Richmond Junior Chess Club in 1975 and its director until 2005. He is the webmaster of chessKIDS academy (www.chesskids.org.uk or www.chesskids.me.uk) and, most recently, the author of Chess for Kids and The Right Way to Teach Chess to Kids, both published by Right Way Books. Richard is currently the Curriculum Consultant for Chess in Schools and Communities (www.chessinschools.co.uk) as well as teaching chess in local schools and doing private tuition. He has been a member of Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club since 1966 and currently has an ECF grade of 177.