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Brilliant Opening Checkmates with the Knight

Updated on November 29, 2012

You're smothering me!

Checkmates with the knight are always lots of fun! Smothered checkmates are even more fun. Smothered Checkmates IN THE OPENING are best! And they are not as rare as you might think! Here we will look at a couple examples from my Tactics Time database that I found with a simple chessbase search.

Smothered Mate in the Budapest

Black to move
Black to move | Source

Budapest Opening Trap - Smothered Mate

The position to the right is a trap I have played many times in the Budapest defense. Here it is black to move. Find the winning move for Black.

Rubbing the Budda Belly

Black smother mates White
Black smother mates White

Always check, it might be mate!

Black plays 8. ..Nd3# which is checkmate. The knight cannot be captured by the e pawn, because it is pinned to the white king by the black queen on e7. Here is the compete game:

[Event "December 2010 Mini Banded Quartets I 18"]
[Site ""]
[Date "2010.12.26"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Mr Anderson"]
[Black "TimmyBx"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A52"]
[WhiteElo "1706"]
[BlackElo "1779"]
[PlyCount "16"]
[EventRounds "3"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e5 3. dxe5 Ng4 4. Nf3 Nc6 5. Bf4 Bb4+ 6. Nbd2 Qe7 7. a3 Ngxe5
8. axb4 Nd3# 0-1

You can see that this is not just a trap to use against beginners. My opponent was rated over 1700 on, which is pretty respectable.

I found at least 2 more games in my database where the exact same moves were played, move for move. If you play 1. d4 as white, this is a trap you must be aware of.

Here are a few more games where I did a similar trap.

Budapest Smothered Mate

Black to Play
Black to Play

Gentlemen start your chess engines...

This game is very similar. I used about 30 seconds on my clock in a 90 minute USCF rated game in this one.

[Event "Gentleman's Chess Club"]
[Site ""]
[Date "2008.11.13"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Mullikin, Tom"]
[Black "Brennan, Timothy"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A52"]
[WhiteElo "1359"]
[BlackElo "1657"]
[PlyCount "16"]
[EventDate "2009.??.??"]
[EventType "game"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e5 3. dxe5 Ng4 4. Nf3 Nc6 5. Bf4 Bb4+ 6. Nbd2 Qe7 7. h3 Ngxe5
8. a3 Nd3# 0-1

8... Nd3# is a smothered mate for black

Note too that white was not in time trouble in these games. They were played at very slow time controls. The main problem was lack of tactical pattern recognition. This is a skill that can be learned. The key is lots of practice looking at tactical problems, such as these. My website at can help get you started with tactical training.

Black to play

Black to play and win
Black to play and win | Source

Evans Gambit

This game is an "Evans Gambit" that got real crazy, real fast.

Black has already lost his f7 pawn, and rook on h8. As compensation though he has a really good move!

Another smothered mate

Black smother mates his opponent in the opening.
Black smother mates his opponent in the opening. | Source

Game score

Here is the complete game score if you want to play through it. Very interesting game! Here black plays 10...Nf3#

[Event "May 2010 Sprint 64 I"]
[Site ""]
[Date "2010.07.24"]
[Round "2"]
[White "Julses"]
[Black "marsdog"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "C51"]
[WhiteElo "1396"]
[BlackElo "1449"]
[PlyCount "20"]
[EventDate "2010.??.??"]
[EventType "game"]
[EventCountry "OTM"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4 Bb6 5. Bb2 a6 6. Nxe5 Qg5 7. Nxf7 Qxg2 8.
Rf1 Nd4 9. Nxh8 Qxe4+ 10. Be2 Nf3# 0-1

Unusual smothered mate

Black to play: Unusual smothered mate in the opening
Black to play: Unusual smothered mate in the opening | Source

See the pattern...

I'm not going to provide a picture answer for this one, because hopefully you are starting to see the pattern. Here Black plays 9...Nd3#

The common pattern here are pieces surrounding the king, giving it no squares to move to. Since the knight jumps over pieces, it does not need a direct line to the king. The King would be safe from checks from all other pieces in this position, but not the knight. That is part of the charm of what makes smothered mates so interesting.

It is interesting to me how in most of these games it is white that is the one getting smothered mated in the opening. The other thing that is interesting to me is that a lot of these games are played with fairly high rated players - these are not beginners rated less than 1000!

So even if you are a "strong" player, it is valuable to study these types of positions.

Here is the complete game for this one:

[Event "MCC Summer Swiss"]
[Site "Natick MA"]
[Date "2004.06.29"]
[Round "5"]
[White "Taylor, Andrew"]
[Black "Harris, David"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A00"]
[WhiteElo "1685"]
[BlackElo "2179"]
[PlyCount "18"]
[EventDate "2004.??.??"]
[EventType "schev"]
[EventRounds "5"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 d5 3. Nc3 d4 4. Ne2 Nc6 5. d3 Be6 6. c3 Qd7 7. Nxe5 Nxe5 8.
cxd4 Bb4+ 9. Bd2 Nxd3# 0-1

White to Play

White to Play
White to Play

Revenge of the Chess Nerd....

This game was just played this past weekend here in Colorado. Very nice!!

[Event "2011 Southern Colorado Open"]
[Site "Manitou Springs, CO"]
[Date "2011.06.12"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Mullikin, Tom"]
[Black "Macrae, Kenneth"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B18"]
[WhiteElo "1375"]
[BlackElo "1414"]
[PlyCount "15"]
[EventCountry "USA"]

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5 5. Bd3 Nd7 6. Nf3 Ngf6 7. Qe2 Bg4 8. Nd6# 1-0

8. Nd6# is a very pretty mate! I was happy to see Tom play this move, as I did a similar move against him once in the Budapest defense (see "Gentlemen..." game above). This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes - there is no failure, only feedback.

Here Tom learned the lesson, then later applied it himself! Well done!!

Knight Moves

White to Move
White to Move | Source


In this position white punished black for making some foolish pawn pushes on his kingside. Black severely weakened his position, and white made him pay.

Here is the complete game.

[Event "Open invite"]
[Site ""]
[Date "2005.07.16"]
[Round "?"]
[White "paulg"]
[Black "Karei"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C41"]
[WhiteElo "1497"]
[BlackElo "800"]
[PlyCount "13"]
[EventDate "2005.??.??"]
[EventType "team-tourn"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Nc3 f6 4. Bc4 Ne7 5. O-O h6 6. Nd5 g5 7. Nxf6# 1-0

Here 7. Nxf6# finishes black off. I am not sure if this actually counts as a "smothered mate", but it is pretty cool move regardless :-)

If you liked these positions, you will love my website at Tactics Time. I love to do analysis of class player games for tactics. Most class player games are decided by tactics, so you can get the most "bang for your buck" by studying them.

Sign up for my free newsletter, where I send out tactics such as these about every other day :-)

Happy Tactics!

Your Friend,


p.s. I added a bonus smothered mate in the opening below :-)

White to move
White to move

Bonus Tactic

Daoud Zupa, who is President of the Denver Chess Club, and an Opening guru, told me about this opening smothered mate for white, which I was unfamiliar with...

The above position was reached after the moves:

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. cxb5 a6 5. Nc3 axb5 6. e4 b4 7. Nb5 Nxe4

Black just got greedy and grabbed the e4 pawn with his knight.

Here white can win a piece, or get a smothered mate if black retreats the knight with the move

8. Qe2

One sample line might be

8...f5 9. f3 Nf6 10. Nd6#

Very nice!

Here is the complete game:

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.Nc3 axb5 6.e4 b4 7.Nb5 Nxe4 8.Qe2 f5 9.f3 Nf6 10.Nd6#


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    • taw2012 profile image

      taw2012 5 years ago from India

      chess is a passion...interesting hub.

    • profile image

      Tim Brennan 6 years ago from Colorado Springs

      Thanks Anthea :-) You are the wind beneath my wings with the Hubs lol!

    • Anthea Carson profile image

      Anthea Carson 6 years ago from Colorado Springs

      Great job! It was written in a clear, simple way and delivers a one punch point, just like that checkmate. Awesome and voted up.

    • profile image

      Tim Brennan 6 years ago from Colorado Springs

      Thanks Jon :-) Glad you liked it!

    • JonLaird profile image

      JonLaird 6 years ago from United States

      LOVE playing chess. Great hub!