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How to Checkmate the Enemy King with your Rooks

Updated on February 19, 2012
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You’ve dominated your opponent and he has only his lone King while you have one, or possibly two Rooks, and your King. According to all the experts, putting your ailing opponent out of his misery is only a matter of technique. Really? What technique? “It’s a matter of technique” means nothing to the player who is pulling his hair out, while floundering about the board trying to find the right series of moves to finish off his opponent.

If you’ve ever had trouble mating your opponent with one or two Rooks and a King, set up your board and follow along, because today you are going to learn the technique of these two simple checkmates.

Checkmate with Two Rooks

One of the first mating methods that many beginning players learn is mating with two Rooks. This particular technique is one of the easiest of the simple mating methods - perhaps even easier than mating with a King and a Queen, and it is one of the few that doesn’t require the assistance of your King. If you are having a difficult time with this mate, pay attention to the following principles and you should never have this problem again.

figure 1
figure 1

The Basic Checkmate

Figure 1 shows the basic starting position. It is best if your Rooks are at the opposite end of the board as the enemy King (if the King is in the middle of the board, just pick one end). Your Rooks should be staggered on different ranks as the illustration shows. Also, make sure that your King is not in a position where he can be used as a shield. Your opponent will not cooperate, so you may need to do some maneuvering, but any position with the Rooks staggered and away from the enemy with your King out of the way will work.

figure 2
figure 2

The first step is to confine the Black King to a portion of the board 1.Rd8 (see figure 2). As with most other simple mating methods, we will be driving the enemy to the edge of the board where it will be much easier to checkmate him. Notice that the Black King is suddenly limited in his choice of movement. Half the board is no longer available to him.

figure 3
figure 3

Black doesn’t want to move backwards, so he moves toward the Rooks 1. …Ke4. Next, we check the Black King with our other Rook 2.Re7. Do you see why the Rooks must be staggered? If they were in the same rank, it would be impossible to check the enemy King with one Rook while keeping him confined to half the board with the other. Black is now forced to move backwards 2. …Kf5 (figure 3). Notice that even though Black is being driven towards the edge of the board, he is also getting closer to our Rooks.

figure 4
figure 4

Once again, we use our Rook to put the Black King in check 3.Rf8. This “rolling motion” of the Rooks is the primary motif that we use to drive the Black King to the edge of the board. 3.…Kg6. Notice what the Black King has accomplished. While being driven toward the edge, he has managed to come within striking distance to one of our Rooks. If we check him now, he can easily capture the Rook. To avoid losing a piece, it is important to move our Rook to the opposite side of the board 4.Rf1 (see figure 4).

figure 5
figure 5

4. …Kg5 5.Rg7+. If the Black King had moved 5. …Kh6, then we would have confined the Black King to the edge with 6.Rg1, to be followed by 7.Re2. Remember to stagger the Rooks. 5. …Kh6 once again threatens our Rook, so we take it to the bottom as well. 6.Rg2 (figure 5).

No matter what black does, 6. …Kh5 we have mate on the next move 7.Rh1#.

It is really quite simple. Just remember to stagger your Rooks on the opposite end of the board from the enemy King. Then, roll the King to the edge of the board. If the enemy approaches your Rooks, just transfer them to the opposite end of the board and continue rolling the King to the edge. And finally, make sure that your King is out of the way. If your King is in the way, your opponent can use him as a royal shield, thus preventing the easy mate.

If you are confused or would just like a demonstration of the above procedure, be sure to watch the following video.

How to Checkmate your Opponent with Two Rooks - Video

figure 6
figure 6

Checkmate with a Rook and a King

Most people have little trouble discovering how to checkmate the opposing King with two Rooks, but they experience difficulties when trying to mate the enemy with only one Rook and a King. There are even those who actually believe that it’s not possible. They believe that a King and a Rook vs. a lone King is a draw. This simply isn’t true. Not only is it possible to checkmate your opponent’s King with a King and a Rook, it’s quite easy once you learn the proper technique.

The first step in this method is to confine the King by moving your Rook 1.Ra4 (figure 6). This is a common theme in most checkmating methods. We confine the King to a portion of the board and drive him to the edge where he has fewer options and it’s easier to deliver mate.

Figure 7
Figure 7

1. …Kd5. The Black King will do his best to remain in the center of the board where it’s safe. With proper technique, however, Black will find this quite impossible. You will have no trouble driving him to the edge. 2.Ke3. You should bring your King into action now. Not only is it impossible to mate the Black King without the assistance of your King, it’s not even possible to drive him to the edge without the help of your King. This mating technique requires the coordinated efforts of both your Rook and your King. 2. …Ke5 3.Ra5 (figure 7). Because of the placement of our King, we are able to drive the enemy back one rank by placing him in check. If our King were on any other square, this check would allow the Black King to escape and we would have to contain him again. Had the Black King moved closer to our Rook with a move like 2. …Kc5, we would confine him further by moving our Rook. 3.Rd5. This would confine him to the upper left hand corner.

figure 8
figure 8

3. …Ke6 4.Ke4 Kd6 5.Re5 (figure 8). This confines the Black King even further. He is now limited to the upper left-hand corner of the board. This “tightening of the noose” is the key to controlling the Black King. A reasonable opponent would have resigned long before reaching this position, but our opponent is not reasonable. Many inexperienced players will play to the bitter end and force you to put them in checkmate. At the higher levels, however, players tend to resign when their opponent gains a winning advantage. I recommend that you take the stubborn approach and fight to the bitter end. At this point in your chess career, your average opponent does not have a great deal of experience and will be prone to blunders. By being stubborn and fighting to the end, you give your opponent every chance to make a mistake. Who knows, you might turn a loss into a draw.

ne him= tepl ( eft hand corner.


figure 9
figure 9

5. …Kd7 6.Kd5 Kc7 7.Rh1. Kd7 (if 7. …Kb7 8.Rh6). 8.Rh7 forces the Black King to the eighth rank. 8. … Ke8 9.Kd6 Kf8. The Black King tries to approach the Rook. 10.Ke6 Kg8 11.Ra7 moving the Rook out of danger. 11. …Kf8 12.Rb7 this waiting move is important. You don’t want to be directly in front of your opponent when it is his turn to move. It is important for it to be your move when you are directly across from him. 11. …Kg8 (if 11. …Ke8, then 12. Rb8#). 12.Kf6 Kh8 13.Kg6 Kg8 (figure 9). This is the position that you are aiming for. Note that you are directly across from the enemy King and it is your move. This is where you go in for the Kill. 14.Rb8#.

If you find this technique difficult to understand, try watching the video below a couple of times. Then, get your board out and walk through the moves. The real key to understanding these principles, however, is practice. Don’t forget to practice these techniques over and over until you know them intuitively. You must be able to carry out these mating techniques without having to stop and think about them.

How to Checkmate a Lone King with a Rook and a King - Video

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