Two Bishops v. King Checkmate

One of the elementary mates that every chess player ought to be familiar with is the mate with King and two Bishops against King. This mate is of less importance than King and Queen v. King or King and Rook v. King because it rarely comes up in practical play. But it is good to know for those rare occasions when it does occur; but especially for learning how the Bishops can cooperate with each other to cut off large areas of the chess board.

Most chess books devoted to teaching beginners how to play chess and many basic endgame books (such as Reuben Fine’s Basic Chess Endings or Pandolfini’s Endgame Course) will show how to execute this checkmate. I recommend studying the examples in one of those books, as well as learning the example I give here.

As with most of the simple checkmates, the first important goal is getting your King to the center of the board. The two Bishops can checkmate the opponent only with the help of their own King!

Second, the Bishops should work together.

Two Bishops in the center of the board

Notice how, in this diagram, the two Bishops placed next to each other prevent the enemy King from attacking them. The Bishops guard four squares directly in front of them, thus preventing the King from immediately attacking either one of them. In fact, the Bishops have the enemy King completely imprisoned, and the White King can now stroll up to the scene to aid in further confining the opponent.

Third, the Bishops working together can deprive the enemy king of squares, forcing him to the edge of the board and then to the corner, where he can be checkmated. In order to checkmate with two Bishops against a King, the King must be driven into a corner.

From the following position, White can checkmate Black in 16 moves. The first objective is to get the King and both Bishops in the center of the board. This will automatically confine Black to one section of the board, bounded by White’s Bishops.

Two Bishops v. King checkmate - starting position

1.Kc3 Ke5
2.Kc4+ Kf5
3.Kd5 …

Two Bishops v. King checkmate - Step 1, Get the King in the Center

King in the center! Notice that the two Bishops, working from a distance and from opposite corners, completely dominate the center squares. (Look at the position after 2.Kc4+ to see the strong work the Bishops can do in kicking the enemy King out of the center.)

3… Kf4
4.Be4 Ke3
5.Be5 …

Two Bishops v. King checkmate - Step 2, Bishops in the center

Step 2 -- Bishops in the Center

Both Bishops in the center! Notice that 5.Bd4 (instead of Be5) would have allowed Black to stay nearer the center of the board with 5…Kf4. Since we’re trying to drive Black away from the center and toward a corner, Be5 would have wasted a move.

5… Kd2
6.Kd4 Ke1
7.Ke3 Kd1

Two Bishops v. King checkmate - Step 3, advance the King

Step 3 - Advance the King

Now the Bishops will cooperate to deprive the enemy King of escape squares along the edge of the board, one square at a time. We’ll use the Bishops to take away squares from the left side, and use our King to guard squares on the right side (the flank nearest the corner of the board). Watch how the Bishops “roll up” the King.

8.Bb2 Ke1
9.Bc2 Kf1
10.Kf3 Ke1
11.Bc3+ Kf1
12.Bd3+ Kg1

Two Bishops v. King checkmate - Step 4 - Bishops roll up the flank

Step 4 - King guards right flank, Bishops roll up left flank

Now our King has to cover the escape squares on the right side.

13.Kg3 Kh1
14.Bb2 …

This is just a tempo move. If 14.Bd4 to take away another square from the enemy King, it turns out we’ve taken away too many squares! It’s stalemate; a draw. So waste a move, taking care to make sure Black’s King doesn’t escape the net!

14… Kg1
15.Bd4+ Kh1

Two Bishops v. King checkmate - final position


Checkmate. This mate won’t come up very often, if ever, in your games; but it’s a useful exercise to see how the Bishops can cooperate to hem in enemy pieces.

4 thoughts on “Two Bishops v. King Checkmate

    • Simple: Just follow the steps: 1) Get your King in the center; 2) get your bishops (safely) in the center; 3) advance your King; 4) Your King guards one flank while the bishops roll up the other flank; 5) administer checkmate.

      That is a great resource for practicing this checkmate, as the position changes every time you try it. But it doesn’t record your moves, so it’s not the greatest for reviewing your successes and failures. If you’re new to chess and you want to use that site for practice, record the initial position, then record every move as it’s made. After you reach checkmate (or fail to reach checkmate), use your notes to review the position to see if there are any ways you could improve. Be sure to follow the five steps outlined in the article above!

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