How to checkmate with two bishops in chess

This is one of the hardest mating patterns to understand as an amateur player, but it’s a useful skill to have and it reminds you of the power of the pair of bishops at any point in the game.

Also, this sometimes happens in practical play and it would be very embarrassing to lose half a point because of it!

To understand how to checkmate with two bishops, you must first know what the ending position is. The enemy king must be forced into a corner, with one bishop controlling them and the second laser beaming away from their escape route in one direction. Meanwhile, the king takes care of the rest.

It should look something like this:

Image via lichess.org

You can work backwards from here to design the solution, but if you don’t like puzzles, here’s a step-by-step guide. Just like with rooks, two bishops can effectively cut a king in one direction, but they cannot force it down the side of the board by themselves.

You will need your own king to help you. Place your bishops next to each other to form the barrier of fate, then have your monarch walk next to them to force the opponent back.

This should serve you well until you reach the back row.

Image via lichess.org

Now you have to force your opponent’s king into the corner square.

Since you have both bishops at your disposal, either corner will work. (Not so when trying to checkmate with a bishop and a knight!) By mixing a bishop with your king, you can slowly achieve this goal.

Image via lichess.org

First, retreat with the bishop and occupy the vacant square with your king. Then you skip two moves to move your bishop to the other side of your second bishop, closing the cage. Now the opponent must move one square closer to the corner. Rinse and repeat the process until your king is just three squares from the edge of the board and the enemy is one step away from being cornered.

Image via lichess.org

Now it’s time for the last trick: you don’t have to swing the bishop anymore. Instead, move the bishop supposed to deliver checkmate to cut off the enemy’s escape route, then move your king to its final destination. Watch out for dead end traps! When done right, the enemy has nothing better to do than scurry back and forth between just two squares. You can then drop a tempo with one of your bishops and checkmate!

If you make a mistake, don’t panic: there is no way to lose the game and you have 50 moves (according to the 50 move rule) to finish the job.

Force the king back into the corner and try again!

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