Checkmating with a Lone Rook

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You should be aiming for one of the following positions to checkmate the enemy King with a lone Rook. Notice how the King must also control some of the escape squares.

Mate with Rook

This method of checkmating is more difficult than mating with a Queen as the enemy King is able to attack the Rook in a way which is impossible with the Queen. The Rook needs to trap the King on the edge of the board and then the King is needed to secure checkmate.

Let's see this method in action starting with the position shown below.



1. Rc7
{A waiting move which forces Black's King closer to the corner because if 1...Ke8 2.Rc8 is checkmate}

1... Kg8



2. Kf6
{The White King forces the enemy into the corner as 2...Kf8 3.Rc8#}

2... Kh8



3. Kg6
{The White King closes in.}

{The only move.}



4. Rc8#

When the King is in the centre of the board, it must be driven to the side before it can be checkmated.

In the diagram below, White must force the Black King to the side of the board. She does this by cutting off some of the King's escape squares with her Rook.

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1. Rh5
{The Black King is now unable to cross the fifth rank.}



1... Ke6
2. Ke3
{The White King comes to support the Rook.}
2... Kd6
3. Kd4 Ke6
4. Rd5
{The Rook confines the Black King even more. The King is now restricted to rectangle shown in the diagram.}



4... Kf6
{The box is made smaller.}
5... Kf7
6. Kd5 Kf6
7. Kd6
{The Black King is forced to move closer to the edge of the board.}
7... Kf7
8. Re6
{The Rook restricts the King.}




8... Kg7
9. Ke7 Kg8
10. Rg6+ Kh7
11. Kf7 Kh8
12. Rh6#

Checkmating with a lone rook is more difficult than with a Queen or two Rooks. The stages to keep in mind are summarized below:

  1. Use the Rook to restrict the opponent's King.

  2. Support the Rook with the King.

  3. Confine the King to a box and make the box smaller if possible.

  4. If it is not possible to make the box smaller, move the King (a waiting move to force back the opponent's King.)

  5. When the opponent's King is at the side of the board look for one of the checkmating patterns to win the game!

Generally, with correct play, it is possible to checkmate with a Rook and King in 15 to 20 moves. One of the dangers is that a draw may result due to the 50 move rule (see How Games are Drawn ).

Set up various positions with the White Rook and King against the Black King and practise checkmating with a friend or a chess computer until you are sure of it.