How to Checkmate

How to Checkmate

Checkmating your opponent is the only way to win a game of chess. Learn what checkmate is and how to execute it.

Goal of the Chess Game

The goal of chess is to checkmate the opponent’s king.
Only by executing a checkmate can you secure a victory.


Before understanding what checkmate is, it’s important to understand what it means for a king to be in check.

When the king is attacked by an opposing piece, he is in check. The player is obliged to counter the opponent’s attack by capturing the piece that is attacking their king, by moving the king, or by interposing a piece between the king and the piece that is attacking him. Once the king is no longer in check, the game continues.

King in check by the white bishop

In this image, the king is in check position by the white bishop on the b5 square. Thankfully for the black king, however, this check can be countered by moving the king to the e7 square, by advancing the black pawn to the c6 square, by advancing the black bishop to the d7 square, by advancing the queen to the d7 square, or even by moving the knight to the d7 square. Many choices are still available for black to protect their king.


Essentially, a checkmate is when a king is in check and it’s impossible for him to get out of that position.

This means that a checkmate occurs when:

  • The king is in check and has no possible moves.
  • The piece attacking the king and having him in check cannot be captured.
  • There is no possible move that would interpose a piece between the king and his attacker.

In this image, the king is in a checkmate position on the d4 square by the queen because there are no more possible moves for him. He can no longer move to any square because there is a white pawn on a4 attacking b5 which prevents the king from moving there (that would have been the only way for the black king to get out of check).

Another possible checkmate position is when two or more pieces attack the king from different directions and no piece can interpose between the attackers and the king. In this case, the king will be surrounded by the opponent’s pieces and almost all the squares around him will be under attack. Thanks to all of this, the king will no longer be able to move. Therefore, it’s checkmate and the player launching the attack wins the game.