Knights are considered the weakest minor pieces in chess behind the bishops. Nonetheless, they are very tricky pieces as they pounce about in the most unusual way, forking multiple pieces at once.
In chess, you can checkmate the king using your pairs of minor or major pieces. You can checkmate the king with 2 queens, 2 rooks, 2 bishops. However, one common question that is asked is “Can You Checkmate With 2 Knights?” Read on to find out the answer.
Can You Checkmate With 2 Knights?
Checkmate with 2 knights is impossible in a position with a lone king vs king and 2 knights. The game will always end in a draw or stalemate because the opposing king won’t have any legal squares to move to once it’s driven to the corner of the board.
The side trying to deliver checkmate against the lone king would need an extra move in order to stave off stalemate. But this cannot happen since the opponent only has a lone king.
Black to move stalemate: lone king vs king and 2 knights is a theoretical draw
Stalemate is always inevitable in these types of positions. However, checkmate with 2 knights is indeed possible if the opposing side has an extra pawn or piece in the position.
For example, if black had a pawn on g2, then it wouldn’t actually be stalemate since black can push and promote his pawn to g1. In that case, white would now have the move to deliver checkmate via Knight f7.
Due to black’s extra pawn, white is able to stave off stalemate and checkmate the black king on the next move
So how do you actually achieve this checkmate with pawn and 2 knights? Here are the steps to follow:
2 Knights vs Lone King and Pawn Checkmate Strategy
2 Knights vs Lone King and Pawn checkmate is indeed possible, but it’s not an absolute checkmate. If your opponent defends properly, he can draw the game. Here we will discuss some of the key strategies to achieve this checkmate. Conversely, you’ll learn how to avoid this checkmate if you’re the one on the defensive end.
Here are the steps to checkmate the king with 2 knights when he’s got an extra pawn:
Step #1: Blockade The Pawn
Your opponent’s pawn is going to be a key ingredient when checkmating the opposing king. This pawn will need to be pushed in order to avoid stalemate in the latter stages. However, you cannot let this pawn push too early and promote to a queen, because after you capture it, the game will end in a draw. For now, it’s best to blockade it with one of your knights until the right moment.
Blockade opponent’s passed pawn
Important note: If the black’s pawn did not cross the 4th rank, it is considered that white has good winning chances.
Step #2: Drive The King Away From The Center
After you’ve blockaded your opponent’s pawn, it’s time to drive the king away from the center. You can’t checkmate the opponent’s king in the center.
As a result, you need to use your king and knight to shoulder off the opposing king by creating a barrier with your pieces. Slowly but surely, the strategy is to push the opposing king to the edge of the board in order deliver checkmate. The knight and king will work harmoniously together to control key squares in the position.
The white king and knight creates a barrier
Step #3: Keep the Opposing King Close to the Knight that’s Blockading the Pawn
The knight that is blockading the pawn wants to eventually join the party. But he cannot do so unless the enemy king is close by.
The opposing king will need to be kept close to this knight if you stand any chance of checkmating the opposing king.
Your opponent can draw the game if he realizes this strategy by simply moving his king away from the knight that is blockading the pawn.
Drawing the game is as simple as moving the king away from the white knight on g3.
The reason why this strategy leads to a draw is because the knight on g3 won’t be able to deliver checkmate in time once it leaves the defense of the pawn on g4. The black pawn will simply roll down the board in time to stalemate the game.
However, if the king was closer to the knight on g3, the knight could immediately join the attack and checkmate the black king in time.
Step #4: Drive the King To The Corner And Deliver Checkmate
Once you’ve gotten the opposing king close to the corner using your king and knight, it’s now time to activate your other knight to finalize the checkmate sequence before the black pawn rolls down the board and stalemate the game.
White plays Knight f5, going for the final attack.
If black plays pawn to g3 trying to sacrifice the pawn, white plays knight to f6 check driving the king to the h8 corner.
Black’s king is locked in the corner and has no legal moves to make with his king. However, his own pawn is working against him because white can now deliver checkmate with the moves 1.Kf8 g2 2.Nd6 g8=Q 3.Nf7 # checkmate.
Black’s extra pawn prevents white from stalemating the game
White was able to checkmate the black king by blockading the passed pawn, using his knight and king to drive the black king to edge of the board, then deliver checkmate with the help of black’s extra pawn.
How Can Your Opponent Draw The Game?
Once again, king and 2 knights vs king and pawn is not a definite checkmate. If your opponent realizes the plan, he will draw the game by making the correct moves. There are 3 ways you can draw these types of positions:
Advance your passed pawn so that it crosses the 4th rank for black: A passed pawn that is 2 squares away from promoting on the last rank will secure the draw for the defensive side. This is because if the blockading knight tries to join the attack, black will be in time to sacrifice this pawn and stalemate the game. However, if the pawn is on the 4th rank, the players with the 2 knights still has winning chances.
Keep the king in the center: If you get the chance to move your king to any 4 of the central squares namely e4, d4, e5, d5, you should do so. It is not possible to checkmate the king in the center of the board using 2 knights. Therefore, you should keep your king in the center if you want to draw the game.
Keep the king far away from the blockading knight: This is perhaps the best strategy of all to draw the position. As long as the king is kept far away from the blockading knight, your opponent won’t be able to carry out the attack against your king.
Bring your king to the other side of the board away from the blockading knight. If the blockading knight tries to join the party, advance your passed pawn down the board and sacrifice it to stalemate the game.
Checkmating a lone king with 2 knights is impossible. Your opponent needs to have an extra pawn or piece on the board in order for you to stave off stalemate. Still, these types of positions are drawn with correct play. Note that your opponent cannot claim a forced draw in a position with king and 2 knights vs king and pawn since there is a possibility of checkmate.
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