Ever played a game of chess where you successfully captured all your opponent’s pieces? You try to mate the lone king, but the problem is that you’re stuck in a loop.
Such a situation might make you wonder: how many moves when the king is alone in chess?
The truth is, it depends on the remaining material. Typically, king-queen vs. lone king endgames are the shortest, with around ten moves to deliver a checkmate. King-rook endgames come in second. Other materials take longer moves and usually end in a draw.
Keep reading this article to learn about the number of moves needed to win different chess endgames!
How Many Moves When the King Is Alone in Chess?
There isn’t a rule that addresses the number of actions when one player is left with only a king. However, according to FIDE’s regulations, you only have 50 moves to deliver a checkmate or move a pawn. Otherwise, the game is a tie.
For those who don’t know, the 50-move rule in chess states that a game is a draw if, within the last 50 moves, the players don’t make a pawn move or a capture.
The count starts again if the player moves a pawn or takes down a piece. The problem is that the latter isn’t an option since your opponent only has the king.
Now, why does such a rule exist? After all, the game is unbalanced since one of the contenders has more material and can win the match. However, the purpose of this rule is to prevent players from playing aimlessly just to flag their opponents or tire them.
Even if you have a winnable position, if it takes more than the stated number, the 50-move rule applies.
Of course, the game is automatically a draw in the case of two bare kings. That’s because it would be impossible to deliver a checkmate. The players would just shuffle the pieces indefinitely.
How Many Moves to Checkmate a Bare King?
As mentioned earlier, the number of moves you need to checkmate a lone king depends on the material you have left. Queen and rook endgames typically don’t take many steps to deliver a checkmate.
Bishops and knights, on the other hand, are a different story. It can take around 20 or more moves to checkmate your opponent. In some cases, like the king with two knights, a forced checkmate is impossible, leading to a draw.
Here’s a detailed explanation for each endgame position:
King and Queen vs. Lone King Endgame
It comes as no surprise that the king-queen combo is one of the easiest endgames to win against a bare king. After all, the queen is the strongest chess piece.
Typically, these games can take 10-15 moves to deliver a checkmate. That’s as long as you play accurately and only execute the best move. Otherwise, you risk a draw due to the 50-move rule or a stalemate.
The idea behind this checkmate is to drive the lone king to the edge of the board. Although it’s faster to trap the king at the edge using your king and queen together, this endgame is notorious for ending in a stalemate for beginners.
So, it’s best to use your queen to move the king to the corner before engaging your king in the checkmate.
How to Checkmate With Only the King and Queen
All you do is move the queen to achieve an L pattern with the opponent’s king, similar to the knight. Then, drive the queen closer to the king by moving it diagonally.
After the opponent’s lone king is trapped in the last rank, keep the queen a few squares away from the king.
Only move your king for the next few moves until the piece is two ranks away from the opponent’s king. You can either checkmate by moving the queen to the last rank or right in front of the king.
King and Rook vs. Lone King Endgame
Like the king-queen endgame, checkmating a bare king with only a rook is relatively short. You can achieve the former in 15-20 moves. The technique is also similar to the former; however, this time, your king and rook must work together.
The pattern follows a shrinking box. You simply use the rook to restrict the opponent’s king’s movement, while defending your piece with the king. Once you drive the king to the corner, you can deliver the checkmate.
King and Bishop vs. Lone King Endgame
Minor-piece endgames can be tricky and usually take longer to achieve a checkmate. In the case of bishops, you can only win the game when you have both pairs—a king-bishop endgame is a draw due to insufficient material.
Still, this endgame takes 20 or more moves to reach checkmate. If your pieces are centralized in the third rank, you can force mate in 13, as long as you don’t make a mistake. The technique involves using the bishop pair to cut the king’s diagonals, trapping him in a triangle.
Your king will always defend one of your bishops while you advance with the other. Once the opponent reaches the corner, you can deliver a checkmate.
King, Bishop, and Knight vs. Lone King Endgame
Prepare yourself to make 33 or more moves to checkmate a bare king with only a bishop and a knight.
To achieve this mate, you must force the opponent’s king to the corner using the king and knight. Additionally, the former must be in a square that’s the same color as your bishop.
Of course, the opponent will try to stay in the center. In that case, you’ll have to play a waiting move with the bishop and continue shrinking the king’s area with your king. The problem is that you have to be careful not to stalemate.
As you can see, figuring out how many moves when the king is alone in chess depends on the material.
King-queen and king-rook endgames typically end within 10-20 moves. As for minor pieces, it can take 20 or more plays to checkmate your opponent. That’s especially true for bishop-knight end games, which last for 33 moves if played perfectly.
That said, an endgame can only last for 50 moves if you don’t make a capture or advance your pawn. Understanding those endgame scenarios is crucial. It’ll help you develop the necessary strategies to deliver a checkmate and avoid draws!