Dear Parents and Coaches!
I received the following question from Tim, a chess parent in Ohio:
"What basic checkmates does my 'chesskid' need to know before playing in a tournament?"
Excellent question. Well, first of all I would like to say that a kid doesn't technically have to know any checkmates to play in a tournament. To play in a tournament you just need to know the rules. So no stress! In most local children's tournaments will be many kids who do not know know basic checkmates.
But...it would help them to play successfully if your chesskid does know some basic checkmates. It is a pity to play a game well, be a queen or rook up, but then draw the game when a little knowledge would make the win easy.
I would recommend that a kid should know how to checkmate with two rooks against a king, a queen against a king, and a rook against a king. These are the very first endgames a kid should learn.
I. The Two-Rook Checkmate
The first of the basic endgames to learn is the checkmate with two rooks. In fact, it is not so common to have two rooks versus a king on an empty board. But the reason we learn it first is that it shows a very important method. At children's chess tournaments you will often see one player with a giant army of queens, rooks, and other pieces futilely pursuing a lone enemy king...But by knowing this simple method it will make checkmating with any duo of heavy pieces (queens or rooks) easy. It is often called the "ladder checkmate", because the method of advancing the rooks resembles climbing a latter.
The method is pretty simple: the rooks take turns cutting off the enemy king (building a "wall") and checking the king to chase it back. The final checkmate occurs at the end of the board. Also, note that this checkmate can occur in the middlegame as well, when one king is separated from its pieces.
Once a kid knows that one, he or she can move on to the next...
II. Checkmate with a queen
This is a very basic checkmate of course, and happens quite often, particularly when one player queens a pawn. Not knowing it would put a chesskid at serious disadvantage to his or her opponents!
Here is an example of how it is done:
To learn this a kid will need some practice. Often they will stalemate their opponent instead of checkmating him (which is not good, since a stalemate is a draw). Another common mistake is to chase the king around the board by checking, without making any progress. After learning this, a kid can move on to the...
III. Checkmate with one rook.
The checkmate with one rook is much harder than the checkmate with the queen, because the rook has less mobility. So, sometimes the enemy king can attack the rook, whereas a king cannot attack the queen. Also, the method of checkmating with a rook usually involves "waiting moves" - where the superior side simply waits, forcing the defending king to move to an unfavorable position. For children, though, this can be a little difficult, since they usually want to be doing something! Here is an example of the method:
Note how the rook makes lots of little one-square moves, slowly making the defending king's "cage" smaller and smaller. This might not be the absolutely-quickest method, but it is easier for kids to learn.
Once a "chesskid" knows the basic checkmates, he will have made the first step to being an advanced chess player!
Thanks for reading, and you can send in questions about your "Chess Kid" to Questions@ChessKid.com.