Mating Tactics

Protection of the King
Pawns have a great importance in providing safety for the King, especially when they cover the castle position.

Pawns which cover their King should advance only as a last resort. Otherwise the King can find himself exposed and become an easy prey of the opponent's pieces. How often do we see players moving their castled pawns thinking that they will storm their opponent into submission, only to find the vacuum left behind is now vulnerable and needs to be defended.

These weakest battle units have one essential peculiarity distinguishing them from other chessmen, they cannot go back! A bad move, say of a Bishop or Knight, can be corrected yet at the cost of tempo. Correcting a bad pawn move, however, is impossible! This is something you should always bear in mind. An indiscriminate movement of pawns is always harmful, as this could create weak squares, which can be occupied by enemy's pieces. If these squares lie near the King, they can be used for an attack. We should remember that its pawn moves that are the cause of most imbalances that our opponent can take advantage of.

Safety of the King
The King is the most valuable piece in chess, therefore it should be the foremost thought you need to think about for his safety as early as possible. When you lose your king you have lost the game. The safest place is usually the one the King occupies after castling, where he is under the cover of his pawns and the protection of his light pieces. Locating the King in the center is unreliable because this is where the main clashes of the game occur most often.

So if you don't want your king exposed to superfluous danger, take good care of him and castle in the opening moves. For this purpose the light pieces must enter the game as soon as possible, and the pawns must move as little as possible, especially on that flank where you intend to castle.

If you prefer to attack with sharp play and with combinations and sacrifices, castle to the side which is opposite of the enemy's castling.


If you prefer more positional, strategical play, you should strive for positions with one side castling.

      

Protecting the King is more complicated when castling long, for after that the a-pawn is not protected by the King and the c-pawn is not protected by the Rook. After castling short, however, the h-pawn turns out to be protected by the King and the f-pawn by King and Rook together.

Thus the line of defense when castling long is a bit extended. To consolidate the position, you often have to waste a tempo for a move by the King (to b8 for Black, and to b1 for White). To make long castling possible, as a rule the Queen moves to e7,d7,c7,b6 or a5 for Black, and to e2,d2,c2,b3 or a4 for White.

If your opponent takes his time about castling and leaves his King in the center, you should seek ways of opening up the central lines for a direct attack on his King. Even the sacrifice of material can be effective in such cases. Once you decide to engage in an attack on the King in the center, don't let him get away. Keep atttcking if you can to keep your opponent on the defensive. You may not mate the King but you may be able to gain an advantage in taking material or laying the groundwork for a successful endgame.

Also in these situations you may be able to prevent the opponent's castling, for example by checking the King so that he can not castle, or by attacking one of the squares which he has to pass for castling, Simply preventing your opponent from castling in the beginning of the opening moves could be the decisive action that decides the game, and don't let this happen to you. Castle early and then prepare for battle.

If you violate these basic principles of the opening your usually going to find that a sharp player will immediately take advantage of your misfortune and make you pay the consequences for the neglect of the safety of your King. And so should you do the same on your opponent.

Pawn Cover of the King


Soon after completing piece development, both sides may strive to begin a attack on the opponent's King. It is therefore necessary that the King castles in time and that the castling position has a reliable pawn cover.

The pawn arrangement around the kind evidently is of great strategical importance. Carelessly moving the pawns can put under doubt all of your plans.Therefore it is very important to know about the pros and cons of the various configurations of the King's pawn cover as well as about typical tactical threats and combinational tools.

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Kinds of Pawn Cover and the Annilhilation of the King's Defences
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1.
Pawns in their initial positions are considered to cover the king best, as they protect all neighboring squares which makes it more difficult for the attacker to exchange pawns and break open files for his Rooks.

However, the arrangement of Pawns in a line also has its drawbacks, for example it is frequently necessary to take into account checkmate threats on the last (first) rank and piece sacrifices on the h2- or g2-squares.

           

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2.
Any advance of these Pawn usually weakens the castling position, and since the Pawns cannot move back, this weakness is irreparable and long lasting, Take a look at the following diagram:


The plus of this structure consists in the fact that the King has an empty h2-square to escape to (a so-called "hole"). Thus he does not have to be afraid of the checkmate on the first rank (Unless the h2-point is controlled)

However, the structure has some minuses as well. The h3-Pawn is a good target for tactical blows. For example, there are situations when the attacker can sacrifice a piece for two edge Pawns ('g' and 'h') thereby blowing away the King cover. Poof! King cover is gone! And, if the opponent attacks along the b8-h2-diagonal, the barrier g2-g3 with a Pawn on h3 will be less reliable than with a Pawn on h2.


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3.
When you or your opponent as White makes a move with the g-pawn, there arises a Pawn arrangement similar to the 'Wedge'. Such an advance can be both voluntary (to develop or fianchetto a Bishop) and forced (e.g. to protect against a diagonal attack on the h2-pawn). In both cases, it results in a significant weakening of the f3- and h3-squares as well as the diagonals a8-h1 and f1-h3.
    

However, if there is the fianchettoed Bishop on g2 protecting the weaknesses, the castling position usually is quite safe, though it must be taken into account that, in order to weaken the squares and diagonals mentioned above, the opponent often strives to exchange this piece.

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4.
The f-Pawn is pushed ahead no less often. In this case, the g1-a7-diagonal and especially the e3-square are weakened. Besides the Pawn on f3 occupies the square which is more suitable for the Knight.
    

At the same time, the placement of the Pawn on f3 is a positive factor in the endgame, as it allows the King to reach the center quicker. However in general moving the Kings defensive shield f-Pawn before the endgame can result in many problems for the King if this diagonal is not protected.

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5.
There are situations when two Pawns are advanced -f3 and h3. Then the whole complex of squares near the King is very weak. In these cases, attacks along the a7-g1 and b8-h2-diagonals are especially dangerous.
    

Irresponsible moving of the f2-Pawn and the h2-Pawn has created a perfect outpost on the g3-squrare for the opponent's attacking pieces.

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The pawn cover of the King can include doubled Pawns, which can be both rather strong and hopelessly weak. For example, the following doubled Pawns provide a rather reliable barrier for the King.
    

These barriers also have their weaknesses: In the first case it is the open h-file, in the second case it is the a7-g1 diagonal that is weak.


Doubled isolated Pawns arising after an exchange on the squares f3 or h3 are especially unpleasant for the defensive side. Such Pawns are not only weak in themselves, but in addition expose the g-file, the a8-h1-diagonal and the f3-square (first diagram) respectively the g-file and the h3 square (second diagram):
    
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7.
Finally, the King's Pawns can also look like a 'chain'. Such a cover is considered to be very weakened too, as the a8-h1-, a7-g1- and h3-f1-diagonals are open, and the f3-, g4- and h3-squares are easily accessible for the opponent's pieces:

    
In both cases the advanced Pawns can be easily attacked by the opposite side. On top of that, the position in the left diagram has a weakened 2 nd rank.


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Typical Tools

The configuration of the King's Pawn cover is one of the main factors you have to take into account when choosing your offensive strategy, for example in view of the handling of your attacking pieces, which of them should be exchanged, which of them can be l eft, which can be placed into possible outposts, which should be used to attack weak squares or take control of key squares, etc. How to organize and carry out an attack on the King will be reviewed in our next section Attack on The King. Now we shall make a first step in this direction and discuss the most frequent attacking tools against the various Pawn covers considered above.

These tools mainly pursuer the following two purposes: 1. Destroy the Pawn cover of the King and 2. Provoke a weakening of squares, files, ranks, and diagonals near the King. The created weaknesses can be exploited by the attacker for further development of his offensive.

In order to annihilate the cover of the King you can, for instance, start a Pawn strom or sacrifice a piece. Here are some examples:

                    
1.b5 and then 2.bxa6 1.Bxh7+Kxh7 2.Qh5+ and 3.Rh3 1...Bxh3 2.gxh3 Qxh3 In order to weaken the squares or diagonals around the King, you can use such tools as undermining an advanced Pawn of the castling position, exchange or sacrifice of a piece with the purpose of doubling the opponent's Pawns, multiple attack on a certain point near the King etc. Here are some more examples.
                      
 
   Rxc3 2.bxc3 Qa3                      1.g3 h5                          1.f6 g6 2.Qh6
    and 3.Nc4

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Attack on the King
Any attack must have a goal. When a chess player attacks, he strives to achieve one of 
the following purposed: to gain material, to get a positional advantage or to mate the 
opponents King.
 
The most important piece on the chessboard is the King, therefore very often the attack is conducted against his majesty's castled fortress or his position in the middle. This is the most dangerous kind of attack as after a successful king hunt, the game is simply over.
To be successful, the attack on the king must have certain prerequisites that may differ according to the concrete situation. However there are also so called base prerequisites which although they may also arise by chance, in most cases are created by systematic play. Here are four of them.
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1.Weaknesses in the opponent's castled position
If your opponent has some weak squares around his king as a result of pawn moves, this is a welcome prerequisite for an attack. There are different ways to cause such weaknesses, for example one can attack the pawns with pieces forcing them to advance or undermine them with one of your own pawns
Piece attacks against the pawn cover of the enemy king happen more often in positions with similar castlings. After opposite-side castling usually the other method is used, a pawn storm resulting in the destruction of the king's pawn cover and breaking open files and diagonals. (See 4. Opportunity to launch a pawn offensive) Here are two examples:
      

The position on the left diagram shows an example of piece pressure on the pawn cover of the 
king, compelling the opponent to make a weakening move with the g-pawn. The next position 
illustrates how that pawn can be undermined giving White some new  opportunities. By means 
of exchange he can weaken the pawn cover of the black king and break open the h-file; or by
moving  the h-pawn ahead he can take under control the weal g7-square.

      In the above position, for example, White plays creating the mating threat on g7.

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2.Lack of piece protection of the opponent's king or opportunity to push the defenders away
If the king's pawn cover is not protected by pieces, it can be easily weakened or destroyed. To this purpose the attacker sometimes even decides to sacrifice a piece or/and pawns. In the position below Black sacrifices two Bishops to destroy the pawn cover of the White King and carries out a mating attack.

However, to be successful such a destroying sacrifice must be prepared beforehand. You need to concentrate your forces on that flank where the attack is planned. The more pieces that look at the enemy's king bastion, the more chances for your success.

If the opponent's King is guarded by pawns, before beginning an attack one should think about how to drive pieces away (See 4. Opportunity to launch a pawn offensive).
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3. Opportunity to include the heavy pieces in the attack.
If there are no open or semi-open files on the flank where the attack is planned , it is very important to provide safe routes for the transfer of your heavy pieces. In positions with castlings on the same side, this usually happens along the third rank, as shown in the following diagram below we see a Rook Lift to place the rook on the h file.

In positions with opposite-side castlings, the rooks join the attack usually after a pawn storm. In the above example we see a classic rook lift to bring the rook into play with the other heavy pieces in a coordinated attack against the king's position.
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_ 4. Opportunity to launch a pawn offensive
At the beginning stage of the attack pawns are the most effective tool. A pawn offensive allows fulfilling several tasks simultaneously: 1. Pushing away the opponent's pieces which are protecting their king. 2. Destroying the King's pawn cover. 3. Breaking open files and diagonals for heavy pieces and bishops. Here are three examples.

In this position above and below, White carries out a kingside pawn storm attack, the main ideas of which are to drive the enemy pieces away, exchange pawns covering his King and break open one or two files in order to deliver the decisive blow with the heavy pieces.

This example above demonstrates the role of the h-pawn for breaking open a diagonal for bishop and queen. As you see, not only the pawn storm with several pawns can be effective, but also an offensive with just one single pawn can be carried out to open up the king's defensive position. Pawn storms are usually undertaken in positions after opposite-side castling, as are attacks with one single pawn. Apart from the h-pawn, the f-pawn can also pushed forward backed up by a rook as show below.


There is another very important factor when attacking the King's fortress and that factor is time. An attack should be carried out quickly and resolutely, Any delay can cost you dearly, especially in positions with opposite-side castling, when you attack at one side and your opponent at the other. To be successful in the attack you must have all your attacking pieces in place. There will be little time if any to develop pieces to bolster up your attacking power after you launch that attack on the castled King and if your not fully prepared your whole position could collapse on you, making you the defender.

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We can now look at some more common mating examples
   
                          1.Rg6+ Rf6 2.Bxf6#


	                   1.Nf6+ Kh8 2.Qxh7#         1.g6 Bg8 2.Q7#         1.Ng6+ Kg8 2.Ne7#

1.Qg8+ Rxg8 2.Nf7# 1.Bg6+ kg8 2.Qh7+ Kf8 3.Qxf7# 1.Be6 d4 2.Bf4 Rg8 3.Be5 Rg7 4.Bxg7#

1.Be6 d4 2.Bf4 Rg8 3.Be5 Rg7 4.Bxg7# 1.Bf5+ Kg8 2.Be6#

What do all these mates have in common? If you look at each one you will see that the King's castle, pawn shield, or King's defense has been compromised in some way. In other words a imbalance, or weakness in the King's castled position has been created to take advantage of. If the king's pawn cover is not protected by pieces, it can be easily weakened or destroyed. To this purpose the attacker sometimes even decides to sacrifice a pawn or piece, even sacrificing his Queen if he calculates success is eminent.

To be successful in your attacks against the castled king you will not be successful in your attacks with out a well thought out sound plan. To just start an attack and hope you will be successful and hope you will find good moves is a fool hardy plan that many weaker players attempt and fail at. This type of plan is a sure fire way to succeed at failure. This is one good way to sort out the strong players from the weak ones. Just look at the games of strong players and see how they first created or looked for some imbalance in their opponents castled position before they started their plan for their attack on it. Only then did they start preparations for developing their pieces for a attack.

Many weak players with little patients just can't wait to first develop their pieces before starting a attack, even before they castle their king and then they hope their opponent will blunder under pressure of the attack making this premature attack successful. Against a stronger player, they will fail every time because he will see the opportunity to go after the vulnerable king's position. If you really want to see how this works just try doing this against Fritz, or Crafty and see how quickly he will completley demolish you, even at his weaker levels.

You must remember this. To be successful you must be prepared beforehand. You need to concentrate your forces on that flank where the attack is planned. The more pieces that are poised at the king's bastion, the better the chance for success. If the king is guarded by officers, before beginning an attack one should think about how to drive these pieces away or destroy them.
_______________________________________________________________ We shall now have a look at some very instructive games by the masters on how to attack the King successfully. When ever a master attacks, he strives to achieve one of the following purposes:
1.Gain material,
2.Get a positional advantage in the middle.
3.Mate his opponent's King.
But before he can start his attack he must first find or create a Weakness in his opponent's castled position. As you study these games look at how the masters take advantage of these imbalances or weakness.

      		        Use Your Back Arrow to Mating the King and To The Games