Back rank checkmate

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end game :: back rank mate
the square rule | opposition | zugzwang | checkmating with one queen | checkmating with one rook | checkmating with two rooks | checkmating with two bishops | back rank mate

Checkmating on the back rank

After a player castle, he gets his king into a safer location. Look at the following example.

The position of pieces on the chess board after castling

Both White and Black had performed the castling. But, if in this position, the king is attacked by a rook or the queen and the disadvantaged player has no possibility of capturing the attacking piece or has no possibility of interposing a piece between the king and that rook or queen, then checkmate results (because the king has no where to go). This type of checkmate is sometimes called back rank mate ,because it takes place on the back rank.

In the following example the white king is exposed to being checkmated on the back-rank with 1... Re7-e1. The black king is, however, quite safe because of the escape square at h7 ; so if White has its turn to move and tries 1. Rd3-d8 then the king can escape with 1... Kg8-h7.

In this example the white king is exposed to a chekmate on the backrank. The black king can only be checked on the backrank because it is able to escape at h7

In the following game Black is down a rook. But if you look more closer you can see that White is predisposed to being checkmated on the back rank: 1... Re7:e1 2. Rc1:e1 Qb4:e1 checkmate Checkmate!. And even if the Black had a rook less he won the game.

Black has two pieces that controll the e1 square. Thus after he captures the rook from e1 he can capture again at e1 and checkmate his opponent

In the next example the black king has the escape square at h7 but that square is under the control of the white bishop from d3. So after 1. Re1-e8 checkmate the king is checkmated.

The black king is about to be checkmated on the back-rank because he can't escape to h7 because this square is under the controll of the bishop from d3

The fact is that many tactics revolves around back rank mate. Many beginners often fall in this kind of traps.
My advice to you is to pay attention when you run into this kind of positions. It's always a good idea to have an escape square where the king could move if attacked, or some other way to protect it.