By Donny Gray
As you progress in chess you will discover that certain combinations of pieces work well together. For example, using doubled rooks or the two bishops is extremely strong. Today we will look at another case of pieces working in harmony. The queen and knight work wonderfully together, as we see in the following example.
This is a position that I give students. But it comes with conditions. White must mate in 4 moves or less for credit. Various tries include:
This accomplishes nothing.
This move at least threatens mate, however, after
1. … g6
2. Qc3+ Kg8
3. Qc4+ Kh8
White must mate on this move for credit. Since there are obviously no mates in this position, back we go.
Now this is a good try! If Black responds with Rg8, White has mate with Nf7+!
But, of course, Black can take back with the king, and now White has nothing. But at least we are on the right track.
Let’s use that same theme, but slightly different.
Black now has 2 choices. He can capture with the rook or he can move his king to get out of check.
2. Qb8+ Rf8
3. Qf8+ and mate
The king move is the one that causes problems with students. How to mate now with the three remaining moves?
Not only is this check, but a discovered double check! How can any move in chess be more powerful? The only way to get out of a discovered double check is to move the king. Blocking or capturing does not work, as there are two pieces involved. So Black must move his king. He must move to Kh8.
The same theme as above except now the king cannot capture the queen, as it is protected by the knight on h6. So he is forced to capture with the rook.
4. Nf7+ & Mate
This problem has many important aspects to it: it demonstrates a forced mate, it has a queen sacrifice, it shows how powerful a double discovered check can be, and to finish it off, it is an example of a smothered mate! I know of no chess player that would not just absolutely love to be able to pull off something similar to this in a real game.
Smothered mate is a term in chess when checkmate is given by a knight in which the mated king is unable to move because he is surrounded by his own pieces. And speaking of real games, here are two examples of smothered mate in master-level games.
Sarapu resigned because 19. … Rxg8 20.Nf7+ and Mate.