Back Rank Mate

Back rank mate is a very common checkmate. It occurs when the King is castled and has not moved any pawns in front of the King. The Rook simply checks the enemy King on its ďback rankĒ (itís 1st rank). The King cannot move upwards because of the pawns in the way, and so if thereís nothing to block it, thatís checkmate!

Diagram: Back rank checkmate!

The main defence against back rank mates is to create an air-hole for the king by moving a pawn, usually the rook pawn. But there are also defences against the Rooks coming down, and even X-ray defence tactics.

But the air-hole for the King can be plugged up by an enemy piece. Playing a safety move of h3 to get an air-hole at h2 can be plugged by Black playing Bd6 or Ng4, to control the airhole square with a piece!

Diagram: Still back rank checkmate!

Diagram: Also back rank checkmate!

If you have one defending Rook on your back rank, thatís usually enough to protect the back rank. But sometimes two rooks can checkmate if thereís only one rook on the back rank.

Diagram: Two Rooks Back Rank Checkmate!

But thereís also an X-ray defence to some double back rank checkmate combinations.

Diagram: Can You See the X-ray Defence?

Related Chess Tactics

Read more about these related chess tactics and strategies: