The epaulette mate

Epaulette mate involves a king, flanked and blocked by two pieces on both sides of him, and cannot move backwards, facing a queen that is mating him.

This is a long definition of the epaulette mate, but trust me, it is necessary.

Like many attacking motifs, the best person to start it all off is Morphy. He appears to be the first master to use it in a game.

Just one little twist before we start. Please remove that knight on b1 prior to that start of the game. Otherwise, White can’t play his twelfth move, which helps setting up the final combination.

New York, 1857
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Bc4 g4 5.d4 gxf3
(Morphy was known for his attacking abilities. He starts off with a piece down before the game even starts and then proceeds to give up another piece.) 6.O-O Bh6 7.Qxf3 Nc6 8.Bxf7+ (And now a third piece.) 8…Kxf7 9.Qh5+ Kg7 10.Bxf4 Bxf4 11.Rxf4 Nh6 12.Raf1 Qe8 13.Qh4 d6 14.Qf6+ Kg8 15.Qxh6 Bd7 16.R4f3! Ne7 17.h4 Ng6 18.h5 Bg4 19.hxg6 hxg6

20.Rf8+! Qxf8 21.Rxf8+ Rxf8 22.Qxg6mate


This mating pattern has been used, reused, and enhanced in the more than 150 years of chess since this first game. Two of the more well-known games (other than Morphy’s) are given below.

Wilhelm Rautenberg-Friedrich Nuernberg
BRD (West Germany) Ch.
Bad Pyrmont, 1949
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d4 exd4 5.O-O Bc5 6.e5 d5 7.exf6 dxc4 8.Re1+ Kf8 9.Bg5! gxf6 10.Bh6+ Kg8 11.Nc3! Bf5

[Black has to be careful here as 11…dxc3? 12.Qxd8+ leads to mate. Here’s another short way for Black to lose.

Bozidar Kazic-B. Vukovic
Yugoslavia, 1940
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d4 exd4 5.O-O Bc5 6.e5 d5 7.exf6 dxc4 8.Re1+ Kf8 9.Bg5 gxf6 10.Bh6+ Kg8 11.Nc3 Bg4 12.Ne4 b6 13.c3 Ne5?

14.Nxe5! Bxd1 15.Nd7 Be7 16.Nexf6+ Bxf6 17.Re8+ Qxe8 18.Nxf6mate 1-0.]

12.Ne4 Bf8 13.Qd2 Ne5 14.Nxd4 Bxe4 (14…Bg6 15.Bxf8 Kxf8 16.Qh6+ Kg8 17.Nf5!) 15.Rxe4 Qd5 16.Rae1 Re8 17.Bxf8 Rxf8 (Or 17…Kxf8 18.Qh6+ Ke7 19.f4.) 18.Rxe5! fxe5 19.Qg5mate


GM Alexei Dmitriyevich Fedorov-GM Alexander Lastin
Perm, 1997
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nc3 Qd7?! 5.Be3 h6 6.h3 e6 7.Nf3 Bb4 8.Qd2 Ne7 9.a3 Ba5 10.b4 Bc7 11.Be2 Qd8 12.O-O Nd7 13.Nh4 Bh7 14.f4 Nb6 15.Bd3 Qd7 16.Qe2 O-O-O 17.a4 Kb8 18.a5 Nc4 19.Na4 b6 20.axb6 axb6 21.Rfb1 Kc8 22.Nf3 f6 23.Nd2 Bxd3 24.Qxd3 Qe8 25.Nxc4 dxc4 26.Qxc4 Nd5 27.Qa6+
(White wants to bring Black’s king back into the center where it will be easier to attack.) 27…Kd7 28.Bd2 Qg6 29.Qc4 fxe5 30.fxe5 Qe4 31.Re1 Qh4 32.b5 c5 33.Nc3 Rhf8 34.Ne4 Ke8 35.dxc5 Nf4? (You can probably figure out the rest of the game by now.)

36.Bxf4! Qxf4 37.Qxe6mate 1-0

While it may seem that Black’s king on must be stuck on back rank for the epaulette mate to occur, this is not necessarily true. The mate can also occur sideways. Here is an example.

IM Magnus Carlsen-Sipke Ernst
Wijk aan Zee
Netherlands, 2004
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 5.Ng3 Bg6 6.h4 h6 7.Nf3 Nd7 8.h5 Bh7 9.Bd3 Bxd3 10.Qxd3 e6 11.Bf4 Ngf6 12.O-O-O Be7 13.Ne4 Qa5 14.Kb1 O-O 15.Nxf6+ Nxf6 16.Ne5 Rad8 17.Qe2 c5 18.Ng6 fxg6 19.Qxe6+ Kh8 20.hxg6 Ng8 21.Bxh6 gxh6 22.Rxh6+ Nxh6 23.Qxe7 Nf7 24.gxf7 Kg7 25.Rd3 Rd6 26.Rg3+ Rg6 27.Qe5+ Kxf7 28.Qf5+ Rf6 29.Qd7mate


And who said the two pieces blocking the king need to be rooks?

Saratov, 1938
1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.c4 Nb6 4.c5 Nd5 5.Nc3 Nxc3 6.dxc3 d6 7.Qb3 dxe5 8.Bg5 Qd7 9.Rd1 Qf5 10.Bc4 Nd7 11.Nf3 c6 12.O-O e6 13.Rxd7 Kxd7 14.Qd1+ Kc7 15.Qd8+ Kb8 16.Rd1 f6 17.Rd7 Qb1+ 18.Bf1 a6

19.Rxb7+! Kxb7 20.Qb6mate 1-0

Three more examples to round off this post.

St. Petersburg, 1893
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Bb4 6.Nd5 Ba5 7.O-O b5 8.Bb3 d6 9.d3 Bg4 10.c3 Ne7 11.Nxe5 dxe5 12.Nxf6+ gxf6 13.Qxg4 Ng6 14.Bd5 Rb8 15.f4 c6 16.Bxc6+ Ke7 17.Bd5 b4 18.fxe5 Qb6+ 19.Kh1 Nxe5 20.Qh5 Ng6 21.Rxf6 Kxf6 22.Bg5+ Kg7 23.Qh6+ Kg8 24.Rf1 Rf8 25.Bf6 Qxf6 26.Rxf6 bxc3 27.Rxg6+ hxg6 28.Qxg6mate 1-0

Vienna, 1904
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Nc3 d6 5.d3 Nf6 6.Bg5 Be6 7.Nd5 Bxd5 8.Bxd5 h6 9.Bxc6+ bxc6 10.Bxf6 Qxf6 11.c3 Rb8 12.b4 Bb6 13.Qa4 d5 14.exd5 e4 15.dxe4 Qxc3+ 16.Ke2 Qc4+ 17.Ke1 Qxe4+ 18.Kf1 O-O 19.Qxc6 Rfe8 20.Kg1

20…Re6! 21.Qd7 Rd6 22.Qa4 Qe2 23.Rf1 Qxf3 24.gxf3 Rg6mate 0-1

Melbourne, 1929
1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.Nc3 Nb6 4.f4 c5 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.d4 cxd4 7.Nxd4 g6 8.Be3 Bg7 9.Bd3 d6 10.N3.xc6 bxc6 11.exd6 exd6 12.O-O d5 13.Bc5 Be6 14.f5 gxf5 15.Bxf5 Qg5 16.Qe2 Kd8 17.Bxe6 fxe6 18.Qxe6 Re8 19.Qxc6 Rc8 20.Bxb6+ axb6 21.Qd6mate 1-0

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