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By Bruce Zimov


Knightmate was invented by Bruce Zimov in 1972. It differs from Chess by having a royal Knight and non-royal Kings. Knightmate tournaments have been played in the American postal chess organization NOST, and in the Italian chess variants organization.


The Setup is as in orthodox Chess, except each player has one royal Knight and two (non-royal) Kings. The Kings start where the Knights usually do, and the Knight starts where the King normally does.

Knight e1; Queen d1; Rook a1, h1; King (non-royal) b1, g1; Bishop c1, f1; Pawn a2, b2, c2, d2, e2, f2, g2, h2.

Knight e8; Queen d8; Rook a8, h8; King (non-royal) b8, g8; Bishop c8, f8; Pawn a7, b7, c7, d7, e7, f7, g7, h7.

Initial Setup:


The Kings are not subject to check or mate, but the Knights are! Win by checkmating the opponent's Knight.

Castling — Knights can castle with Rooks under the same rules and restrictions as Kings can in Chess. Although the Knight is usually a leaper, it still cannot castle through check.

Pawn Promotion — Pawns promotion is as in Chess except that Pawns may promote to a King but not to a Knight.


The Knight can be harder to checkmate than a King. For single piece endgames, only Q+N can checkmate the lone N — even a Rook cis not sufficient, nor is a King. Any two-piece advantage can enforce checkmate, though, except for two Bishops on the same color, or N+N+N, which isn't even posible in Knightmate.

Sample game

White: Aldo Kustrin. Black: Michael Keller
NOST 1992 Postal Knightmate Tournament, 538-T92

  1. g4 d5
  2. e3 h5
  3. g5 e5
  4. Kg2 Qxg5
  5. d3 e4
  6. f3 exf3
  7. Kxf3 Qh4+
  8. Kg3 Qf6
  9. d4 h4
  10. Kf4 g5
  11. Ke5 Qe7
  12. Kxd5 c6
  13. Ke5 c5
  14. Kd5 cxd4
  15. Kxd4 Qf6
  16. Bb5+ Nc7
  17. Qe2 Bg4
  18. Qc4+ Bc5
  19. Qxc5+ Ne6
  20. Ke5 Nxc5
  21. Kxf6 Ne4
  22. Ke5+ Nf2
  23. Rf1+ Nh3
  24. Bd3 Bh5
  25. e4 Kg7
  26. a4 Rf8
  27. Ra3 Resigns

Finishing position.

Computer Play

Play Online: Knightmate can be played on this site with Game Courier. Fully automated, rule-enforcing presets for this game can be found here. You can also view games that have previously been played on Game Courier here.

Computer Play: Knightmate is fully supported by ChessV, a free open-source program for playing chess variants. It can also be played with Winboard using the included Fairy-Max engine.

Interactive Diagram: You can also play against a very basic AI with this interactive diagram (click on "Play it!" under the diagram):

files=8 ranks=8 promoZone=1 promoChoice=QRKB graphicsDir=/graphics.dir/alfaeriePNG/ squareSize=50 graphicsType=png symmetry=none pawn:P:ifmnDfmWfceF:pawn:a2,b2,c2,d2,e2,f2,g2,h2,,a7,b7,c7,d7,e7,f7,g7,h7 bishop:B:B:bishop:c1,f1,,c8,f8 rook:R:R:rook:a1,h1,,a8,h8 queen:Q:Q:queen:d1,,d8 king:K:FW:king:b1,g1,,b8,g8 knight:N:isO2N:knight:e1,,e8

Written by Hans Bodlaender. Michael Keller noted an error, and has sent the sample game and picture of closing position. Bryan Lambert noted two errors.
Updated by Greg Strong.
WWW page created: 1995 or 1996.
WWW page updated: 2020-12-22.