The King Hunt


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Who doesn’t enjoy an exciting king hunt?

It is Monday again and, of course, that means it is checkmate day.

This time we are looking at deadly king hunts, where the victims have their most important piece pushed across the board into checkmate.

King hunts often involve sacrifices to strip the opposing monarch of his defense.

Morphy Mate

Paul Morphy wasn’t shy when it came to attacking kings.

King Hunt Morphy

Paul Morphy – Theodore Lichtenhein
New York, 1857

White to play

Morphy, who was playing this game blindfolded, lit the blue touch paper with:

22 Rxd7+ Nxd7

23 Qxd7+ Ka6

24 Nd6 Rhd8

The King Hunt Paul MorphyOver to you. Can you checkmate the black king in four moves from here?
25 Qb7+ Ka5 26 Bd2+ Qxd2 27 Nc4+ Ka4 28 b3 checkmate.

We expect king hunts in Morphy’s games, but the next two examples may be more of a surprise.

Brilliant Botvinnik

Mikhail Botvinnik isn’t noted for having a romantic style of play, but here he has chased Gligoric’s king into a very strange place.

Mikhail Botvinnik – Svetozar Gligoric
Moscow, 1956

White to play

How did Botvinnik conclude the king hunt?
30 g4! and Black resigned. 31 Qe1, followed by Qa1 and Rb1 checkmate is on the way.

This one involves a longer line of play. See how far you can go!

Mikhail Botvinnik – Vitaly Chekhover
Moscow, 1935

White to play

A couple of hints: Every white move is check: five by the queen, two by the bishop and one by a pawn. The last move is 43 Qb1 checkmate.
36 Qxg7+ Kd6 37 Qxe5 Kd7 38 Qf5+ Kc6 39 d5+ Kc5 40 Ba3+ Kxc4 41 Qe4+ Kc3 42 Bb4+ Kb2 43 Qb1 checkmate.

Today’s final example of the king hunt in action aims to restore a little historical balance.

Killer Kieseritzky

Lionel Kieseritzky is best-known for being on the receiving end of a blistering attack by Adolf Anderssen, in what is know as the Immortal Game. That is quite a legacy – but it is good to know that Kieseritzky was no slouch either when given the opportunity to hit an opponent’s king.

For many years he has famous for being the victim, but can you match his moves when he is on the attack?

John William Schulten – Lionel Kieseritzky
Paris, 1850

Black to play

Find the moves to force a checkmate – and don’t forget we often need a sacrifice to start a king hunt.
15 …Qxh3+ 16 Kxh3 Ne3+ 17 Kh4 Nf3+ 18 Kh5 Bg4 checkmate.

Check your answers by highlighting the space beneath each position.

There are many more beautiful checkmate patterns in our course, The Checkmate Patterns Manual, by International Master John Bartholomew and CraftyRaf.

There is a shortened, free version of the course here.

Here is a handy guide to the episodes in our series of blog posts on Checkmate Patterns.

Checkmate Patterns: Six of the Best

Famous Checkmate Patterns

Historical Checkmate Patterns

Beautiful Checkmate Patterns

Essential Checkmate Patterns

Picturesque Checkmate Patterns

Checkmate Patterns in Action

Adolf Anderssen’s Checkmating Skill


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