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Can You Checkmate With A King And One Knight? (Explained!)

In short, if you have a king and one knight and the opponent has only a king then it is impossible to checkmate. The game will end in a draw due to insufficient mating material.

Draw due to insufficient mating material means that you and your opponent have an insufficient number of pieces that could checkmate the opponent. So the game ends in a draw.

Thus you now know that you can’t checkmate with a king and one knight against a lone king. But are you curious to know why you can’t do that, then just scroll down!

Tip 🙂 – If you have any difficulty about how to and when to offer a draw in chess and want some tips related to this then you can check my article on Complete Guide: How to offer a draw and accept it in chess.

Why You Can’t Checkmate With A King And One Knight?

Because even if the opponent’s king is pushed to a corner, your king can control only two squares at a time and knight one square. Still, one corner square where the opponent’s king stands will stay safe. 

There will always be a square for the opponent’s king to escape or stay safe. So the game will either end into a stalemate or an automatic draw because of insufficient mating material.

There is also a type of draw which is known as, draw by 50 move rule according to which a player can claim a draw when no capture or pawn movement has been made in the last 50 moves.

So if you consider that perspective as well then you will not be able to checkmate the lone king with a king and one knight because in attempt of doing so you would easily exceed the move limit.

Also Read: The Difference Between Checkmate And Stalemate

Moreover, you might also repeat moves causing draw by threefold repetition. (Same position repeated three times) 

So there are many reasons which can come into effect while delivering checkmate to a lone king with a king and one knight and lead the game into a draw.

In general, as soon as you are left with just a king and knight while the opponent with only a king the game ends in a draw automatically due to having insufficient material.

I actually first encountered this scenario while playing with my friend.

In that I was left with only a knight and king while he had only the king. I somehow managed to push him to the corner square hoping to checkmate him but then the game ended in a draw. I was a little bit confused about why that happened. But then after researching I understood everything.

Tip 🙂 – Are fed up with losing the games just because of a stalemate? Then check out the: 5 Tips That Actually Work To Avoid Stalemate In Chess

Let’s Understand This With A Real Game Case Study:

checkmate-with-a-king-and-one-knight

See the chessboard in the above image. This was the case that occurred while playing with my friend that I talked about earlier. Now, explaining you each of the position pointwise:

  • The black king is in h8 square.
  • The white king is in h6 position controlling the two squares h7 and g7
  • The white knight is on e7 controlling the g8 square
  • As you can see, the square h8 where the black king is standing is safe.
  • So here black is having no legal moves left but it is not in check which means stalemate condition.

Therefore white’s king cannot checkmate black king with only one knight.

Now you might ask can you checkmate a king with two knights or with three knights. So the answer is, you can’t force checkmate with two knights but with three knights you can.

In fact, I already wrote a detailed article about checkmating with three knights. You should check that out for further reference.

Final Thoughts

Now finally I am going to share with you the basic steps that I follow in endgame against an opponent with only a king and me having knights and king, plus other scenarios like that.

Following these basic steps will really help and you know what, these are very simple and yet effective. So let’s see:

  • Bring your pieces to centre without worrying much about where the opponent moves the king.
  • Force the opponent’s king towards the edge of the board using your chess pieces.
  • Then try to checkmate your opponent’s king in any corner.

So that’s it! Hope you liked and understood everything.

Recommended Read: 7 Checkmate Rules Every Chess Player Should Know

Related Questions:

Can You Win Chess With Just A King?

No, you can’t win chess with just a king. You either lose or get the draw. But winning with a single king is impossible because one king can’t checkmate another king.

This is because when the king approaches another king to checkmate, it is put into check which is considered an illegal move.

To know more about this in detail check my article: Can A King Kill A King In Chess? (Explained)

What Happens If Its King Vs King In Chess?

Immediate draw! This is because one king cannot checkmate another king. So the game ends in a draw due to insufficient mating material.

Can A Knight Double Jump In Chess?

No, a knight can jump only one time. In fact in chess, unlike checkers one piece can be moved only once in a single turn except in case of castling where the king and rook move simultaneously in a single move.

(From Amazon)