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It’s been a messy endgame and somehow, despite both sides losing all pawns, one player still has two knights remaining on the board. The question is, can you make checkmate with just two knights?
Checkmate with two knights against a lone King is not theoretically possible without the King making a blunder, however, if the King is accompanied by a pawn, then checkmate can be forced if the king is in the proximity of its pawn
If you find yourself in a position where you are losing a game but have limited your opponent to just the two knights, you are in a position to ensure you do not lose the game.
There are two elements to ensure, however.
- You must somehow sacrifice your final pawn
- You must not blunder and only play the best possible king move in defense
Two Knights Endgame
A lone king vs two knights is a stalemate game, or a draw on time if the player with the two knights runs out of time. The two knights player doesn’t lose on time because a lone king is insufficient to win.
However, if the king makes a blunder and the player with two knights uses their king in conjunction, they can pressure the king into making a blunder and finding themselves in a checkmate position.
Also if the king has a pawn as support, in this situation against two knights it is actually a disadvantage, and better if the pawn is lost.
The reason for this is the king may be pushed toward the pawn which in turn can occupy one escape square for the king, in this situation, the two knights and opposing king can indeed force checkmate.
With the pawn off the board, the checkmate force is not possible.
You have to consider the special way in which the knight moves in a game of chess, whilst very effective as part of the overall attack working in conjunction with other pieces, the knight is less effective working on its own or in pairs when there is a lot of space on the board.
How To Ensure a Win with Two Knights
Well, you actually can’t ensure a win with just two knights against a lone king as checkmate is not forceable.
If the king also has a pawn, resist the temptation to remove that pawn, as it can come in handy in occupying an escape square for the king especially if getting trapped in a corner.
The problem is, ultimately, you will probably have to remove it as your opponent’s eyes pawn promotion, which would be devastating for you at this stage.
Your best chance of gaining a checkmate with two knights against the lone king it to play fast. If the lone king is playing on, they are plainly aware that victory for you is not ensured unless they blunder, so your best friend is time and if you can place that King under time pressure, this is where they will be most likely to blunder.
The Two Knights end game can become frantic in this situation.
How to Avoid Checkmate with a Lone King Against Two Knights
There is a very simple process in avoiding being checkmated with Two Knights when you have a lone King and that is to think of an extra move in advance.
When you move out of check, or have to make a move, just ensure that on the next move it is not possible for your opponent to checkmate you.
This sounds like a really obvious plan but it is something novice players can forget as they look to simply move out of a check position and last one more turn.
Remember: Two knights can not force checkmate, it can only be gifted by a blunder
That blunder would be you not ensuring the next move for the opponent ends the game for you.
If your opponent can not checkmate you, you will have a move you can make at the very least, all you have to do one more time, and each time is ensure the next move would not result in a checkmate position.
Is Stalemate OK in this Scenario
If you are the lone king, a stalemate outcome in this scenario is the best possible outcome for you.
You can not win with a lone king so that option is off the table, so a draw by stalemate is a victory for you of sorts.
Draw by Time
In a Lone King against Two Knights endgame you can also force a draw if you can evade blundering checkmate to your opponent and keep moving in a sufficiently short time so that your opponent runs out of time before you do.
You can not win a game on time with a lone king as you have insufficient material to win it time was limitless, but avoiding defeat when down to a lone king is a good result.
Two Kings Endgame Summary
It will be a very rare occurrence to be either the lone king in this scenario or to be left with just two knights on the board, but it does happen. Now you have read this article you know how to avoid defeat if you are the lone king and how to avoid a draw if you possess the two knights.
What are the chances you find yourself in one of these two positions in the next few games you play?
At least you’ll know what to do.