Mating the Lone King Pt. 2 – The Box [Queen/Rook Checkmate]

By: Nathaniel_Fernandes | Posted: August 1, 2020 | Updated: 7/16/2021
This entry is part 6 of 8 in the series Starting Out


  • The Queen/Rook checkmate is the most common checkmate in novice chess. Learning it is critical!
  • The opponent’s King is in a box – use your King and Queen/Rook to keep making the box smaller and push him to the side.
  • After the King’s on the side, use the “Kiss of Death” (Queen) or pseudo-backrank mate (Rook) to checkmate.
  • Don’t stalemate!


In the previous article, we covered “The Staircase” and showed how to use it to win with 2 Queens/Rooks. Now, we will cover a technique called “The Box” and demonstrate how to checkmate with a Queen or Rook against the lone King. As a brief recap, these are the pieces that can force checkmate against a King. 

Can checkmate:
Cannot Checkmate
  • 2 Knights
  • Knight or Bishop
  • Pawn** (Unless it promotes)

The Box – Rook Style:

The box is used when you want to checkmate with a Queen or Rook. Since you need at least two pieces to checkmate, you will have to use your King and Rook to corral the enemy King onto the side. Never fear, this is much easier than it sounds.

The opponent’s King is always in a box – your job is to keep making that box smaller. For example:

After the King is on the side, you can checkmate with a ‘pseudo-back-rank’ mate.

Wait what do I do here??

Sometimes, it might be your turn but you can’t make the box any smaller.

 In this case, you must make a waiting move and pass the turn to your opponent. Either move your King (while also protecting your Rook) or simply move your rook back along on the same file. Just don’t make the box any bigger.

The same motif works when you want to deliver checkmate but the King would take your rook. Just pull your rook back along the same file without releasing the King.

Practice King and Rook Checkmates – Membership Needed

The BoxQueen Style

The process is practically the exact same except the queen is strong enough to push the enemy King to the side by herself. The difference is that unlike the Rook which can be attacked, the Queen protects herself.

Occasionally, you must make a waiting move with your King if you can’t make the box smaller. Always move your King towards the action – you’ll need him to deliver checkmate.

Finally, after the King is on the side, you can checkmate with the “Kiss of Death” (a.k.a. the Checkmate Sandwich) or a ‘pseudo-back-rank mate.


Avoid these at all costs!! 

White Queen on c7 Stalemates Black King on a8

How To avoid: Once the Black King is trapped on the side of the board, DON’T TOUCH YOUR QUEEN ANYMORE! Instead, race your King to help the Queen deliver checkmate with the Kiss of Death.

Queen and King stalemate Black's King
Uh Oh!

How To Avoid: Always be careful when your Queen is a Knight’s move away from the Black King. To avoid this stalemate, put your Queen on the rank/file in front of the King – i.e. if the King is on the 8th rank, put your Queen on the 7th. Or if the King’s on the a-file, put your Queen on the b-file.

Just don’t fall into the 1st Queen stalemate above!

Rook Stalemates Black King
Rook Stalemates

How To Avoid: This stalemate occurs less often than the Queen stalemates. Basically, always give the Black King some “breathing room” so they can shuffle back and forth. In the above example, if your Rook was on f1, then the Black King can shuffle between g8 and h8.


That’s it! Now go practice corralling Kings and making tiny boxes.

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