As an extension to this question about can a rook and knight without a king stalemate a opposing king, and the traditional minimum-mating-material question, I had a puzzle question:

What are the minimum combinations of material (without a king) required to forcibly mate an opposing king?

  • R + R/Q is clearly sufficient

  • R + N + N/B maybe, as an extension from the above stalemate question

On the other hand, there are some sets that fail without a king:

  • B(w) + B(b) (but 3 bishops should work, so long as one is on a different color)
  • 3 bishops do not work to force a mate - the lone color bishop is not sufficient to force the king to a corner. Four bishops works though. Four knights, but not three (I think, after trying for a while). This would best be answered by an engine which can calculate without a King.
    – Daniel
    Jul 2, 2016 at 23:47

1 Answer 1


Assuming opponent has no pieces:

  1. 4 or more knights

  2. 4 or more bishops, at least 2 per side

  3. At least 2 pawns, but it also depends on where the pawns are

  4. 2 or more major pieces

  5. Queen and a minor piece

  6. Rook and 2 minor pieces

  7. 4 minor pieces

  8. Pawn+Minor pieces/2 Minor Pieces(depending on where the pawn is or a major piece

If opponent have pieces:

  1. Queen(maybe rook)+Minor Piece vs 1 pawn

  2. Queen(maybe rook)+2 pawns vs Rook+Bishop+Pawn

  3. Q+R vs Rook and bishop or 2 minor pieces(for most positions)

  • So it's 10 points or higher. Come to think of it, since K is ~4 points in strength, the traditional KBB/KBN is about 10 points. KR = 9 is exception.
    – jf328
    Jul 5, 2016 at 16:10
  • @jf328 Yes, without pawns
    – Ariana
    Jul 5, 2016 at 16:11
  • 1
    In the 4 bishops case, you'll need at least two bishops from each colour, not one.
    – Glorfindel
    Jul 5, 2016 at 19:40
  • @jf328 Then maybe we could set K as 5 points, but then some pawnless endgames where a minor piece up is enough, or Qv 4minor piece
    – Ariana
    Jul 6, 2016 at 3:04
  • Note that KNN = 10 is also an exception.
    – Glorfindel
    Jul 6, 2016 at 8:38

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.