Can You Checkmate With Bishop and King?

One such position that often raises questions is the endgame with a bishop and king against a lone king.

In other words, this a winning position for the side with the bishop, or is it a draw?

Can you checkmate with a bishop and king?

No, you cannot checkmate with only a bishop and a king; they are insufficient material to force a checkmate.

Let’s look into this endgame scenario.

The Basic Principle

In the endgame of bishop and king versus king, the player with the bishop and king cannot checkmate the opposing king.

Given perfect play from both sides, this endgame will always result in a draw.

Why Can’t the Bishop and King Checkmate?

  1. Limited Control: A bishop, unlike a queen or a rook, controls only half the squares on the board (either the light or the dark squares). This limitation means that the bishop cannot control or cut off the opposing king’s movement entirely.
  2. No Zugzwang: In many endgame positions, the concept of zugzwang (a situation where the obligation to make a move in one’s turn is a disadvantage) plays a role. However, in the bishop and king vs. king endgame, the side with the lone king can always find a safe square, preventing any zugzwang scenarios.

In the case below, the bishop would simply be taken on the next move, leading to the traditional king and king draw:


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