The Arabian Mate in Chess: Everything You Need To Know

The Arabian mate is a checkmate pattern in chess, which uses the rook and knight to deliver checkmate. It is one of the most common checkmating themes, and also one of the oldest known. Let’s see what the Arabian checkmate is all about.

What is The Arabian Mate in Chess?

In the Arabian Mate, a player’s rook and knight coordinate in such a way, that the enemy king is trapped in the corner of the chess board. 

The setup of the Arabian Mate is always identical:

  • The enemy king is in a corner square, either a1, a8, h1, or h8.
  • A rook is on an adjacent square to the enemy king; preventing the king from escaping on the diagonal towards the center of the board and delivering check.
  • The knight is placed two squares away from the king diagonally; protecting the rook and preventing an escape of the king along the vertical or horizontal lines.

Here is a simplified example of the Arabian Mate:

what is the arabian mate in chess
The Arabian Mate in Chess: A Simplified Example

Example of an Arabian Mate in a Game

Obviously, the example above is not a realistic showing of the Arabian mate in actual gameplay. So, let’s have a look at a more realistic example:

arabian mate example
Example of an Arabian Mate in a Game

In this position, Black is down a whole queen in material, yet delivered a beautiful mate. This position really illustrates the power of the Arabian Checkmate. Once you start the attack, the king really has no way of escaping, as the rook and knight already cover all escape squares, even before delivering the deadly blow.

Why is it Called Arabian Mate?

A lot of other checkmating patterns, such as the Back-rank mate, are named a lot more descriptively. So why is the Arabian Mate called the Arabian mate, and not the Rook-and-knight mate? Well, it all comes down to the history of the Arabian Mate.

The term Arabian mate was first mentioned in an Arabic manuscript on chess, dating all the way back to the 8th century AD. Because of that, it has significant implications in the history of chess: The Arabian mate is dating back to a time where chess existed in a completely different form, with the rook and knight being the most powerful pieces. Only later, in European chess, would the queen take that place.

Other Glossary Entries