In a selfmate White plays and forces Black to deliver mate in the stipulated number
of moves. Some players find the concept bizarre, as it turns the aim of the game on its
head, however selfmates have long been recognised as an orthodox genre capable of showing
effects which are not possible in the directmate. Selfmates, particularly of the shorter
variety, tend to be heavy, as both kings need to be controlled, but are popular with
solvers because their solutions are clear-cut. Dual mates, which are considered a defect in
directmates, are perfectly acceptable in selfmates, because White is the side fulfilling
(1) G. F. Anderson
5th HM., BCF Ty. No. 55, 1946-1947
Selfmate in 2
1 is a fine example of a complex strategic selfmate, with interest centred
around the post-key play. The arrangement on the sixth rank is called a
half-pin, since if either white piece leaves the line the other will be
pinned, while the pieces at a1 and c3 form a battery, poised to discover
check. With lines around his king guarded, White needs to force a double check,
hence the key 1.Ba7, which threatens 2.f3+ Rxf3. A random check from the
battery is met by 2.Qe5+ Bxe5. After 1...Rc5+ 2.Qe5+ does not work, as Black
could reply 2...Rxe5, but 2.Qd4+ Bxd4 exploits both the rook's closure of the
white bishop's guard and the pin of the e6 knight. 1...Rb6 defends by cutting
the bishop's control of e3, but as it also no longer controls d4 White can
continue with 2.Qd3+ Rxd3, again leaving the knight pinned. 1...Rxa7 removes
the rook from the sixth rank, allowing 2.Qc6+ Rxc6, another pin-mate.
Finally 1...Bf5 defends by preventing the threat from giving a double check,
but places a guard on e6 which allows White to complete the half-pin with
2.Sc5+ Rxc5. Great variety from a remarkably light setting.
(2) D. G. McIntyre
Alain White Album, 1920
Selfmate in 3
Battery play is much more common in the selfmate than the directmate. In
McIntyre's intricate problem no fewer than six batteries fire, four white and
two black. The problem is also notable for the mobility of the white king.
The key 1.Re7 blocks a potential flight square and threatens 2.Kd5+ Kxb5
3.Ke6+ Sc5 mate. After 1…Bb1 White exploits the potential pin of the white
bishop by 2.Kc3+ Ka5 3.Kxd3+ Sd2. 1…d2 gives a flight at a5, leading to 2.Kd3+
Ka5 3.b6+ Sc5.
There is a sideline variation which brings the key piece into play: 1...dxc2
2.Sb6+ axb6 3.Ra7+ Sa5.
(3) Yochanan Afek
The Problemist, 1982
Selfmate in 2
3 is an example of a selfmate mutate.
Continuations are set for both black pawn moves. If 1...exd5 the bishop must
unguard the rook and block e2: 2.Be2 dxe4. After 1...e5 Black is stalemated,
so this time the knight must block e2: 2.Se2 g1 any.
White has no available mating move, and the key 1.Re1 causes the continuations
to be reciprocally changed. 1...exd5 leaves Black stalemated this time, hence
2.Se2 g1 any, while after 1...e5 the pawn will advance to e4, so White must
The problem is worth comparing with No.7 in the article on three-movers.
(4) J Sledziewski
1st Place, Warsaw v. Silesia, 1959
Selfmate in 2
The key of 4, 1.Bg1, threatens 2.Qb7+ Bxb7. Three of Black's defences
block the long diagonal and unpin the queen, which responds by checking to
draw the unpinner off the line. 1...Sc6 2.Qa5+ Sxa5; 1...Rf3 Qd3+ Rxd3; 1...Rg2
2.Qa2+ Rxa2. This standard selfmate idea is called the Dentist theme,
from the way the black piece is extracted from the newly formed battery line.
There are two further variations 1...Sc8 2.Rb6+ Sxb6 and 1...Sxd5 2.Rxd6+ Sb6,
but the main point of the problem lies in a number of thematic tries, that is
attempted keys which are refuted by a single defence. Some tries fail because
the bishop interferes with a line which must be kept open to allow the above
variations to operate. 1.Bc5? is refuted by 1...Sc6!, since 2.Qa5+ is no longer
playable; similarly 1.Bd4? and 1.Be3? are met by 1...Rf3! and 1.Bf2? fails to
1...Rg2! In addition 1.Ba7? and 1.Bc7? fail to 1...Rxb8+! because of the
unwanted guard placed on b8.
Modern directmate themes based on relationships between moves have been transferred to the
selfmate. In the Dombrovskis theme, defences which defeat try threats lead
paradoxically to those very white moves after the key (for an example in a directmate see
problem 8 in the article on three-movers).
(5) Shlomo Seider
2nd Prize, Bulgaria 1300 Years Tourney, 1982-1983
Selfmate in 2
In 5 White must force the bishop to move, and in two tries he dismantles
his batteries in order to prevent checks at c4 being double checks.
1.Ba7? threatens 2.Sdc4+ Bxc4. 1...Kxd6 is met by 2.Sec4+ Bxc4, but 1...Rc7!
refutes. 1.Rf2? threatens 2.Sec4+ Bxc4, but 1...Se4! defends by cutting the
queen's guard of d5.
The key 1.Qc6! threatens 2.Qc5+ Bd5 and now the try refutations return as
defences. After 1...Rc7 2.Sdc4+ forces 2...Bxc4 because the rook has eliminated
the double check. Similarly 1...Se4 leads to 2.Sec4+ Bxc4.
A very clear, easily understood scheme.
The logical school which dominates directmate more-movers has its equivalent in selfmates
(for an explanation of logical problems see the article on more-movers).
(6) F. Hoffmann
1st Prize, DSV-Problem Tourney, 1979
Selfmate in 7
In 6 White's aim is to force Sfe4 mate, but an immediate queen check at
h1 fails to 1...Sd5+. White can force the king to block d5 with 1.Bd5+ Kxd5,
but after 2.Qh1+ Black can play Sce4+.
A five-move foreplan transfers the white rook to b5, anticipating a pin along
the rank. 1.Ba5 Bg7 2.Sa7+ Kd6 3.Sc8+ Kc6 4.Rb6+ Kc7 5.Rb5+ Kc6 and now the
mainplan works: 6.Bd5+ Kxd5 7.Qh1+ Se4.
(7) G. F. Anderson
Natal Mercury, 1915
Selfmate in 4
Some selfmates feature ideas designed to appeal more to the eye than the
Anderson's king dances round the rook, such a geometric trip being known by the
German term rundlauf.
1.Kc4 axb5+ 2.Kd3 e2 3.Ke4+ K any 4.Kd5+ Sf4.
(8) Bo Lindgren & Hans Peter Rehm
1st Prize, Probleemblad, 1980
Selfmate in 13
Lengthy single-line selfmates often contain repetitive manoeuvres.
In 8 the black trio are shepherded down the board with careful timing,
as the knight must be controlled by a sequence of pins. A problem to raise a
1.Ke3 c5 2.Qb8+ Kc6 3.Rh6+ Se6 4.Kd2 c4 5.Rd6+ Kc5 6.Rh5+ Sg5 7.Kc1 c3 8.Qb6+
Kc4 9.Rh4+ Se4 10.Rg4! c2 11.Rd4+ Kc3 12.Rg3+ Sxg3 13.Se2+ Sxe2.
The Bohemian style (see the article on three-movers), which aims to combine
aesthetic mates, finds ample scope in the selfmate.
(9) F. J. Prokop
British Chess Magazine, 1951
Selfmate in 8
9 is a typical Bohemian echo selfmate, with the mating force being
deftly guided into position. With such a mobile black force checks are
necessary all the way. The two underpromotions add interest.
1.Kc7+ Rb8 2.h8R+ Ke7 3.Rh7+ Ke8 4.Bb5+ Bxb5 5.Qe4+ Kf8 6.Rh8+ Kg7 7.Bc3+ Bxc3 8.Qe5+
1...Ke7 2.Kc6+ Rb7 3.Bb4+ Bxb4 4.Qe3+ Kf6 5.Sg4+ Kg7 6.h8B+ Kh7 7.Bd3+ Bxd3 8.Qe4+ Bxe4.
A reflexmate is a selfmate with the added condition that either side must mate on
the move if possible.
(10) C. G. Rains
The Problemist, 1972 (version)
(a) Selfmate in 2
(b) Reflexmate in 2
A twin which lucidly illustrates the difference between a selfmate and a
The only possible mate after 1...Bh7 is 2...Bf5. As a selfmate White must force
the bishop to f5, so the key is 1.Rf5, setting up a battery for 1...Bh7 2.Se6+
As a reflexmate 1.Rf5 is too strong, because after 1...Bh7 the reflex condition
forces White to continue with 2.Sg6 mate. However White can remove rook and
bishop guards on the diagonal leading to the king by 1.Re5 Bh7 2.Re6, and now
Black must play 2...Bf5.
Note how other white moves would fail: 1.Rd5? Bh7 2. Rd1 mate (not 2.Rd7?);
similarly 1.Bb7? Bh7 2.Bg2 mate (not 2.Rf5?), and 1.Ba6? Bh7 2.e4 mate (again
Reflexmates are often more economical than selfmates, because there is not the same need to
control the black king.
(11) G. F. Anderson
The Problemist, 1970
Reflexmate in 3
In 11 White would like to play the critical manoeuvre 1.Qd5+
followed by 2.Se4 to force 2…h1Q mate, but with the bishop at f6 Black would
reply 1…Kf8, forcing 2.Rxb8 mate.
White opens 1.Be7 to threaten 2.Qd5+. As Qd5 must deliver check, to prevent the
pawn from promoting too soon, Black can defend by moving the king. After 1...Kg7
or Kh8 White plays a continuation which matches the threat: 2.Qa1+ K any 3.Sd1
h1Q; similarly after 1...Kh7 2.Qb1+ followed by 3.Sd1.
1...f3 opens bishop guards on g3 and h2, leading to 2.Bh4 any 3.Qg1 hxg1S
Many modern reflexmates present complex variations, abandoning tries which fail because
White must give mate.
N. A. Macleod
4th HM., Anderson Memorial Tourney, 1986
Reflexmate in 2
12 illustrates a variety of unpins of the black knight in a light
1.Qg8 unguards c5 and threatens 2.Scd5, forcing 2...Sc5 mate. The bishop can
block c5, but White exploits the new guard on b4: 1...Bc5 2.Sbc6 Sxc3. 1...Bxc3
removes the threat knight but again guards b4. This time White must be careful
not to unpin his rook, hence 2.Sbd5 Sc5. Finally a variation in which the rook
is unpinned: 1...Rd7 2.Rd5 Sxc3.
In some problems the reflex condition is applied only to black. Such problems are called