The bishop and knight pair often make chess players shudder. Why? Because of the tricky checkmate! Mating with a bishop and knight is far from simple. Indeed, there have been cases when famous players were unable to mate their opponent in the allocated 50 moves.
One example involved the Kievan master Evsey Poliak. The game ended in a draw after he failed to mate his opponent with bishop, knight and king versus a lone king. After the game, somebody asked him why he didn’t chase the enemy king into a corner that was the same color as his bishop. The disappointed Poliak replied: “I kept trying to chase
him but for some reason the king refused to move there!”
There was even an old painting that captured this balance of forces! Back in 1793, French artist Remi-Fursy Descarsin painted a doctor playing chess against… the Grim Reaper, no less. And the doctor looks dead pleased, because he’s just mated Death himself with a bishop and knight!
Actually, though, the Grim Reaper had the last laugh – poor Descarsin was guillotined later that year during the French Terror. Ever since chess composition became widespread, famous problemists have created studies where the bishop and knight finish off the opponent’s king. However, many of them failed to withstand the test of time and dual solutions and other slip-ups were found in them.