Chess Tactics: Mikenas — Bronstein, 1965


The back-rank checkmate tactic that occurred in this game is my favorite, and I’ve shown it to students for years. It’s the greatest back rank tactic I’ve ever seen, and one of the greatest tactics of any kind.

Black to play. 24…?

What shocking move did David Bronstein, World Championship Challenger in 1951, find?

David Bronstein pulled off a stunning back rank checkmate tactic over Vladas Mikenas in 1965.
David Bronstein at the board, locked in battle


White’s king is stuck in the corner on h1, but it doesn’t seem to matter. Black is doubled on the e-file, but white can cover that. If 1…Qe1+, white cannot play 2.Rxe1??

Because of 2…Rxe1+ 3.Qf1 Rxf1#.

Instead of 2.Rxe1?? white has 2.Qf1!, and black has nothing.

So what should black do instead? The move will appear if he remembers how to choose a move and looks for checks, captures, and threats!

Clicking on the moves below will pop up diagrams to follow the analysis.

After 24…Rxa3!! Mikenas resigned at once, because he will either get checkmated or lose a ton of material. Sometimes you have to tip your cap to the opponent for a job well done!

Do agree with me that this is the greatest back rank checkmate tactic ever? Share your thoughts!