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A selfmate is a chess problem in which White, moving first, must force Black to deliver checkmate within a specified number of moves against his will. Selfmates were once known as sui-mates.


The problem shown is a relatively simple example. It is a selfmate in two by Wolfgang Pauly[1][2] from The Theory of Pawn Promotion, 1912: White moves first, and compels Black to deliver checkmate on or before Black's second move.

Wolfgang Pauly, 1912
a8 white king
b8 white bishop
f8 white knight
a7 white pawn
c7 white pawn
e7 black pawn
g7 white pawn
f6 white pawn
h6 black king
e5 white pawn
h5 black pawn
h4 white pawn
g2 white bishop
h1 black bishop
Selfmate in two

If White can leave Black with no option but to play Bxg2#, the problem is solved.

  • White might try moving the bishop, but this is no good, as it will allow Black to play a non-capturing bishop move himself, delaying the mate beyond move two;
  • moving the knight allows the king to move;
  • 1.e6 allows 1...exf6 and 2...f5;
  • 1.f7 or 1.fxe7 allows 1...Kxg7;
  • 1.g8=Q or 1.g8=R are no good after 1...Bxg2+ 2.Q/Rxg2;
  • 1.g8=N# checkmates Black, which is entirely wrong;
  • 1.g8=B is also no good, since after 1...exf6 2.exf6 Bxg2+ the bishop can interpose with 3.Bd5.

The only move by which White can force Black to deliver checkmate on or before move two is 1.c8=N. There are two variations:

  • 1...exf6 2.exf6 Bxg2# is quite simple;
  • 1...e6 leads to the subtler 2.g8=B Bxg2# (this only works because the bishop's path to d5 was blocked when Black played e6).

Note that only a promotion to a knight works on move one: any other piece would be able to interpose after 1...Bxg2+.


A derivative of the selfmate is the reflexmate, in which White compels Black to give mate with the added condition that if either player can give mate, they must (when this condition applies only to Black, it is a semi-reflexmate). There is also the maximummer, in which Black must always make the geometrically longest move available, as measured from square-centre to square-centre; although this condition is sometimes found in other types of problems, it is most common in selfmates. Another variation is the series-selfmate, a type of seriesmover in which White makes a series of moves without reply, at the end of which Black makes one move and is compelled to give mate.

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

  • Friedrich Chlubna, Das Matt des weissen Königs (Vienna, 1995)