Adjudication is the process in a chess tournament whereby an official referee acts as an “adjudicator” and determines a result for an unfinished chess game: win, loss or draw. Adjudication is only used in tournaments where time has run out for the players to finish their game, but the players are not using chess clocks, so there is no time forfeit.

The adjudicator will look at a number of factors in determining whether the result is a win, loss, or a draw. The issues and considerations include:

The first factor is probably “material”. Which player has the most material? Pawns are worth 1, bishops/knights are 3 pawns, rooks are 5 pawns, and queens are 9 pawns (Kings are ignored as they are infinitely valuable). If one player has a lot more material, they are the likely winner.

Occasionally, there are things on the board that trump material. The player with lots more material (more pieces/pawns), but they might not be the winner if (a) their opponent has a checkmate available (the opponent wins), or (b) there is a “perpetual check” or “infinite pursuit” (drawn by adjudication).

If there is an approximately equal amount of material, then a draw may be called. A single pawn in a middlegame position is a likely draw by adjudication. However, a single pawn in a “book win” in an endgame might be adjudicated a win.

Draws are an important part of adjudication. A draw may be called if (a) the players are down to Kings only, or don’t have enough material to checkmate, or (b) a “book draw” in the endgame (e.g. wrong rook pawn), or (c) perpetual check or “infinite pursuit” or “no progress” or “fortress position” draw.

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