You usually win a chess game by checkmate, but there are actually other ways. The list of ways to win a chess game include:

  • Checkmate. You checkmate your opponent’s King.
  • Time Forfeit. Your opponent runs out of time on the chess clock.
  • Resignation. Your opponent chooses to resign and concede defeat.
  • King capture. In some rapid play games you can capture the King, if your opponent accidentally left it in check. But in longer game tournaments you usually have to go back, undo that move, and your opponent must play a different legal move (i.e. it’s a do-over, not a win).
  • Adjudication. In an unfinished game, the adjudicator may award you a win.

Some more obscure ways to win are:

  • Illegal Move Claim. If your opponent makes an illegal move other than leaving their King in check (where you can “king capture”), then you can claim a win by illegal move. This only applies in some tournaments.
  • No Show. If your opponent fails to arrive for your game, or does not arrive within the “grace period”, then you win by a “late arrival forfeit”.
  • Mobile Phone Forfeit. If your opponent’s phone rings, it is supposed to be an immediate forfeit for them. The rules are somewhat in flux on this issue, and will depend on the official tournament rules.
  • Official Penalty. The tournament referee may issue an official penalty to your opponent (i.e. a “forfeit penalty”), and you win. For example, the penalty may relate to electronic devices, inappropriate assistance, failure to record the game on a scoresheet, cheating, bad behavior, and so on. The referee may also issue a warning rather than a forfeit in some such cases.

Note that there are a lot of things in chess that seem like they should be a win if you achieve them, but are actually a draw, such as:

Also relevant here:

Related Chess Rules Topics

Read more about these related chess rules, chess puzzles, and other chess tactics and strategies: