Drawing Strategies

Drawing strategies are used when you are losing, such as down by a pawn or two, and seek to escape with a draw. A half point for a draw is better than zero points for a loss. There are various ways to play for a draw:

  • Stalemate strategies: You can aim for stalemate if you are many pawns or pieces down. It’s a pretty desperate strategy but often works against beginners. To make stalemate more likely you need to block up your pawns, or lose all your pawns. So you push all your pawns as far as they can go until they are blocked by other enemy pawns, or they get taken by your opponent. Then you can either get rid of your pieces, or you can retain a piece or two with the plan to achieve a “stalemate desperado combination” if your King get’s half-stalemated.
  • Offer a Draw: Sometimes you can get a draw just by asking. If you’re only down by a pawn, your opponent might be happy with a draw, to avoid their risk of making a mistake.
  • Drawish endgames: There are various types of endgames that can be drawn even if you are down a pawn or two. You can try to transition the game into one of those types of endings. A common method is “opposite bishop endgames”. In advanced chess, rook endings are often drawish even with an extra pawn, but this is not the case for beginners because rook endings are so tough to play well.
  • Swap Pawns not Pieces: The general plan to draw an endgame is to get rid of all the pawns, so as to achieve a “pawnless endgame” or “pawns on one side of the board”. These types of pawn positions are both drawish. But you don’t swap the pieces. You need to keep the pieces in order to create counterplay and chances for perpetual check or sacrifice against passed pawns, and so on.
  • Perpetual check: A common way to save a draw is to get perpetual check against the enemy King. You need to keep your Queen to achieve this. Sometimes you can sacrifice a piece against the castled enemy King, but instead of trying to checkmate, you are just getting a perpetual check to save the draw.
  • Fortress positions: if you can establish a fortress, this means that the enemy cannot make any progress attacking you, and cannot get in. These are often used as defensive measures against an attack. One particularly common method is a “defensive exchange sacrifice”.
  • Fortress endgames: There are some particularly good “fortress endings” that can save a draw. Opposite color bishop endings can often end up blocked with no progress possible. Another particularly notable fortress method is that a Rook and 2 Pawns can often create a fortress to draw against a Queen. This is notable because it saves a draw despite being effectively two pawns down. However, it is difficult to achieve if there are too many pawns on the board.

Don’t You Want to Win?

One final point: why not try to win? So you’re a pawn down, or maybe two. That’s not a big deficit and perhaps you have other advantages in terms of time (developed pieces), space (controlled territory on the board), or piece activity/mobility (more freedom to move your pieces). Maybe you can win instead of just trying to salvage a draw.

Related Chess Tactics

Read more about these related chess strategies: