Draws

Draws occur in chess where neither player wins. Beginners often use the word “stalemate” to mean any kind of draw, but actually stalemate is a particular type of draw.

In tournament play, draws are usually scored as a half-point for each player, whereas a win is 1 point and a loss is 0 points. So a draw is the two players equally sharing the point.

There are many ways that a draw can be achieved in a chess game:

  • Kings only: If both players swap everything off and end up with two Kings only, that is a draw. This is very common in beginner games.
  • Stalemate: This is a draw where the King cannot move, but is not in check. If it’s in check, that’s checkmate, not stalemate. And the other part is that there must be no other legal moves. It’s not stalemate if the King cannot move but the player can move some other piece (e.g. a pawn move). For whatever reasons, a stalemate is considered a draw, even if the other player has 3 Queens extra. Lots of beginner games end in stalemate.
  • Draw by Adjudication: If the tournament uses an official adjudicator to assess unfinished games, then it may be adjudicated as drawn (e.g. both players have the same amount of material, or there’s “no progress”, or some other reasons).
  • Draw by Agreement: You can offer a draw, and then your opponent may agree to it. Then the game is “drawn by agreement”. There is complex etiquette about the proper way to offer a draw in tournaments, but generally one player offers and the other player agrees, then they shake hands.
  • Draw by Triple Repetition: If the same position repeats 3 times on the board, then a draw can be claimed. This often occurs with “perpetual check” against a castled King. It’s a draw. The official version is somewhat tricky in that it must occur 3 times, with the same player to move, not necessarily sequentially, and must be claimed rather than being an automatic draw.
  • Draw by Perpetual Check: If one player just keeps checking the other player’s King, that’s usually a draw by “perpetual check”. Interestingly, the official rules have no official mention of “perpetual check” but it is usually drawn by triple repetition, by agreement, by adjudication, or by no progress.
  • Draw by Inadequate Mating Material: Kings only is actually a special case of “draw by inadequate material”. The other types are “K+B vs K” and “K+N vs K”. But you really need to have no pawns, and no Rooks or Queens. It’s not drawn by “inadequate material” if both players have Kings, even if the pawns are all locked up (although it could be drawn by adjudication, by “no progress” or “by agreement”).
  • Draw by No Progress: If neither player is making any progress towards winning the game, it can be called a draw by no progress. This can happen in “perpetual check” where one player just keeps checking the opposing King, or it can also happen in fortress type positions where neither player can get into the enemy territory.
  • Draw by Double Time Forfeit: If both players have run out of time on the clock, it is a draw. This occurs where one player loses on time, but the opponent doesn’t notice it.
  • Draw by Time Forfeit with Inadequate Mating Material: Some tournaments have a version where you cannot win on time if you don’t have mating material. For example, if you only have a King left, and your opponent forfeits on time, it’s still only drawn because your lone King cannot give checkmate.
  • Half Point Bye: The officials may give a player a half point, equivalent to a draw, if they give notice in advance that they are unable to attend one of the tournament rounds. Exact requirements for requesting a bye will vary with the tournament rules.

There are various other obscure ways where you might get a draw. The officials in a tournament have some discretion.

Draws are an important part of chess, even in beginner chess. A half-point is a lot better than a loss! Sometimes if you are losing, you should play for a draw. There are various types of Drawing Strategies.

Related Chess Tactics

Read more about these related chess strategies: