Elements of checkmate

When the king is checkmated there are 3 factors to look for:

  • The king is in check!! Check this first!
  • The king has no flight squares
  • There is no way to block the check(s)

If any of the above are untrue the position is not checkmate and the game is not over!! (unless it is stalemate.

Elements of stalemate:

  • The king is not in check!!
  • the king has no flight squares
  • all other pieces have no legal moves, ie they don’t exist or they are in absolute pin or are in a perfect prison where they are blocked from moving any where.

These rules may sound nuanced and eccentric but they are the official rules of chess that almost all chess players abide by. These rules of checkmate and stalemate are agreed upon pretty much worldwide and no one is contesting them, however in the mid 1700’s the rules of chess were not fixed and games sometimes went on without one sides king till all the pieces were captured and in some games and bullet chess in real life, is that capturing the king is the same as checkmate in that it wins the game. When the king is en prise (pronounced like en prie), the king being captured is either a win or it means the last known legal position should be setup again and have play continue from there. When entering a tournament make sure everyone is clear on these rules or at least that you are, in case it happens in a real game.

When you fully understand checkmate and many of it’s variations then you will get better at chess. I highly recommend learning all of the rules of chess, including en passant, the fifty move rul and threefold repetitio and absolute and relative pins, it is then, when you know all the rules, that you can begin to get good at chess!

There are 5 ways to draw a chess game, they are:

  • Drawn by agreement
  • stalemate
  • insufficient material
  • 50 move rule
  • threefold repetition

Draw by agreement

When the game is in play, you may propose that the game is a draw and offer a draw to your opponent. If he accepts the draw off the game ends and both players get a draw score which is usually 1/2 – 1/2 the point is divided in two and given to each player. In classical chess the scoreboard sometimes counted a draw as 0 – 0 no one got the rounds point!! But this is cruel!


When the game is stalemate you have no legal moves and the king is not in check, you should call an arbiter right away to confirm that the position is in fact drawn. When the arbiter verifies that the position is drawn you will both get half a pint for the tournament round.

Insufficient material

When the material on the board will be impossible to checkmate the enemy king the game is regarded as drawn, best to confirm this with an arbiter as well.

If there is a pawn anywhere on the board that is sufficient material to checkmate since they have the potential to promote. Any position with a pawn anywhere on the board wether it is blockaded by other pawns or not, is sufficient material to continue play!

If all the pawns are gone and all the pieces have traded off and there are only two kings left this is an insufficient material to checkmate since one king can never checkmate another king.

If there are two bishops on the board, it is known that two bishops and a king vs a king can checkmate (but no pawns or other material). If only one bishop and the black and white king are on the board, this is insufficient material and is a draw! 1/2 – 1/2.

If there are a black and white king and just a rook that is enough to play on though will likely win with best play, contact an arbiter if in doubt!

If however there are both kings and two knights this is a draw. Two knights and a king cannot in almost any possible position checkmate an enemy king!!! (the position is not acheivable without hitting stalemate first).

if there is a rook or a queen left that is sufficient material to checkmate the enemy king. (not yet drawn or won).

Fifty Move Rule

If there has not been a pawn move or a capture for the last fifty moves the game can be claimed as a draw since very little position progress is likely to happen in that scenario.

You can also call it 50 moves without a pawn move or capture draw. I guess.

That includes moves for both sides, so 100 ply’s total.

Threefold repetition

If the same position has occurred 3 times or more in the same game, a draw can be declared by either player.


Rules of thumb and opening principles

If you have ever been taught chess by an instructor, they will give rules of thumb like “don’t bring your queen out early, keep your king behind pawns, castle early, don’t move the same piece twice develop your pieces not your pawns!, none of these are hard rules, break them all you want it will help you learn. If you or your opponent moves your queen out on move 2 or 3, you can’t call the arbiter and complain that it’s wrong, it probably is wrong but the consequences will present themselves in the game. The only thing these rules do is make your play ‘look’ like master or grandmaster play, but will not win you a game against a real grandmaster/im/fm if you don’t know your tactics and your end games!!

If your opponent breaks opening principle rules you must punish him over the board with better moves and good moves. You can’t make your opponent not move his queen on move 2, if he wants to he can, but you can *sometimes* trap the queen on the open board but that’s another lesson!

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