What is a Draw in Chess?  

what is a draw in chess

Fun fact: In the World Chess Championship in 1972, Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer played 20 games out of 21 (Fischer didn’t play Game 2). Amongst the 20 games, 11 chess matches ended up in a draw.

Moral of the story: You may be a world champion, but you would still need to know how to claim a draw in chess.

Consider a draw as a life-jacket of the chess game. Everybody needs that when the boat is sinking.

Dear readers, without any delay, let’s begin with what is a draw in chess.

What is a Draw in Chess?

A draw in chess is a game-ending in which neither of the two players win or lose the game.

In other words, when a game is declared “drawn,” it means nobody won the game. There is neither a winner nor a loser; both the players stand in the same position earning the same score.

The term “draw” means tie in a chess game.


Is it Possible to Checkmate the King in a Drawn Game?

No, it’s not possible to checkmate the opponent’s king in a drawn game.


Because a draw in a chess game means the game has come to an end, and neither of the players is victorious. And, once a game has ended, there is no opportunity to check or checkmate the enemy player’s king.

Moreover, a game ends in a draw only when there’s no legal possibility of checkmate. In simpler words, the sole reason behind a drawn game is the impossibility of any legal moves.

If you still try to checkmate the enemy king after the game is declared draw, you’re breaking FIDE’s rules and you’re playing an illegal game.

What is the Score in a Drawn Game?

Each player receives 1/2 score in a drawn game.

Why do Grandmasters Draw? Is a Draw Helpful?

Yes, a draw is helpful, especially if you’re playing against an experienced player than you. Sometimes, even Grandmasters benefit from achieving a draw if they’ve started the game on the wrong foot or miserably getting beaten in the middlegame.

For instance, in the round 10 of the FIDE Candidates Tournament 2022, GM Ian Nepomniachtchi ended up a dead-endgame against GM Rajabov. Later on, both the players decided to draw by agreement.

To know more about what is a draw in chess, try to learn the types of draw and how to claim them. 

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 5 Types of Draw

There are 5 types of draw in chess: Stalemate, Three-fold Repetition, 50-Move rule, Lack of Mating Material, and Draw by Mutual Agreement.

1. Stalemate

A stalemate in chess is a type of draw when a player (whoever’s turn it is) has no legal moves to make even though not in check.

In other words, when a player doesn’t have any chances to move the king to a safe square even though its not under check, it’s a stalemate situation

Stalemate is like Checkmate, except that in a Stalemate, the King cannot move. In short, he has no safe squares. Therefore, when the opponent can’t claim a win, yet the King has no safe squares to move, it’s declared as a Draw.

It often happens in games between beginners because most of them remain unaware of checkmating techniques.

For example, the famous Magnus Carlsen vs. Sergey Karjakin chess game in World Championship Match (2016), New York.

The pawn at g6 was the last move by White, and now, it’s Black’s turn. However, as Karjakin didn’t have any legal move, the match ended in a draw.

Magnus Carlsen vs Sergey Karjakin, World Championship Match, 2016
Magnus Carlsen vs Sergey Karjakin, World Championship Match, 2016

 Other Famous Stalemate Chess Games:

2. Three-Fold Repetition

A Draw by threefold repetition in a chess game means a position (of pieces of both the players) has been repeated three times during the game.

Not to forget, the pieces that appear in repetitive positions must have the same power and color, sitting on identical squares within a single game.

You need a scoresheet to claim a draw by threefold repetition. You’ve to show the repeated moves to the arbiter and demand a draw.

Example: Alexander Alekhine vs. Emanuel Lasker chess game in Moscow, 1914.

In this match, both Alekhine and Lasker decided to declare a draw. After the move 16.Qg6 (refer to the below picture), one thing was clear to both of the players.

draw in chess - Alexander Alekhine vs. Emanuel, Moscow, 1914.
Alexander Alekhine vs. Emanuel, Moscow, 1914.

It is that Alekhine could push the match towards threefold repetition. The moves could have been–16…Qe8 17.Qxh6+ Kg8 18.Qg5+ Kh8 19.Qh6+

Other Famous Chess Draws by Threefold Repetition:

3. A 50-Move-Rule

A 50-move-rule says you can claim a draw when there’s no pawn move or capture in the last 50 moves.

In other words, you can claim a draw using the 50-move-rule only when you or your enemy player hasn’t moved or captured any pawn in the last 50 moves.

As pawn movement in a chess game is like the baby steps towards Checkmate, this rule rarely gets implemented in high level games. Sometimes, though, it’s seen amongst recreational chess games.

You will need the scoresheet to claim a draw under this rule because you must prove that nobody played or captured any pawn in the last 50 moves.

For example, Anatoly Karpov vs. Garry Kasparov played a match in 1991 that ended in a draw after 114 moves.

draw in chess, 50-move-rule
Anatoly Karpov vs. Garry Kasparov,1991

The last movement of a pawn capture occurring on White’s 63rd move, was a draw by the fifty-move rule after Black’s 112th move. However, none of the players claimed it.

Other Famous Chess Draws by 50-Move Rule:

3. Lack of Mating Material

chess board with few pieces

A draw can also be claimed when both the players can’t make any legal move or any progress towards Checkmate.

If there’s no chance for a checkmate, it is also called a dead position.

If the chess game ends up only with the following pieces, then the game is declared drawn:

  • King against King and bishop;
  • King against King and knight;
  • King and bishop against King and bishop with both bishops on squares of the same color

An example of drawing chess games because of dead position:

example of drawing chess games because of dead position
Carlsen vs. Nepomniachtchi, Game 1, World chess championship match, Dubai, 2021

After 36th move, there was no significant signs of mating. The moves were: 37. Kc2 Rb7 38. h4 Kf7 39. Ree1 Kf6 40. Ne3 Rd7 41. Nc4 Re7 42. Ne5 Rd6 43. Nc4 Rc6 44. Ne5 Rd6 45. Nc445

As you can see, the moves keep repeating. I guess the players realized this sooner than expected and agreed for a drawn result.

5. Mutual Agreement

A draw by mutual agreement takes place when both the players agree that there’s no possibility for further development. Therefore, it’s better to end in a draw.

It mostly happens between Grandmasters and Super-grandmasters.

However, the rules by FIDE don’t allow a game drawn by mutual agreement before playing.

A famous mutually agreed drawn match is Fabiano Caruana vs. Magnus Carlsen during the World Championship Match in London, 2018.

mutually agreed draw in chess
Caruna vs. Carlsen, 2018

Another example is Yuri L Averbakh vs Bobby Fischer in Portoroz Interzonal (1958).

Find out the Number of Possible Chess Games Without the Above Rules

Read The Shannon Number to find out.


Can you win by drawing too many games in a row?

Yes, there’s always a possibility to win by drawing in too many games in a row. For instance, Bobby Fischer won the World Chess Championship against Boris Spassky in 1972 after drawing 11 games.

Another instance of winning a game after many draws is the World Chess Championship (2016), when Carlsen won against Karjakin.

Also, can be a better option to stand strong against a strong opponent. A few draw matches will allow you to understand the enemy’s style and help you prepare accordingly.

Why does the game of chess have draws?

There are a few reasons why draws can happen. One is that two chess players might have equal skill, but one might luck into a better position.

Another reason is that one player might make a mistake that can’t be corrected or that the other player can’t take advantage of the mistake.

In some cases, even if one player has an advantage, they might still end up with a draw because their opponent is able to hold on until the endgame.

Why would you offer a draw in chess?

Generally, a chess player offers a draw when the game loses any possibility of development from either side of the players.

In the case of high-level chess games, often, players themselves understand the lack of any possibility of winning the game.

Sometimes, players offer because they don’t want to lose. In 1958, after drawing with Averbakh, Fischer said, “Averbakh was afraid of losing to a kid, and I was afraid of losing to a grandmaster. That was why we agreed to a draw!”

What if only the King is left in chess?

If both the players are left with only the King in a chess game, the game is immediately declared drawn. Likewise, if one player has only a king and a piece like bishop or knight, and the opponent is left with the King, then it is a draw again.

what if only king is left in chess


“If your opponent offers you a draw, try to work out why he thinks he’s worse off.”

— Nigel Short

Dear readers, I suggest drawing only when you find yourself out of ways to capture an opponent’s chess pieces or pawns. Also, if you’re too nervous while playing against a strong player, then drawing is a good option.

However, it shouldn’t be your strategy. Your strategy must be to win the game.

Remember what Nigel Short said about the draw. Find out why your opponent thinks they’re on the weaker side before jumping into the draw-by agreement.

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