Draw in Chess – The 6 Different Ways

With the white pieces, I think you should always play for a win, because you have the first move, but with black a draw is okay. In the Russian school of chess they said “With the black pieces just aim to get an equal position”. This is a reasonable statement, because black has the disadvantage of not having the first move.

In this post, I will outline all of the possible ways in which you can get a draw in chess. There are 6:

Drawn by 3-fold repetition

The reason I put this one first is because it is the preferred way for grandmasters. No words have to be spoken, all you have to do is move your pieces back and forth, until the same position has occured on the board 3 times. Often top players deliberately repeat the position a couple of times, then play on for the win. Psychologically, this can have an effect on the opponent, because of numerous reasons.

A rather amusing article was written on chess.com about this subject.

 Drawn by Perpetual Check

This one can be confused with the one above (they are closely related), but basically the idea is that one players king cant find a safe square from checks. By this I mean a square where the king can’t be checked. One side checks their opponent on every move. When no progress can be made by either side it will be a draw. The technicality of this draw is that it will either be a 3-fold repetition, or a 50 move rule.

The piece that often does the checking is the queen, because it covers many squares. If you find yourself in an inferior position (at least, one that you believe to be) then you might be able to draw the game by sacrificing material, such as a knight or bishop to remove the protection of the king (the pawns in front of a castled king) and obtain a perpetual check position. This is a sensible option. Here is an example:

White is ‘in check’ and the only legal move is moving the king to the right The black queen can then check, by moving the queen right one square. This will lead to a 3-fold repetition.

 Drawn by Stalemate

If you have heard of none of the above ways to draw, then I am sure that you will have heard of this one. The famous stalemate is really both the worst nightmare of every chess player and the superficial delight of a hustler. In time troubles – when the chess clock says that you have used up more time than your opponent, it is easy to make mistakes…

Stalemate: The position where a player cannot make any legal move, otherwise they would be walking into check. Here is an example of one such position:

It is black to move, but there is no legal move for black to make, therefore it is a draw by stalemate.

Drawn by Agreement

One player offers the other a draw, by simply saying something like “Do you want a draw?” or perhaps just “draw?”. In some tournaments, you have to get beyond a certain move number before you draw; aimed at preventing draws happening immediately for strategical reasons, which is both boring and also borderline cheating.

Many grandmasters stay clear of this method, because they fear the draw being rejected, when they might start playing badly – a psychological factor.

In response to the draw being offered, to decline, you can either say “Not yet” or “No thanks”, or anything else reasonable, just don`t be rude, because that is disrespectful. If you want to accept, then shaking hands should be enough.

Drawn by 50 move rule/ 75 move rule

This rule is a bit more obscure, but also 100% valid. The idea is that you can move around the chess board, without making a 3 fold repetition but also without making any progress, and to avoid the game going on indefinitely the game is drawn.

If there are 50 consecutive moves that do not make any ‘progress’* then either player can claim a draw.

If there are 75 consecutive moves that do not make any ‘progress’* then an arbiter can step in and declare the game drawn.

*Progress is defined as either a capture or a pawn move.

There is also some controversy, brought about by Averbahk, who discovered some positions where one side is winning, but it takes more than 50 moves to maneouver your pieces in the right places – for example a king and knight versus a king and pawn, but that is a topic for another post.

Drawn by Insufficient Material

It is what it says on the tin. If you don’t have enough material, then you might not be physically able to win, even if your opponent makes the worst moves possible.

One very obvious example is king versus king. Draw.

Here are a few more examples of drawn situations. The king can always escape against these combinations of pieces. You can try for yourself as an exercise to checkmate with these material relations – You won`t be able to!

  • King and bishop v. King
  • King and knight v. King
  • King and 2 knights v. king


You can test out these insufficient material relations, by trying to checkmate your opponent. If you have any questions about these different ways to draw in chess, then do feel free to drop a comment below.

6 thoughts on “Draw in Chess – The 6 Different Ways”

  1. Well look at that.  I was just telling my grandson yesterday that I want to learn to play chess and now today I stumble upon your site.  With me however I need to start right from the beginning.  After looking around your site it looks like the perfect place for me to learn.  I have bookmarked the site and will be telling may family about it as none of us have ever learned to play chess.  Thank you for the great site and information.

  2. I always knew playing chess was a pretty complicated game, say as opposed to checkers, but this website really brings out some thought-provoking advice. I had started playing chess way back when, but never followed up as there were not much competition around. In high school, we had a chess club but it was not well attended. I had no idea about a draw and always thought of it as a stalemate. I guess reading this means you had better be a serious player and not just someone passing the time. Not being in a chess-playing environment this seems like another world.

    1. Yes chess is definitely a very complicated game. I think the total number of legal positions is comparable to the number of atoms in the known universe. I completely understand that it is hard to be motivated to improve at something if there is no competition. My general aim is to help people improve, so yes I would have thought that most people who come to this website are serious about improving. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have a laugh, but I do aim to present my content in a way that allows people to improve as quickly as possible. You can always play online chess, when there are people of your level guaranteed, but ultimately you will want to play over the board as well. I think these things self perpetuate. It is like a chicken and egg situation. If you are interested in taking up the game again, I set you the challenge of being the person in your area who made chess popular!

  3. First, congratulation with this site. I have played in 42 years in chess tournaments, and it is always great to see new and good chess sites.

    There are many with the same opinion, and you and the Russian school about the draw with black is ok. I am so much fighter that I´m never happy with another than win! But on the same time, I much mention that I have the feeling that there is one more point about the opinion of the Russian school Because I have talked with many Russian players through the year and even top players from them are many times afraid when the play against younger with “blood on their teeth”! So I have the feeling that it affects. But for most players is, like you say, much better to play with white.  But there are many players too which like black more; I think it questions about the character.

    Did I not see it or is it possible that you forget that it is a draw too when the same position come up third times? Of course, if you claim it legally.

    1. Yes you can draw if the same position occurs three times. I have covered it in the section which is called ‘draw by 3 fold repetition’.

      Whether or not a draw is good also depends on who you are playing against. If you are playing against someone who is much lower rated than you, then you are still going to play for a win with black.

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