How a game of chess can end in a draw

Often players are confused about how and when they can claim for a draw. Making a wrong claim can mean gifting your opponent two minutes of time as a penalty, and in time pressure these two minutes can prove fatal.

There are 6 ways in which a game can be drawn.

  1. Draw by threefold repetition
  2. Photographic draw
  3. Draw by the 50 move rule
  4. Draw by agreement
  5. Draw by insufficient material
  6. Stalemate

1. Draw by threefold repetition: When the position is repeated by same order of moves by both players, thrice.

2. Photographic Draw: When the same position occurs on the board three times.

White has given a check, the black king has to move to a square where it can support the knight on h7.

Black plays Kg8, white again gives a check with Ra8. Black can not put the knight or rook in between because it will be captured so Black has to move the king again. It can go to g7 or f7.

Black plays Kg7 and white gives a check again by Ra7. As we can see the position has repeated twice here. If by the same order of moves we get this position thrice then its Threefold repetition.

Also, if you get the same position for example instead of g8 black goes to h8 and then you get the same initial position (Kg7-Ra7) thrice without the same order of moves then its called a photographic draw.

3. 50 move rule Draw: When 50 moves are played without any pawn move or any capture. When both sides play their move it is counted as one move.

There is also a draw by perpetual check which occurs by any of the above three rules. It is basically when a player keeps checking the opponent king and the king cannot escape the checks. Three situations occur, either the position is repeated(1) or 50 moves are played without capture or any pawn move(2) or The position occurs on the board thrice by different move orders.

4. Draw by agreement: In chess two players can agree for a draw at anytime. However in most tournaments there is a rule that you can only agree for a draw after certain number of moves. It can be from 20 moves to 30 or even 40 moves sometimes. So if the arbiter announces that you can only draw after 20 moves then you have to complete 20 moves to agree for a draw.

Usually in tournaments, in above 4 cases draws have to be claimed by calling the arbiter(referee) Then the decision is made by the arbiter.

5. Draw by insufficient material: The game is immediately drawn when there is no possibility of checkmate for either side with any series of legal moves. This draw is often due to insufficient material and occurs in endgames.

  1. king against king.
  2. king against king and bishop.
  3. king against king and knight.
  4. king and bishop against king and knight/bishop.


6. Stalemate: A position where the player who is to play/move is not in a check but has no legal move. It is when the king cannot move to a legal square and neither can any other piece, of the side that is to move/play.

Here it is white to play and he gives a check. Moving the king brings back the same position eventually. So 1.f7+ Kf8 and now white is forced to play 2.Kf6 as there is no other square by which the pawn can be supported.

So after Kf6 there is no check to the black king. But it has no legal square where it can move. So the black king is stalemated and the game is drawn.

In all of the cases one player has to correctly claim the draw to take advantage of the rules. That involves writing the intended move on the scoresheet, stopping the clock and calling the arbiter to claim the draw.

Good luck for your next game!

2 thoughts on “How a game of chess can end in a draw

  1. Well, Rules of Chess defined diferently the way of draw .. and add also 75-moves and 5-times rules 🙂 And you didn’t mention that for 3-repetitions and 50-moves the draw has to be asked correctly by player 🙂

    1. From an aribiter’s perpective, yes. The article just focuses on the player’s perspective. Though the draw has to be correctly claimed by the player indeed. 🙂

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