What Are Draws In Chess?

Although most games in chess end with a definitive winner. Draws in Chess are not as rare as you might think. In fact, they’re an important part of chess and can be the difference between winning and losing a tournament.

what are draws

There are many reasons why a draw can occur in chess. If you want to become a successful chess player, you need to understand why draws are important. How they occur, and how they can be of benefit to you.

In this article, we will look at what draws are. We’ll explain the different types of draws as well so that you will be able to identify them when they occur and decide if you want to play for a draw or even ask for one yourself.

What Is A Draw?

We’ll begin by explaining what a draw is. Like most other sports and games, a draw occurs when there is no winner or loser in the game and the game is tied.

It is possible for either of the two players involved in the chess game to ask for a draw. If the draw occurs, then they both score half a point each in a tournament or league setting.

Draws are rare among beginner and intermediate players and are a more common occurrence with high-ranking players.

This doesn’t mean that beginners and intermediate players will never be involved in draws, however. So it is worth learning about them early on in your chess journey.

The Five Types of Draws

The International Chess Federation (FIDE) states that there are five different scenarios that can lead to a draw in a game of chess. We will look through each of these five in turn.

When these scenarios arise, it is usually down to one of the players involved in the game to request a draw.

However, it is possible for the referee, or arbiter, to call for the draw instead in some scenarios. The arbiter has the power to end a game and call it a draw if this is the right course of action.


The term stalemate refers to the scenario where a player is left with no legal moves that they can make. This includes scenarios where the only move possible would put the player’s King in check. As this is not a legal move for a player to make with their own King.

Stalemate is something that can naturally occur through the course of a game, especially when the board becomes emptier and there are fewer materials available to be moved.

However, stalemate can also be a manufactured scenario. It’s not unusual for some advanced and grandmaster chess players to purposely put themselves into a stalemate position if they feel they can’t win the match.

After all, drawing the game and getting half a point is a better result than losing and receiving no points at all!

Dead Position

The goal of any chess match is to checkmate your opponent’s King. However, what happens if the game plays out and neither player can legally checkmate their opponent’s King?

This is called a dead position tie. As each chess piece is limited in the way it can move and in the spaces it can occupy. It is entirely possible for the Kings to be placed in positions that no player can threaten.

Dead position checkmates usually occur when there aren’t many materials left on the board and the number of legal moves is limited.

There are specific combinations of pieces that can lead to dead position draws. These are:

  • King vs King
  • King and Knight vs King
  • King and Bishop vs King
  • King and Bishop vs King and Bishop (when the Bishops are of the same color)

As you can see from that list, a dead position draw is unlikely when the board is still full of pieces.

Threefold Repetition

Playing from the same position multiple times when the board layout is the same as well, can be frustrating. If a player ever finds themselves in the same position with the exact same moves available to them three times, they can ask for a draw.

For this to apply, the board needs to be exactly the same three times. If a piece has been captured or one is in a different position from before, then this is not a repetition.

50-Move Rule

This draw becomes possible when both players make 50 consecutive moves without either of them moving a pawn or capturing a piece. When the 50th move has been made, the player whose turn it is to play can ask for a draw.

However, it’s important to not call for this draw if the possibility of a checkmate is still on the board!

Mutual Agreement

This is one of the more interesting reasons for a draw in chess. At any point in a chess game, a player can propose a draw.

The opposing player must then accept the draw for it to count. If the two players do agree to draw, then the game immediately ends and the players are awarded half a point each.

The second player is under no obligation to accept the draw. They can refuse the proposal or simply ignore it and continue playing if they want to.

Mutual agreement draws can cause some controversy if it appears that there are still moves left on the chessboard and a clear winner is still possible. However, experienced players and grandmasters usually play chess a few moves ahead and can often spot draws coming.

Final Thoughts

In this article, we introduced the concept of a draw in chess. We explained the benefits of a draw and the five scenarios when a draw can occur.

If you are a beginner chess player then these scenarios may not become deliberate parts of your game. But you should still be able to recognize them.

Jenna Ostria
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