What Is A Stalemate In Chess?

Chess is an incredibly complex game that requires a lot of skill and thought. Every move competitive chess players make is incredibly thought out. 

What Is A Stalemate In Chess?

If you are starting to learn how to play chess then you might be a bit confused about some of the terminology.

After all, not only do you have to memorize each of the chess pieces, but there are also names for certain moves and strategies. 

One term that you might hear quite often is stalemate. This is a term that you chess players will hear at the end of a game.

It has often been a term that can confuse new players as it sounds similar to checkmate. 

If you want to know what a stalemate is in chess, then you’ve come to the right place.

In this guide, we are going to walk you through what stalemate means, how it is different from checkmate, and how to avoid a stalemate. 

What Is A Stalemate In Chess?

As mentioned before, stalemate is a term that you will hear at the end of a chess game. This might give you a hint as to what it means. 

A stalemate is a type of draw that happens in chess. What it means is that the chess player whose go it is to move, is in a position where they are not able to take any legal moves to put them in a safe square.

However, the key is that they are not in check. 

Stalemate means that either player cannot win so they end up drawing.

Stalemates occur when the king piece is not in check – in other words, the king is safe on the square it is on – but there are no legal moves that can be made without putting the king in check. 

Many often question, why can’t you just move the king and then the other player wins?

Well, there is a rule in chess that means no player is allowed to move their king into check. This means the game ends in a draw. 

Stalemates can happen if there are not enough pieces on the board.

They also happen during the middle of the game if both chess players chose to put their kings in safe places and continue to work on the major pieces of the game. 

Stalemates might sometimes be used as a tactic to prevent a side from winning. Stalemates are often considered a defensive tactic that can benefit the weaker player in the game.

This is because in some competitive games the player in a stalemate might receive a half of a point, instead of no points if they were to lose the game. 

However, making a stalemate happen is often seen as controversial.

What Is The Difference Between Stalemate And Checkmate?

What Is A Stalemate In Chess?

As mentioned before, people often get confused about stalemates and checkmates. This is partly because they sound the same but also due to the fact that stalemates can often look very similar to checkmates. 

So what are the differences between the two terms? Well, the most obvious difference is that one term ends in a draw and the other ends with a winner.

Checkmate is where a player has made a move where their pieces are attacking the opponent’s king.

There is no way for the opponent to move and escape the check. This means the player delivering the checkmate has won the game. 

This is different from stalemate as when stalemate occurs, the players whose go it is, does not have a king that is being threatened. 

Another difference between stalemate and checkmate is the points awarded. When a player delivers a checkmate, they win the game meaning they earn a whole point.

The person who has lost the game gets no points. However, with a stalemate, the player who is at a stalemate gets half a point. 

In terms of the moves a player can make, in a stalemate, there are no legal moves left to make that continue the game.

However, in checkmate, there are no legal moves left to make to save the king and continue playing the game. 

How Do You Avoid A Stalemate?

It is better to try and avoid a stalemate so that there is not a draw at the end of the game. Here are some tips to keep in mind, so you can avoid being in a stalemate. 

Choose What Gets Attention

It is important that near the end of the game you do not pay too much attention to the pieces that are not as threatening.

In chess, new players have a tendency to try and remove the opponent’s easy pieces. 

However, doing this can increase the chances of a stalemate occurring. Instead, it is better to give more attention to the more critical pieces of the game.

This means your attention is on the pieces that matter and gives you a better chance of avoiding a stalemate. 

Push The King To The Edge

The best way to avoid a stalemate is to try and achieve a checkmate. One of the most common ways to put the opponent’s king in check is by pushing that king to the edge of the board. 

This is because if the king is in the middle of the board, it has more of a chance of escaping check.

At this point, you also need to consider that there are rules of how many times you can put the king in check before the game is deemed as a draw. 

However, make sure there is enough room for the opponent to move. 


Stalemate is essentially when the players of the game draw because there are no legal moves for one of the players to make.

It is much better to avoid a stalemate so there is a clear winner of the game. To do this it is best to play with caution and think about your opponent’s next move. 

We hope this guide has helped you understand what a stalemate is. Thank you for reading! 

Jenna Ostria
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