Draw In Chess: 6 Types Of Draws You Need To Know

Not every game of chess ends in a win or a loss due to a checkmate. It’s quite common for a chess game to end in a draw, especially if both players are of equal strength.

It’s important to know all the draw rules in chess, so you know when you can offer a draw or when you can claim a draw.

Types of draws

  • Stalemate
  • Threefold repetition
  • Insufficient material
  • 50-move rule
  • Mutual consent
  • Timeout

What does a draw mean in chess?

A draw in chess is a situation in which the game finishes without a checkmate or resignation. When a draw occurs, both players score half a point.

A draw can be mutually agreed upon by both players, or can be forced by one of the players.

Among grandmasters, draws occur relatively often because neither of the two players is likely to make any big mistakes throughout the game.

However, most games by beginners and club players finish with a decisive result. But even among beginners, a chess draw can still occur quite frequently. So it’s important to know all the draw rules.

Chess draw rules

There are 6 different types of draws in chess. So a draw can be achieved in lots of different ways.

Let’s go over them in detail one by one!

1. Chess draw by stalemate

A stalemate occurs when one of the players can’t make any legal moves and is not currently in chess. This is different from a checkmate, in which case you are in check.

Stalemates often happen in the endgame, when one of the players only has a king left.

The position below is a stalemate you can commonly see in games by beginners. The white king is not in check but also can’t move, because any move would expose the king to a check by the black queen.

As a result, the game is a draw by stalemate. It doesn’t matter that black has an extra queen and a clear advantage.

In games by more experienced players, you can also see more complicated stalemates such as the position shown below.

In this case, the king can’t move anywhere without being checked, the pawns can’t move because they are blocked, and neither the bishop nor knight can’t move because that would expose the white king to a check.

Of course, this position would only be a stalemate if it’s white’s turn. If it’s blacks turn, he could prevent the stalemate by giving the white king squares to move to or by capturing one of the minor pieces.

For more information, you can read my article on stalemates in chess.

2. Chess draw by threefold repetition

The threefold repetition rule states that either player can claim a draw if the exact same position occurs three times during a game. The repeated positions normally succeed each other, but that is not strictly necessary.

Note how one of the players needs to claim the draw after a threefold repetition. The game will continue like normal if nobody claims the draw.

This can happen if neither player realizes that the same position has occurred three times, or if both players want to keep on playing.

However, if you decide to keep playing you can’t claim the draw on a later move, unless the same position has occurs on the board again.

In contrast, there is also a fivefold repetition rule if the same position appears five times on the board. In this case, it’s the arbiter’s responsibility to end the game and declare a draw, even if neither player claims the draw.

A draw by repetition often occurs when both players have to keep repeating the same moves, because else they would lose a piece or get checkmated.

The position below is a good example of what a draw by repetition could look like. White has a queen and a knight against two rooks, so white is ahead in material. Moreover, white is threatening to checkmate by moving the queen to b7. Unfortunately, the white king is currently in check, so white has to move his king to safety first.

The only square the white king can go to is h1. However, black can answer this move by moving his rook to h2 and check again. After the white king and black rook go back and forth like this three times, one of the players can claim a draw.

Note that black could also make other moves after the white king moves to h1. However, any other move besides Rh2 will lead to the loss of one of his rooks, or to being checkmated himself.

So in this case, the threefold repetition is a way for black to force a draw, despite being in a worse position.

3. Chess draw by insufficient material

Not every piece in chess can checkmate the opponent’s king. For example, just a knight and king are not enough to force a checkmate. Neither can you checkmate your opponent with your own king.

So if both players have too little pieces left to possibly checkmate the other, then the game is directly declared a draw.

The position below is a draw. Although white has a whole bishop extra, it’s not enough to force a checkmate.

If you want to know which pieces can checkmate the opponent’s king, you can read my article on checkmate in chess.

4. Chess draw by the 50 move rule

According to the fifty-move rule in chess, a player can claim a draw if no captures or pawn moves have been made in the last fifty turns. A turn consists out of a move by white and a move by black.

If one player moves a pawn or captures a piece, the count will reset and another 50 moves will need to be made for a draw.

The game continues if neither player claims the draw after 50 moves. However, as long as no captures or pawn moves are made, either player can claim the draw on one of their later turns.

The 50 move rule highlights the importance of writing down your moves. If neither player annotates the game, it’s difficult to know exactly how many turns have passed since the last capture or pawn move.

The position below is a good example of what a draw by the fifty move rule looks like.

None of the pawns can move because they are all blocked. Moreover, both the white and black king have plenty of squares to move to, but they can never capture any of the opponent’s pawns. In this case, either player can claim a draw after 50 moves have been made.

In most cases, it becomes obvious that neither side has any chance of winning the game way before the 50 moves have been made. In that case, both players can agree upon a draw earlier.

On the flip side, your opponent can also claim the draw at move 50, even if you could have checkmated him/her at move 51.

A game of chess can also end in a draw by mutual consent. At any point in the game, you can offer your opponent a draw. It’s up to your opponent if he wants to accept the draw offer or keep playing. So this is the only type of draw that can’t be forced.

A draw by mutual consent normally occurs towards the end of the middlegame or in the endgame when both players agree that the game is likely to end in a draw, but don’t want to keep playing until one of the forced draws mentioned above is achieved.

A good example of this is shown in the position below.

Both players have enough material left on the board to theoretically checkmate the other. However, endgames with opposite colored bishops are notoriously drawish. So your opponent is likely to accept a draw offer in this position.

Draws by mutual consent are very common in grandmaster games. These strong players rarely make mistakes and know how to (almost) perfectly defend a position. So grandmasters might even agree upon a draw even in the middlegame, if they think the position is completely equal.

6. Chess draw by timeout

Normally if you run out of time you lose the game. However, if you run out of time and your opponent doesn’t have enough pieces left to theoretically checkmate you, the game is considered to be a draw.

Read my article on checkmate to learn which pieces are needed to checkmate.

Let’s take the position shown below as an example.

White has a queen and a rook, and could easily checkmate the black king in just a few moves. However, if disaster strikes and white runs out of time, the game would still end in a draw and not a loss for white, because black doesn’t have enough pieces himself to potentially checkmate with.

For more information, you can read my article on how to play chess with a clock.

How do you force a draw in chess?

You can claim a draw in a stalemate position, when a threefold repetition of the same position occurs, after fifty turns have been played without a capture or pawn move, or if there are not enough pieces left on the board to checkmate with.

If you can’t force a draw, you can also offer your opponent a draw. However, it’s up to your opponent to accept the draw or decline and keep playing.

Chess draw offer etiquette

Although you can offer a draw at any point in the game, it’s normally considered proper etiquette to offer a draw after you have made a move. Moreover, once a draw offer has been made, you are not allowed to retract it.

Your opponent can accept or decline your offer verbally, but can take his own time to carefully consider your offer. It’s also perfectly normal for your opponent to simply keep playing without saying anything. In that case, the offer is also rejected.

Your draw offer is also not allowed to disturb your opponent. If you annoy your opponent by offering a draw on every turn, the arbiter might step in and give you a warning.

Finally, some chess players find it rude to offer a draw when they are in a worse position and might wait for their opponent to offer the draw. However, this sentiment is not shared by everyone. So if you think the game will end in a draw despite your slightly worse position, you can still offer a draw.

Offering a draw vs. claiming a draw

In general, if you want to offer a draw, it’s best practice to do so after you have made your own move and started your opponent’s time. However, if you want to claim a draw by threefold repetition, 50 move rule, etc., you have to do so before making your move.

Frequently asked questions

If you read this far, you have learned everything there is to know about the different types of draws in chess. However, some parts might still be a little unclear.

Going over some of the frequently asked questions below might help out.

Is a draw in chess good?

If both players are similar in strength, a draw is a completely good outcome for a chess game. If you are in a worse position or behind in material, a draw is normally considered a good outcome. Moreover, if your opponent is much stronger than you, a draw might be the best possible outcome.

Is a draw bad in chess?

If you have a better position or ahead in material, you normally want to avoid a draw and aim for a win instead. Moreover, if your opponent has a considerably lower rating, a draw might be considered a bad outcome. Although both players earn half a point for drawing, the player with the higher rating normally loses rating points.

Is it rude to force a draw?

It’s perfectly normal to force a draw if you have the possibility to do so. Since both players should be aware of the drawing rules, it’s up to the winning player to prevent any possible draws.

How many draws are there in chess?

There are six ways to draw in chess: (1) by stalemate, (2) by threefold repetition, (3) due to insufficient material, (4) by the 50-move rule, (5) by mutual consent, (6) and through a timeout.

Is it easy to draw in chess?

Although many games by strong players end in a draw, it’s not easy to force a draw right from the start. Moreover, most types of draws occur in the endgame, while most games by beginner’s end before the endgame.

When can you offer a draw in chess?

You can offer a draw at any time during your game. However, it’s best practice to offer a draw after you have made your own move and started the opponent’s clock. This allows your opponent to judge your move before deciding to accept or decline the offer.

However, if you have a very big disadvantage, it might be more appropriate to resign the game.

When can you accept a draw in chess?

If you want to accept a draw offer by your opponent, you have to do so before playing a move and before running out of time. However, you are allowed to carefully consider the draw offer using your own time before giving an answer. By playing a move or touching any of the pieces, you automatically reject the offer.