How Chess Games Can End: 8 Ways Explained
In this article, you will learn ways a chess game can end.

How Chess Games Can End: 8 Ways Explained

| 358 | For Beginners

There are many ways to end a chess game.

Sometimes the result is clear. However, there are situations when some players have questions about the result or why the game suddenly finished.

To clarify these situations, here are eight typical ways to end a chess game. 




There are three main ways to win or lose a chess game: checkmate, resignation and timeout. Check out the games and videos below for examples. 


One of the most common ways to end a chess game is by checkmate. This happens when one of the players is threatening the other king and it cannot move to any other squares, cannot be protected by another piece and the checking piece cannot be captured.

If all of these conditions are met, the attacking player wins via checkmate.

Can you find the way Black delivered checkmate in one move?

The checkmate above was really easy. However, in elite tournaments like the PRO Chess League, sometimes the checkmate appears in less obvious forms.

In the following Twitch clip you will see an amazing checkmate with two knights by Zhao Jun

 Drills: Practice Thematic Checkmates  |   Lessons: Winning the Game


While some games end by checkmate, there are many that don't get that far.

Sometimes one of the players believes that he or she will be checkmated soon and resigns instead of playing out the game. In the following game you will see that after White's move the checkmate is imminent, so the player with black pieces resigns. 

Can you find the move that made Black resign? 

However, pay attention! Sometimes we think we are losing when we are not. In the following game, the 2018 U.S. chess champion Sam Shankland was playing against the super-grandmaster Anish Giri in the 2019 Tata Steel chess masters tournament and he resigned in a drawn position!


Timeout is a painful way to lose a chess game. It does not matter how much of an advantage you have on the board or whether you have checkmate in one move. If you run out of time, you automatically lose the game if your opponent has the minimum material required to force a checkmate. If your opponent does not have the minimum amount of material for checkmate and you run out of time, the game is a draw—even if you were winning. 

Managing your time and using it carefully across the game is critical. 

Below you can see an example from the Pro Chess League where Andrew Tang was able to win by timeout in a very complicated position. 

Timeout can also happen by disconnection, when one player is no longer connected to the server. In this case, a timeout loss is assigned to the disconnected player. At, we give the disconnected player a fair amount of time to reconnect, but not too much to make the opponent wait long for the game to finish. 


While most of the ways to win or lose a chess game above are clear, draws can be a little more complicated. For people who are just learning to play chess, understanding rules like stalemate or insufficient material can be difficult. The following explanations should make things more clear. 


In the following example, White has one extra pawn. But when White tries to push it to the very end, it leaves the black king without any legal moves, and so the game is a draw by stalemate. 

Chess Stalemate
An example of stalemate in chess.

 Article: What is Stalemate in Chess | Definition + Examples

Insufficient material

There are cases where one player has more pieces than the opponent toward the end of the game. However, that is not always enough to win because some combinations of pieces cannot force checkmate. 

The game is declared a draw whenever both sides do not have the "sufficient material" to force a checkmate.

Insufficient material (no checkmates are possible or no checkmates can be forced): 

  • King vs king

If both players have only the king, the draw will be automatically declared, as neither of them can win. 

King vs King chess
Endgames where there are just two kings are a draw.
  • King + minor piece vs king

A king and a minor piece (bishop or knight) cannot win the game alone because there is no possible way to checkmate with just these pieces. The game is an automatic draw.

Knight + King Chess
Checkmate with just king + knight or bishop is not possible.
    • Lone king vs all the pieces

      What happens if one of the players has all the pieces but the other player has just one king and the first player runs out of time? In this example, White should win—but ran out of time!

      Since the player with the black pieces can not checkmate with just the king, the game is also declared drawn. This is very important to point out as running out of time will not always mean losing the game—sometimes it's a draw.

      This is sometimes called "timeout vs insufficient material."

      Insufficient material chess
      If White runs out of time, Black would not win because it has no pieces to force checkmate. 
      • King + two knights vs king

      With this combinations of pieces checkmate is possible, but it cannot be forced. The game is a draw.

      King and two knights chess
      The king with two knights won't be able to checkmate unless the opponent helps.
      • King + minor piece vs king + minor piece

      Checkmate with a king and a minor piece vs another king and a minor piece is possible as long as the two minor pieces aren't bishops of the same color. But the checkmate cannot be forced without help from the opponent. The game is drawn.

      Chess Checkmate
      You cannot force a checkmate with these minor pieces.

      If you're wondering how a checkmate (with help from the opponent) is possible, see below. Since the checkmate cannot be forced, though, the game is a draw.

      50 move-rule

      The 50 move-rule allows either player to claim a draw if no capture has been made or no pawn has been moved in the last 50 moves. 

      The longest chess game ever played could not have happened today, as it would have been declared a draw much earlier. In earlier times, 100 moves were allowed without a pawn move or a capture. 


      The threefold-repetition rule says that if a position arises three times in a game, either player can claim a draw during that position. This rule was created to avoid games repeating indefinitely because players were making the same moves again and again. In online play, this draw happens automatically on the third repetition. 


      When both players decide they want to draw the game, there is a draw by agreement. Most of the time this is because they believe that neither player can obtain an advantage.

      But draws by agreement can be controversial if they come quickly in a game when both players want a draw due to a tournament situation.

      To offer a draw on, press the draw button. 

      In the example below, Grischuk and Mamedyarov agreed to draw in just 16 moves.

      Some tournaments now implement the 40-move-rule, which avoids any draw offer before reaching move 40.

       Do you have any questions about ways to end a chess game? Let us know in the comments below. 

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