What Makes a Draw? Part One

What Makes a Draw? Part One

Mar 14, 2016, 12:06 AM |

What Makes a Draw?

Insufficient Material and Equal Positions

Not every game of chess will end up with a win for one of the players. Often the opponents’ skills are evenly matched and neither side can achieve victory, and so the game ends in a DRAW (a tie). A Draw is an acceptable result of a chess game. There is no shame in admitting that your opponent was equal to you... Here are the different ways a game can end with a draw.

1) Insufficient material

The simplest example of a draw is when only the kings are left on the board. Since the two monarchs cannot approach one another without making illegal moves, (as it is impossible to give a check to your own king let alone checkmate the opponent) king vs. king is always a draw.

The game will also be called a draw when one of the players has an advantage, but not enough sufficient material to checkmate the opponent’s king. K+B vs. K or K+N vs. K are two examples of "insufficient" mating material.




In these positions with only one minor piece, the attacker can push the opponent’s king around the board, sometimes even give checks along the way, but he or she is unable to achieve checkmate even with the help from the opponent. No possible checkmating positions exist with only one minor piece and your king versus the opponent's lone king– so the game is called a draw...

2) Equal position

An interesting discussion may arise when we study King+Bishop vs. King+Bishop. If the bishops are of the same color squares, then checkmate is physically impossible, but it is possible that the opposite color bishops can produce a mating position.

Normally, this position is dead equal and should be called a draw by mutual agreement, but Black can self-destruct by playing the ridiculous 1…Bb8??, self-blocking his own king and inviting White to win the game by playing 2.Bg2#. Such a scenario is so ludicrous, that the players would be suspected of creating this obvious checkmate on purpose!

Under normal circumstances, all equal positions of the N vs. N or B vs. B variety should be called a draw by the tournament director/arbiter.

In more complicated cases, such as R vs. R or Q vs. Q, play may be allowed to go on for a few moves to make sure that checkmate (or a win of the opponent’s piece) isn't possible. Do you find it hard to believe that it's possible? Check this one out!!
This method allows White to win many otherwise drawn endings. Well, the queen is a very powerful piece, so it isn't really that surprising, but what about the rook... The next example is even more striking, as White gets the job done in a Rook vs Rook endgame.


The two examples shown above are rare cases. Most of the time, in such endgames, no forced win could be found for either side. In those cases, the players would show good sportsmanship and agree to a draw.

Let's proceed to Part Two of our study.