Wikipedia has a stalemate history section, but for France it only says:

The forfeiture of Black's turn to move (medieval France) (Murray 1913:464–66) (Davidson 1981:64–65), although other medieval French sources treat stalemate as a draw (Murray 1913:464–66).

Forcing a passed move is a very interesting stalemate rule. It would mean KNNvK could force a checkmate by first forcing stalemate, then Black passes, then White delivers checkmate.

(But not all stalemates necessarily lead to checkmate. There may be some material that can force a stalemate but cannot make a checkmating move right afterwards. An example is black king at d8, white bishop at d7, white king at d6. Black to move is stalemate, but even if he passes a turn, White has no move that can checkmate him. White couldn't force that position alone, of course. It's just an example of stalemate that doesn't lead to checkmate.)

Anyway, the "medieval France" is not qualified in the article. I would guess 1000 - 1600?

I would like to know what was the stalemate rule in France around the Revolutionary and Napoleonic times? 1789 - 1815.

  • 1
    K+B+RP vs. K with the wrong Bishop can force stalemate but not checkmate even with the passed move. May 27, 2017 at 1:14

1 Answer 1


I can only cite Davidson, A short history of chess (Link), again. From chapter 8:

[...] In Italy, however, from the very beginning, players could not accept stalemate as a victory for anybody. They argued that since no legal move was possible, the game simply stopped. Consequently in medieval Europe four different stalemate rules were simultaneously in effect, and travelling players had to agree in advance as to whether they were playing by the Spanish (victory for White), French (forfeited move for Black), British (victory for Black), or Italian (drawn game) rules. The Italian practice eventually spread throughout the Continent, partly because of the tremendous influence which Italy exercised on all European culture, partly because of the fame of Italian chess players, and partly because the rule seemed inherently logical. By the end of the eighteenth century every part of Europe (except Britain) had agreed that stalemate was a drawn game.

So according to this account, at least by the time of Napoleon stalemate was considered a draw in France.

ADDED: Even better, there is a contemporary source confirming that stalemate was considered a draw. Philidor, Analyse du jeu des échecs, 1777 edition (Link), rule XVI at the very end of the book confirms this:

[...] En Angleterre, celui dont le roi est pat, gagne la partie; (b) en France, & dans plusieurs autres pays, le pat est un refait.

  • 2
    Some of the f's in the quote from Philidor might be s's. I'm not used to the old style fonts. May 26, 2017 at 15:20
  • Yes - It's a long time since I've studied French, but I'm pretty sure it should be "est" and "plusieurs", but I'd prefer a true francophone to correct the text
    – Ian Bush
    May 26, 2017 at 15:21
  • Thanks but if you don't mind me asking for one more way of confirmation, do you know where a database of older chess games might be? I can't seem to find much games before the 1850's. If there is a sufficient database of games played in France around this time, surely some of them had a stalemate position and we could see what the next move was, if any.
    – DrZ214
    May 26, 2017 at 17:14
  • @DrZ214 Yes, it's difficult because there aren't many recorded games from that era. On the other hand, Philidor's analysis of endgames like KPvK shows that he employed the same stalemate rules as we do.. May 27, 2017 at 10:54
  • For me, the most amusing thing I learned from this investigation is that in Britain for a long time stalemate was considered a win for the stalemated player. May 27, 2017 at 10:56

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