If your opponent eliminates all your options to move, you don't lose in chess, but is regarded an equal to your opponent. Isn't this peculiar? In most games and in real life hunt and war it is a winning strategy to eliminate the opponent's options to move. "Oh, you can't move now, can you, so it's obviously my turn again! (grinning)"

Is there some history to this? Stalemate does make chess much more interesting, but was it kind of invented in order to be so, or how could it have evolved? Is there some Victorian age gentlemanship involved here?

  • 2
    It can be regarded as a form of mini-victory to pull a losing position into a state where you have no moves and draw. When your opponent is winning, it is likely they will win with a score of 1-0. If you out-play your opponent and make it into a stalemate, it is considered that you played better with the pieces you had and you get the draw.
    – Aric
    Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 11:33
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    Yup, I don't exactly know about the history, but there is good reason to keep it the way it is, from a "makes games interesting" point of view. Many endgames would become really boring without the possibility of a draw by stalemate.
    – Annatar
    Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 12:03
  • @Annatar: Could you give some examples for such boring endgames? Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 15:45
  • @user1583209 K+Q vs K+P. Depending on the file of the pawn, there are some stalemate threats. Which in turn makes liquidations into such an endgame more strategically significant (both sides will want to "guide" the pawn to desirable files).
    – Annatar
    Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 6:11

1 Answer 1


Wikipedia has a history of the stalemate rule. Stalemate being a draw seems to have become more popular in the 15th century, in part due to Lucena

Lucena (c. 1497) treated stalemate as an inferior form of victory (Murray 1913:461), which in games played for money won only half the stake, and this continued to be the case in Spain as late as 1600 (Murray 1913:833).

  • What happened to the other half of the stake? Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 15:47
  • @user1583209: returned to the other player or placed into a pot in 'winner takes all' style I presume.
    – user1108
    Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 15:50
  • If the other player got half, I don't see why this would be "an inferior form of victory". Sounds more like a regular draw in this case. Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 17:00
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    @user1583209 It might mean one half of the amount each player put in, as in the winner got only 3/4 of the total pot. Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 19:20

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