In my area, most kids including me grew up with a very popular house-rule: After all the pieces of either of the players are removed besides the king, the opposing player has 18 moves to checkmate him. If he can't do that, the game is a draw.

The rule is popularly called 18-moves.

I have spent some time googling and have not found this rule anywhere.

Does anyone know a source for this rule and why it's so popular?

  • 1
    Related: chess.stackexchange.com/questions/2500/… Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 23:03
  • 2
    Your 18-move rule is probably something very localized. It would be interesting to know what part of the world "your area" is in.
    – bof
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 4:10
  • 2
    It is a kind a rule trainers sometimes introduce for beginners, especially children. It has two advantages: kids are trained to look for mates and you make sure dumb and un-instructive positions are not played for too long (as in 'let me try and make as many queens as possible!')
    – Evargalo
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 10:12
  • @bof I'm from brooklyn. I have many friends from New Jersey and Conneticut that used this rule growing up as well.
    – TheAsh
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 13:07
  • @bof This guy seems to have had the same rule... In LA! chess.stackexchange.com/a/9231/14257
    – TheAsh
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 13:10

4 Answers 4


I grew up in Spain and we used a 20 "move rule" instead of 18.

We played exactly as you said, if a player is left with a single king, the other has to mate in 20 moves or less to win the game. However, this "rule" only applied in friendly matches and was never enforced in tournaments. Our coach made us play like this for several reasons:

  1. It promotes critical thinking at an early stage, where you have to look for faster ways to checkmate your opponent than just queening your two remaining pawns and checkmate using the "staircase" method.
  2. It avoids humiliating the opponent, since now promoting all the remaining pawns to minor pieces and playing around with the king is no longer an option. We were around 6 years old, so once you knew you had won you wanted to enjoy it longer. This kind of demeaning behavior was discouraged.
  3. It avoids elongating the game more than necessary. We trained without clocks, which could make us spend unnecessary time in trivial positions.

This practice then naturally extended to our friendly games, but we were well aware that this was not an official rule and that on tournaments the 50 move rule applied.

  • 5
    It does have the downside of making KBN vs K a draw in general position, and KBB vs K ends up kind of tight in some positions. Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 0:48

I had one of like it too but it consisted of 20 moves. The most similar thing officially is the 50 moves rule, where if a pawn hasn't moved and nothing has been captured for the last 50 moves, it's a draw. I think this is the source of many of those house rules in an easier version.


Clearly these house rules are made for kids and beginners to prevent pointless game stalling, with winning camp promoting 8 knights for instead.of checkmating, etc.. Would be annoying to end up in KBN vs K with this rule in serious games, when you do know how to win it.


It is a local rule and is not that popular outside a few small areas. In Spain there was a 20 move rule.

THE rule is 50 moves, per the laws of chess, without any captures or pawn moves. In special cases more moves are allowed because of the difficulty of mating. One example is the wKKN vs KP endgame in which one knight blocks the pawn from moving while the remaining KN corner the other king then the other knight starts moving to give mate before the black pawn can queen and start checking.

  • " In special cases more moves are allowed because of the difficulty of mating." This hasn't been the case for quite some time.
    – TheAsh
    Commented Feb 18, 2020 at 19:57
  • Please cite the source. AFAIK there are still some special positions where extra moves are allowed. But since they never occur it is really moot. Commented Feb 18, 2020 at 20:04
  • I'm not familiar enough with the FIDE rules to know if it's still the case there, but the special positions allowing more than 50 moves has been eliminated from USCF rules as of (at least) the 7th edition of the rule book. "14F1. Explanation. The game is drawn when the player on move claims a draw and demonstrates that the last 50 consecutive moves have been made by each side without any capture or pawn move. If the director wishes to allow more than 50 moves for certain positions, details most be posted at the tournament before the first round. See also 15H, Reporting of results."
    – patbarron
    Commented Feb 19, 2020 at 1:15
  • thanks. not playing any more so not keeping up with bureaucratic tweaks. Commented Feb 19, 2020 at 3:42

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