It is known that the minimum number of moves required for checkmate is 2 moves (4 half moves) resulting in a victory for Black. However, what is the minimum number of moves required for stalemate? Clearly, this would take a lot more moves since no piece from one party must be able to move, thus it must either be captured, pinned or completely blocked.

  • Another fast one is this twelve move game which ends in stalemate with all pieces still on the board.
    – Glorfindel
    Mar 9, 2020 at 9:46
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    There's also the stalemate by repetition, but I think you've precluded that.
    – AER
    Mar 9, 2020 at 23:41
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    @AER Wouldn't you be able to reach stalemate by repetition in the same number of turns as the number of repeated moves required? Each player would just move one of their knights back and forth.
    – nick012000
    Mar 10, 2020 at 3:24
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    @nick01200 I am not including draw by threefold repetition. Here, I refer to stalemate only as the situation where one of the players is unable to make a move in their turn.
    – Haran
    Mar 10, 2020 at 5:15

1 Answer 1


Sam Loyd, a famous puzzle composer, created this 10 move, 19 ply, stalemate game over 100 years ago. I found it via Google, in this post by AndersElborg on chess.com. Most black pieces are blocked, which saves some moves because those pieces don't need to be captured.

[FEN ""]
[StartPly "19"]

1.e3 a5 2.Qh5 Ra6 3.Qxa5 h5 4.h4 Rah6 5.Qxc7 f6 6.Qxd7+ Kf7 7.Qxb7 Qd3 8.Qxb8 Qh7 9.Qxc8 Kg6 10.Qe6
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    Can we prove that this is the fastest possible stalemate?
    – Haran
    Mar 9, 2020 at 7:22
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    @Haran no idea ... but since this is a very natural chess 'record' and this solution is so old, it's unlikely that there is a faster way.
    – Glorfindel
    Mar 9, 2020 at 8:28
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    I'm no expert, but if computers/databases allow to explore all possibilities up to move 10, proving this via bruteforce would be a matter of querying if a stalemate is found with less than 10 moves
    – fr_andres
    Mar 9, 2020 at 11:26
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    @fr_andresSupportsMonicaCellio I thought of that, but with an estimated number of 20 possible moves per move, you're looking at 20^18 positions to analyze, which is far beyond current possibilities. Chess engines look much deeper than 10 moves, but only because they're able to ignore a whole lot of moves which don't make sense in a real chess game.
    – Glorfindel
    Mar 9, 2020 at 11:29
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    @DarrelHoffman I am not including draw by threefold repetition. That would make the question trivial.
    – Haran
    Mar 9, 2020 at 17:15

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