I heard the term "dead draw" a lot, but I don't know its meaning and when a position is "dead draw".


4 Answers 4


A dead draw is a position in which no player has any chance of winning.

Sometimes erroneously used in a position where theoretically someone could win but both players believe it is so basic and simple that neither will make a fatal mistake so the other player would win.

  • A curious claim; K vs KNN can result in the lone K being checkmated but the odds of the blunder are so remote the tournament rules of chess declare this to be drawn immediately. (A slight flaw perchance; I set up a chess puzzle where the final board position was the KNN checkmate position due to a sac in the corner). On the other hand, KN vs KN is not declared drawn as so and might end in dirty flagging.
    – Joshua
    Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 4:09
  • @Joshua there is no rule (at least not a FIDE rule), that forces KNN vs K to be stopped
    – David
    Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 13:21
  • 1
    @David There is a USCF rule 14E3 that rules that a KNN vs K is drawn even when one of the players runs out of time (and I suppose also when a draw is claimed). I think this allows any player to claim a draw and stop the game, but I don't think an arbiter can force the players to stop if both players want to continue. Of course, the only way for someone to actually win is to deliver the very unlikely mate, as the game is drawn when time ends. Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 14:13
  • I think a better definition would be "...a position where no sequence of legal moves can result in checkmate". You correctly note that the term is sometimes (often?) used erroneously, but your definition fails to exclude the erroneous usage. If there exists a sequence of legal moves that could result in checkmate, a position is not dead drawn, even if there would be no realistic chance of people playing such a sequence of moves.
    – supercat
    Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 15:07
  • @supercat That's not a dead draw. That's a different concept
    – David
    Commented Oct 10, 2020 at 9:14

A "dead draw" position is an endgame neither side can make further progress. It's not an immediate forced draw, meaning that the "stronger" side does not have to play a line that leads to stalemate or insufficient material, three-fold repetition or anything like that. However, all attempts they have to win can be stopped with an accurate defense that shouldn't be too hard to find. Eventually, the side trying to win will have to accept the draw or reach the 50-move rule.

It's not always easy to draw a boundary for what counts as "dead draw". The most useful definition is probably "a position where neither side can win where one of the players could make the game last forever (without the 50-move rule)"

Fortresses are an example of dead draw position. Positions with all pawns blocked are often, too. The Philidor position is a basic theoretical dead draw. Opposite-colored bishops often lead to a lot of dead draw endgames.

  • I would add to " However, all attempts they have to win can be stopped with accurate defense", that these accurate moves are not very difficult to find, like in the examples you give. Otherwise, many queen endgames, that are theoretically drawn, but not necessarily easy to draw in practice (at any level) will fall under "dead draws".
    – Akavall
    Commented Oct 11, 2020 at 1:09
  • @Akavall You're correct. I'll edit my answer to clarify that (otherwise any position that is not a forced win or loss is a dead draw)
    – David
    Commented Oct 11, 2020 at 14:06

dead draw is a king vs king, stalemate, or a position where literally nothing can happen in the position like captures and checks and a king and a minor piece vs a king.

  • Not necessarely. Those are "dead draw" positions but there's also some cases where the defending side has to play accurately.
    – David
    Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 6:26

The answer is when neither of the players can proceed further, both players are playing fairly well but the stipulated number of moves by both players have ended when one player who must exercise onus with moves, play his pieces a queen, a Bishop or rook with moves perpetually the same moves again and again to avert a possible check, and especially stipulated time and moves as per FIDE rules have come to an end. This is a dead draw in a chess tournament.

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