I was wondering, why is there no way for a player, who has sufficient mating material, to claim a draw against a lonely king?

According to Wikipedia:

The rules allow for several types of draws: stalemate, threefold or fivefold repetition of a position (with the same player to move), if there has been no capture or a pawn being moved in the last fifty or seventy-five moves, if checkmate is impossible, or if the players agree to a draw.

For example, KQvK is very obviously an endgame with only two results possible: White wins or draws. But according to the rules of chess, White cannot force his opponent to accept a draw on the spot. Offering a draw could be refused, and also giving a check on a square where Black could capture it could also be refused by Black by moving somewhere else.

Ok, let's be realistic for a second, 99.99% of the time this won't happen.

But somehow I find it counterintuitive not being able to end the game in this particular position without having to resign and entirely lose the game in a position where it's impossible for Black to win by checkmate. Especially since you've already proven that you're at least capable of making a draw against your opponent.

Of course, I'll admit such a ruling would be more of an edge case. But still, there's somehow a gaping hole in the rules of chess.

  • With KQvK you can easily force a stalemate.
    – bof
    Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 10:31
  • 12
    How is that a "gaping hole"? In what situation could a rule like this be needed?
    – David
    Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 13:02
  • 2
    @CynicallyNaive: time trouble is the situation where this rule is least relevant, after all the game is a draw when the clock runs out. Commented Oct 28, 2020 at 10:30
  • The only scenario I can imagine where this is relevant is when you have 2-3 seconds left on your clock (with no increments), realize that you can't mate in that amount of time, and a poor-sport opponent who has time to burn and wants to annoy you. Commented May 2, 2021 at 12:20
  • 1
    The rules of chess can't possibly cover all unusual, absurd situations
    – David
    Commented May 2, 2021 at 12:49

5 Answers 5


Why is there no rule allowing a player to claim a draw in lonely king endgames?

For the simple reason that there is no need. If you are the player with the extra material you can offer a draw and be almost guaranteed that your opponent will accept the offer. If you have an opponent who is ignorant of the rules you can walk away and let your clock time expire and the game will be a draw.

This is what the FIDE Laws of Chess have to say:

6.9 Except where one of Articles 5.1.1, 5.1.2, 5.2.1, 5.2.2, 5.2.3 applies, if a player does not complete the prescribed number of moves in the allotted time, the game is lost by that player. However, the game is drawn if the position is such that the opponent cannot checkmate the player’s king by any possible series of legal moves.

A player with only a king cannot checkmate the opponent and so the game is a draw.

EDIT: Remellion makes an excellent point in the comments which is worth repeating -

Technically you don't need a new rule - under 7.5.5, you can just make two illegal moves in front of the arbiter, ending the game immediately (as a draw, similar to when your time runs out but cannot possibly be checkmated). No need to bloat the rules more

You don't even need to wait until the arbiter is watching your game. You can deliberately complete (by making the move and then pressing the clock) an illegal move, stop the clocks, explain to your opponent that you have made and illegal move and then call the arbiter to report yourself. While the arbiter is there explain to them that you are going to make a second illegal move to effectively claim a draw. That way you don't annoy the arbiter by calling them back twice.

  • 2
    I disagree. In a tournament, you are NOT allowed to leave the playing venue, so your opponent can force you to wait. You have to wait for the flag fall. Under basic rules you may walk away with whatever consequences it brings. There definitely IS a need for such a rule, perhaps as addendum to 5.1.2. Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 11:21
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    @ChristianH.Kuhn I'm surprised an arbiter is ignorant of the rules. In particular " Only with the permission of the arbiter can a player leave the playing venue". In other words you CAN leave the playing venue provided you get the permission of the arbiter. In this situation if you explain the situation to the arbiter they will almost certainly give permission.
    – Brian Towers
    Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 11:27
  • 2
    Technically you don't need a new rule - under 7.5.5, you can just make two illegal moves in front of the arbiter, ending the game immediately (as a draw, similar to when your time runs out but cannot possibly be checkmated). No need to bloat the rules more.
    – Remellion
    Commented Nov 3, 2020 at 7:38

That excerpt from Wikipedia doesn't necessarily cover all cases where one can claim a draw. I haven't checked how this applies to FIDE specifically, but in many tournaments with no increment/delay, you can claim a draw if it's clear you can stop your opponent from winning. For example, in a king and rook vs king and rook, most good TDs would accept your claim of a draw if you're low on time.

Although, the Wikipedia excerpt does include the scenario "if checkmate is impossible". So for the particular claim you're referring to, this is covered there (since your opponent can't checkmate you with a lone king).


As with any matter on the laws of chess, the application of the laws is to some degree at the discretion of the arbiter. Therefore, the result may be different whether the arbiter is sympathetic or unsympathetic towards your position.

If the arbiter is sympathetic one course of action may be to use 7.4b:

... for the first two illegal moves by a player the arbiter shall give two minutes extra time to his opponent in each instance; for a third illegal move by the same player, the arbiter shall declare the game lost by this player. However, the game is drawn if the position is such that the opponent cannot checkmate the player’s king by any possible series of legal moves.

If you as the player with additional material had the move, you could make and complete an illegal move and then reinstate the position 3 times.

Note that the arbiter should need to be sympathetic to your position else you may fall foul of 12.8:

Persistent refusal by a player to comply with the Laws of Chess shall be penalised by loss of the game. The arbiter shall decide the score of the opponent.

Although if you were to complete all 3 illegal moves before notifying the arbiter, I don't think this would be persistent refusal.

Another option with a sympathetic arbiter is to claim that the player failing to accept the draw and intentionally not moving is doing so in order to annoy the opponent. Which I would take as a reasonable claim, since, unless the player has a genuine belief he can win, I do not see any other motive for rejecting the draw offer.

This would mean the player rejecting the draw has contravened 12.6:

It is forbidden to distract or annoy the opponent in any manner whatsoever. ...

For which a penalty under 13.4c of reducing the remaining time of the offending player to end the game would result in the draw.

Of course if the arbiter is unsympathetic you as a player have little option to end the game as a draw early. The fastest way (if you suspect the opponent is intentionally refusing to move to prolong the game) may be to allow your own time to reach 2 minutes and claim that it is not possible for the opponent to win by normal means under 10.2a

If the player, having the move, has less than two minutes left on his clock, he may claim a draw before his flag falls. He shall summon the arbiter and may stop the clocks. (See

a. If the arbiter agrees the opponent is making no effort to win the game by normal means, or that it is not possible to win by normal means, then he shall declare the game drawn. Otherwise he shall postpone his decision or reject the claim.


Why would you want to claim a draw when you can win? Would someone turn down a draw when they are obviously going to lose based on the material? To answer the question: to protect people from their own bad ideas.


Actually, if one has particular material that can checkmate a lone king (for example: anything except a single knight or bishop), one CAN force one's opponent to take the material or allow stalemate.

A queen is obvious: chase the king down to one end or side of the board, then place the queen on the square "in front of" the king. For a rook or bishop, chase the king into a corner with one's king present as well, and check him, a bishop for example, picture lone king on a1, one's own king on b3, and the bishop checks the king which must move to b1 whereupon moving the bishop to b2 forces stalemate. A rook is similar, but one might as well mate with the move. Finally, a pawn: eventually one will have one's own king on, say b4, pawn on b3, enemy (he's not your opponent if you were stupid enough to buy a flight that leaves during the tournament) king on b1. Moving the pawn to b2 forces either a capture or the allowance of promotion to a queen and then loss of the queen as before.

Any larger amount of material would reduce using the same techniques or easier since one could promote an extra pawn to a queen, then force the taking of all other pieces using the queen's total domination, then lose the queen as above. No pawns? Multiple pieces make the above forcings even easier.

One is not looking for a win, just the draw so it's easier as the forcings don't have to cover all moves of the other king, just vis-a-vis the piece one is losing. Lone king means no funny obstacles to hide behind (one may tuck any extra knight into a far corner if one can't keep it out of the way and handy pushing the king into a corner).

The sole impediment then is the time an opponent might have on the clock which he might try to pretend he is using to keep you from checkmating him. That would be clear unsportsmanlike conduct to anyone except a Soviet arbiter and there aren't any more of those. Combine that with a clear verbal offer of an immediate draw and there would be no question about needing the time to defend and with the opponent neatly on record as only being concerned about losing, and so needing the time, even a Soviet arbiter might not risk never being hired again.

Tedious, yes. Need the rule, yes. After all, they changed the rules specifically to not allow castling with an unmoved king and an "unmoved" promoted rook although the pawn it used to be was obviously moved so it wasn't really more than a chess problem "gotcha" so why not something useful like this? But... there's no actual impediment to pretty quickly losing the material so as a practical matter, probably not a real world difficulty. (And the airplane ticket? If you really have a flight to miss 'cause you were dumb enough to schedule a flight leaving before the tournament ended, I for one do not feel sorry for you having to resign or miss the flight. Sorry, that's not in the question itself, but it seems likely to be considered relevant by many as standing in for the class of unspecified but somehow reasonable things life might throw at us.)

  • How about "All other games for that day have been finished for 10 minutes, the player refusing a draw offer has an hour left on his clock, and the player wanting the draw is part of a team that live an hour away and all arrived in the same vehicle." One of my teammates was in that situation with a KQ vs KQ ending. Fortunately, the person finally accepted a draw after the arbiter talked to both people. Perhaps the arbiter suggested that persistent refusal to either accept a draw in such circumstances or play quickly enough that the 50-move rule could be invoked in short order would...
    – supercat
    Commented Sep 7, 2022 at 17:30
  • ...be viewed as sufficiently unsportstmanlike conduct to justify an imposed forfeit, or else as a sufficiently deliberate attempt to annoy the arbiter (who also would have wanted to go home) to justify the same penalty.
    – supercat
    Commented Sep 7, 2022 at 17:32
  • Note that while it would be possible to lose with KQ vs KQ, once a suitable position is established drawing is sufficiently easy that someone with one second on the clock and a one-second increment could do it. Put the queen on the third row or column from the edge of the board, such that it blocks a rank or file between the two kinds. On each turn, if one can take the enemy queen, do so. If it's necessary to move out of check, do so. Otherwise, at most three squares in the queen's rank or file will be under attack by the enemy queen, and at most three next to the enemy king, and...
    – supercat
    Commented Sep 7, 2022 at 17:35
  • ...one will be occupied by the queen itself, meaning there will always be at least one square meeting none of those criteria. If one moves the queen there, the enemy won't be able to take it, nor move the king across the guarded rank or file--a prerequisite for checkmate.
    – supercat
    Commented Sep 7, 2022 at 17:38
  • In what circumstances could one possibly castle with a newly promoted rook if the king had never moved? Wouldn't the promoted rook always be at the opposite side of the board from the king???
    – Michael
    Commented May 14 at 15:01

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