Here are examples in which the side that desires a stalemate can force a stalemate, provided it is their turn to move.

Are there positions where the side which desires a stalemate does not presently have the current move, but can still force a stalemate?

Let the side desiring a stalemate be white. So it is black's turn to move first. I'd expect that to be very difficult because black has one tempo to avoid a stalemate. So whatever black does, it would have to still result in a stalemate.


7 Answers 7

[FEN "5k1K/7P/8/8/8/8/8/8 w - - 0 1"]


Remark: Actually, I remember reading about this typical pawn endgame position that is drawn since rook pawn as an explanation as to why stalemate should not be a win for the stalemating player. So if these kinds of stalemates didn't exist, then I think we wouldn't be talking about stalemates (as a draw) in the 1st place. So really the root of this question is about why we have stalemates as draws in the 1st place...or something.

IMNSHO, in light of this remark, I think my answer should be the accepted one so that we know this question isn't some fun fact joke question about chess but really about the very foundation of stalemates as draws.

Btw, let me see if I can find...

(looks up reddit)

Ah found it. Here: Exhibit A for why stalemate should NOT be a loss for the person stalemated. Black held the draw here by stalemating white -- should black really have won the game here? by Musicrafter


Hauke, it stole at least 20 minutes of my time. But here is here a position, without promoted pieces, in which not infinite tempi can help Black win. This is not a dead position as both sides have theoretical wins. Black can even let White promote and it will be a draw still. Furthermore, if White was low on time for example, they could easily enforce a stalemate with a knight promotion.

[FEN "8/6pp/6pk/6p1/6P1/q5PK/P5PP/8 b - - 0 1"]
[startflipped ""]

1... Qb4 2. a4 Qc5 3. a5 Qd6 4. a6 Qe7 5. a7 Qf8 6. a8=N Qe7 7. Nb6 Qd6 8. Nc8 Qc5 9. Nd6 Qd5 10. Nf7+ Qxf7
  • 2
    Just curious, what is the theoretical win (for black and for white)?
    – justhalf
    Jul 23, 2021 at 19:33
  • 2
    @justhalf: In the context of "not a dead position," I read "theoretical win" as "helpmate." And there is surely a helpmate here if you sacrifice the queen or promote and then sacrifice the pawn.
    – Kevin
    Jul 23, 2021 at 20:14
  • I also understood it as helpmate, too. But if black queen takes any of the white pawn, it's immediately a stalemate. So I'm asking how to avoid stalemate.
    – justhalf
    Jul 24, 2021 at 3:22
  • 3
    @justhalf White can play Nxg7 to let Black's king out and Black then can play Qxg2+ to let White's king out. Once the kings are out it's trivial to promote with help and win.
    – D M
    Jul 24, 2021 at 3:37
  • 1
    Nice one Rewan. That's only for white to win I guess? For black to win we need something else, like D M mentioned.
    – justhalf
    Jul 24, 2021 at 4:37

In fact, there are positions where even an infinite amount of free tempi won't help Black at all! Here's a quick sketch:

[FEN "7q/8/8/8/8/Pp6/prpp1p1p/Kbkrbrbr w KQkq - 0 1"]

Observe White still has five free moves with the P. Even if you add that White may pass whenever he may like - still, the only way to a Black win is White committing suicide, e.g. by promoting and later taking on b2.

  • 4
    Especially ugly given that Black has lost 2 pawns but at least 3 Black pieces are promoted.
    – Rosie F
    Jul 24, 2021 at 6:15

I searched PDB for selfstalemate problems, and the only one I found where Black has more material is:

[Title "Ivan Bryukhanov. Problemkiste Apr 2002, 5630. P1016527. b) s=3"]
[fen "1k6/R1R5/nKp5/8/q7/8/8/8 w - - 0 1"]
[StartFlipped "0"]

1.Ra8+ Kxa8 2. Ra7+ Kb8 3. Ra8+ Kxa8=

The OP asks for the materially superior side to have the move, so take the situation after White's played the key move. Now bPc6 is needless. (Bryukhanov needed bPc6 because, without it, 1 Rb7+ win.)

[Title "Ivan Bryukhanov (version)"]
[fen "Rk6/2R5/nK6/8/q7/8/8/8 b - - 0 1"]
[StartFlipped "0"]

1... Kxa8 2. Ra7+ Kb8 3. Ra8+ Kxa8=

Black's pieces trap wK. White's rooks give sacrificial checks: Black has no option but to capture White's rooks and leave White with a bare, stalemated king.


Black has made a third queen but White has just checked and can get a draw.

[Title "Holding the draw against three queens"]
[fen "2K5/4q3/3q4/kR6/8/8/8/1q6 b - - 0 1"]
[StartFlipped "0"]

1... Ka4 {Capturing White's rook stalemates immediately} 2. Rb4+! {Black threatens Qc7# (either), so White must keep checking. 2 Ra5+? Kb3 3 Ra3+ Qxa3 wins in 3 more moves} Ka3 3. Rb3+! {3 Ra4+? Kb2/Kb3 4 Rb4+ Kc2 5 Rb2+ Kd3 then e.g. 6 Rb3+ (wR isn't afraid to be en prise) Ke4 7 Rb4+ Qd4 8 Rxd4+ Ke3 9 Rd7 (9 Rd3+/Re4+? QxR) Qf5/Qe6/Qe8+ wins in 3 more moves} Ka2 4. Rb2+! {4 Ra3+ Kb2! 5 Rb3+ Kc1 6 Rc3+ Qc2 7 Rxc2+ Kd1 8 Rc1+ then e.g. Ke2 9 Re1+ Kf3 10 Rf1+ Ke4 11 Re1+ Kd5 12 Rd1+ Kc6 13 Rc1+ Qc5 14 Rxc5+ KxR/QxR and wins in 3 more moves} Ka1 {Ka3 and continuing refusing to capture makes White's rook a rambling rook} 5. Ra2+! {Both captures stalemate immediately.}

Building (or rather tearing down) from Hauke's example:

[FEN "8/8/8/p7/8/Ppk56/brpp4/Kbb5 b KQkq - 0 1"]
[startflipped ""]

Neither black nor white can avoid the stalemate.


Given that no one else has mentioned this other than bof in a comment, it's likely I'm missing something, but I don't know what: if White is to move and can force stalemate in N moves, then by definition White has a move that creates a position where Black is to move and White can force stalemate in N-1 moves. So any White to force stalemate in more than 2 moves (an example of which you link to) trivially gives an example of what you're looking for.

  • One difficulty here is searching the wide space of drawn positions for one where one side can force stalemate (rather than the far commoner situation where the position is drawn because neither side can force checkmate). This is why I searched PDB for selfstalemate problems for my first answer to this question. There weren't many, and there was I think only one where the forcing side is materially down.
    – Rosie F
    Jul 26, 2021 at 7:14

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