What happens if a player runs out of time before playing a forced move that would end in a draw? I suspect it is a loss, but it would be fair to be a draw.

7K/6P1/8/8/8/8/1k4p1/8 b - - 0 1

1... g1=Q 2. g8=Q Qxg8+

In the example above, White is to play and draw the game. But they run out of time before playing the forced move 3. Kxg8.

I was in this exact same situation, but I was able to play the move in the last second, drawing the game, so I got curious about what would happen if I didn't.

  • 3
    Something similar happened to me in a blitz game. My opponent had only a Pawn left, which I had just touched and was therefore obliged to capture, leading to a draw by insufficient material. However my flag fell before I completed the move. By analogy with the rule that the flag need not be pressed after a move that gives mate (so that something has happened that makes the clock irrelevant) I tried to claim a draw, but the arbiter ruled against me and this was confirmed by the well-known rules expert Geurt Gijssens in his Chess Cafe column. Unfortunately I have forgotten his reasoning.
    – Philip Roe
    Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 1:43
  • That makes this a comment rather than an answer, but you could subscribe to Chess Cafe and consult the archives
    – Philip Roe
    Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 1:44
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    @PhilipRoe: "Completed" as in "pressed the clock" or "completed" as in "took the pawn"? (The rule meaning of "completed" is the first; then 1/2 by §6.9 last sentence.) Please clarify. Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 7:42
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    @PhilipRoe Pre-2017 rule changes there were two problems with "I touched a pawn". One of those persists post 2017. That being "did you really touch it before the flag fell?". If you removed the pawn from the board before the flag fell then that is unequivocal and the result should be a draw in all cases. Pre-2017 the question of intention rears its ugly head. If your touch could have been accidental or with the intention of adjusting then "touch move" would not apply. Post 2017 that has been clarified with 4.2.2
    – Brian Towers
    Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 9:28
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    Hauke, Brian, Thanks for your responses! In a wild time scramble I had grabbed the Pawn with obvious intent. I cannot recall whether I had removed intfrom the board or replaced it with my piece, but I had not pressed my clock when my opponent called "You're down" or something similar. It seems that both of you would have given me the draw.
    – Philip Roe
    Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 19:47

3 Answers 3


In the final position where white's only legal move is Kxg8 leaving bare kings the position is a draw if white's flag falls before playing the move. The FIDE Laws of Chess are quite explicit:

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.

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    Shouldn't the game end immediately after 2. ... Qxg8+ under 5.2.2? My read of that rule is that 3. Kxg8 is not required to trigger it.
    – Kevin
    Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 17:39
  • @Kevin: I don't think so. Even though it would be stupid, but black could do something like Qg7. This results in white winning.
    – PMF
    Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 21:17
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    @PMF: After Qxg8+, it is not Black's turn, so Black certainly cannot play Qg7 at that point.
    – Kevin
    Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 23:35
  • My bad, I thought you were talking about the first half of that turn (g8=Q)
    – PMF
    Commented Oct 13, 2021 at 4:52
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    I am afraid this is not the relevant article for this situation. Article 6.9 doesn't apply here because article 5.2.2 does.
    – Evargalo
    Commented Oct 13, 2021 at 6:23

Draw by dead position

Once Black plays 2...Qxg8 the game is a draw. At once, and whatever the clock situation. White doesn't even have to play 3.Kxg8 - it is irrelevant, but actually s/he shouldn't do it because the game is already over.

Indeed, article 5.2.2 of Fide Chess Rules says:

The game is drawn when a position has arisen in which neither player can checkmate the opponent’s king with any series of legal moves. The game is said to end in a ‘dead position’. This immediately ends the game, provided that the move producing the position was in accordance with Article 3 and Articles 4.2 – 4.7.

This is absolutely the case here : no sequence of legal moves can lead to checkmate for either player after 2...Qxg8.

Admittedly, if you play chess online, this rule is not implemented on most platforms, so you would have to play 3.Kxg8, or you may even receive an undeserved loss if you get flagged before you manage to play it. Under Fide Rules however, the game is drawn.


This brings into the discussion the philosophical question of whether clock management is a legitimate part of tournament chess. If you think it is, then no, it wouldn't be fair to make it a draw if the flag falls before the move is made, because the player failed to manage their time properly. In essence, the player sacrificed time to achieve the potentially drawn position, and bemoaning the fact time ran out before it could be achieved is exactly the same as saying "It's not fair I should lose simply because I ran out of pawns!"

Alternatively, if time management is not a legitimate concern for tournament chess, then yes, it's unfair.

People who take the first position dislike both the delay and the incremental clock controls. People who take the latter position need to answer the question "Then why are the clocks there in the first place?" I'll let you decide which camp you're in. It's an imperfect world; there's no perfect answer to this problem.

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    Even if time management should be a legitimate part of chess, that does not imply that running out of time should necessarily be decisive. It might be reasonable, for example, to say that if one person is out of time and the other person calls attention to it and punches the expired player's clock, the person with time left would be allowed to control both armies (each playing in turn) until one side is checkmated or stalemated, both clocks are out of time, or the game is otherwise drawn. Running out of time in such a scenario would usually be a loss, but in a game without increment, ...
    – supercat
    Commented Oct 13, 2021 at 5:21
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    ...a player whose opponent ran out of time would need to have a meaningful amount of time on his own clock to claim a win rather than a draw.
    – supercat
    Commented Oct 13, 2021 at 5:22
  • "no, it wouldn't be fair … Alternatively, yes, it's unfair" Commented Oct 13, 2021 at 15:04
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    The question is about what the rules are, not what the philosophical argument for potential rules are. Also, you are presenting a false dichotomy between "time management shouldn't count for anything" and "board state should not have any priority over time". Commented Oct 14, 2021 at 5:02
  • Whether board state can trump time is interesting; the rules are clock needs to be pressed before the move is complete (except in the case of checkmate). If time has expired before the clock is pressed, isn't the move by definition incomplete, so how can we justify saying the board state has officially changed? If white makes a move in an equal position (just to simplify the question) and loses on time before pressing the clock, that move is considered never to be made. Applying that principle to the above circumstance, the position isn't yet dead (merely dying?) so 5.2.2 doesn't apply.
    – Arlen
    Commented Oct 21, 2021 at 2:53

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