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Is this an incorrect draw by chess.com?

I just played a game on chess.com with the final position as below (I am black):

[FEN "8/8/2b5/7P/8/2k1N3/5PP1/6K1 w - - 0 59"]

My opponent's time ran out and the game was called a draw due to timeout vs. insufficient material. I believe this is incorrect as I can mate my opponent in the following way:

[FEN "8/8/2b5/7P/8/2k1N3/5PP1/6K1 w - - 0 59"]

1. Kh1 Kd2 2. Nf1+ Ke1 3. Nh2 Kxf2 4. h6 Bxg2#
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  • 8
    Doesn't this amount to having white cooperate in getting mated? A bishop and a king against king (without knight or pawns) should be a draw... Aug 20, 2022 at 19:08
  • 7
    @paulgarrett the rules on timeout vs insufficient material depend on which ruleset you follow (chess.com is not required by anyone to follow FIDE-specific rules)
    – qwr
    Aug 21, 2022 at 0:15
  • The link quoted by @qwf seems to say that with no material to mate unless there is a forced mate is drawn. I'm not convinced that this is correct cause there are postions where the player running out time must find a saving move sequence to prevent a mate, but still there is no forced mate. Look at this where black is at move and should prevent 2.Bg2#: [FEN "8/8/8/3n4/8/7B/5K1p/7k b - - 0 1"] here black can defend only playing Ne3 as you can see with an engine: 1... Ne3 (1... Nf4? 2.Bf5 Nd3+ 3.Kf1 Nc5 4. Bh3 +-) 2.Bc8 Ng4+ (2... Ng2? 3.Bd7 +-) (2... Nd1+ =) 3.Kf1 (3.Bxg4 = stalemate) Ne3+ = fo Aug 21, 2022 at 21:24
  • The current rule is utter nonsense , considering only whether the side losing on time can (no matter with which nonsense) lose the position. This can only be avoided by the Fischer-mode (you can still lose on time, but you won't lose such positions on time)
    – Peter
    Oct 11, 2022 at 18:11

3 Answers 3

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From chess.com support, the site follows the USCF rules on draw vs insufficient material in that if there is insufficient material* for a forced mate and the opponent does not have a forced win, it is a draw.

See also USCF vs FIDE by Greater Peoria Chess Foundation:

Insufficient Material

FIDE. It is possible to lose on time in situations that are a draw under US Chess rules. For instance, GM Friedel (IM Friedel at the time) lost on time with a king and rook vs. king and knight. Under the FIDE laws of chess, the game is drawn when one player runs out of time only if there is no legal sequence of moves by which the opponent could checkmate the player. Since there is a helpmate that allows a king and one knight to checkmate a player with a king and rook, GM Friedel lost the game. (Note: Earlier versions of this page incorrectly attributed this loss to GM Nakamura. The game in question is IM J. Friedel - GM S. Halkias, Bad Wiessee Open, Germany, 2007. See this story on Chess Life Online for more details.)

USCF. US Chess rule 14E (insuffient material to win on time) specifies cases where the game is drawn even if one player runs out of time. One of the cases listed in rule 14E is the opponent having only a king and knight (and not having a forced win).

*Insufficient material is defined by the USCF as if the opponent has:

  • Lone king
  • Only king and bishop or king and knight, and does not have a forced win
  • Only king and two knights, player has no pawns, and opponent does not have a forced win
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  • 10
    I wonder what would happen if I was white, let my clock run out on move 1, and claim a draw: there’s no forced win for black. Aug 22, 2022 at 3:58
  • 3
    I should clarify the "insufficient material" aspect
    – qwr
    Aug 22, 2022 at 4:23
10

Yes, you are correct. That is a known defect with chess.com. It would have been enough for your opponent to just have a pawn for you to still be able to checkmate them. The pawn could promote to a knight and your king and bishop could then deliver checkmate with this position.

[FEN "8/8/8/8/8/6k1/6b1/6NK w - - 0 59"]
1
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Brian Towers
    Aug 23, 2022 at 17:42
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It's a great question. A very similar situation very famously occurred between Alireza Firouzja and Magnus Carlsen in 2019. The quick version:

  • After a very intense game, Magnus was down to a king and bishop when Firouzja's clock ran out. Firouzja thought this was a draw because bishop and king is typically insufficient to checkmate an opponent unless the opponent plays very specific moves that allow the checkmate. But because Firouzja still had a bishop on the board, it meant it was theoretically possible for Carlsen to mate him!
  • It is explained excellently here.

Here is the final position (Magnus with the black pieces):

[Title "Alireza Firouzja-Magnus Carlsen, World Blitz Championship, Moscow Russia, 12/30/2019"]
[FEN ""]
[startply "132"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 d6 5. O-O Bd7 6. c3 g6 7. d4 Bg7 8. h3 Nf6 9. Bc2 O-O 10. Re1 Re8 11. Nbd2 Qe7 12. Nf1 Qf8 13. Ng3 Bh6 14. Ng5 Nd8 15. Bb3 Ne6 16. h4 Rad8 17. Be3 Bg7 18. h5 Bh6 19. Qc1 Ng4 20. Nxe6 fxe6 21. Rf1 Nxe3 22. fxe3 Qe7 23. hxg6 hxg6 24. Qd2 exd4 25. cxd4 Kg7 26. Rf3 Rf8 27. Raf1 Rxf3 28. Rxf3 Rf8 29. Qc3 c6 30. Nf1 e5 31. Rxf8 Kxf8 32. Qc4 Qf6 33. dxe5 dxe5 34. Qb4+ c5 35. Qxb7 Bb5 36. Qc8+ Ke7 37. Qxc5+ Qd6 38. Qxd6+ Kxd6 39. Bf7 Bxf1 40. Kxf1 g5 41. Ke2 Bf8 42. Kf3 Ke7 43. Bc4 a5 44. Ke2 Kd6 45. Bd5 Be7 46. Kf3 Bd8 47. Kg4 Be7 48. Kf5 Bd8 49. g4 Be7 50. a3 Bd8 51. b4 axb4 52. axb4 Be7 53. b5 Bd8 54. Kg6 Kc5 55. Kf5 Kxb5 56. Kxe5 Kc5 57. Ke6 Ba5 58. e5 Bd2 59. e4 Bc3 60. Kf5 Kb6 61. e6 Kc7 62. Kg6 Kd8 63. Kxg5 Ke7 64. Kh5 Bd2 65. g5 Bf4 66. Kg4 Bd2
  • Yet, on chess.com, the exact same game would be a draw!
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