There is an interesting chess problem which made me think.


The player at a disadvantage is aiming for a draw. He can achieve this because there is a set of moves which can always prevent the opponent, and it will sooner or later result in threefold repetition. However, as there are many variations of moves possible, the opponent can drag on the game for many moves, varying them so that the threefold repetition occurs after lots of moves.

So if I was in such a position and had severe time trouble, so severe that I would run out of time before the threefold repetition inevitably occurs (assume we aren't playing with incremental time after every move), could I stop the clock, go to the arbiter, and prove that it is a draw? It's not the same as the opponent not having enough pieces to force a win (which I know can be declared as a draw).

  • 1
    Only a dead position, stalematem, or checkmate end a game instantly Jan 15 at 21:11
  • So perpetual check has to be played until the 50 moves are over? Is it not enough to show the arbiter that I can do perpetual check?
    – vsz
    Jan 15 at 21:37
  • @vsz Time control is a core part of the game. You say, "that I can do perpetual check," but that's not really the case if you don't have enough time to do it. It would be akin to saying that you can checkmate your opponent if their pieces were in different places. That may be true, but it's irrelevant to the game at hand. In a situation like this, the player got into a losing position with a glimmer of hope for a draw, but they've also used too much time to be able to pull that off. They misplayed both on the board and the clock, and the loss is a natural and fair consequence.
    – Nelson O
    Jan 16 at 19:59
  • @NelsonO "It would be akin to saying that you can checkmate your opponent if their pieces were in different places. " No, it would not be. There are positions which are clearly and obviously perpetual check. With no "what if the pieces were in different places". Take this an example where threefold repetition is not guaranteed in 3 moves, but it is inevitable: chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1482384 Many perpetual checks have only one move for the king so it's over in 3 moves. But in some cases the king has 2 places to go to, so it can be varied to end only in 9 or more moves.
    – vsz
    Jan 17 at 5:24
  • @vsz "If I had a Queen here, it would be a draw." "If I had 30 more seconds, it would be a draw." Both situations are saying that if the state of the position were different, the result would be different. That's why I'm saying they are similar. In your example, there are legal moves that do not lead to a draw, and legal moves that lead either side to win (not good moves, just legal moves). So if one player's clock expires, they would lose rather than draw. The loss on time is not a technicality, it's a legitimate loss, and managing the clock is just as important as managing the pieces.
    – Nelson O
    Jan 17 at 14:42

2 Answers 2


This answer suggests the answer is "yes", but you need the intervention of the arbiter, "no increment" is a hard requirement, and you must not be playing blitz. You must have less than two minutes left, and you must be willing to accept a draw (i.e. you cannot say "I have at least a draw, but might still win").

From the FIDE Rules of Chess:

Guidelines III. Games without increment including Quickplay Finishes

III.1 A ‘quickplay finish’ is the phase of a game when all the remaining moves must be completed in a finite time.

III.2.1 The Guidelines below concerning the final period of the game including Quickplay Finishes, shall only be used at an event if their use has been announced beforehand.

III.2.2 These Guidelines shall apply only to standard chess and rapid chess games without increment and not to blitz games.


III.4 If the player having the move has less than two minutes left on his clock, he may request that an increment extra five seconds be introduced for both players. This constitutes the offer of a draw. If the offer refused, and the arbiter agrees to the request, the clocks shall then be set with the extra time; the opponent shall be awarded two extra minutes and the game shall continue.

III.5 If Article III.4 does not apply and 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 chessclock (see Article 6.12.2). He may claim on the basis that his opponent cannot win by normal means, and/or that his opponent has been making no effort to win by normal means:

III.5.1 If the arbiter agrees that the opponent cannot win by normal means, or that the opponent has been making no effort to win the game by normal means, he shall declare the game drawn. Otherwise he shall postpone his decision or reject the claim.

III.5.2 If the arbiter postpones his decision, the opponent may be awarded two extra minutes and the game shall continue, if possible, in the presence of an arbiter. The arbiter shall declare the final result later in the game or as soon as possible after the flag of either player has fallen. He shall declare the game drawn if he agrees that the opponent of the player whose flag has fallen cannot win by normal means, or that he was not making sufficient attempts to win by normal means.

Since you can prove a draw, you can argue that the opponent cannot win by normal means, invoking III.5.


Can a draw be claimed if proven to be inevitable but no time remaining to actually pull it off?

It depends what you mean by "inevitable". If there is no sequence of legal moves which allows your opponent to checkmate you then, yes, the draw is inevitable and the game ends in a draw immediately.

However, the draw that you claim is inevitable in the linked video is not inevitable. It depends on you finding a number of good moves. Even if they were obvious moves you still couldn't claim a draw. Even if you had to play really stupid, bad moves to let your opponent checkmate you, you still couldn't claim a draw. You have to actually play the moves that get you to the draw in the time remaining.

Here is what the FIDE Laws of Chess say:

5.2.2 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.

  • In this case, I won't likely have the time to write it all down, so maybe the only choice with an uncooperative opponent would be to call an arbiter to witness it?
    – vsz
    Jan 15 at 22:00
  • Just a correction about the video: I did not mean inevitable from the beginning. Indeed, there it depends on finding a number of very surprising good moves. I mean the situation near the end where it is obvious that the same set of about 3-4 move variations will repeat themselves.
    – vsz
    Jan 15 at 22:02
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    If there is any sequence of moves, including you playing suicide chess, which can lead to your opponent checkmating you then you have to keep playing. If you try and claim a draw then the arbiter will penalize you by giving your opponent an additional 2 minutes on the clock.
    – Brian Towers
    Jan 15 at 22:19
  • About what I should do in such a situation, is it basically similar to this (even if it's not a blitz game, just being in severe time trouble and unable to keep writing the score sheet): chess.stackexchange.com/q/5297/2929 So basically stopping the clock to call an arbiter as a witness for the planned threefold repetition, and then playing on? I remember some local tournaments I played a long time ago, when there was severe time trouble then usually most other games were finished a long time ago, and all the organizers and arbiters were gathered around the last games anyway.
    – vsz
    Jan 16 at 7:06
  • 1
    Only once in my many years of playing, have I drawn through repetition. I was losing and sneakily managed to engineer this. My opponent was NOT happy - to say the least.
    – theblitz
    Jan 16 at 14:03

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