There are some defensive ideas to get one's own king stalemated in order to not lose the game (mostly in the endgame, but sometimes also in the middle game).

  1. Have (master) games been played where the only idea not to lose was to stalemate the opponent?

  2. What about any legal position (which need not have occurred in a real game)?

  3. What if you forget about the "only idea" requirement?

Edit: Although there is already a totally fine answer, I would not mind more answers using another patterns.

  • There are cases where a player can sacrifice a piece such that the only response leads to stalemate but these events are few and far between.
    – Tony Ennis
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 0:06
  • 1
    Cheat answer but you can stalemate the opponent not to lose on time in a guillotine finish.
    – magd
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 0:18
  • @magd: Ah of course, I have not thought of that. (And you are right, that is not really the answer I was looking for.)
    – Keba
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 0:24

2 Answers 2


It's possible to build a bit on magd's answer. Consider the following position.

 [Title "White to move"] 
 [SetUp "1"]
 [FEN "8/8/8/8/8/1N6/pk1K4/8 w - - 0 1"]

 1. Na1! Kxa1 2. Kc1

The only way to draw is 1. Na1! Kxa1 2.Kc1 (or 2. Kc2) stalemate. I think there are some nice studies with this theme, but I can't find them right now.

  • Still the same pattern, but a nice example. Thanks. :)
    – Keba
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 0:59
  • Note that the alternate lines for black are also stalemates: 1. ... Ka3 2. Kc2 Ka4 3. Kb2 and Black's pawn is lost. 1. ... Kb1 2. Kc1 and White maintains opposition, forcing Black to change to one of the other lines or allow White to invoke the repeated positions rule. Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 10:16
  • The other lines are stalemate in the sense of a draw, not a real stalemate. Black isn't forced to go along with the stalemate.
    – magd
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 10:24
  • @magd Yes, it's true that black can move back and forth or abandon the pawn, but it's the stalemate idea that saves the draw for white. Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 10:36
  • It does in the pawn ending :)
    – magd
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 10:39

Here is an example of such a position.

[FEN "4k2K/7P/8/8/8/8/8/8 b - - 0 1"]
[startflipped ""]

The only ways to draw are Kf8 and Kf7, since both stop Kg8 and stalemate the opponent. This has surely been played in master games.

For a slightly more complicated pawn endgame see, here is a Anand - Kramnik game. Black has to stalemate White at the end of this game, or else they lose.

  • I feel somewhat stupid now, as I do know this exact idea. However, thanks for your quick answer.
    – Keba
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 0:26
  • You can add extra pawns on h6, h5, h4, h3 and h2 :D
    – magd
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 0:41
  • 1
    Yes, and some blocked pawns and even not too far advanced black passers. Even two Black knights on a1 and b1 do not change the position a lot (more central knights allow other defence methods). And even more obviously, one could just mirror the example you gave.
    – Keba
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 0:48
  • 1
    Here's another position W - Rh8 Kg8 Ph7, g7 B - Kd8. Black draws by Kd8- e8 or e7. In fact you can stalemate White's entire army this way. Hee-hee this is fun!
    – magd
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 1:14
  • Hah, you can even fill c7 to h7 with White pawns and d8 to h8 with white queens, rooks and bishops (if that‘s a legal position then), a white king on c8 and a black king an a6. Draws in an amazing way. :D You could even add some knights to the back rank if you add pawns on the sixth rank as well. I (now, at least) believe you could stalemate 16 white pieces with your lone king (knights on h8 and f8 only need pawns on g6 and e6 in order to be stalemated).
    – Keba
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 1:21

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