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I have 5 pieces left and my opponent only has his king. It is my opponent's turn and his king is not in check but everywhere his king moves is checkmate. Who wins?

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If it is your opponent's turn to move and none of your opponent's pieces can move other than his king, and the king would be in check on any square it could move to, we would call that stalemate. In case of stalemate, neither player wins – the game is drawn.

Here are a few examples:

  1. A simple one with just 3 pieces on the board with Black to move:

enter image description here

Here, the black king has nowhere to go, the squares h8, h7, g7 and f8 are controlled by the white queen and f7 is controlled by the white king.


  1. Another position of stalemate with a few more pieces on the board, again with Black to move:

enter image description here

Black has 2 pawns and his king. His pawns can’t move forward or capture any pieces and his King can’t move anywhere as its surrounding is controlled by the pieces as shown in the image.


  1. A little more complicated one with even more pieces on the board (white to move):

enter image description here

Positions like this one occur only very rarely! I believe it is a composition by someone and hasn't occurred in a real game. Here all the pieces are on the board and yet White has no moves to make. All his pawns are fixed, most of his other pieces are blocked by his own pieces and the only 3 pieces which have space to move are the rook on g3, the knight on d2 and the king on e1. None of these three pieces can move since that would leave the king in check! Unfortunately this is a draw, because it is a stalemate.

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    It's also possible, though even more rare, to have a position in which the player on move has no squares that his pieces could move even if check were not a consideration. It's theoretically possible (though unrealistic in a competitive game) that both players could simultaneously be in such a situation (meaning that even if a player who couldn't move simply "passed" the game would still be a stalemate). – supercat Feb 14 '16 at 9:23
  • Regarding your 3rd example, it is claimed to be from a (100% pre-arranged) game (chess.com/forum/view/general/…). The position is very similar to that by Sam Lloyd. Either is a record at 12 moves only without any captures. – user1583209 Dec 15 '19 at 19:13
  • From an outsider point of view (I joined up because someone was asking questions about computer chess that were more about computers than chess) this seems very weird. Why is this scored as a draw? It seems like total domination... – Zwuwdz Feb 24 at 21:05
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It is a draw by stalemate.....

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    Since the question is fairly simple and so is the answer I suggest explaining to him slightly in detail what a stalemate is. No point in posting my own answer, +1 – Chessbrain May 3 '15 at 14:33
  • Looks like Pavan has it covered. – Tony Ennis May 4 '15 at 0:45
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Excellent explanation of stalemate by Pavan, but I think there was still some confusion in the original post about checkmate too. Here is the logical way I try to think about it.

A king attacked by an enemy piece is called "in check".

It's illegal to play a move so that your king is in check (either by moving king into check, or by shifting a pinned piece out of the line).

If you have no legal moves, for whatever reason, then the game is certainly OVER. But how?

  • If your king is already in check, then it's CHECKMATE and you've lost.

  • If your king is NOT in check, then it's STALEMATE and it's a draw.

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