index 2006
Letter #25 -  2006

Sub:    Explanation
Date:   Date: 10/26/2006 2:33:02 PM MST
From:  cbonilla

A friend of mine Roger Quesada from Costa Rica, a Chess Player and my scholar, does not understand or won't agree with the stalemate rule related to the King in Chess.

He wants you to explain why, who came out with this rule, and what is the purpose. He says the player who forces the opponent to a stalemate position should win since he has no way to move at all. Could you explain to him this?

Thank you and I congratulate you all for this page since I have written to you before.


Dear viewer,

We found the following:

History of the stalemate rule

The stalemate rule has a somewhat convoluted history. In the forerunners to modern Chess, such as Shatranj, stalemate was a win for the side administering it, and this rule persisted for a while in Chess, although when playing for money, a win by stalemate sometimes only won half the stake. According to H. J. R. Murray's A History of Chess (Oxford University Press, 1913), the rule for a time in England was that stalemate was a loss for the player administering it. The modern rule that stalemate is a draw became universally adopted only in the 19th century.

Assuming that Black's King has been stalemated, throughout history this stalemate has at various times been (Davidson 1949:65-66):

  • A win for White (10th century, Arabia)

  • A half-win for White (18th century, Spain)

  • A win for Black (17th century, Russia and in Great Britain into the 19th century)

  •  Not allowed. If White made a move that would stalemate Black, he had to retract it and make a different move (Eastern Asia until the early 20th century)

  •  Black forfeits a turn to move (medieval France)

  • A draw (started in 14th century, Italy and spread through Europe, not adopted in England until the 19th century)

Effect of stalemate on endgames

There have been calls to make a stalemate a win for the side causing the stalemate. The effect of such a rule would be a greater emphasis on the material on the board.

An extra Pawn would be a much greater advantage than it is today, e.g. King and Pawn versus King would always be a win unless the defending King were able to capture the Pawn.

If stalemate were a loss for the player unable to move, then some endgames would be affected:

  • The endgame of King and Pawn versus King would be a win unless the Pawn can be captured.

  • Two Knights and a King can stalemate a King, so that ending would no longer be a draw.

  • The drawing techniques with a Bishop's Pawn or Rook's Pawn on the seventh rank with its King nearby versus a Queen would not work, because they involve stalemate.

  • A Rook's Pawn plus a Bishop on the color opposite the Pawn's Queening square would be a win instead of a draw.

  • A King and Rook versus a King and Bishop would be a win for the side with the Rook (but not Rook versus Knight).

  • Stalemate positions are possible with a King and lone Bishop or lone Knight against a King.

    Source: wikipedia

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