Avoid These Common Mistakes: How to Not Draw in Chess?

Curious about what happens when a game of chess ends in a draw? From stalemates to the fifty-move rule, there are several ways a game can end without a clear winner. But fear not – there are strategies to avoid drawing and play for a win.

We will explore the different types of draws in chess, how to prevent them, and what to do if a draw seems inevitable.

Stay tuned to learn more about the importance of understanding drawing in chess.

What is a Draw in Chess?

A draw in chess is when the player whose turn it is to move has NO LEGAL MOVES and their KING is NOT UNDER ANY FORM OF ATTACK. When both of these conditions are met, it is called a stalemate, and the game is called a draw by stalemate. A draw can also occur by the agreement of both players. Thus preventing the playing out of a hopeless position. Two of the same move on the board can also cause a draw. This is called a repetition, and occurs when the same position arises 3 times within the game except for the Pawns and Castles. The 3-time repetition rule states that neither player can make a claim until their opponent makes a move that causes the same position for the third time.

Another reason for a draw is when neither player has won during a certain number of moves, and when there are insufficient pieces remaining for a checkmate to happen, then a draw is called by insufficient material. Another draw is called by the fifty-move rule. If fifty consecutive moves have passed in which no pawn has been moved and no piece has been captured, and both players agree to end the game, then a draw is called.


In chess, a stalemate is a situation in which the player whose turn it is to move has no legal moves and they are not in check. Stalemate is one way to not draw a chess game if you are losing. Achieving a stalemate in a losing position is often the only way to salvage half, although some stronger players tricked by this clever rule see it as an unjust advantage for the weaker side.

The stalemate rule draws correct endgame play to avoid the unpleasantness of having to work out a forced win for the attacking side when they have no tactical tricks left, offering general practice in such disciplines as opposition and zugzwang.

Insufficient Material

Insufficient material refers to the situation when both players have only their king remaining and no other pieces. The game ends immediately when insufficient material is reached to declare both players a draw. When using this type of draw method, it is sufficient to only leave the kings on the board to signify that the game is over because even one pawn is enough to continue the checkmate process as we saw when learning about how to checkmate in chess. If the pawn remains, the game is continued. And if the players should decide to agree to a draw even when the option of continuing exists, they can do so. This rule is stated under Article 9.6 of the FIDE laws of chess.

Insufficient material, in the case of having less than a two-knight or one-bishop piece field, means simply a lack of pieces to spark movement. It is often referred to as a stalemate position since players can’t truly move without a significant loss of territory. The drawing pattern is that the stronger side has simply run out of opportunities to bring enough suicidal measures to lose or win to avoid the draw. Praful Zaveri, an FM chess expert, describes this as a feeling of helplessness among friends. Some examples he provides are endgame positions with only a minor vs a rook piece and a pointlessness of the minor piece’s movement with the reluctant goal of hanging around.

Threefold Repetition

A position that occurs three times with the same player to move threefold repetition. Threefold repetition can happen at varying points in the game where the same position occurs. The position must be legally possible to reach, with castling rights, en passant rights, and rights to move without moving a pawn forward or taking another piece away. Every move made for en passant is regarded as a half-move, so it may or may not be included to reach a threefold-repetition position.

Fifty-move Rule

The Fifty-move rule is an article of the FIDE laws of chess rulebook that can be invoked by the player controlling the black side. The rule states that the game is a draw if no pawn move (either side not making a pawn move which would make an isolated pawn, or moving a pawn) and no piece capture has occurred in the last fifty moves by either side.

The Fifty-move rule was named after a change in the rules of chess made by the British Chess Association in 1882 which stated that if fifty consecutive moves were made by each side without any pawn moving or any piece capturing another the game was considered a stalemate. It provided too wide an incentive for players to play for stalemate, so FIDE law 18 was changed to limit the rule to cases of insufficient mating material which is automatically a draw.

This rule was demonstrated during the fifty-fifth move of the Game 6 showdown between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky in 1972. Referee Lothar Schmid emerged and reminded the two players of the fifty-move rule, to which he found concurring opinions. The game ended in a draw.

How to Avoid Drawing in Chess?

You avoid drawing in chess by playing for a win when the position allows rather than accepting an early draw transformable into a lost battle. To the extent possible, avoid passive moves that result in simple and drawish endgames. Work to improve your endgame and middle-game skills, by focusing on techniques such as opposition, zugzwang, security of the king, and calculation in endgames.

Play Aggressively

One way to not draw in chess is to play aggressively. By moving early on and accurately attacking the opponent’s pieces, you can gain pieces while putting your opponent on the defensive. This stops your opponent from developing their game as they will have to address the threat you create. Many highly aggressive players throughout the history of the game have used attacking styles to prevent draws from ever developing to increase the chances of a win. One way to play aggressively is to make an early move for central control of the d4 and e4 squares which can allow more freedom of movement for your other pieces.

Ethan Pomerantz describes two types of h-pawn opening- where pawns on the edge of the board and freeing center by controlling an outpost have advantages and demerits. Playing aggressively with e4 and d5 is the way to attack the center early in chess. Occasionally, playing too aggressively can weaken your defenses and leave you vulnerable to attacks by the opponent you overlooked. Always have in mind that whilst playing aggressively you should still protect your pieces inform king safety.

Avoid Simplifying the Position

Avoid simplifying the position by being careful about the trades you accept from your opponent. If you have the opportunity to trade pieces and the opponent offers to make exchanges first, then consider trading. Your opponent may feel like they are in control because they are ahead but if you can trade and the resulting position is more open than before, it is still possible to create significant counterplay.

Take a cautious approach to trading in such a way as to not harm your continued play but do not be afraid to trade merely because you are behind. For example, in the final game of the 1972 World Chess Championship where Bobby Fischer (W) was already ahead of Boris Spassky (B) in the match, we can see him declining a trade by pulling his piece back.

Spassky gave the Lasker Variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined a first and only attempt. The variation soon crashed because… the best rule-of-thumb in such positions is to unnerve the whites by creating trade opportunities… The renowned confrontation never hurts anyone owing to the skewered materials on the board.

Having traded two sets of minor pieces, white is already at a material and strategic deficit. The trade opportunities will become harder to achieve from here on so the solitary and last minor piece on the right-most end of the second rank known as the bishop patiently waits to slip into column c for its exciting pre-destined journey. It will trade with any white piece that comes in front of it. The hope lies in the fact that the existing pawn at a2 isn’t a pass as the trapped black knight threatens.

Keep the Game Dynamic

A brief definition of not drawing in chess is creating a situation where neither player has the opportunity to win. The term “fighting for an advantage” is more open-ended, meaning that there is a desire to play an equal, slightly better, equal but safe, or even slightly worse position.

Players can avoid coveted draws by keeping the game dynamic. You can look to create threats in unexpected places that suddenly change the situation for your opponent, you can pose open-ended attacking or strategic questions that can bring excitement into the game, or you can use time scramble tactics that make it hard for your opponent to find the only moves.

The best way to keep a game dynamic is to follow opening principles and play tactically solid chess. The game will play itself out from there. This is a live blitz chess game which demonstrates how fighting for an advantage can cause mistakes.

Take Calculated Risks

In general, it is better to be in a ‘drawing position’ where you retain the option to play on if there is a favorable set of circumstances. If you are ‘not drawing’, you are giving your opponent a free opportunity to make a mistake and upset the balance of the game. Take calculated risks, and be careful not to move into an ‘unwinnable endgame’ (especially against players rated above yourself).

What to Do If a Draw is Inevitable?

If a draw is inevitable, there is no problem going for it. Prevent situations where the game looks to be drawn by being aggressive and trying to stay in control of the board. Do not play to make the game a draw if the situation calls for aggression or defense. Resign the game when losing. Do not keep playing to attempt a stalemate, which is code of bad behavior. Often there are still strategies and vulnerabilities to exploit in a position that appears to be equal, so it is worth still playing for a win.

Offer a Draw

To try and avoid drawing against a stronger or an equal opponent in chess, the best option is to offer a draw after having gained a significant advantage in material, board position, or time.

After geographic locales, the USCF Rules of Chess, 7th edition state that you may offer a draw when only the same move of the piece by the same player will be repeated three times. You may offer a draw according to the dead position rule, which states that a player would trigger a draw if a move has absolutely no legal moves after it which would deny checkmate. The opponent can refuse the draw and checkmate in one move. You may offer a draw according to the 50-move rule.

Play for a Win in a Drawish Position

Playing for a win in drawn positions is generally a practical way to not draw in chess. This is the case in positions that have some life to them and which do not pose winning chances for the opponent. This way, you at least have a small chance of winning the game. Drawing the game when you have a clear advantage is of course a different matter, and it comes back to chess ethics and sportsmanship.

Settle for a Draw

In chess, allowing a draw means you do not want to draw. This play often causes a draw in chess to be staked because it announces that you more than likely do not have a win in hand. The simplest way to draw in chess or learning not to draw in chess if you are only an occasional or beginning player is to offer your opponent a draw if the board is stalemated, declaring a threefold repetition, or if it is even a “draw by agreement”.

The FIDE Laws of Chess Article 5.1 allows the draw to be offered under this rule. In tournaments, a player who offers a draw often does so on their own time to indicate that they are ready to stop the clocks and end the game. In class games, it can be a simple discussion between players. The receiving player can accept the draw before the offering player has submitted it. Players do not need to agree to a draw for a draw to occur. Insufficient material position or 50-move rule position are referred to as technical draws.

Under FIDE Laws of Chess Article 6, sufficient material is defined as either 1 pawn/king each, or 2 kings with or without other material. To declare a two-fold repetition, if a player or both players claim in writing or on the scoresheet before or after the intended repetition that the same position will be repeated for the third time following the deciding move, and this occurrence is known by the player, the draw will happen.

For a 50-move rule draw, if the last 50 consecutive moves of both players have been made without the movement of one of their pawns or the capture of any piece, either player, including with their own move, may claim a draw. However, if a piece has been moved or a pawn has been captured, this possibility of a draw cannot be claimed. Draws can be claimed at any point in play by either player. Online or video games may provide little or no notification when this has occurred.

Endgame technique is critical, demonstrated in 2012 when Grandmaster Gadir Guseinov allowed an accidental three-time repetition draw between two games four hours one after the other, likely affecting one of his opponents. In so doing, he failed to win the Azerbaijan Championship. Guseinov later apologized and offered half of his earnings for the below par sportsmanship. Endgame technique means ensuring you know the number of moves made is important, and being cautious in setting up the same moves multiple times if you want to avoid accidental draws.

Conclusion: The Importance of Understanding Drawing in Chess

Recognizing when you draw in chess both ways is necessary to avoid unnecessary losses. If you know you are in a drawn position, deliberately playing for a win can lose you the game. Conversely, if you recognize that you are playing for a draw when you could play for a win, that is also to your detriment. The key to understanding how to nullify a draw in chess is to focus on correct piece development at the opening and middle game stage of the game. The key to drawing for a clear result after a mistake in the opening or middle game is understanding a few basic strategies of endgame theory. Developing your pieces correctly at the beginning of the game is a form of running defense. And if you have made a mistake with the opening, avoid attempting to go on the counter-offensive.

Stem the loss and draw the game, or at the very least attempt to improve your position by establishing stabilization. Drawing an endgame correctly requires one to understand how to immobilize an opponent’s advanced passed pawn. For example, allow your opponent to advance their passed pawn to your second rank, where your king or other piece can easily control and neutralize the pawn.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I avoid drawing in chess?

To avoid drawing in chess, you can try these strategies:

– Focus on controlling the center of the board and creating strong pawn structures.

– Develop your pieces quickly and actively engage them in the game.

– Take calculated risks and make aggressive moves to keep the game dynamic.

– Avoid trading pieces too early, as this can lead to a simplified and potentially drawn position.

– Stay alert and constantly look for ways to create imbalances and opportunities for a winning advantage.

What are some common mistakes that lead to a drawn game in chess?

Some common mistakes that can result in a drawn game in chess include:

– Playing too passively and not actively pursuing a winning advantage.

– Trading pieces too early and simplifying the position.

– Failing to control the center of the board and allowing your opponent to gain a strong position.

– Playing too defensively and not taking any risks to create imbalances.

– Not being aware of the potential for a draw and missing opportunities to avoid it.

Can I still win a game if it looks like it will end in a draw?

Yes, it is possible to still win a game even if it seems like it will end in a draw. Some possible ways to achieve this include:

– Creating a strong position and putting pressure on your opponent, forcing them into making a mistake.

– Playing for initiative and actively trying to create imbalances in the position.

– Keeping a cool head and looking for opportunities to sacrifice material for a winning advantage.

– Being aware of potential stalemate opportunities and avoiding them.

How important is it to be aware of potential draws in a chess game?

Being aware of potential draws in a chess game is crucial, as it can help you avoid falling into a drawn position and potentially cost you a win. Some ways to stay aware of potential draws include:

– Knowing the common drawing patterns and techniques, such as stalemate or perpetual check, and how to avoid them.

– Constantly assessing the position and looking for ways to create imbalances and opportunities for a win.

– Keeping track of the material and making sure you have enough resources to continue playing for a win.

– Being aware of your opponent’s potential drawing techniques and actively working to counter them.

What should I do if I accidentally end up in a drawn position?

If you accidentally find yourself in a drawn position, don’t panic. There are still some strategies you can try to avoid a draw, such as:

– Keep the game dynamic by looking for ways to create imbalances and put pressure on your opponent.

– Use your remaining pieces and pawns to try and create threats and opportunities for a win.

– Look for potential sacrifices or positional exchanges that could give you a winning advantage.

– Stay focused and don’t give up until the game is officially declared a draw.

Are there any specific strategies for avoiding a draw in endgame situations?

Yes, there are certain strategies you can employ to avoid a draw in endgame situations. Some examples include:

– Keeping your king active and using it to support your pawns in creating a passed pawn.

– Avoiding unnecessary trades and simplifications, as this can often lead to a drawn position.

– Using your pieces to put pressure on your opponent’s weak pawns and squares.

– Being aware of common endgame drawing techniques, such as rook and pawn endgames, and actively working to avoid them.

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