Draws in Chess Can Be Your Safety Net

We all want to win our chess games, but sometimes draws in chess can help you earn a crucial half-point. If we make a mistake during the game, it is nice to know we can still play for a draw.

Going behind in material and fighting back to draw the game can be highly satisfying. Obtaining draws in chess requires skill and a sound strategy.

If your opponent is ahead in material, they are unlikely to accept your draw offer until you create a drawn position on the board.

You can also use draws to give you the confidence to begin an attack with a sacrifice. Knowing you have a way to draw if your opponent defends well can give you the confidence to play attacking chess.

Always be aware of your opponent’s drawing opportunities, especially when you have a won position. One of GM Simon Williams’ opponents took advantage of his lapse in concentration to earn a spectacular draw.

Five Ways You Can Earn a Draw in Chess

Five common ways of claiming draws in chess are:

  1. Draws by agreement
  2. Insufficient material
  3. Stalemate
  4. Threefold and fivefold repetition
  5. 50-move rule and 75-move rule

Drawing a Chess Game by Mutual Agreement

You can draw in chess if both you and your opponent agree to the draw. This type of draw does not require any conditions in terms of material or position.

You can find this type of draw in chess extremely useful if you are playing in a tournament and are due to play a stronger opponent. There are chess openings that have a reputation for being drawish, and you could choose to play one.

One such opening is the French Defense Rubinstein Variation. Yes, you can win with this opening, but this is unlikely against a stronger opponent.

The Rubinstein Variation of the French Defense is a low-risk opening variation where you often get many early exchanges and reach a simplified position.

To prevent too many draws in chess by mutual agreement, it is common practice to have a rule stating you can only agree to a draw after thirty moves.

Bobby Fischer famously claimed that the Soviet players in the 5th Candidates Tournament held in Curacao in 1962 agreed to quick draws among themselves to help stay fresh for the later rounds. Petrosian, Keres, and Geller finished at the top, and all the games between them ended in draws.

The drawn games between these three players averaged only nineteen moves!

Here is one of those games where the players agreed to a draw after seventeen moves.

Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian – Paul Keres, 1962.05.06, ½ – ½, Curacao Candidates Round 4, Willemstad CUW

Draws in Chess Due to Insufficient Material

Even if your opponent runs out of time, you must have sufficient material to deliver checkmate, or the game is a draw. Obtaining a draw in chess due to insufficient material often happens in endgames.

One way to achieve a draw is to exchange all the pawns if your opponent has a king and one minor piece. Unless he gains more material by promoting a pawn, your opponent does not have enough material to checkmate you.

If you are playing the endgame with an extra minor piece, you want to keep pawns on the board.

You do not need to prove you know how to deliver checkmate with the remaining material. All that is required is to have the material.

This condition can be beneficial if you are trying to deliver checkmate with a king and two knights. You can only reach this checkmate with help from your opponent.

You can earn draws in chess by leaving your opponent with insufficient material to deliver checkmate.

White sacrificed a minor piece and eliminated the last black pawn in this position. After 84.Bxc5 Bxc5+ 85.Nxc5 Kxc5 Black does not have sufficient material to deliver the checkmate.

White made sure of the draw by placing the king in the corner of the opposite color to the bishop. The game ended in another common way to achieve a draw in chess, which we will look at next – stalemate.

Rune Djurhuus – Evgeny Yuryevich Vladimirov, 1990, ½ – ½, Gausdal International Round 1, Gausdal NOR

Stalemate Is an Excellent Defensive Resource

Stalemate occurs when the player whose turn is to move has no legal moves and is not in check. This definition makes it easy to see that stalemate draws in chess occur most often in the endgame.

You are unlikely to run out of legal moves in a chess opening or middlegame because you have many pieces and many legal moves available. In the endgame, the reduced number of pieces makes it more likely you can run out of legal moves.

Most chess players above the beginner level know stalemate and how to use this rule to draw in chess. Always be aware of this strategy when your opponent is in a difficult position.

Alarm bells should start ringing if your opponent suddenly begins to step into forks or throws away material.

One way you can avoid giving stalemate is by underpromoting your pawn. You are less likely to reach a stalemate with two rooks instead of two queens, and delivering a checkmate with two rooks is not very difficult.

Here is the final position in a game played in 1905 between Chigorin and Schlechter.

Playing for a stalemate is an excellent defensive resource and can earn you many draws in chess.

Carl Schlechter made excellent use of stalemate and the repetition of the position rule to obtain a draw against Mikhail Chigorin. Schlechter sacrificed his queen, knowing that the resulting position would be stalemate if it got captured.

Mikhail Chigorin – Carl Schlechter, 1905.07.13, Ostend Round 22, Ostend BEL

Draws by Threefold and Fivefold Repetition

If you wish to claim a draw in chess by threefold repetition, you must claim the draw with the arbiter. In such cases, before making a move on the board, write it on your scoresheet and make your draw request with the arbiter.

To be given the draw by threefold repetition, the identical position must be reached a minimum of three times with the same player to move. You can claim your draw if the position after your intended move will repeat the same position for a third time.

Even if you do not claim it the third time it arises, you can still ask for the draw in chess if the exact position gets reached later in the game.

A draw by fivefold repetition is automatic and does not have to be claimed.

Draws in chess by threefold and fivefold repetition are extremely useful because you do not need your opponent’s agreement to claim the draw. If you find yourself in a difficult position, you can use this rule to salvage something from the game.

Knowing this rule is extremely helpful when you are in a better position and want to avoid the draw. Do not play automatically at any point in your chess games; your opponent could slip this draw past you.

Bobby Fischer used the threefold repetition in a 1971 game against Petrosian.

Robert James Fischer – Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian, 1971.10.07, ½ – ½, Fischer – Petrosian Candidates Final Round 3, Buenos Aires ARG

The 50-Move Rule and 75-Move Rule

These two rules are very similar to the threefold and fivefold repetition rules.

In order to claim a draw after no pawn moves or captures have been made in the previous fifty moves, you must write down your intended fiftieth move and claim the draw. Draws in chess by the 50-Move rule must get claimed.

Like the fivefold repetition rule, a draw in chess by the 75-Move rule is automatic and does not need to be claimed.

In chess games, if the fiftieth or seventy-fifth moves result in a checkmate, then the checkmate counts.

When you consider the average chess game is around thirty-eight moves going fifty or seventy-five moves without a capture or pawn move is quite an achievement.

Two world champions, Kasparov and Karpov, managed to draw a game using the 50-Move rule.

Anatoly Karpov – Garry Kasparov, 1991.10.25, ½ – ½, Interpolis 15th Round 7, Tilburg NED

In Conclusion

Draws in chess have played a vital result in some high-stake matches, including the world chess championship. In 2018 all twelve games in the match between Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana ended in draws.

Knowing how to draw in chess can earn you a vital half point to finish higher in a tournament or help you earn rating points against a stronger opponent. When you lose a game, you lose rating points, but this is not always the case with draws in chess.

Fighting back to earn a draw can feel better than a win and shows you have a true fighting spirit.

Of course, no matter how nice draws are, nothing beats winning chess when it comes to feeling great!

You can accelerate your chess improvement with one of the most popular presenters on iChess – GM Simon Williams. Take your chess to the next level with this excellent 15-hour course.

This course covers evaluation, strategy, thought process, calculation, sacrifices, and more.

Don’t get stuck! Grab your copy of “Accelerate Your Chess” by GM Simon Williams today and get instant access to a wealth of chess knowledge while saving 50%!

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