by Karsten Müller
8/8/2023 – Stalemates can often save the defender in endgames. However, they are difficult to spot. In the diagram position, it is Black to move and draw. What would you do?

Endgames of the World Champions from Fischer to Carlsen Endgames of the World Champions from Fischer to Carlsen

Let endgame expert Dr Karsten Müller show and explain the finesses of the world champions. Although they had different styles each and every one of them played the endgame exceptionally well, so take the opportunity to enjoy and learn from some of the best endgames in the history of chess.


Karsten Mueller in ChessBase Magazine

Do you like these lessons? There are plenty more by internationally renowned endgame expert Dr Karsten Müller in ChessBase Magazine, where you will also find openings articles and surveys, tactics, and of course annotations by the world's top grandmasters.

 Order now in the ChessBase Shop  – Single issue € 21.90!

ChessBase Magazine trial subscription with 33% savings advantage and thank you bonus!*

Try out ChessBase Magazine now! Order the ChessBase Magazine taster package!
Read ChessBase Magazine for 6 months (= 3 issues) for the special price of only € 44.90 € (instead of € 65,70 for buying them individually). As a thank you, you will also receive 3 months ChessBase Premium Membership free of charge. 

*Bonus for new subscribers only, i.e. there was no CBM subscription for 12 months!

ChessBase Magazine one year subscription - plus original ChessBase USB stick with 128 GB *

Save twice with ChessBase Magazine: For the annual subscription to ChessBase Magazine you’ll pay only € 109.90 per year (compared to € 131.40 for the 6 individual issues).

* Bonus only for new subscribers, i.e. there was no CBM subscription for 12 months! As a new subscriber you will receive the original ChessBase USB stick with 128 GB

Apart from his regular columns and video lectures in ChessBase Magazine there is a whole series of training DVDs by Karsten Mueller, which are bestsellers in the ChessBase Shop.

Karsten Mueller

Karsten Mueller regularly presents endgame lessons in the ChessBase Video Portal


Karsten Müller is considered to be one of the greatest endgame experts in the world. His books on the endgame - among them "Fundamentals of Chess Endings", co-authored with Frank Lamprecht, that helped to improve Magnus Carlsen's endgame knowledge - and his endgame columns for the ChessCafe website and the ChessBase Magazine helped to establish and to confirm this reputation. Karsten's Fritztrainer DVDs on the endgame are bestsellers. The mathematician with a PhD lives in Hamburg, and for more than 25 years he has been scoring points for the Hamburger Schachklub (HSK) in the Bundesliga.
Discussion and Feedback Submit your feedback to the editors


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register

Karsten Müller Karsten Müller 8/14/2023 11:17
Frits Fritschy: Your memory is correct. The game is Vladimir Kramnik - Maxime Vachier Lagrave, FIDE World Cup Tromsoe 2013. Kramnik could have won with 62.Nd7!+-.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 8/13/2023 11:47
On a more serious level, it should be noted that if you move the position after 78... Re6 two files to the right, black gets into Zugzwang.
I checked Van der Heijden's endgame study database, but can't find anything with this idea. I do however have some vague memories of a game by Kramnik, with a drawn or quite difficult to win position with this material (no stalemate or immediate capture of the pawn).
By the way, I hope you will cover the highly interesting FIDE World Cup pawn endgame Roebers-Dronavalli (round 4.1)!
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 8/13/2023 09:51
I might even go a bit further: if we see chess purely as a game of logic, and feel the need to change the rules accordingly, mate is an outdated concept: just declare the one that captures all the opponent's pieces the winner.
The advantage of my invention is that, with a 7x7 board, my reward by an Indian king might be a bit more manageable than 1500 years ago.
Karsten Müller Karsten Müller 8/13/2023 08:27
Frits Fritschy: Well that goes a bit far. But no castling chess might have a future like Lasker chess...
WillScarlett WillScarlett 8/13/2023 05:48
One might discuss and debate - in a civil and respectful manner - whether stalemate should result in a draw, or a win for the superior side, or even a score somewhere between 0.5 and 1.0 as a compromise.

However, I think there is little or no argument for rewarding snarkiness or vapid sarcasm with a big fat zero .
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 8/12/2023 10:06
I think we should abandon ridiculous moves like castling and en passant capturing as well. And what about that double pawn move itself? And looking at it, pawns are disturbing the beautiful geometry of the movement of the other pieces. The knight can stay, but only if the board is reduced to 7x7. In that case, for reasons of symmetry, the queen should be left out, being superfluous anyway, her movements being already there in bishop and rook. The names of the pieces should be changed in orthogon, diagon and circle. But what to do with the king?
Karsten Müller Karsten Müller 8/12/2023 07:57
HowardGutman: To be honest: No. My computer found it...
Mamack1 Mamack1 8/11/2023 08:54
To reply to the responding comments - no, stalemate is not totally "logical".

But, again, why does it have to be?

That it is not is arguably part of the sheer charm of the game.
HowardGutman HowardGutman 8/11/2023 05:41
Question, Karsten, were you able to find the solution before checking with a computer. These are hard.
Jacob woge Jacob woge 8/10/2023 01:26
"Even "only" a pawn down with no legal move hardly demonstrates equality and deserving an equal result. "

Or a pawn up, for that matter. That can happen, too.
Karsten Müller Karsten Müller 8/10/2023 07:04
German correspondence GM Arno Nickel has proposed to try Lasker chess, where stalemate gives 3/4 of a point to the one, who gives the stalemate and 1/4 to the one, who is stalemated. This might be worth investigating...
WillScarlett WillScarlett 8/9/2023 08:56
When asked about Capablanca's opinion of stalemate, a popular AI entity emitted the following information:

"He was known for his pragmatic and practical approach to the game, and he held a somewhat controversial opinion on the stalemate rule. Capablanca believed that the stalemate rule was too harsh and that it often deprived the player with a winning advantage of their rightful victory. He argued that if one player had maneuvered their pieces skillfully to put their opponent in a situation where they had no legal moves left, it should be considered a win for the player who achieved that position.
In Capablanca's view, this approach would reward skillful play and endgames where one player clearly outplayed the other. He felt that the current stalemate rule, which results in a draw when the player with no legal moves is not in check, was counterintuitive and somewhat unjust."

I have yet to confirm this with corroborative sources, but do recall reading it some time ago.

I do not know if the 3rd World Champion ever exhibited rank materialism, but I am aware that he was a genius, so it's possible his opinions about the game have merit and were seldom, if ever, hideously bad.
WillScarlett WillScarlett 8/9/2023 05:39
Chess was of enduring popularity and a fantastic game from circa 600 A.D. , both before and after the late Middle Ages and the early Renaissance, when the rule that stalemate is a win was changed and demoted to a draw. So, for almost a millennium, despite the hideously bad take that an utterly immobilized king was defeated held sway in India, Persia, the Moslem Empire, Russia, etc. Only the European peoples who came up with banking, colonialism, and piracy were able to rid chess of rank materialism. To those enlightened Europeans, discarding the original concepts of the game was a definite enhancement. How very spiritual ! A king completely surrounded and thoroughly hamstrung, but not yet speared or pierced with arrows ... yet the battle declared inconclusive, with no winner. Yes, chess is THE game of logic .
Mamack1 Mamack1 8/9/2023 05:04
Ugh, takes like the previous one are so hideously bad - and give off such an air of rank materialism.

Stalemate is one of the things that makes chess such a fantastic game - the very idea that one player can have a huge material advantage AND STILL NOT WIN is a definite enhancement to it, not the opposite.
WillScarlett WillScarlett 8/8/2023 04:50
Stalemate was originally regarded as a win, albeit not quite admired or celebrated as checkmate, but a victory for the player who effected it all the same. At some time - Middle Ages ? - stalemate was reduced to a draw. The original idea was better and more rational. Why should a lone king garner a half-point for finding itself at the mercy of its opposing king and two knights. Even "only" a pawn down with no legal move hardly demonstrates equality and deserving an equal result. Restoring stalemate to a loss for the paralyzed king would greatly reduce the century-old problem of the "draw death" in top level chess. There would be no need to change any other rules, or resort to gimmicks such as "no castling", or new pieces, or altered boards. If the traditional objection that , " BUT THE KING ISN'T IN CHECK !! " is too difficult for some to abandon, then perhaps a compromise would be in order. For example: Checkmate - actual or inevitable - would be awarded 1 point; stalemate would gain 0.75 for the superior side, 0.25 for the immobilized side. Other schemes for point distribution may be proposed, but the half point system could and should be laid to rest. Players would remain with sufficient motivation to seek and strive for stalemate when in dire straits because 0.25 for their inferior result is , of course, better than zero. Clever play to reach stalemate rather than utter loss would still be a sensible goal. We have seen a variety of off beat scoring procedures tried at times to better reward better play. Ending the nonsensical "fifty-fifty" for stalemate would be easier and respect the tradition used in the first 1000 years of the game.