Stalemate: the long and the Short of it (2)

by Paul Lillebo
8/23/2014 – Recently English GM Nigel Short expressed the view that we should abandon the "stupid rule" of stalemate, where the attacking side has completely immobilized the enemy but does not win the game. Paul Lillebo believes that the possibility of stalemate adds a valuable dimension to chess, leading to complex theory that is not mechanical. He illustrates this with some interesting examples.

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Stalemate: the long and the Short of it – part 2

By H. Paul Lillebo

In the first part of this article I discussed the idea of GM Nigel Short and others that stalemate should be scored not as a draw, but as a win for the stalemating player. My own reaction to that proposal remains negative. In my view, the possibility of stalemate adds a valuable dimension to chess. It requires the stronger side to conduct the attack with care, and to pay attention to subtleties in the position and unexpected resources for the defense. Above all, it leads to complex theory in end game play, where without the stalemate draw the game would be mechanical.

A final hurdle

To take a simple example, the first diagram below shows a typical two bishop mating pattern. The black king is corralled in the h8 corner. An alert player with white will have no difficulty: he needs only play a waiting move, say 1.Be3, and after 1…Kh7 finish the job with 2.Be4+ and 3.Bd4++. But a player sleep-walking through this “obvious” win might be so eager to finish as to play 1.Be4 right away. It’s a blunder, of course: you’ve stalemated the opponent and given away the win.


Next are two similar embarrassments that inexperienced players regularly fall into: in the second diagram White has just played Qe1-e6, expecting to mate on his next move. Of course there will be no next move, because the game has now ended in stalemate. White had a myriad of reasonable moves (including the best, Kc6, forcing mate in one), but has blundered into a draw.

Similarly, in the third diagram Black has moved his king to the corner after a knight check, and White has eagerly brought his rook into the action with Ra2-a7, threatening the typical mate on h7. But that mate won’t happen, because the game has just ended in stalemate.

Those who agree with GM Short feel that coming close is good enough: Checkmate is no longer necessary, and players shouldn’t have to learn the subtleties needed to get over such hurdles as the above. We shouldn’t be allowed to blunder away a win; we deserve somehow to be protected against our own blunders! In society we have laws to protect us from ourselves, such seat-belt laws, but in most cases these are justified as protecting others. But the proposed anti-blunder rule has no such redeeming social value. It would solely protect the blunderer against his own oversights: it should no longer be possible to mess up the above endings.


Every language has proverbs that caution a buyer against getting swindled: “Don’t buy a pig in a poke” (i.e., in a sack, unseen). In “real life” swindling isn’t nice. But chess is war, and swindling is more or less what it’s all about. If you get swindled, it’s your own fault; you missed something you should have seen. The stalemate swindle is often the last resource of the player who is at the end of his rope. Nothing recommends the stalemate rule more than the opportunity for swindling that it affords a defender, requiring the attacker to be ever alert. Chess history is full of such happy events (in the defender’s view). One example comes from Bird-Englisch, London 1883.

[Event "London+"] [Site "London"] [Date "1883.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Bird, Henry Edward"] [Black "Englisch, Berthold"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C54"] [PlyCount "87"] [EventDate "1883.??.??"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "26"] [EventCountry "ENG"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "1999.07.01"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. c3 Nf6 5. b4 Bb6 6. d3 d6 7. O-O O-O 8. Bg5 Be6 9. Nbd2 Qe7 10. a4 a6 11. a5 Ba7 12. Kh1 h6 13. Bh4 Rad8 14. b5 Bxc4 15. Nxc4 axb5 16. Ne3 Bxe3 17. fxe3 Qe6 18. Qb1 g5 19. Bg3 Na7 20. c4 c6 21. c5 Nh5 22. a6 bxa6 23. Rxa6 Qd7 24. d4 Nxg3+ 25. hxg3 Nc8 26. cxd6 f6 27. Rc1 Nxd6 28. Rcxc6 Ne8 29. Qxb5 g4 30. Nh4 exd4 31. exd4 Qxd4 32. Nf5 Qxe4 33. Re6 Rd1+ 34. Kh2 Qb1 35. Qxb1 Rxb1 36. Ra7 Rb5 37. Nxh6+ Kh8 38. Nxg4 Rg5 {[#]In this position White tried to win quickly with} 39. Rxe8 {But Black inserted} Rh5+ $1 ({White was perhaps hoping for} 39... Rxe8 40. Nxf6 {with a win.}) {and after} 40. Kg1 Rxe8 41. Nxf6 {Black surprised White with} Rh1+ $1 42. Kxh1 (42. Kf2 { would lose to} Rf8) 42... Re1+ 43. Kh2 Rh1+ {forcing his own stalemate. A beautiful and surprising resource, made possible, as usual, by an error (39. Rxe8) on the part of the attacker.} 44. Kxh1 1/2-1/2

The next example is a great swindle from an amateur blitz game, where White sacs his entire remaining army.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "2014.08.19"] [Round "?"] [White "Amateur blitz game"] [Black "?"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "6k1/3R1p2/4p1p1/p2n2Qp/2p1q3/8/5P1K/r7 w - - 0 1"] [PlyCount "14"] {White, who is completely lost, invites Black to blunder with} 1. f3 $1 {(his only hope).} {Black sees the chance for great things on h1, and plays} Qxf3 $4 2. Rd8+ (2. Qxg6+ fxg6 3. Rd8+ Qf8) 2... Kg7 3. Rg8+ Kh7 (3... Kxg8 4. Qxg6+ Kf8 5. Qg8+ Ke7 6. Qd8+ Kxd8) 4. Rg7+ Kxg7 5. Qxg6+ Kf8 6. Qg8+ Ke7 7. Qd8+ Kxd8 {stalemate. Of course, the stalemate=win camp feels that Black should be given win here anyway. Grotesque idea!} 1/2-1/2

The following swindle is a useful bit of rook end game theory.

White to move wins easily: 1.Ra1 Kb8 2.Ra8+, but Black to move can draw with 1…Kb8!. After 2.Rh1 Rb7+! 3.Kc5 (3.cxb7 is stalemate) Rb2, Black has achieved the Philidor drawing line.

The king chase

A common stalemate involves chasing the king around with a rook, trying to give it away. A classic example of this theme comes from the following game:

[Event "Barmen Masters-B"] [Site "Barmen"] [Date "1905.08.22"] [Round "8"] [White "Post, Ehrhardt"] [Black "Nimzowitsch, Aaron"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D07"] [PlyCount "196"] [EventDate "1905.08.14"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "17"] [EventCountry "GER"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "1999.07.01"] 1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 Bg4 3. c4 Nc6 4. cxd5 Bxf3 5. gxf3 Qxd5 6. e3 e5 7. Nc3 Bb4 8. Bd2 Qd7 9. d5 Nce7 10. Qb3 Bxc3 11. Bxc3 Qxd5 12. Qxd5 Nxd5 13. Bxe5 f6 14. Bd4 Nge7 15. Rg1 O-O 16. Bc4 Kh8 17. Bc5 Rfe8 18. O-O-O Nb6 19. Bf7 Rf8 20. Bh5 g6 21. Bxe7 Rf7 22. Bxg6 hxg6 23. Bb4 Kg7 24. Rd4 c5 25. Bxc5 Rc8 26. b4 Nd7 27. Kb1 Nxc5 28. bxc5 Rxc5 {All the pieces except for the four rooks are off the board; White holds a 5-4 pawn advantage.} 29. Rdg4 Rb5+ 30. Ka1 g5 31. h4 Rc7 32. hxg5 Rc2 33. gxf6+ Kf7 34. Rb1 Ra5 35. Rxb7+ Kxf6 36. Rf4+ Ke6 37. a4 Rxf2 38. Rb2 Rf1+ 39. Ka2 Re5 40. Re2 Kd5 41. Kb2 Kc5 42. Kc3 Rc1+ 43. Kd2 Ra1 44. Rg4 Rf5 45. Rf2 Re5 46. e4 Kd4 47. Rg7 Ra2+ 48. Ke1 Rxa4 49. Re2 Rh5 50. Rd7+ Kc4 51. Rc2+ Kb3 52. Rcd2 Ra1+ 53. Ke2 a5 54. Rb7+ Kc3 55. Rc7+ Kb3 56. Kd3 Rf1 57. Rb7+ Ka3 58. Ke3 a4 59. Kf4 Rh4+ 60. Kg5 {The pawns are now reduced to 2:1. Nimzowitch assessed that his position would be lost, were it not for stalemate possibilities. He sac's a rook with} Rxf3 {and the fun begins. After} 61. Kxh4 Rf4+ 62. Kg3 {Black plays} Rf3+ {This started a king hunt by the black rook lasting 37 moves, where the rook offered itself to the white king and to each of the white rooks no less than 28 times.} 63. Kg4 ({If the king takes the rook, it's stalemate:} 63. Kxf3) 63... Rf4+ 64. Kg5 Rf5+ 65. Kg6 Rf6+ 66. Kg7 Rg6+ 67. Kh8 Rg8+ 68. Kh7 Rh8+ 69. Kg6 Rh6+ 70. Kf5 Rf6+ 71. Kg5 Rf5+ 72. Kg6 Rf6+ 73. Kg7 Rg6+ 74. Kh8 Rg8+ 75. Kh7 Rh8+ 76. Kg6 Rh6+ 77. Kg5 Rg6+ 78. Kf4 Rg4+ 79. Kf3 Rf4+ 80. Ke2 Rxe4+ 81. Kd1 Re1+ 82. Kc2 Rc1+ 83. Kd3 Rc3+ 84. Kd4 Rc4+ 85. Kd5 Rc5+ 86. Kd6 Rc6+ 87. Kd7 Rb6 88. Rc7 Rb2 89. Rd4 Rb8 90. Rcc4 Ra8 91. Rb4 Ra6 92. Ke7 Ra7+ 93. Ke6 Ra6+ 94. Ke5 Ra5+ 95. Ke4 Ra6 $2 { unfortunately this leads to a forced win for White.} 96. Kd3 Ra8 97. Kc2 Rc8+ 98. Kb1 $2 (98. Rbc4 {is mate in five.}) 98... Rb8 {and a draw was agreed, since all white moves lead either to stalemate or other dead draws.} 1/2-1/2

– Part three to follow soon –

Paul Lillebo, life-long chess lover, is a retired biologist and earlier U.S. naval aviator with a recent master's degree in early American history, who divides his time between Oslo, Norway and North Carolina, USA.


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Johannes Fischer Johannes Fischer 9/10/2020 05:41
The images in this article are reactivated now.
dbergan dbergan 9/10/2020 04:29
I wish the images still worked on this page.
AngeloPardi AngeloPardi 9/22/2014 08:45
Stalemate has given us splendid moves and games. It adds to the beauty and complexity of chess, and thus should not be removed.
ICCF Grandmaster ICCF Grandmaster 9/1/2014 12:27
Hi Paul, thanks for your feedback. It will be interesting to read your 3rd article on this subject. Honestly speaking, when I asked Nigel Short via twitter @Norway Chess 2014 (forwarded by Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam) on his opinion about Lasker's advice to reintroduce the "stalemate win", I had the impression that the British Grandmaster did not know much about the debate in the 1920ties (see Wiener Schachzeitung 1929) or at least did not care about it. I can only recommend Réti's small, but famous book "New Ideas in Chess" from 1922. He explains convincingly, why we should make a difference between draw, stalemate and win.
hpaul hpaul 8/27/2014 05:01
ICCF Grandmaster: I appreciate your input, along with all others here. The comment by GM Short that brought on this discussion was made in an internet commentary session in 2014, in response to a question by Dirk Jan Ten Geuzendam. So the article has been about Short's proposal to score draws as a win, not about possible alternative scorings. But I appreciate your bringing in Lasker's specific proposal of partial scoring, as well as hearing your ideas on that. Proposals to divide the point in various ways depending on the type of draw have also been made by others since Lasker's time

Some scoring changes, such as the "football" scoring of 3 points for a win, have been tried in a number of tournaments, perhaps already enough that some analysis can be made as to whether the purpose of that change (to reduce draws) was achieved. While I think that following GM Short's suggestion would lead to fundamental changes in the game, proposals for splitting the point for a draw in other ways that 0.5-0.5 could be tried in specific tournaments, to test the effect of this. I will take up such themes in the brief 3rd (and final) installment of the article, to appear soon.
Thanks again for the informative suggestions,
Paul Lillebo
Ann Kittenplan Ann Kittenplan 8/26/2014 04:00
For consistency if you're going to have no stalemate then you should have no zugzwang.
airman airman 8/26/2014 03:44
Isn't it tiring to try to change the rules of things that have worked so well for so long?!?
This is not just in chess but nearly everything these days. Let chess be an outlier that bucks the change for change sakes trend. Let it remain a game that spans centuries. I know there have been changes in the very long past. But those changes where not for the benefit of the game but for the vanity of a few at the time. Leave our game alone. Create a new version to compete side by side if you like. I bet it won't be as successful.
ICCF Grandmaster ICCF Grandmaster 8/26/2014 01:40
I am not sure, if all readers understand this discussion and the differences between various opinions. Whereas Nigel Short wants to abolish the stalemate rule and suggests stalemate should be of the same value as mate, there are some others, like me (referring to Lasker, Réti and other chess champions), who suggest to keep the stalemate rule, but change the scale of points, awarding 0.75 to the one who stalemates and 0.25 to the opponent being stalemated. In my view the latter position is well-founded by the history and the specific character of our game, and above all it is like an upgrade for chess as a sport: creating more performance differentiation.
Richard Flacco Richard Flacco 8/26/2014 02:00
From .7 to .75 for stalemating the opponent (which is still a draw) sounds reasonable.
In my country, you don't have to be a King to invoke the Fifth Amendment (no citizen need testify against himself). Chess is a game about Kings and that is why the obligation to make a legal move doesn't mean you have to move from a safe square into one where you will be killed--duh. (If the game is about players, not Kings, then sure, blunder yourself and die.) If you want to make the game about something else (like not feeling frustrated because you can't ram home an advantage for a full point--which again is about the player now, the nicities of the game itself are again being forgotten--well okay. (Obviously, calling our stalemate rule "stupid" just shows one understands chess analysis, not the nature of the game.)

Chvsanchez Chvsanchez 8/26/2014 12:40
If stalemate is a stupid rule, then perpetual check and 50-move draw are also stupid, because in the three cases the weaker side can get an undeserved draw.
Jrcasablanca Jrcasablanca 8/25/2014 10:10
there is too big a draw margin in chess, if we made stalemate say a .75 to .25 win it would still leave stalemate combinations as a stalemate loss would still be an improvement over a mate loss.
But making stalemate a Thre quarter win would reward skill differences and encourage longer games and open up new endgame research while still keeping the basic structure of the game unchanged. in my opinion it would be a success like banning the backpass to the keeper was in football.

Short is Correct.
ICCF Grandmaster ICCF Grandmaster 8/25/2014 05:30
You say: "Nigel brought out the fact that being stalemated was in earlier days considered a loss, and that the legendary World Champion Emanuel Lasker also considered the present rule to be idiotic."
As it was me who had asked Nigel for his opinion on Lasker's famous ideas in this matter, I may please correct you here. Lasker did not want to abolish stalemate, but he suggested to count a stalemate with 8 of 10 possible points for the "winner" and with 2 of 10 for the "loser". This is a completely different story, as achieving a stalemate would still be a desirable option for both players in a game, just depending on the position. In 2013 I published a detailed survey on this topic in the German chess magazine SCHACH. I suggested to introduce a modified score system in top correspondence chess, where the draw rate recently increased up to 80-90 percent. My suggestion is 3/4 point for a stalemate win and 1/4 point for a stalemate loss. In the ancient chess stalemate was counted as half a loss. The change came with the „new“ chess at the end of the 15th century. Please check the 3rd part of my articles, PDF:
mannytoo mannytoo 8/25/2014 11:57
Why go through the motions of playing the endgame? Just reward the point already to the one with material advantage and/or nice position.
GrayDuck GrayDuck 8/25/2014 06:00
Álvaro Pereira: "Abolishing it, to have more wins, would be so ridiculous as abolishing off-side in football, to have more goals."

Why is that ridiculous? I think that the low scoring in soccer (international football) is a significant drag on its popularity--at least in the United States. In the recent World Cup, the Germany-Brazil game was regarded as much more exciting than the final.
GrayDuck GrayDuck 8/25/2014 05:49
Thanks David Levy. Perhaps they should also look at actual games to see if they change from theoretical draws to theoretical wins.
GrayDuck GrayDuck 8/25/2014 05:38
jim macneil :"Frequently even GM's allow a winning position to slip away to a draw, for many reasons. ... Why should allowing a stalemate be any different?"

My sense is that most of those draws are, in actuality, theoretical stalemates. That is, if the two sides continue to play their best, a stalemate will result. Thus, stalemate is a primary cause of the large number of draws that we see in top-level chess. Remove the rule, and we are likely to see far fewer ties. That result would be good for spectator chess.

"Moreover, forcing a stalemate from a dead lost position, when it happens, is often the result of brilliant play."

Can you give us some examples? I bet that for every one of these "brilliant" stalemates in elite chess, a hundred boring draws occur because of the rule.
GrayDuck GrayDuck 8/25/2014 05:25
BabyPfuscher: "Why should laziness be rewarded?"

Laziness should not be rewarded; that is an argument against the stalemate rule. With the stalemate rule, players can play poorly and still win half of a point. Without the stalemate rule, players would need to earn every half point.
GrayDuck GrayDuck 8/25/2014 05:14
Note that none of his examples are from modern high-level play.

In beginner play, chess is just about having fun. Losing half of a hard-fought game on a technicality is not fun.
Richard Flacco Richard Flacco 8/24/2014 10:23
Chess is the Royal game. The King is about himself. He will not tolerate the existence of another King, but even imposes upon everyone within his sphere of influence, that they must join his private army dedicated to the destruction of the other King. We do not know what justifications may exist for either side, but we know that compelling such a King to move from a safe square into check, simply because the move alternates, violates this underlying meaning of the game. The obligation to move is subordinate to the King's desire for his own safety, or chess is... indeed, a game of checkers, not Royal at all. The King's existential egocentricity is the very foundation of this game.
Miguel Herrera Miguel Herrera 8/24/2014 04:20
You have to understand that the big advantage of chess it is their qualitative nature. Its an unique field. the harmony wins against material. It is not about material its about something qualitative: check mate!!
Victor Trifan Victor Trifan 8/24/2014 03:32
Alekhine, the 4th World Champion and one of the most profound chess players ever, wrote in his commentaries to his game against Wolf at Pistyan 1922 that he doesn’t understand why there is such a strong desire to find in a chess game something more refined than it can offer. He is of the opinion that the true beauty of chess is more than enough for satisfying all imaginable intellectual demands. [It’s not a citation that can be 100% accurate as this is a re-translation into English from a source that uses a foreign language, and I’m not sure if I can overlap with the original words Alekhine used.]
I’m convinced that Alekhine expressed very accurately that the complexity of the game the way it is now defined is more than sufficient not only for the sophisticated contemporary people, but also for the next generations. We changed the time rates to the detriment of game quality (gone are the days of 2.5 hours/40 moves, followed by adjournaments, nowadays we play Swiss opens with such a pathetic layer of tiebreaks to establish the rankings) but we couldn’t solve the game completely in spite of accumulating so much information that can fill an entire library by itself. I think I’m not the only one who loves chess the way it is, with its Knights that move resembling a circle, with the en passant, castling, stalemate, checkmate, ‘piece touché, piece joueé ’ rules, where a diagonal equals a side, and other things that make this game unique. Another former Word Champion, Mikhail Tal, said that should chess be forbidden, he would become an outlaw! Me too…
If someone doesn’t like chess as we know it, they always can develop their own variant, with a different set of rules. Nowadays we have tournaments of Chess960 (Fischer), 3D chess, hexagonal chess for 6 players, chess problems where some pieces move differently than any others from a standard chess set, and so on. Mr. Short can create his own variant, he can establish any kind of “logic” there, it would be his kingdom! And remember, as GM Nigel Davies put it, “there is always Sudoku”. But leave chess the way it is now, do not impose your fantasies on all of us!
Maria Gottschalk Maria Gottschalk 8/24/2014 02:55
Stalemate in chess is what offside is in soccer: a last defensive resource when you'd be completely lost otherwise.

Only dunderheads will deprive you of your absolutely last chance.

In the Middle Ages a convict to be beheaded could hope for the executioner to miss. He would have been a free man immediately if this had happened.

If even soccer can accept offside (and the draw!) then chess should accept stalemate (and the draw!).

There's no reason to lower the standards or the rules. Not even hooligans have ever complained about them. It's a game after all!
Álvaro Pereira Álvaro Pereira 8/24/2014 02:38
Stalemate is a distinctive feature of chess. Abolishing it, to have more wins, would be so ridiculous as abolishing off-side in football, to have more goals.
Besides, without the stalemate rule, there would be wins in some positions where mate is simply impossible. For instance, Kc6 + Ba3 / Kc8: 1.Be7 forces stalemate in a few moves
David Levy David Levy 8/23/2014 09:37
I agree with Nigel Short completely on the logic of his idea. It is exactly what happens in Draughts (Checkers) - a player who cannot make a legal move loses. But I believe that to make such a change would prove too much of a problem for chess players, who would have to "forget" almost everything in the endgame books, because so many endgame positions that are now a draw, because they will eventually reduce to a stalemate position, would then become wins.

The ICGA will try to encourage researchers who have access to endgame database software to investigate this question. For example, just how many of the drawn positions in the 6-man endgame database will become wins if a stalemate counts as a win. Watch this space!

J Nayer J Nayer 8/23/2014 09:21
I agree with the author. Abolishing the stalemate rule would impoverish chess, there is no doubt. No one would have ever seen Englisch's stroke of genius without the stalemate rule. Quite impressive! I am not terribly impressed with the argument that the stalemate rule is illogical. Chess is a war game. You win the game when you checkmate the king - not when you capture it (except in blitz). You can have the best position in the world, you still need to checkmate the king. If the king has nowhere to go, you have stalemated him. You did not win the game. I do not see what is illogical about it. On the contrary, I find it extremely logical.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 8/23/2014 09:12
Chess is supposed to be invented 1500 years ago to re-enact for a grieving mother how her son died on the battlefield. What has that to do with logic?
After the invention, the game has been adapted a few times in a way that made it nicer to play. The base of it remains a game that's hardly logical in it's rules, but thrives on tradition and emotion. People can get emotional about the antics of the knights, the power of the bishop pair, the subtleties of rook endgames.
When people want to play a logical game, let them move over to go or draughts. Beautiful games (I played go myself on a reasonable level), but no chance of getting emotional about the pieces themselves.
There is no reason why the rules of chess should remain unaltered till the end of times. But don't bring in logic as an argument for a change.
vandal vandal 8/23/2014 08:37
probably everything is clear from the perspective that the aim is to take the king or kill the king in stalemate there is no threat of capturing
hpaul hpaul 8/23/2014 08:01
calmapalma: It's perhaps true that less than one percent of games end in stalemate, but the stalemate rule has a significant effect on most chess games. Pawn play in the end game often comes down to whether one side can achieve stalemate. Most of the time it's not achieved, but a lot of draws are agreed because the eventual result would be stalemate. Almost all of end game theory is one way or another influenced by the stalemate rule.
calmapalma calmapalma 8/23/2014 07:47
We talk about player's games that is less than 1%.
Prefer x draws or x/2 victories. Has no effect on the total score.
It is fairer x/2 victories because the stalemate is usually escape from a very disadvantaged position.
What to assume that the player played well and has no legal move?
The player who had no legal move (centuries) previously lost.
Revert to reward players more fairly.
Study material:
vandal vandal 8/23/2014 07:32
the game name is checkmate not stalemate short sucks
Petrosianic Petrosianic 8/23/2014 06:08
John Trmop (below) makes a much better point. Is the No Royal Suicide Rule illogical? I pointed out (and I wasn't the only one) that stalemate is a logical consequence of the No Royal Suicide Rule. But is there a good reason for a rule preventing you from moving into or remaining in check? If blunders in general are legal, why is that one illegal?

I don't support eliminating the No Royal Suicide Rule, but you could probably make a better case for that than for abolishing stalemate. As long as the No Royal Suicide Rule remains in effect, we MUST retain Stalemate as well.
Petrosianic Petrosianic 8/23/2014 05:36
There's nothing stupid or illogical about stalemate. To the contrary, it's a *logical* consequence of the fact that moving into check is not merely inadvisable, but positively illegal. If one is required to make a move, but no legal move exists, the program crashes. Stalemate is a rule for the Computer Age, and a player who falls or is forced into it doesn't deserve to win.

If stalemate were abolished, the game would become more defensive and more boring. As it stands now, players are more willing to engage in attacking lines, knowing that if the attack fails, they may still have enough resources to hold the game. Abolishing stalemate would increase the importance of material over other positional factors, and make the game more defensive.

Nevertheless, these articles about abolishing stalemate seem to get published with great regularity, and none of them address this, the most important point. They only focus on showing famous stalemates (or in this case, common ones), or assuring us that the rule somehow doesn't make sense because it's one of the many ways of blundering away a win.
jim macneil jim macneil 8/23/2014 04:52
Frequently even GM's allow a winning position to slip away to a draw, for many reasons. Fatigue, inattention, carelessness, or strong tricky moves by the opponent. Why should allowing a stalemate be any different? Moreover, forcing a stalemate from a dead lost position, when it happens, is often the result of brilliant play. While not deserving of a full point, surely that player has earned the draw.
hpaul hpaul 8/23/2014 04:50
John Trmop: You're right about the "no royal suicide" rule. Removing that takes care of stalemate. I covered that lightly in the first part of the article. There's a link to that above the comment section, and in the first paragraph.
Paul Lillebo
John Trmop John Trmop 8/23/2014 04:29
The author argues convincingly that there is no justification for rules that serve only to protect
ourselves against our own blunders.

How quaint then, that he overlooks the most glaring instance of such a rule:
that we must not allow our king to be captured.

Once that obviously unjustifiable rule is abolished (as in blitz) , stalemate ceases to be an issue.

Problem solved.
Patrice Vezeau Patrice Vezeau 8/23/2014 02:41
If a draw is agreed by stalemate or other mean the game should be scored 0.75 to 0.25. Some rich guy should organize a tournament with super gm including Magnus with those rule for experimentation purpose.
BabyPfuscher BabyPfuscher 8/23/2014 01:06
I disagree with GM Short. Why should laziness be rewarded? Being able to "seal the deal" is just as important as getting to that position in the first place. Should we also adjudicate a game as a win midway through if say one player has an overwhelming advantage (e.g. +3.0 or greater)? With computers monitoring most big tournament games this wouldn't be a difficult thing to rig up. An arbiter could be alerted to a game that has crossed this threshold and subsequently walk over and adjudicate it immediately. I say no. Technical ability to convert an overwhelming advantage midway through a game is as important as avoiding the "swindle" of stalemate at the end. If you can't do this Mr. Short then maybe you don't deserve the "GM" title to begin with.
vandal vandal 8/23/2014 11:44
there is a beauty in stelmate because Micellangelo made statue of David not Goliat
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 8/22/2014 11:07
Paul Lillebo misses the point just as much as GM Nigel Short does. Actually, by arguing with him in this way, he is just helping him.
Abolishing stalemates will just leave other stupid ways of not winning a won game. And other cunning ways to save a lost game. But that's not the point.
Look at other 'stupid' rules in the game. Taking en passant: not able to take a pawn, you take his ghost. Castling: the king suddenly is permitted to make two moves and the rook, the ancient chariot, is allowed to jump. See Ben Hur doing a 360? And then the knight move, is that geometry? Is it jumping, or is it sneeking in between over the lines instead of the squares? We have made possible a double pawn move because the board was too deep, why not use a 6 x 8 board instead? And then promoting, isn't that a bit too much for just 5 moves of a humble pawn, without diversifying (an a pawn just a knight and only a central pawn for a queen)?
Let our esteemed GM answer these questions first, before we address his musings seriously.
By the way, I think chess without castling might be a good way to battle the importancy of opening preparation, preserving a lot of chess tradition, giving chess another 20 years before we have to go over to Fischer random. And by the way for the second time, this just adresses a problem for the top professionals - amateurs like me don't remember their opening preparation anyway.