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Stalemate is a situation in chess where the player whose turn it is to move is not in check but has no legal move.

Example of stalemate
Start of chess board.
a8 __ b8 __ c8 __ d8 __ e8 __ f8 black king g8 __ h8 __
a7 __ b7 __ c7 __ d7 __ e7 __ f7 white pawn g7 __ h7 __
a6 __ b6 __ c6 __ d6 __ e6 __ f6 white king g6 __ h6 __
a5 __ b5 __ c5 __ d5 __ e5 __ f5 __ g5 __ h5 __
a4 __ b4 __ c4 __ d4 __ e4 __ f4 __ g4 __ h4 __
a3 __ b3 __ c3 __ d3 __ e3 __ f3 __ g3 __ h3 __
a2 __ b2 __ c2 __ d2 __ e2 __ f2 __ g2 __ h2 __
a1 __ b1 __ c1 __ d1 __ e1 __ f1 __ g1 __ h1 __
End of chess board.

Black to move is in stalemate. Black has no legal move since every square to which his king might move is under attack by White.

When stalemate occurs, the game is a draw. Actual stalemate is rare, but the threat of stalemate has a big effect on endgame play. Many K+R+P vs K+R endings are drawn when stalemate cannot be avoided. The existence of stalemate is a main reason why draws are common in chess, but rare in the chess derivative shogi.

In the old Arabic form of chess, shatranj, stalemate was a win for the side with the most pieces. The idea of stalemate as a draw in modern chess took a long time to be agreed. It was finally decided by the early 19th century British master J.H. Sarratt in the London Chess Club rules of 1807.[1]

Figurative uses in general[change | change source]

All uses of the term "stalemate" in other contexts come from its use in chess. Stalemates in bargaining, politics and general life are examples of figurative language. The term is used as a metaphor.

References[change | change source]

  1. Hooper D. & Whyld K. 1992. The Oxford Companion to chess. Oxford University Press, p387/8.