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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
f8 black king
f7 white pawn
f6 white king
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 Persian 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.