Stalemate Vs. Checkmate
In both a stalemate and a checkmate, the king has nowhere to go. However, the similarities end there. The main difference between checkmate and stalemate is simple.
In a checkmate, the king is under attack; an enemy piece is threatening it. Therefore, it has to move, but since it can’t, it is considered a checkmate.
In a stalemate, however, there is no check. The king can’t go anywhere, but it isn’t under attack. That’s the main difference: if there’s a check, it isn’t a stalemate but a checkmate.
However, for it to be a stalemate, the player whose turn is next must not have any pieces to move. Perhaps they have only the king left or other pieces, but they are blocked. For example, white might have a king and a pawn, but if a black pawn is blocking the white pawn and the white king can’t move without entering check, it is a stalemate.
Why Is a Stalemate Not a Win?
A stalemate is not a win because, in chess, a player can lose in two ways: Either they resign, or the other player checkmates them. Just because they can’t move any pieces doesn’t mean they have lost. Nevertheless, since the game can’t go on without them making an illegal or suicidal move, it is a draw, and nobody wins.
There is a reason a stalemate is not a win. The stalemate rule adds a lot of strategic flair to the game because losing players can trick the other player into causing a stalemate, leading to a draw. Some players, especially beginners, will become quite zealous when they have more pieces than their
opponent. They will move their pieces around and try to trap the enemy king, especially in an endgame.
However, some players lack endgame strategy, so they can never figure out how to checkmate. Instead, they might make a blunder and let a stalemate happen. That is one of the challenges of chess. Even if you have more pieces, you still need to understand chess strategy and practice your technique so you can force a checkmate in an endgame.
Why Did I Get a Stalemate Instead of a Checkmate?
You got a stalemate instead of a checkmate because you made it impossible for your opponent to make any move, but you did not put their king in check.
Sometimes, in an endgame, there will be a few possible moves. A move that might look stronger might be weaker. If it puts your enemy in a position where they can’t move any piece, and you didn’t put their king in check, it’s a trap! It’s better to make the move that might seem less threatening—even moving your queen away from the enemy king, for example—than cause a stalemate. That way, you still have a chance to checkmate them later.
Before making a move that restricts the movement of the enemy king, always pause to check if it will have any moves after that. First, check to see if your opponent has any other pieces and whether your pieces or their pieces block them. If they have no other unblocked pieces, check to see if the king would be able to go anywhere. Be aware that you might have a bishop or rook on the other side of the board restricting its movement.
Your opponent might also have “tricked” you into creating a stalemate. Sometimes, when a player who knows how stalemates work is losing, they will try to trick the other opponent into causing a stalemate. This only works if the other player is unfamiliar with what a stalemate is or is too inexperienced to notice that one will happen if they perform a particular move. They know they can’t win, so they play for a draw.
How to Prevent a Stalemate From Happening
Sometimes, a stalemate is a good thing. For example, if you are losing, you’d rather your opponent stalemate you than checkmate you! Or, if there is a chance you will win, but it will test your skills, and you are playing against someone better than you, you might opt to accept a draw rather than risk a potential loss.
However, if you are winning, the last thing you want is a stalemate! Why settle for a draw when you can get a complete win? To prevent a stalemate from happening, you need to think ahead before you perform each move, especially in endgames. More importantly, however, you need to study and develop your endgame strategy.
Endgame strategy is just as important as your opening strategy or mid-game strategy. If you play often enough, you will eventually end up in a situation where you have a king plus a queen, rook, two bishops, or some other pieces, while the other player has just a king or just a king and a pawn.
Can you win in that situation? Do you know how to corner the king and prevent the pawn from turning into a queen simultaneously? If you don’t know how to corner a king, you might cause a stalemate by mistake or settle for one out of frustration.
If you caused a stalemate by mistake, don’t despair! It happens to many beginner players. Use it as a learning opportunity to improve your skills so that it does not happen again in the future.