Stalemate Vs Checkmate: 4 Key Differences You Should Know!

Stalemate and checkmate; both these topics might confuse you if you don’t understand them properly.

But don’t worry, I’m here to help you 🙂

In this article, I will be sharing with you from start to finish what a stalemate and checkmate are, their differences, and answers to all the related questions.

This is really going to be an exciting and helpful guide for you! So without further ado, let’s get started!

Difference Between Stalemate and Checkmate:

The main difference between stalemate and checkmate is that the game ends in a draw in a stalemate, while in a checkmate, the player delivering the checkmate wins, and the opponent loses the game. In a stalemate, the player’s king is not in threat, whereas, in a checkmate, the player’s king is in threat.

Stalemate:Checkmate:
1. The game ends in a Draw.1. Player delivering checkmate wins but the opponent loses.
2. You get a half-point.2. You get a complete point if you win and no points if you lose.
3. Your king is NOT in check (threat).3. Your king is in check (threat).
4. No legal moves left to continue the game.4. No legal moves left to SAVE the king and continue the game.

In other words, checkmate is a condition in which the king is under attack, but the player has no legal moves left to save the king. So the game ends, and the player who checkmates the opponent wins the game. In contrast, the player who gets checkmated loses the game. (Checkmate example explained ahead)

On the other hand, stalemate is a condition in which the king is not under attack, but the player has no legal moves left to continue the game. So the game ends, and the result is a draw. (Stalemate example explained ahead)

Stalemate is essentially a type of draw. And in chess whenever a draw occurs the player gets half points while the losing player gets no points in general. So you can keep that in mind 🙂

Recommended Read: What Is The Difference Between Stalemate And Draw? (Explained)

Also, in case you don’t know remember that as per the standard chess terminology, whenever a player’s king is under attack/threat, it is said to be in ‘check.’

What Is Stalemate In Chess?

In simple words, stalemate means,

  • When there are no legal moves left for you.
  • Also, you are not in check.

If the above two conditions are satisfied, it is called a stalemate. The game ends in a draw. I have also written a complete guide about a stalemate in chess.You can check that out if interested.

Interesting Facts About Stalemate

Stalemate has been regarded as a draw since the early 19th century. But do you know that it was considered an inferior win! In Middle English, ‘stale’ meant imitation. So stalemate meant imitation mate!

Moreover, previously chess players used to think that allowing a game to reach a stalemate was dishonorable.

Now let us understand the concept of stalemate with an example.

Stalemate Example:

Here is an example of a stalemate condition. Let’s see!

Stalemate Vs Checkmate
  • Black’s king is on h8, one pawn on b6, and another on c7.
  • White’s king is on h1, queen on e7, the bishop on e6, one pawn on c6, one on b5, and another on b4.
  • So these are the positions of all chess pieces.
  • Now, as you can see, black’s pawns are blocked.
  • So actually black king here is helpless.
  • Thus, you might be thinking White should deserve a win, right?
  • But here, it is not possible.
  • Black’s king can’t move on the squares f7 and h7 (see the image) because controlled by the White’s queen.
  • Similarly, the black king can’t move on f8 square because the White bishop controls it.
  • But what if black stays where it is now? Yes, then it will be safe for it.
  • So that’s why black has no legal moves to make.
  • Hence this is a stalemate situation, and the game ends in a draw.

We all know that the queen is the most powerful chess piece because of its flexibility and ability to move on many squares. But that also gives rise to one major drawback.

Whenever you play with the queen, especially in endgames, you have to be sure that the game is not moving towards stalemate condition.

One thing you can do to avoid it is by not controlling all the squares of your opponent’s king. That is, to give at least some room for your opponent’s king to dance around until you launch the final attack and deliver the checkmate.

You can read my article on avoiding stalemate in chess to know more.

Do you know that sometimes due to this stalemate causing property of queen, during endgames, the pawns are promoted to a rook, knight, or bishop instead of a queen!

Read my article why would you not promote a pawn to a queen to get more information on this topic.

What Is Checkmate In Chess?

In simple words, checkmate means,

  • You are in check
  • You have no legal moves to get out of check.

When these above two conditions are satisfied, it is called checkmate. For example, if you checkmate your opponent in a tournament, you win and get a whole point.

There are actually three ways you can respond to a checkmate

  1. By capturing the attacking chess piece.
  2. By keeping a piece between the king and the attacking chess piece.
  3. By moving the king to a safer square.

You may also like to read the important checkmate rules in chess.

Now let’s see some interesting facts about checkmate. So let’s see!

Interesting Facts About Checkmate

The word checkmate comes from the Persian word ‘shah,’ which means the king, and ‘mat’ means helpless. Thus, checkmate refers to a helpless king.

Generally, you lose a game only by being checkmated. But in tournaments, you can also lose a game if your clock runs out of time, if you resign or if you make two illegal moves!

You can read my article on is checkmate the only way to win chess to know more.

Moreover, you might have a common misconception that they have to utter check or checkmate whenever it occurs.

This was true in the past, but now, according to modern rules, you don’t need to say check or checkmate. Because then it would be considered as if you are disturbing your opponent.

You can read my article on do you have to say check or checkmate in chess for further information.

Checkmate Example:

Here is an example of a checkmate. Let’s see this!

Stalemate Vs Checkmate
  • White’s king is on h1, queen on h7, the bishop on d3 while pawn on b5.
  • Black’s king is on h8, the pawn on b6.
  • As you can see, the black king is under threat by White’s queen.
  • White’s and black’s pawns are blocked by each other.
  • Both the squares g7 and g8 are under the control of White’s queen.
  • If you think black’s king can take the queen, then you are wrong, my friend.
  • Look at the image; The bishop guards white’s queen on d3.
  • Thus, black’s king is checkmated by White.

I already wrote an article: Can a king take a queen in chess? You can check that out if you want to know more about this kind of scenario. Reading that will solve all your doubts.

Having discussed all these, a question that might come to your mind is whether stalemate better or checkmate. So let’s discuss that as well.

Is Stalemate Better Than Checkmate?

Stalemate is better if you lose because it will at least give you half points. Otherwise, a checkmate is always best because you win and get a complete point.

So whenever a stalemate happens, first of all, if you are a novice, then it just shocks you! Right? Because you didn’t know much about that rule.

Even if you are an intermediate chess player, you might have at least once thought this, especially if you were winning the game; that stalemate was very unfair, right?

But you have to accept this rule because it is the same for every player. It maintains the balance in the game.

Also Read: Why Do I Keep Getting Stalemate? (And How To Stop It!)

Conclusion

In short, stalemate is a condition that occurs when your king is not in threat, but you run out of moves, thus the game ending in a draw. However, checkmate is a condition in which your king is in threat, and you don’t have any moves left to protect it from the threat. 

Thus, the game ends in checkmate with the side delivering the checkmate winning the game. So that’s it! I hope you enjoyed reading this article and that all confusion is clarified now. Please do share if this has helped you. Thanks!

Why stalemate and not checkmate?

You might have no legal moves left to continue the game, and your king is not in check. This fulfills the criteria of stalemate and not checkmate, so you might be in a stalemate condition.

Is stalemate the same as checkmate?

Stalemate and checkmate both are different things. The player’s king is not in check in a stalemate, but the player has no legal moves left to continue the game. While in checkmate, the player’s king is in check, and the player has no legal moves left to save the king from the check. 

Is it good to put yourself into a stalemate to avoid checkmate?

Yes, it is good to put yourself into a stalemate to avoid a checkmate because, by stalemate, you will get at least half points since the game is drawn in a stalemate. While by getting checkmated, you will lose the game and earn zero points.