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Stalemate Vs Checkmate: Difference Explained!

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 out!

In this article, I’m going to share with you from start-to-finish about what is stalemate and what is checkmate, their difference, and answering all the related questions. 

This is really going to be an exciting and helpful guide for you! So relax and keep reading till the end.

Difference between Stalemate and Checkmate

In chess, checkmate is a condition in which the king is under attack and the player has no legal moves left to save the king. Whereas stalemate is a condition in which the king is not under attack but the player has no legal moves left to continue the game.

The player who checkmates the opponent wins the game and the player who gets checkmated loses the game. While in a stalemate the game ends in a draw.

Also, note that as per the standard chess terminology whenever a player’s king is under attack it is said to be in check.

Stalemate Vs Checkmate: Quick Comparison

StalemateCheckmate
Game ends in a DrawYou Win the game.
You get half pointYou get a complete point
Your king is not in checkYour king is in check
No legal moves leftNo legal moves left

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

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 above two conditions are satisfied then it is called stalemate. The game ends in a draw.

Interesting Facts About Stalemate

Stalemate is 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 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 white’s queen.
  • Similarly, the black’s king can’t move on f8 square because it is controlled by the white’s bishop.
  • 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 queen is the most powerful chess piece because of its flexibility and ability to move 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 very 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 how to avoid 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. In a tournament if you checkmate your opponent 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’ means the king and ‘mat’ mean 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 is checkmate the only way to win chess to know more.

Moreover, many beginners 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 do you have to say check or checkmate in chess for further information.

Checkmate Example

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

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

Now having discussed all these a question might to your mind is stalemate better or checkmate. So let’s discuss that as well.

Is Stalemate Better Than Checkmate?

Stalemate is better if you are losing 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 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 same for every player. It maintains the balance in the game.

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

Wrapping up

So that’s it! Hope you enjoyed reading this article. Please do share if this helped you. Now let’s wrap up everything and summarize whatever we discussed so far.

First of all we compared stalemate and checkmate. Then we understood about them in brief. We also studied both with respective examples and situation and finally we talked if stalemate was better or checkmate.

Below I have listed down some of the frequently asked questions for you. You can check them out, some might clear your doubt as well.

Till then, Thanks!

FAQs

Why stalemate and not checkmate?

You might be having 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?

No, stalemate and checkmate both are different things. In a stalemate, the player’s king is not in check 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 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.

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