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What Happens If King Cannot Move? (Complete Guide!)

Are you are not able to move your king? Then you are in the right place because in this article I am going to solve all your doubts regarding this question from start to finish. Let’s start!

What happens if the king cannot move? If the king cannot move then it is either a checkmate or a draw and in both cases, the game ends immediately. Stalemate is one of the most common draws in which the player’s king is not in check but the player has no legal moves left to continue the game.

In a draw, both players get equal points. But in a checkmate, the player who gets checkmated loses the game and gets no points.

That being said, let’s dive in deeper and understand all these concepts in a little more detail.

What is checkmate?

Checkmate is a condition in which the king is under threat but has no legal moves left to get out of it.

Here, being ‘under threat’ means the king is under check. So whenever the king is in check and can’t get out of it, then we call it a checkmate.

As per the standard rules, a player who checkmates wins the game while a player who gets checkmated loses the game.

The game ends immediately whenever a checkmate occurs.

How does a checkmate happen in chess?

If you notice the following conditions then it is checkmate:

  • The king is in check (in threat or attack).
  • There are no safe squares available where the king can be moved.
  • Also, there’s no way to take the king out of check.

Actually in chess there are three ways to get out of check:

  1. By moving the king to a safe square.
  2. By capturing the piece that is threatening the king.
  3. By blocking the attack, keeping a piece between the king and the attacking chess piece.

So when neither of these ways are available to save the king then it is the condition of checkmate.

Why a king can’t move in checkmate?

A king can’t move in checkmate because the king is under attack and also there’s no safe square available where the king can move.

See this example, the black king can’t move because it is checkmated.

what-happens-if-king-cannot-move

As you can see the black king is attacked by the white rook from both sides. There are no safe squares where the black king can be moved. Also, the square where the king is standing is under attack.

Hence the black king can’t move in this case. By the way, if you are interested you can also check out my complete beginner’s guide on how to play chess. In that, I have discussed all the chess basics from start to finish in different lessons.

Now let’s talk about stalemate.

What is stalemate?

Stalemate is a special situation in which the king is not under threat but the player has no legal moves left to continue the game.

When you are in checkmate condition your opponent attacks you. Your king is under the threat. However, in a stalemate, your opponent doesn’t attack your king.

So technically, your king is in a safe position. But all the remaining squares available to your king are blocked. Also, you don’t have any other move to make because either your all remaining pieces are captured or they may be also blocked.

Thus in stalemate, although you can’t move, the player hasn’t checkmated you (which is necessary to win the game).

So neither you nor your opponent is in a position to win the game. Therefore in a stalemate, the game ends in a draw.

How does a stalmate happen in chess?

If you notice the following conditions then it is stalemate:

  • The king is not in check (not in threat)
  • The king can’t move because there no safe squares left.
  • The player whose king is in the above two conditions also has no other move left to continue the game

So if all these things happen then it is the condition of stalemate.

Why a king can’t move in stalemate?

Stalemate is a situation in which the king is safe but has no safe squares left where the player can move it. Hence the king can’t move in a stalemate.

In this example, the black king can’t move because this is the condition of a stalemate.

what-happens-if-king-cannot-move

In this case, the black king is not in check. The square where the black king is standing is totally safe, right? See the above image.

But since the black king doesn’t have any safe squares left, so the black king can’t move. Moreover, the black player doesn’t have any other chess pieces left to make the move.

So in short, here the black player has no legal moves left to continue the game, and also the king is not in check. Therefore it is a condition of a stalemate.

You can also read the following articles related to stalemate:

Now as I said earlier stalemate is one of the most common draws that occur in a game. But there four other ways in which a game can end in a draw.

And in those draws also you are not able to move your king. So let’s discuss them!

Other types of draw in which the king can’t move

Draw by agreement

It is a type of draw in chess, which occurs when both players mutually agree for a draw. So if you and your opponent agree to draw then no matter where your king is you can’t move your king in fact you don’t need to do it too!

Threefold Repetition

Whenever the same position is repeated for three times then the player can claim for a draw. But if forgets then according to new fivefold repetition rule the game ends in a draw automatically after the repetition of moves for at least five times.

You can read my article about repetition of moves in chess for further information on this topic.

50 move rule

As per the standard chess rules, If the no pawn movement and piece capture has been made within the last 50 moves then the player with the turn to move can claim for a draw. However, if he/she forgets, then the game is automatically drawn by the new 75 move rule.

The 75 move states that if no pawn movement and piece capture is made within the last 75 moves then the game is drawn by the intervention of the arbiter (referee).

Insufficient mating material

If either of the players has insufficient material (pieces) to checkmate each other’s king then the game is immediately drawn. So for example, if you and your opponent both have only the kings then the game is drawn.

This is because neither of the players can’t checkmate each other in that case. You can read more about this in my article What happens when two kings meet in chess?

Conclusion

So I hope you found this article helpful. If interested, you can also check out my following resourceful articles:

Thanks!

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