It's a Miracle!

  • GM Gserper
  • | Jun 30, 2013

Imagine a chess position where you have almost your whole army and your opponent has just a lonely king. The game is practically over and yet he just keeps playing. Even if you blunder some of your pieces and pawns, there is still no chance for him to survive. What he is hoping for? A stalemate!

Image: Thoughts from the Line

Countless games played by inexperienced chess players ended this way. That's why I always remind beginners: whenever your opponent has no pieces or pawns left, check that his king has moves because a stalemate is the last hope a losing side can have in such a situation. "But I am not a beginner and will not miss a stalemate in thousands of years!" many of you could say. Well, believe me or not, but such miracles even happen in the games played by the strongest chess players! Here is one notorious example:

Yes, it was just a blitz game, but according to some sources Kasparov still had more than a minute on his clock when he played his last horrible move. As the result of this blunder, Kasparov got eliminated from the first World Blitz Championship!

Of course this game is a major exception and usually stalemates in the games of grandmasters happen as a result of a combination, like in another game of Kasparov:

In most of the cases, if you just remember that a miracle called stalemate does exist in chess, you'll be able to successfully avoid such a disaster. Unfortunately, it is exactly in those moments when we have a decisive material advantage that we all have a habit to relax prematurely, thinking that the game is over and our opponent "is about to resign any move now".

Here is what Kasparov wrote in his book How Life Imitates Chess about the final position of the last game from his World Championship Match vs. Karpov: "After another ten moves of steady squeezing, I began to feel the win was in the bag. Karpov's pieces were pinned up against the wall, and a little more maneuvering would lead to decisive material gain." And at this precise moment, Karpov resigned. Let's see what could have happened if the game continued:

So if Karpov didn't resign after 64. Kg2 and kept playing, there was a good chance that he would have saved the game because Kasparov admitted that he didn't see the stalemate during the game. Then Karpov would have returned his chess crown (it was the last and decisive game of the match!) and chess history would be absolutely different! Unfortunately for Karpov, he didn't see the stalemate trick either! 

Personally I believe that Kasparov would fall into this trap. My reason is not even that he was very tired towards the end of the match or that he relaxed prematurely because he thought that the game was over. The real reason is the chess disease called 'stalematis'. It affects very strong chess players and strikes within the same time intervals.

So, in 1986 it was Kasparov's game vs. McDonald, one year later it was his game vs. Karpov and one year after that his game vs. Georgiev. You've never heard of this strange disease and its weird symptoms? Here is what happened to one of the best American grandmasters, Samuel Reshevsky:

It was not doubt very painful to draw a game with three extra pawns, but look what happened 11 years later:

And then 10 years later:

And then 10 years later... Just kidding! After a lot of suffering Reshevsky was finally cured of this dangerous disease!

(To be continued...)


  • 3 years ago


  • 3 years ago


    In one of our vote chess games we used a similiar strategy to extend an otherwise lost position.It is most likely to work in blitz though.

  • 3 years ago


    I've seen this horrendous ending occur in so many chess games.

  • 3 years ago


    Excellent article.  Thank you for taking the time.

  • 3 years ago


    When in endgames like this, I always check my opponent's king!

  • 3 years ago


  • 3 years ago


    TQ SIR

  • 3 years ago


    THIS is why I NEVER resign my tournament games!

  • 3 years ago


    I just recently lost a game, draw another one and blunder a queen just because I thought that the win was just a matter of time. 

  • 3 years ago


    " Overconfidence tends to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory" -- Me

  • 3 years ago


    stalemate happens usually due to overwhelming confidence


  • 3 years ago


    Interesting! thnx!

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  • 3 years ago


    The art of the stalemate is an underestimated one! Great article: thanks!

  • 3 years ago


    thank you

  • 3 years ago


    I have studied checkmate patterns (to my eventual benefit), but never stalemate patterns. I found the Kasparov - MacDonald puzzle/game very difficult to see the solution, I think I'd better have a look at some of those patterns someday.

  • 3 years ago


    Thx for the awesome tutor and humor.

  • 3 years ago


    I have to say that's the most miserable painful way to end the game. To have a certain material or positional advantage and your opponent throws all his material away for a draw. I've had this happen in the feeling sucks.

  • 3 years ago



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