It Just Isn't Fair
Andrew Allen

Diagram 1

Sometimes a material advantage is not enough to force victory in a game of chess, take for example diagram 1 white has two extra knights but can’t achieve checkmate if black remembers to stay away from the corners. The most that can be gained is stalemate of the black king which gives only 1/2 a point, not a victory.

This is most unfair for the side that has accumulated those two extra pieces during the game, in previous centuries some interpretations of the rules of chess allowed stalemate to be awarded as a victory instead of a draw, thus addressing any perceived injustice. To do this today would take away many legitimate methods of seeking a draw and is clearly not acceptable, still two extra knights has some call for special recognition at the very least.

Diagram 2


Diagram 2 is another injustice on the board. A whole bishop up and a potential queen in the passed h pawn as well, white looks set for victory, indeed I have seen more than one player aim for this position expecting a quick victory. The reality is disturbing however. All black needs to do in this position to secure the draw is to shuffle their king backwards between g8 and h8 (stay in the corner!) The black king can never be dislodged from the corner and once more stalemate is the best result for white. This peculiar ending is known as "The wrong colour rook pawn ending". Note that only the bishop suffers from this fate due to it’s inability to control squares of a different colour to the squares it moves on, replace the bishop with a knight and the position is now winning for white.

Diagram 3

Diagram 3 happens quite often in tournament chess and still poses problems even for the very best players. Basically the extra material in this case a bishop is once more insufficient for a forced victory, unlike the previous examples this one takes some degree of defensive skill and Grandmasters still lose this ending. Black to play draws upon the stalemate resource 1..Rb7+!! and white can’t win 2.Bxb7 stalemate 1/2-1/2. To prevent one side torturing their opponent for ever there is a 50 move rule in force as well. "If a pawn is not moved or a piece captured in 50 consecutive moves (a move is a response by both players) then a draw may be claimed"

Diagram 4


A bishop up is no big deal. How about a whole queen? In diagram 4 we get to see a David vs Goliath battle, a fully fledged queen is competing against a pawn yet to promote and the pawn is not weaker! White to play tries 1.Qg3+ now if 1..Kf1? then 2.Kf5 and the king will approach gradually deciding the game, instead black has 1..Kh1!! and the best white can manage is 2.Qh3+ (2.Qxf2 is stalemate!) Kg1 3.Qg3+ (otherwise the pawn promotes to a queen with a draw) 3..Kh1 with a draw soon by repetition.