|Stalemate is a term that originated in chess, that is very widely used metaphorically in other situations where there is conflict or contest between two parties, such as war or political negotiations.|
In chess, stalemate is a situation whereby one player has no legal moves but is not in check. Stalemate ends the game, with the result a draw. In its more general usage, stalemate is a situation where neither side can achieve victory nor advantage over the other, resulting in what is also called a dead heat, standoff, or deadlock.
Stalemate in chess
With black to move, each of the four black kings shown to the right is stalemated. Stalemate is an important factor in the endgame - the set-up in the top-right of this diagram, for example, quite frequently occurs in play, and the position in the bottom-left is an example of a pawn being worth as much as a queen (even if it were white´s move, there is no way to avoid this stalemate without allowing black´s pawn to be promoted). Stalemates of this sort can often save a player from losing an apparently hopeless position.
Stalemate can occur with more pieces on the board as well. The position to the left occurred in the game Gelfand - Kramnik, FIDE Candidates match, game 6, Sanghi Nagar 1994. Kramnik (black) is to move. He is two pawns down and on the defensive - he would be very happy with a draw. He played 67...Qc1! (see algebraic notation). Now, if white takes black´s undefended rook with 68.Qxd8 black has a stalemate defence in 68...Qh1+ 69.Kg3 Qxf3+ 70.Kh4 (70.Kxf3 is stalemate) Qxg4+, forcing White to take the queen, so bringing about stalemate (in the actual game, Gelfand played 68.d5 instead, but could still only draw).
A piece which sacrifices itself in this way in order to bring about stalemate is sometimes termed a desperado piece. There are many examples of draws being saved in this way.
In endgame studies, the idea of stalemate very frequently occurs, and in chess problems there is sometimes a stipulation for "white to move and stalemate black in n moves" (rather than the more common "white to move and checkmate black in n moves").
There have also been attempts at constructing the shortest possible game to end in stalemate: Sam Loyd devised a game which ended in stalemate after just ten moves (1.e3 a5 2.Qh5 Ra6 3.Qxa5 h5 4.Qxc7 Rah6 5.h4 f6 6.Qxd7+ Kf7 7.Qxb7 Qd3 8.Qxb8 Qh7 9.Qxc8 Kg6 10.Qe6).
Another construction of Sam Loyd demonstrates that stalemate can occur with all the pieces on the board (1.d4 d6 2.Qd2 e5 3.a4 e4 4.Qf4 f5 5.h3 Be7 6.Qh2 Be6 7.Ra3 c5 8.Rg3 Qa5+ 9.Nd2 Bh4 10.f3 Bb3 11.d5 e3 12.c4 f4).
The stalemate rule has a somewhat convoluted history. In the forerunners to modern chess, such as shatranj, stalemate was a win for the side administering it, and this rule persisted for a while in chess, although when playing for money, a win by stalemate sometimes only won half the stake. According to H. J. R. Murray´s A History of Chess (Oxford University Press, 1913), the rule for a time in England was that stalemate was a loss for the player administering it. It was not until the 19th century that the modern rule that stalemate is a draw was universally adopted.
There have been calls to make a stalemate a win for the stalemater. The effect of such a rule would be a greater emphasis on the material on the board. An extra pawn would be a much greater advantage than it is today, e.g. K+P v. K would always be a win unless the defending king were able to capture the pawn.
There are peculiar chess compositions featuring double stalemate (notation ==).