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In chess, a draw is one of the possible outcomes of a game (the others being a win for white and a win for black). In tournaments, wins are worth one point to the victor and none to the loser, while draws are worth one-half point to each player.
In games played at the top level, a draw is the most common outcome of a game: of around 22,000 games published in The Week In Chess played between 1999 and 2002 by players with a FIDE Elo rating of 2500 or above, 55% were draws. It is generally believed that a perfectly played game of chess will always result in a draw. Despite this, moving first gives White enough of a practical advantage that White wins a significantly more often than Black at the highest levels of play. It is sometimes said that whereas the advantage of the first move allows White to make one minor mistake and still draw and requires at least two minor mistakes to lose, if Black makes one minor mistake accurate play by White may be enough to win. Because of this, a draw is sometimes considered a satisfactory outcome for Black but most strong players try to win when they are playing White. At lower levels of play, the frequency of draws falls: of around 40,000 games with players both rated between 2300 and 2499 in the same time-frame, only 45% ended in a draw, and of around 22,500 games involving players rated between 2100 and 2299 the figure is an even lower 34%. The advantage of moving first is also smaller with weaker players since they tend to make multiple mistakes of greater severity in each game.
Rule 5.2 of the official FIDE laws of chess detail the ways a game may end in a draw:
- Stalemate - if the player on turn has no legal move but is not in check, this is stalemate and the game is a draw.
- Impossibility of checkmate - if a position arises in which neither player could possibly give checkmate by a series of legal moves (because there is insufficient material left, as for example, king and bishop against king), the game is a draw.
- Mutual agreement - a player may offer a draw to his opponent at any stage of a game; if the opponent accepts, the game is a draw.
- Threefold repetition - if an identical position has occurred three times, or will occur after the player on turn makes his move, the player on move may claim a draw (note that in this case the draw is not automatic - a player must claim it). Article 9.2 states that a position is considered identical to another if the same player is on move, the same pieces of the same colour occupy the same squares, and the same moves are available to each player (that is, each player has the same castling and en passant pawn capturing rights).
- Fifty move rule - if fifty moves have passed with no pawn being moved and no capture being made, a draw may be claimed (again, the draw is not automatic).
It is popularly considered that perpetual check - where one player gives a series of checks from which the other player cannot escape - is a draw, but in fact there is no specific provision for this in the laws of chess. However, any perpetual check situation will eventually be claimable as a draw either under the fifty move rule or by three-fold repetition.
In addition to the above five ways, article 10 of the FIDE laws of chess states that when a player has less than two minutes left on their clock during a rapidplay finish (the end of a game when all remaining moves must be completed within a limited amount of time), they may claim a draw if their opponent is not attempting to win the game by "normal means" or cannot win the game by "normal means". "Normal means" can be taken to mean the delivery of checkmate or the winning of material. In other words, a draw is claimable if the opponent is merely attempting to win on time, or cannot possibly win except by on time. It is up to the arbiter to decide whether such a claim will be granted or not.
It should be noted that although these are the laws as laid down by FIDE and, as such, are used at almost all top-level tournaments, at lower levels different rules may operate, particularly with regard to rapidplay finish provisions.
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