Dead Position in Chess: Explained in Detail

Ever heard the term “dead position” in chess and asked yourself โ€“ what even is that? Well, today we’ll find out and learn the two different types of dead positions we have in chess. Let’s dive in!

What Is A Dead Position?

There are two different definitions for the term dead position.

Dead Position in The Chess Rules

According to the rules of chess, a dead position is reached, when no sequence of legal moves can lead to a checkmate. This occurs most commonly when none of the players has enough material on the board to checkmate the opponent.

For example, in this position, it is impossible for any player to checkmate the opponent:

dead position in chess example
dead position in chess example

A knight and king together is not enough attacking power to achieve a checkmate against a lone king.

So, what happens in a dead position? Well, the game is called a draw. Since no player can win the game, it is pointless to play on, and the game ends in a tie.

Remember: A position is only dead, when it is theoretically impossible for a checkmate to occur. If any combination of legal moves (however unlikely) could lead to a checkmate, the position is not dead.

Dead Position: Where No Player Can Make Significant Progress

Another meaning for dead position is a position, in which neither player can make significant progress towards a checkmate. The definition is a lot looser, but

These types of dead positions usually end in a draw, but are not a draw by default. Through a series of mistakes it might well be possible to achieve a breakthrough for one player. You could say a dead position in this sense could also be called a slow position.

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