General Jun 30, 2022 | 8:37 AMby FM Yosha Iglesias

The 10 Most Incredible Stalemates in Chess History

In the first round of the 2022 French League, the young FM Floryan Eugène played one of the most incredible swindles in chess history based on a stalemate, against GM Jean-Luc Chabanon. I've taken the opportunity to review the 10 most amazing stalemates ever played.

For once, I will proceed in chronological order.

1. Troitsky vs. Vogt, 1896

In a desperate position, the legendary study composer managed to save himself by showing all of his creativity over the board.

White to play and set a trap

Who else than a genius composer could have imagined White getting stalemated in 3 moves, despite having a queen, two rooks, a bishop, a knight, and 5 pawns?

1.Rd1!! setting an amazing trap 1...Bh3?? into which Black fell! It looks like White just has a couple of checks before getting mated on g2.

2.Rxd8+! Kxd8! 3.Qd1+!! Qxd1 1/2

And voilà!

I must admit that this is probably my favourite stalemate ever played, but read on, the others will dazzle you as well!

2. Lazdies vs. Zenitas, 1936

White to play and draw

Two pawns down, White forces stalemate with five precise moves. 

1.Qf8+! Kf6 2.Qh8+! Kf5 3.g4+! hxg4 4.Rd5+! exd5 

One last precise check

5.Qc8+! Not on f6 nor e5, as the black king would no longer defend g4. 5....Qxc8 1/2

3. Lukany vs. Smulyan, 1938

Black to play and draw

The e5-pawn will be lost sooner or later and many players would have resigned here as Black. Not Smulyan, who found the amazing study-like stalemate idea 1...c4!! Not 1...Kd7?? 2.c4!! and White picks up the e5-pawn next. 2.dxc4 c5! 3.Kg4 Kc7! 4.Kf5 Kb6! 5.Kxe5 Ka5! 6.Kd5 Ka4! 7.Kxc5 a5!

And White is one tempo short to prevent stalemate

4. Pape vs. Roth, 1972

White to play and draw

Down a Bishop, White's only hopes rest on their a-pawn. Unfortunately, 1.a5?? Bxg3 2.a6 Bb8 loses.
1.d6!! exd6 2.a5?? looks like a clever try, but Black still stops the pawn after 2...d3 3.a6 Bg1.

White needs to find the study-like 2.Kd3! and after 2...Bxg3 3.a5 d5 4.a6 Bb8 Black's bishop is just in time... 5.a7 Bxa7... to deliver stalemate.

5. Najdorf vs. Kurtic, 1984

Black to play and set a trap

At 74, Miguel Najdorf was still a fierce competitor, playing at a grandmaster level. Yet, his attention slipped when his opponent tried his luck with 1...Rxc3! 2.Qxc3?? 2.Qd4! Rxh3+ 3.Kxh3 and after a few checks, Black can resign.

2...Qxf2+ 3.Kg5 f6+! 4.Qxf6 Qh4+!! 5.Kxh4 g5+

So frustrating!

6. Minia vs. Qavic, 1989

Black to play and draw

Black is up an exchange but their king is in huge trouble. 1...Rc1?? looks like the only move to prevent Qh1#, but after 2.Qf3! Black can no longer defend. Instead, Black gives first their rook with 1...Rc6!! 2.Qxc6 and then their queen with 2...Qd5+! 

No matter what White captures with, Black will play 3...b3+! and draw

7. Boyd vs. Torbjorn, 1992

This is probably the longest stalemate combination ever played! 

Black to play and draw

First, you need to win the bishop: 1...d1=Q! 2.Bxd1 Rxd1 3.Rg6 Then give a couple of checks 3...Qd5+ 4.Kg3 Rd3+ 5.Kh4

What now?

5...Rxh3+! 6.Kxh3 Qh1+ 7.Kg3

7...Qg1+ and resign after a few more checks because there is no perpetual?

7...Nh5+!! 8.gxh5 Qf3+! 9.Kh2 Qg2+!

The last move of this 9-move combination!

8. Holmes vs. Kantsler, 2002

White to play and draw

Down a piece and facing a checkmate threat in a wild game, White has to go all-in. 1.Rxe4! Qxe4 2.Rxg6+ Kh7 3.Rh6+ Kg8 4.Qf6!

Black to play and draw

White managed to save themselves and it now looks as though they are about to mate with Rh8#, but...
4...Qe1+! 5.Kh2 Qh1+!! 6.Kxh1 Re1+! (and not 6...Rh3+?) 7.Kh2 Rh1+! 8.Kxh1 Rh3+! 9.Kg1 Rh1+!

9. Bojkov vs. Borisek, 2005

Another long combination that requires precise play from both sides is shown in the following example.

White to play and draw

Up an exchange but down two pawns, White attacks every Black pieces with 1.Nc5! Rxa2! In order not to lose, Black has to sacrifice the queen! 2.Nxe6 Ra1!

Can White prevent Rh1#?

3.Nxg5+!! 3.Qg2?? Bxg2 is hopeless 3..fxg5 4.Rc7+ Kg8 5.Rc8+ Kf7 6.Rf8+! Kxf8 as 6...Ke7? allows 7.Rf1!

White to play and draw

7.Qf1+! Rxf1 1/2

10. Eugène vs. Chabanon, 2022

This freshly played combination reminds us that even nowadays, grandmasters can blunder into a stalemate. 

White to play and set a trap

Three pawns down against his grandmaster opponent, the young FIDE Master Floryan Eugène found the ingenious 1.Kh1!! which he played while displaying his best poker face. The trap worked perfectly as GM Jean-Luc Chabanon naively took the bishop with 1...Rxg2?? probably waiting for White to finally resign. 

White to play and draw

Actually, the draw is now forced!

Can you figure out how Floryan Eugène saved his game? Write your answer in the comments below.

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