My opponent ran out of time. Why was it a draw?
You’re down a few pieces but up on time, and decide to try to run out the clock. It works, your opponent times out! But instead of the win, you still get a draw. What happened?
This is caused by something called 'Insufficient mating material'
If you look closely at the draw notice, you’ll see it says ‘draw due to timeout vs insufficient mating material.’
This happens when one player does not have enough pieces to be able to checkmate the other player.
If BOTH players have insufficient mating material (not enough pieces to checkmate the opponent) then the game will end in a draw right away.
If ONE player has insufficient mating material, the game will keep going because the other player still has a chance at checkmate. But if the player with more pieces times out, they don’t lose, but instead get the insufficient mating material draw!
This happens because there is no possible way that player could have lost had the game continued. The game could only possibly end in a draw, or a win for that player, based on the pieces on the board.
And that’s why you might still get a draw when one player runs out of time!
Here is a table showing what happens with different combinations of time outs and insufficient mating material:
-King + two knights exception
Although a king and two knights is considered insufficient mating material for other situations, a timeout against these pieces does not lead to a draw. If your opponent only has a king and two knights, and you run out of time, you will get the loss, not the draw. This is due to a king and two knights being technically possible to checkmate an opponent, even though the mate can't be forced, it is still possible.
If the information in this article is out of date or incorrect, or if you have questions about it, please let us know!