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My opponent ran out of time. Why was it a draw?
My opponent ran out of time. Why was it a draw?
Updated over a week ago

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'

What is Insufficient Mating Material?

Insufficient mating material occurs when one or both players do not have enough pieces on the board to checkmate each other.

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 checkmate the other player.

What causes the Insufficient Mating Material draw to trigger?

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!

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.

A Summary of Insufficient Mating Material Situations

Here is a table showing what happens with different combinations of timeouts and insufficient mating material:

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