How to play for a draw in chess? (Easy guide!)

The ability to host mechanisms for a draw is one of the things that make chess complicated but also interesting. There’s an actual strategy to draw against stronger players (not recommended for beginners) which I will show here.

This is the origin of the saying “grandmasters can draw at will” since playing for a draw is a real skill that can be mastered. It is impossible to draw 100% of the games, yes, but we can definitely improve our chances.

As someone who can play for a draw decently here is what I recommend:

A player who wants a draw in chess should choose a quiet opening with little to no traps, and exchanged as many pieces as possible (preferably the queen).

Learning drawish endgames (such as bishops of opposite color) and choosing a closed pawn structure will also help in making a draw likely.

I think this can help you a lot if used in the right situation, sometimes a safe draw is enough in a high-stakes game.

These are the achievable tips to play for a draw in a chess game:

1.) Have a defensive approach

A game of chess either ends with an intricate maneuvering endgame or a tactical shot (even a series of it) that brings opportunities.

If you are looking to draw a game it’s better to avoid losing by tactics since those are more complicated and unpredictable.

By being defensive I mean do not go looking for chances unless it presents itself, if this is a stronger player it’s likely that they are the ones going to push and make things happen.

2.) Let your opponent come to you

Instead of trying to break an initial deadlock on the board (where both of you are just positioning stuff) it’s better to wait instead.

Responding to your opponent’s plan is usually safer and even occasionally gives some moments to strike.

Playing like this requires less calculation since you don’t really get to create new ideas and just need to react instead.

3.) Choose quiet openings (with only a few traps)

In order for you to hope for a draw you should choose a drawish opening (one where the position is equal) preferably those that exchange pieces early.

Personal tip: Some of the most common drawish lines are those from the English, Petrov, and Berlin Defense (sometimes even Queen’s gambit declined).

This is for one avoids a variety of traps that could end the game early, and two decreases the likelihood of being in uncharted territory.

This would position you to play a more familiar line where your back is not against a wall.

4.) Exchange pieces without giving advantages

Exchanging pieces is great since those are the things that cause complications in a chess game (trading them would really simplify things).

However I do not want you to blindly capture pieces if it causes some positional disadvantage.

Our goal here is to make a draw not lose and if this opponent has decent instincts he/she could make you pay.

5.) Go for an early queen trade

We’ve talked about how pieces are the cause of complexity over the board and the strongest of them is the queen which would be really great if you can trade.

A queen trade can usually turn a normal looking middlegame into a transitioning endgame, that’s how much change it brings.

The queen is just too powerful of a piece that it has a key role in every combination and eliminating it would nullify most attacks.

6.) Go for an equal pawn formation

Yes, we want to go into an end game but we don’t want to do so with very weak pawns since we will struggle.

In fact pawn structures are one of the most important tiebreakers in an equal endgame which can be the backdoor that will make you lose.

Do not overthink this though early in the game since you have more things to worry about at that point.

7.) Opt for a closed structure

Closed structures (of the pawns to be specific) really restricts most plans that could be used for some kind of an advantage.

A closed position requires some kind of a breakthrough to make some progress overall just making it harder to be decisive.

It is really easy to play too if you’re only looking for a draw since you can just move pieces back and forth occasionally.

8.) Look for threats

The goal of your opponent is the find a way around your defensive formation where they will naturally indicate the threats.

It is your job to identify those threat and prevent them from doing further damage.

This requires some visualization and awareness aspects that could only be gained by experience.

9.) Simplify the position

Simplifying the position not only refers to exchanging more pieces but also the positional aspect.

You don’t want to open too many files for example or allow a game of opposite castles (although it is still possible).

You want things as least complicated as possible in order for you to decrease the likelihood of actually making a mistake.

10.) Develop a solid endgame

If you notice a pattern to these suggestions you know that it mostly involves going into the endgame for the most part.

All of that would be for naught if you don’t have a decent endgame mechanic yourself.

Having the ability to spot draws to prevent really blown out positions in the endgame is necessary to draw most games which you should master.

11.) Learn various drawn endgames

This is a complementary tip from the first part which is actually being able to know and execute a drawn position.

There are many various endgame ideas that can give draws which is why we are relying on getting into it too much.

You would naturally encounter these concepts if you’ve just taken enough time to learn endgames which you should.

Note: Some of the most common (drawn) endgame positions involve the opposite color bishops, rook endings, and oppositional play from the King.

There is actually another draw or win condition that you can get in the endgame, this is when your opponent runs out of time. Check out the link to learn when a timeout is a draw and when it is a win.

12.) Go for an opposite colored bishop’s endgame

This I think is the easiest to understand and implement than most other drawn endgames which only require a little bit of skill.

Of course you cannot absolutely control the type of ending that you will get to play but there are definitely instances where you can do so.

If you can just achieve an opposite bishop endgame your draw success goes up significantly so you should try.

13.) Try reaching the endgame

I cannot emphasize this enough your goal is to actually draw in the endgame (since most draws reside there) it’s rare to do that outside of the bubble.

Of course I wouldn’t say that it is solely your main goal since there might be opportunities that can allow you to actually win.

But most of the time you will need to hold out into a drawn endgame position which could help you accomplish your goal (to draw).

14.) Exploit the “3 move repetition” rule

The 3 move repetition is essentially a rule that whenever both players made the same move in 3 turns then it officially becomes a draw.

But since you are going for a draw you don’t care if you move the same even in three turns.

This will force your opponent to find some new plan where you would just get to wait for their actions.

15.) Find perpetual checks

Perpetual checks are continuous checks that force the resolution of the three moves repetition rule.

It is basically a never-ending check and should be used in the same discretion as the repetition rule (forcing your opponent to make a plan).

Or in cases where your opponent actually overlook the perpetual will allow you to draw even without reaching the endgame (one of the rare scenarios).

16.) Avoid being provoked 

Earlier I’ve repeatedly said to seek reacting rather than necessarily creating new plans on your own.

Of course this would put them in a position where certain calculations are required which brings the possibility of them provoking you instead.

I do not mean by the way of foul languages but the communication on the board which they can entice you to try more ambitious ideas.

17.) Avoid flashy tactics

The thing that you want to absolutely avoid the most— flashy tactics that look good which usually includes a sacrifice for some kind of compensation.

This concepts are too risky since they bring very dynamic positions where anything can happen.

If your goal is to draw then riskier plays are out of the question since you want to play safe (although there are exceptions that call for it).

18.) Don’t be too passive

Another pattern that I’ve repeatedly told is basically playing defensive, but remember defensive is different from passive.

Passive is just straight-up bad positional play since it brings weak spots that your opponent can exploit (not so much on the defensive part).

Instead I recommend letting them come to you yet also strike if they make mistakes worthy of punishment.

19.) Avoid a “pilot mindset”

Some of you will see these tips and enter the mindset of “oh I’m just not going to do anything” and enter this pilot mindset.

I mean a mindset/belief that a draw is not earned and would make people hope that it can be achieved without much involvement.

In fact playing for a draw is as hard as playing for a win it’s just a different approach that is more safety-oriented.

20.) Adjust your game not reform it

This is a poison that I see people trying to draw always make which is they completely forget the type of player they are.

These tips should serves as as a supplement for your game not as the driver of it.

If you start playing in a completely different light from what you’re accustomed to you will naturally lose from playing below your strength.

Final thoughts

Trying to draw in chess is not the magic pill that will solve your problem of losing from normal positions (though even I can lose at those too).

In fact this approach should only ever be attempted when facing a slightly stronger opponent (If they are too strong they will just crush you in the endgame).

However learning this skill is still necessary if you want to keep a tournament ranking for example where you can’t afford to lose.

If implemented properly this should increase the likelihood of you drawing games. Sleep well and play chess.