Perpetual Check (Explained & Examples)

Perpetual check refers to a situation in chess where one player can continuously check the opponent’s king without any possibility for the opponent to escape the sequence of checks.

This scenario often results in a draw, as the player delivering the checks can do so indefinitely, preventing the opponent from making any other moves.

Origins of Perpetual Check

The concept of a draw by perpetual check was introduced to prevent games from continuing indefinitely without a clear path to victory for either side.

Mechanics and Execution of Perpetual Check

To successfully execute a perpetual check, a player must recognize the following conditions:

  1. Repetitive Position: The same board position must occur three times with the same player to move. This is often a result of perpetual check but can also occur in other repetitive situations.
  2. No Escape: The opponent’s king cannot escape the sequence of checks. This means there are no available moves that would break the cycle of checks.
  3. No Intervening Threats: The player delivering the checks should ensure that there are no threats from the opponent that could interrupt the sequence. For instance, a counter-check or a looming checkmate threat could disrupt the perpetual check.

Strategic Implications of Perpetual Check

Perpetual check can be a powerful defensive tool, especially when a player is in a losing position.

By recognizing the potential for a perpetual check, a player can salvage a draw from a seemingly lost game.

Conversely, if a player is in a winning position, they must be wary of allowing their opponent the opportunity to execute a perpetual check.

Example of Perpetual Check

Here, white can force a perpetual check:

White only has one move, which is Kd7:

The white queen can go back to its previous square.

Black’s best move is to simply go back to c8, which would initiate perpetual check.

Is Perpetual Check Forced?

No, in this case, black could decide to go to e8.

It’s not an optimal move, but if black wants to avoid a draw, the centipawn loss in this case is roughly 0.30, so it’s not a terrible move if black knows how to navigate any complications.

When Is Perpetual Check Good?

A perpetual check emerges not merely as a tactic but as a strategic lifeline in certain scenarios.

It’s a tool that can be wielded to navigate through the complexities of a match, particularly when a straightforward path to victory is obscured or unattainable.

The 40-Move Rule and Its Implications

In numerous chess competitions, a rule stipulates that players cannot agree to a draw before reaching the 40-move mark.

This rule, designed to prevent early and potentially collusive draws, can sometimes place players in a predicament.

If both players find themselves in a position where neither has a clear advantage or a viable path to victory, they might prefer to agree to a draw.

However, the 40-move rule precludes this straightforward resolution.

Perpetual Check as a Strategic Equalizer

In such situations, perpetual check becomes an invaluable tool, enabling players to initiate a three-fold repetition.

The three-fold repetition rule states that a game can be declared a draw if the same position occurs three times, with the same player to move each time.

By deliberately executing a perpetual check, a player can force the repetition of position, thereby satisfying the conditions for a draw under the three-fold repetition rule.

Balancing Act: Offense and Defense

Perpetual check serves as a double-edged sword, offering both offensive and defensive strategic possibilities.

On the defensive side, a player facing a disadvantageous position might employ perpetual check to stave off defeat, forcing a draw when a loss seems imminent.

Offensively, a player might use perpetual check to secure a draw and avoid risking a potential loss, especially when the position is unclear or precarious.


Here, the players can get a draw much earlier than the 40-move mark by initiating a perpetual check.

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 h6 4. Nf3 Bg4 5. h3 Bxf3 6. Qxf3 e6 7. Bd3 Nd7 8. O-O dxe4 9. Nxe4 Ngf6 10. Bf4 Nxe4 11. Qxe4 Nf6 12. Qe5 Qb6 13. Rfe1 O-O-O 14. Qb8+ Kd7 15. Qe5 Kc8 16. Bc4 Bd6 17. Bxe6+ fxe6 18. Qxe6+ Kc7 19. Qe7+ Kc8 1/2-1/2
1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 h6 4. Nf3 Bg4 5. h3 Bxf3 6. Qxf3 e6 7. Bd3 Nd7 8. O-O dxe4 9. Nxe4 Ngf6 10. Bf4 Nxe4 11. Qxe4 Nf6 12. Qe5 Qb6 13. Rfe1 O-O-O 14. Qb8+ Kd7 15. Qe5 Kc8 16. Bc4 Bd6 17. Bxe6+ fxe6 18. Qxe6+ Kc7 19. Qe7+ Kc8 1/2-1/2


Perpetual check, while not as decisive as checkmate, plays a role in the strategic aspect of chess.

Recognizing the potential for perpetual check can be the difference between a win, a loss, or a draw.

As with all chess tactics, understanding and mastering this concept requires practice, study, and a keen eye for opportunity.

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