This paper analyzes the extension of the three-state process of stimulated Raman adiabatic passage to chainwise-connected multistate systems. A necessary condition for such a process is the existence of an adiabatic-transfer state, which connects adiabatically the initial state of the chain to its final state. Various counterintuitive pulse sequences are examined, in all of which the pulse that drives the last transition of the chain precedes the pulse driving the first transition, while the pulses driving the intermediate transitions may have different timings. The paper demonstrates some important qualitative differences and similarities between the systems with odd and even number of states. In the on-resonance case, an adiabatic-transfer state always exists for an odd number of states while it never exists for an even number of states. In the off-resonance case, however, the two types of systems behave in a very similar manner and the condition for existence of an adiabatic-transfer state is essentially the same. This condition, which imposes certain limitations on the laser parameters, is derived in a simple and compact form. It is also shown analytically that, besides by large detunings, the populations of the intermediate states (which are generally nonzero during the transfer) can be damped by large intermediate couplings. It is concluded that for an odd number of states, the optimal case is the on-resonance one, with equal and large intermediate couplings. For an even number of states, the optimal (off-resonance) case is when the intermediate couplings and the detunings have similar values. Various numerical examples of success and failure of multistate population transfer confirm the analytic conclusions.