Caïssa’s Wisdom: #10 – Short Draws in Chess

Rules and Etiquette for Chess Amateurs

In this post our subject is a delicate and controversial one: the offering and acceptance of a draw. As always the words of Caïssa brook no argument and will make uncomfortable reading for those who may be of a slightly “pacifist” persuasion.

'Puscillanimous' Pavel Eljanov and 'Wimpy' Wesley So agreed to a final round draw after just 3 moves at this year's Reykjavik Open

Puscillanimous Pavel and Wimpy Wesley agreed to a final round draw after just 3 moves at this year’s Reykjavik Open

#10: Grandmaster Draws

“To play for a draw, at any rate with white, is to some degree a crime against chess”
–  Mikhail Tal

In recent times much progress has been made in the professional game to mitigate the risk of a “Grandmaster draw” – that being where neither player makes any endeavour to secure the full point and merely re-arranges the pieces on the board for a little while before shaking hands and going back to their hotel rooms early to gawp at pornographic websites… err,  sorry… I mean, prepare for their next game! Many of the elite-level tournaments have now employed a “3 points for a win” system or rules which forbid draw offers before move 40 or even forbid draw offers at all. The recent Candidates Tournament was resolved only after a tie-break was invoked that gave preference to the player with the most wins.

Sadly, there are still occasional instances of alarmingly short draws taking place. Here is a recent example from the Reyjavik Open in Iceland. In the last round Pavel Eljanov and Wesley So were sharing the lead and faced each other. The spectators were probably hoping for a gripping, tension filled encounter with both players going “balls out” for sole possession of the first prize. Instead what they got was essentially a financial transaction rather than a game of chess as the top two secured their share of the prize fund with the effort below:

1.d4 Nf6
2.c4 g6
3.Nc3 d5
Draw agreed

The game is barely long enough for its opening variation to be identified. It’s a Grunfeld – just! No doubt the two ‘combatants’ would argue that their hard work in previous rounds had earned them the right to wimp out so spectacularly in the last one. That is not an argument without merit although one feels they could have at least made it to the middle game before concluding peace terms.

So for the professionals it would seem that there may be occasions when a short draw and the accompanying lack of effort would be justifiable. For amateurs, however, there are never any such extenuating circumstances. Chess Improvement Guru Dan Heisman encapsulates the argument rather well:

“If you are interested in improving, think of a draw offer as an offer to remain ignorant of what you would have learned in the remainder of the game”
– Dan Heisman

Amateurs should leave “Grandmaster draws” to the Grandmasters. If you were regularly playing in elite tournaments that demanded you to deliver a high-quality, high-intensity game of chess every day for one or two weeks then firstly, you’d be a Grandmaster, and secondly, you’d be entitled to take the odd quick draw. If you play one game of league chess per week and you propose or accept a ‘quick draw’ then you are not a Grandmaster, you’re just a f*#@ing pussy. Get some nuts!

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4 Responses to “Caïssa’s Wisdom: #10 – Short Draws in Chess”

  1. Martin Carpenter

    Apr 19. 2013

    Ummmm…. You’re talking about teams chess here?

    It’s often quite bad (mostly awful) tactics to offer a quick draw as white in that sort of situation but it can sometimes make sense. Certainly ‘killing’ the game can do so plausibly often.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Dave

    Apr 19. 2013

    I think the last two sentences speak for themselves Martin! Quick draws are not being advocated either tactically or morally. Why turn up to play if you aren’t intending to try and win?

    Reply to this comment

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