The Art of Draw – Part 2

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My post on The Art of Draw has attracted a fair amount of debate in the forum and when I have also been chatting to various players about this topic. I’ve decided to do a second article on this topic addressing some of the points that weren’t raised in the first article.

Everyone's been talking about it!

NO TO DRAW OFFERS

In my most recent article – “Why do you play chess?” 60% of you defined yourself as “studiers” whilst the other 40% defined yourself as “social players”. Surely all the “studiers” would want to play out all the games to their natural conclusion so they could gain the maximum learning experience from their own practical play. Also, 75% of people play chess either because they “love playing the game” or would like to improve their play. Again, I would have thought that all of these people would want to play out their positions, either for learning experience or because they enjoy the act of playing chess!

If draw offers were outlawed, we would become better chess players! We would be forced to play drawish endgames to only find out that they are less drawish than we thought! We’d be taken outside of our comfort zone and may find a new level of interest in the game that had not been dug out of us before. Consider this as a humanitarian reason for abolishing draw offers!

On the forum, Aanepade made the valid point that in final rounds of congresses, draw offers between the top players to secure prize money basically amount to collusion. Why should other players be denied the opportunity to win prize money simply because the two leaders decide to offer a quick draw and take their prize money without giving anybody else a chance? Of course they could just play down some known draw by repetition line to get round this. The morals and ethics of this sort of “collusion” are perhaps best left to be discussed at another time…

YES TO DRAW OFFERS

I’m an honest guy and I’ll admit that I am in the minority in wanting the abolition of draw offers! About two-thirds of people who voted in the poll answered that they feel that players should be allowed to offer draws when they wish. Some of the main arguments for this position have been:

  • “We play for fun, why should we forced to play on if we don’t want to?”
  • “I don’t want to play a drawn position out and only win by my opponent blundering, or lose by blundering myself”
  • “The team result has been decided” OR “a draw would benefit my team”
  • “I like to offer a draw to encourage my opponent to overpress if he rejects the draw offer”

Without wanting to repeat myself too much, these arguments don’t really address the issue I have with draw offers. All these arguments assume that an early termination of the game is a natural way for the game to conclude. I think Peter Shaw has summed up my opinion very well – “I suppose it all comes down to whether you think draw offers are ‘part of the game’. I don’t think they should be but obviously not everyone feels the same way!”

Another point raised in the forum was that it was unnecessary and wrong to outlaw something that does not affect your own personal games – “You’re effectively proposing to tell other people how they should play/enjoy the game.Of course, there have to be rules, otherwise we would not be playing the same game! However, the main objection I have to this point is that it is very rare that the game you are playing has no bearing on anybody else. Whether you are playing in a team match or a congress, the result of your game affects the rest of the league, congress or competition you are playing in. Rules dictating if and when a draw offer can be made are no different to rules dictating every other aspect of chess.

Harry Baxter sent me an interesting game to explain why he felt that draw offers should be kept. This game can be found at the top of the page. As black, he was faced with an unusual and dangerous gambit line played by a higher-rated opponent. He managed to fend off the attack and saw a way that he could reach a safe rook and pawn ending which looked drawish. He was satisfied with this as he could have been blasted off the board and felt that his play earned half a point! Although the final position looks drawish, I would still like to see the players play on as there is still potential for the players to go wrong and the game is not yet over.

ANTI-DRAW REMEDIES

Yes, I do listen and your comments have got me thinking about if abolishing draw offers would be a bit draconian. I’ll examine some of the other anti-draw remedies that have been proposed:

3-1-0 Scoring System

For those not familiar with this system, this awards 3 points for a win, 1 for a draw and 0 for a loss. This system is most famously used in the London Chess Classic and the UK Land Chess Challenge, a nationwide junior event.

The UK Chess Challenge was set up by Mike Basman to introduce kids to chess.

I am against this scoring system as it undermines the concept of a draw, which is unfair in a game that is inherently very drawish. As I wrote in my previous article, I don’t have a problem with the concept of a draw, merely the fact that draw offers can be made. Some of the best games are hard fought draws. For instance, check out Yorkshire’s finest GM Gawain Jones’ tenacious defence against everything that GM Nigel Short had to throw at him in the Bunratty Masters event that took place in Ireland recently. It would be really unfair to award this draw 1/3 of a point! You’ll also find this game at the top of the page.

Replay the game

A bit like the FA Cup, this dictates that if a game was drawn, the players would have to come back and replay the game until someone won. Of course this is problematic from a practical point of view. Amateurs only have a certain amount of time they are willing or able to play chess and players could potentially be replaying games 4 or 5 times before a result was achieved! For professionals, draws are an even more frequent occurrence than at amateur level, and they have got to play to a tournament schedule!

Even if these practical problems could somehow be overcome, inevitably, this undermines the value of a hard-fought draw, which is not the correct attitude to have towards draws.

Only count wins for the team result

The following idea was put forward by “Rekorts”, which I have summarised, hopefully accurately!

This would only apply for team events. In a six board match, if Team A wins 3 games and Team B wins 3 games, the score would be 3-3. If team C and D play each other and scored 6 draws, then their score would be 0-0. In most leagues, the amount of game points is used as a tiebreak if the match points are equal at the end of a season. Therefore, the match points would not be altered, but the game points would be altered to favour teams that won more individual games.

I think this is a very interesting proposition, but unfortunately, this again undermines the value of hard-fought draws. A possible modification would be if 0.5 points were scored for draws by repetition, 50 move rule and 10.2 claims but 0 points were scored for agreed draws. For grading purposes though, all draws would have to count as 0.5 points, but for the purposes of the league, 0 points would count to the game point tally.

No draw offers allowed until move 30


This thought was partially inspired by Harry’s game. I know that this rule has been used at various GM-tournaments in the recent past

At first, I was not a supporter of this idea as my thought was that if people really wanted to draw, they could just play a few non-moves and limp to move 30 and agree a draw. At the top level, this is probably true to some extent. However, at amateur level, this option is less viable. Furthermore, I have been heartily encouraged by the response from most people that they like to play proper games of chess, but would still like the opportunity to offer a draw when they feel that it is advantageous for them to do so.

Delaying draw offers until move 30 would alleviate some of the concerns that I have about draw offers whilst being a little bit more palatable to those who don’t fancy playing out drawish endings until the death.

Abolish draw offers completely

I think this has been discussed in enough detail already. As you can probably tell, this is my favoured option!

Thanks to all those who have commented so far. If you haven’t had your say, post what you think on our forum or comment below!


Features editor for the Yorkshire Chess website. I collate and write atricles about all the latest chess activities in Yorkshire and beyond. I've also been known to shove some pieces myself from time to time!

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8 Responses to “The Art of Draw – Part 2”

  1. aanepade

    Feb 25. 2012

    Well, I wasn’t going to bring this up but I feel duty bound now…

    last night, my team took on Rotherham Juniors in the Sheffield League and there were two draws. Our board one, Jon Nelson, offered a draw (which was accepted) after 14 moves to… Mr Peter Shaw :-). I did warn him I might bring this up… LOL. Board three was drawn by repetition.

    Even more pertinently, my game on board 4, and the game on board 5, were also very drawish. I was offered a draw but declined thinking I might just have some counterplay against a loose a-pawn. It turns out that my game WAS a theoretical draw, but my opponent then went wrong in the endgame and let me force through a promotion. On board 5, it was even more drawish as things came down to 4 pawns and a black-squared bishop each. Not sure if there as an offer in that game, but if there was it was also declined and my team-mate managed to find a way to infiltrate with his king and eventually promote as well.

    Not sure what this really adds to the debate (given that Peter was against offers and I’m in support of them) but still, I found it amusing at the time!

    Reply to this comment
  2. Peter Shaw

    Feb 25. 2012

    There were various factors that explain why I took the draw

    1) I’m playing a stronger player
    2) I was black
    3) I’m currently going through my worst ever results slump
    4) The position was already fairly drawish
    5) And most importantly, I started 15 minutes down on the clock, which is significant given the Sheffield League time control. At 7:40 I was stuck at junction 37 of the M1 (20 minutes away from the venue) and hadn’t moved an inch for half an hour. At that point I’d given up hope of making it but then we started moving again so managed to make it by 8:00. So I wasn’t exactly in the right frame of mind to play.

    So given all that, accepting the draw offer was pretty tempting! If I had played on and gone on to lose I would have felt pretty stupid. Jon explained that he’s also going through a slump himself so that’s why he offered a draw. He’s offered surprising draws against me before, he seems to think I’m a stronger player than I really am!

    I think this example actually supports the point about banning the draw offer. Against a lower rated player in the same position I wouldn’t have taken a draw. Likewise had I been a weaker player he would never have offered one. So draw offers can sometimes allow players with a high grade to get an easy draw. Banning draw offers would mean that the draw would have to be earned on the board.

    Reply to this comment
  3. aanepade

    Feb 26. 2012

    Hi Peter

    The biggest factor you mention is that you were 15 minutes down on the clock…given the material left on the board (2R, B, 6Ps) chances are the endgame would have been long, drawn-out and complicated – something for which Jon would have 20% more time to evaluate. It seems unfair to me (and I think it’s something that Martin has mentioned in the main thread) that you would be forced down that route and might well end up losing on time or blundering in time trouble.

    Perhaps it’s the difference between social chess and Congresses, where there may be money riding on a result. I’d certainly be more inclined to see a game through to its conclusion, and will start the clock bang on the start time in a Congress (and not just because the controller says so!). In the Sheffield league and even in the YCA, I’ll hang around for a bit if my opponent is late; in fact, Jon asked me if he should start his clock when we sat down to play and I suggested he give it a few more minutes before doing so as we knew you were on your way…somewhere.

    I guess one other funny thing to mention is that I turned down a draw offer in my position because I’m not that strong a player – I thought that I had chances and played on and whilst Nat gave me the chance to get what I thought might be a winning position, it was actually still drawn and it was only because he played inaccurately that I came out on top. Then again, if I was considerably stronger doubtless I would have declned in the hope that my opponent would make a mistake as he wouldn’t be as strong as me.

    That’s definitely another consideration – it’s rare to get agreed draws between players more than, say, 20 grading points apart. So if two players are well matched and the position is balanced, it’s not a huge surprise if the game ends level.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Andy Bak

    Feb 28. 2012

    Aanapade and Pete, thanks for the interesting stories that you have shared with us!

    I think both the stories seem to illustrate very well why draw offers should be discouraged. Players are fundamentally denying themselves chances to win the game by offering premature draws, often in fear of losing or wishing to “protect” their rating points. Of course the ironic thing is by offering a draw against a higher rated opponent when you are clearly better, you are missing the chance to improve your rating by getting the win!

    On another note, I think it is entirely fair for players who are against draw offers to utilise them whilst they are allowed to. In tennis, Roger Federer was famously a vocal critic of the “challenge” system using the Hawkeye technology, but he would be at an unfair disadvantage if he didn’t use it, so he uses it like every other player can according to the rules of tournament. The same principle applies to those of us who feel that draw offers should be got rid of.

    Reply to this comment
  5. Peter Shaw

    Feb 29. 2012

    Yes, if I think I have a greater chance of losing than I have of winning then I’m going to accept a draw offer, whatever my feelings about them.

    Reply to this comment
  6. Dave Shapland

    Feb 29. 2012

    Alternatively, we could look to the history of the game for a solution. I recently become interested in the origins of chess and discovered that the Islamic game “shatranj” included some ways to win that no longer exist in our modern game. The quote below is from Wikipedia as it was the most convenient source:

    “Capturing all one’s opponent’s pieces apart from the king (baring the king) was a win, unless your opponent could capture your last piece on his or her next move, then in most parts of the Islamic world it was a draw, but in Medina it was a win.”

    I believe this form of victory was called a “win by annihilation”. Imagine how many endgames would get played out right to the very end if this rule were re-introduced. It would add an extra dimension to end game play as well as you’d have to start counting the number of moves it would take for you and your opponent to capture each others pawns in a king and pawn ending for example.

    Perhaps you should change your motion to: “This house calls for the re-introduction of the win by annihilation rule in chess”.

    Reply to this comment
  7. Andy Bak

    Mar 03. 2012

    Having a “win by annihalation” rule would certainly change the evaluation of a lot of endgame positions!

    I think this would be an interesting change to be brought into the game, but I don’t think it would make the much of a difference in addressing the issues that I raised in my articles.

    I think the objective of having to checkmate the king is sound, the win by annihaltion would certainly remove this requirement as a neccessity. We would miss the sight of people nervously trying to make with bishop and knight vs king or queen vs rook in deep time pressure though!

    However, if you’ve completely outplayed your opponent to only leave yourself with two knights vs king, it would be nice if you got credit for the win rather than just a draw!

    Reply to this comment

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