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Why banning draws completely might not be such a bad idea

User Rating: / 5
Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 24 April 2014
By GM Daniel Gormally, England.
Best rating: FIDE 2573

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Nick Pert- deserved winner at Sunningdale.

I just played a tournament in Sunningdale and in the last round, I lost my nerve.

The situation was as follows- I was playing Nick Pert, with him leading the tournament with 6.5/8 while I was in clear second with 6/8.

No one else could catch him so a draw would suffice for him to clinch outright first. I had to win. This wasn't a great situation for me for several reasons:

1. I'm actually quite solid, despite that people have this image of me as being this cavalier attacking player. I wish it were true, but in reality my main strength is that I don't lose very often and I pick people off. To be fair the majority of Grandmasters are like that. We are results machines.

2. Nick is a very hard player to beat. He was telling me after the game that he hadn't been defeated in fifty odd games, and what's more he had White. His opening repertoire is very solid, he plays 1.d4, 2.Nf3 and just sits on you. At 2550 he is also rated significantly higher than me.

3. I had just finished a very long and stressful game against David Eggleston where I made a draw by some miracle, two exchanges down in the endgame (I had a bishop and a knight and three pawns against two rooks and two pawns.) I had pretty much lost my nerve after this game and felt (probably quite rightly) that if the game against Nick went on a long time I would completely collapse.

4. I was completely exhausted. See above. In other words, we played the dreaded two rounds a day since round two. The tournament was pretty strong in depth, so I was playing tough opposition right from the start with barely a let-up. I had ran out of puff and had nothing left.

Nevertheless when I subsequently agreed a draw in 11 moves, it was a fairly cowardly act. For one thing, It hardly improved my financial situation, as I was already guaranteed £200 against my prize, and I think by drawing I made very little improvement on that. By going all in, I would have been gambling but I would have been getting very good odds.

And of course there is an old saying, first is first and second is nowhere. Very true. You only really ever recall the tournaments you won. And that's what chess is about for me, that's really why I play, to win tournaments.

It's very hard though to demonstrate an aptitude for utter courage over the chessboard, disdaining draws completely. We have all lost our nerve at some point. But in this situation I should have asked myself, am I a man or a mouse? (we probably already know the answer to that question )

I think draws in chess are a peculiarly adult thing, because when I used to do coaching in schools, you'd never see the kids suddenly agree to a draw in the opening. They just didn't understand the concept.

Some people don't like the rules that have been put in place in tournaments preventing draws, for example the Sofia rules. But I think something has to be done. There's too much wetness in chess. Why not fight on to the bare kings?

Messi celebrated when United declined his early draw offer.

You need to prevent the farcical situation of early Grandmaster draws (So speaks a man whose last game was an early Grandmaster draw.)  Imagine a scenario for example, where Barcelona are playing Manchester United in the final of the champions league, and both clubs agreed to a draw and walk off the pitch after only twenty minutes. There would be a near riot and the teams would struggle to get out of the stadium.

But I guess you can get away with it at chess, because the majority of the time the only people who care about the result are you and your opponent. So something needs to be put in place to discourage early draws from taking place, not just in the top tournaments but universally.

If you banned draws altogether, the less brave amongst us would surely benefit, as we'd be forced to fight no matter what. Take Bogdan Lalic, who scored 5.5/9 in the same event. Six draws and two wins, and a bye. Bogdan is famous for taking quick draws against lesser opposition, because they've managed to equalise out of the opening, or more likely he's just afraid to lose. We all are. However by taking draws in this way he harms himself. Bodgan has the understanding of a 2600 player but not the rating to match, because he can't stop himself from taking early draws. Chess is a game based on war, not on primrose. It shouldn't be for the fainthearted.

Henry V showed true English bottle.

The reality is that if I had played on against Nick, in the circumstances he would have probably been a big favourite. The position on the board also favoured him, but sometimes you need to go beyond clinical analysis and recall the famous words of Shakespeare:

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead!
In peace, there s nothing so becomes a man,
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood.

King Henry, Act III, Scene I

Originally published in GM Danny Gormally's blog

Other posts by GM Daniel Gormally:

Bubba Watson proves that coaching is overrated
Stupid, meaningless, questions I've thought of. Mostly about chess.
Anand did well to qualify, but he won't win the rematch
World Chess Championship Candidates Starts Tomorrow
Players who have quit, or you never hear about anymore
Could you work as hard on chess as Kramnik?
Bobby Fischer vs. Hikaru Nakamura: Theoretical Match-up
Interesting thoughts of Anand in defeat
London Chess Classic Preview
Losing your motivation
Playing blitz chess online & all the computer cheats
Anand-Carlsen borefest continues
Magnus, is this all he has?
A clash of kings
Do we overrate ourselves?
Computers and their all-pervading influence on modern chess
From Russia with love
The England Chess Team & Jack Wilshire
Should the grandmaster title be scrapped?
ECF Book of the Year?
Is being a chess pro worth it - continued?
Is being a chess pro worth it?
An Elitist Game?
Does hard work in chess pay off?
World Cup Final preview
World Chess Cup Semi-Final preview
World Chess Cup Quarter-Final preview
World Chess Cup 1/8-final preview
Why are Russians so good at chess?
British Champs-2013
Ghent and now the British
I'll never be fat again!
Lessons learnt!
The sad case of Borislav Ivanov: Part II
Does Anyone Have a Cure for Anger Problems?
The Depth of Chess
Fundraising in chess
Nurturing a Chess Prodigy
The Sad Case of Borislav Ivanov
4NCL Impressions: no country for old men - Part II
4NCL Impressions: no country for old men
One move, one line - Part II
One move, one line
Candidates Final Review & Preview of Upcoming World Championship Match
Would Carlsen have beaten Capablanca?

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Comments (1)
1. Written by Peter on 04:59 25 2014 .
One of the turning points for me was when I offered a draw to a chess veteran in a slightly better (for me) endgame. He declined the offer and outplayed me. 
Now I never offer a draw first and hardly ever agree. Besides, I believe that playing out the game has a high instructive value for any player. We can see Carlsen squeeze out those extra 1/2-points in situations where other GMs would have called it a day.

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