July 22, 2011 1:37

Kasimdzhanov: abolish draws altogether

Former FIDE World Champion Rustam Kasimdzanov from Uzbekistan has sent an open letter to the World Chess Federation with quite a revolutionary idea: to abolish the draw in chess altogether. "This way the expectations of the crowd will never be deceived. There will always be a winner, there will always be blood. (...) It will be good for our sport. Not just sponsors and attention and prizes. It will be essentially good for our game."

Open letter with a proposal Dear chess friends, I am writing this open letter, addressed both to FIDE and the entire chess playing world, due to a certain crisis, in which our noble game finds itself lately. This crisis is not only defined by a general dissatisfaction, coming from sponsors, organizers and amateurs; also among the professionals there has been some growing distress. Quite a number of traditional tournaments are no longer organized; in those still out there an ever growing number of extremely strong players is competing for the same money. At the same time voices from all around are expressing serious concern about lackluster play in some top tournaments, and notorious short draws. To understand the reasons why our sport has never made it to the heights it deserves I find it useful to take a look at a sport very similar to ours – tennis. Both games feature the battle of two personalities, showing a whole array of technical weapons in their fight, competing in speed and precision, in patience and wisdom. Why, despite this apparent similarities, despite the fact that many more people worldwide are capable of playing chess properly, do we stand light-years behind tennis in everything that defines success in professional sport? The reasons are numerous, no doubt, but the main problem, as I see it, is an existence of a draw as a result in chess. Short draws (and I also have made a number of those) make our game look more like an insider academic activity, rather than sport; but they can't be avoided – the preparation of today and the inherent qualities of chess are such, that a draw, and in fact a short draw, is a most likely result in a game between strong well-prepared players. Still, in a well-organized tournament, top players, getting up to go to their hotel rooms after a ten minute draw, do not add attractiveness to chess. Returning to tennis, the main attraction is, as I see it, the fact that every single fight produces a result; a winner and a loser at the end of the day. And there is a thrill for every spectator to see, say, Nadal and Federer, come to court, and know with certainty that one of them will triumph and the other one will lose. In short, to put it figuratively, there will be blood. And there will be great champions. In our game, however, things are different. We also have great champions, but their greatness is sometimes limited to insiders of the game. In order to be successful outside of our little world, in order to make front pages and TV, and thereby also the finance that comes in a parcel, we need champions that appeal to a general public, even to a public far from intricacies of chess. Such was a winning streak of Novak Djokovic this year, for instance. Something that a win in a chess super tournament with 8 out of 13 simply cannot match. And now comes my proposal. If we want success, sponsors, public and the rest of the parcel, we need to abolish those draws in classical tournaments. And not by Sofia rules – tournaments with Sofia rules produced as many draws as any other; and not by 30 move rule, where players are often just waiting for move 30. We need something entirely different. Like a tie-break in tennis. We need a result. Every single day. And here is how it works. We play classical chess, say with a time control of four to five hours. Draw? No problem – change the colours, give us 20 minutes each and replay. Draw again? Ten minutes each, change the colours and replay. Until there is a winner of that day. And the winner wins the game and gets one point and the loser gets zero; and the game is rated accordingly, irrelevant of whether it came in a classical game, rapid or blitz. This way the expectations of the crowd will never be deceived. There will always be a winner, there will always be blood. There will come an age of great champions, since with this system there will be times when Vishy or Magnus will win Wijk-aan-Zee with 13 out 13; and there will be winning streaks, when some of the great champions will win 50 games in a row. We'll make front pages. And much more than that. It will be good for our sport. Not just sponsors and attention and prizes. It will be essentially good for our game. People will try extremely hard with white, in order to decide the issue now, and not in a black rapid game. Instead offering a draw in a slightly better ending in order to save energy and catch a movie, chess players will show their whole ability and will win these endings. As a matter of fact this will develop classical chess. And there is so much more. Often players, playing white, feeling rough in the morning, get to the game with an attitude "I'll just make a draw today" Imagine, what will happen to this attitude? Chess will become a true sport. We'll wake up to win or to lose that day. We'll come tho the board, ready to play chess. And just like when we come to see Federer play – we see his whipping forehand, his effortless slice, his hammer serve and immaculate return – same will happen in chess. Every single day we'll see players like Aronian or Grischuk pressing with white, wriggling out of trouble with black and showing some blitz skills to an ever larger public. That is something I would like to watch and play. Grandmaster Rustam Kasimdzhanov

Editors's picture
Author: Editors


noone's picture

I like it. But I think this should format should mostly be handled by the big guns because it would make chess more like a sport. Oldies could not handle it and as Arne said amateurs would not like it either. Also this format would leave the party fans out.

st32's picture

This is absurd, this idea occured to me a very long time ago, and even then I found it impractical..
Why dont organisers simply stop giving appearance fees and use the extra money to boost the prize fund? If the player doesnt feel like fighting, then he doesnt get paid. As simple as that. And to be on the safe side, maybe the sofia rule can be used also. I think they tried this in linares 2005, right?

Fireblade's picture


I really like your idea !
Makes people fight for their bread.....

bhabatosh's picture

For me I always the stronger players do well in every format .. Carlsen , Anand, Nakamura , Karjakin they are all super strong classical and rapid as well . so dont come with suggestion that it would be unfair for classical games only player.
most of the modern players are strong in almost every format ....So what if Carlsen can win 13 out of 13 because he is strong in rapid + classical . That's fair because he is strong ..... This rule will give spectator something to cheer about in every game ....

GM of Silliness's picture

This "solution" would create a new strategy for the top players who are especially good at blitz. Draw the classical game, draw the rapid game, win in the blitz game. So no...this doesn't solve the draw problem...in fact it guarantees that draws continue.

bhabatosh's picture

excellent idea !!
if we think it is tiring after normal play of 7 hours then we should may be reduce
the time limit so that a classical game can only go upto max 5 to 5:30 hrs and
then 15/20 minutes rapid then blitz !! that's it win or loose ....
I would not worry about rating calculation , it still can be calculated based on clasical games result but for spectator's that's what we want ... to see Carlsen/Anand winning +13 rather than +2 or +3 ..... Can't wait to see a tournament like this....
Blitz/ Rapid are part of game just like tie breakers in Tennis and penalty shoot out in soccer. A draw is fair result in Classical Chess but we want to see fight going down to Rapid/Blitz to decide who is best in each day. Playing rapid/blitz is not tiring ....
We want to see this soon ..... bravo Kasim .....

Pozzi's picture

I completely agree with JC about the real problem of chess: only very few people understand a GM game (or even top GM) and can enjoy the fight.

I think there should be more ideas how to solve this problem. Another problem is that during a chess game the live audience should be silent. Even in Tennis or Bllard after big points you hear the audience. Would this be possible in chess? Who would recognize a "big move"?

In general I think in some top tournaments they could give a try for Kasimdzhanovs suggested rule. I do not belive that it will really improve the marketing value of chess, but for sure, it will also not harm it. So try it.

Bartleby's picture

> after big points you hear the audience.
> Would this be possible in chess?
> Who would recognize a “big move”?

How about showing the response from the internet audience? Some warm-colored visuals lighting up when the combined reaction on the channels shows something interesting happens.

Some of the transparency issues can be overcame by creative use of technology. That's one of the fields where groundwork is missing. Best would be a couple of competing ideas, field experiments in real tournament transmissions, and, ideally, an emerging standard that integrates the best ideas into an easy-to-use, recognizable way of translating chessic ideas to the casual viewer.

Pozzi's picture

@ Bertleby
In Internet a lot is possible. It would be great if some of your ideas would be reality.

The problem of chess is if somebody goes to a tournament, pays entrance fee and does not understand what is going on. Most sports are great to watch live, because of the atmosphere. But I think this is not possible for chess to reach.

I also prefer to watch chess on internet. Moreover I like to replay games some days after they are finished with some analyses. Who would watch a tennis game, some days after it was played? This makes chess different and at the moment it seems for me a disadvantage for the marketing value of chess.

sab's picture


We all know that chess is kind of unique but at least Kasim make a proposal to find a solution about the draw issue.

Costin's picture

Maybe the Sofia rule is more reliable. Abolish the draws, technically is possible, but what about you can't mate? To be more spectacular, I think 3 points per win and 1 point for draw is almost the same as your idea.

Michel83's picture

Other thoughts (written in a rush, so point out logical errors all you want ;) ):

1. All this talk about draws mainly touches the professional level and the idea of marketing; on the amateur level (=my level) I do not really see an issue. I'm enough of a bad player not to know all opening lines by heart. I do not need Chess960 (even though I find it fascinating and respect it as an "own" game different from classical chess).

2. Why is it that draws "have" to be boring? There's been very exciting fights and draws and boring wins. It's like people who just look at the results and scream "Only draws in this tournament, boring!" or after an exciting Kramnik-game say "One more draw from Drawnink!" without even having looked at the game itself.

3. Chess will never get the following or media-coverage as tennis or football. First of all, watching two people pushing around pieces on a board is not considered too exciting by most, especially if each player is thinking for 10 minutes over each move. It's static, witty commentators are not changing that. There is no physical dynamic, big emotion, screams, movement. That's what most people go for though. What do you want to do, a live-TV-transmission of a chess-game, that people will watch over a beer in a pub waving and whistling? "No, play Qd4! Qd4! Yeeeeeeeeeees!"
...I know Kasim doesn't mean that, but hey, he compared it to tennis-matches...

Also, Chess gets exciting when you "understand" it. Tennis and football you can watch without playing it yourself, without understanding it. The basics are easy to learn (kick ball into goal). With chess not. If you do not understand it, there won't be much joy; and it can't be explained to you by a friend who took you along during the game. It's like learning a language, it takes time.

I understand that we want financial support for chess education and all that and that thus we are considering how we can promote the game; as a hopeless romantic I don't like it, but as a realist I understand the need for it.
In this sense I respect Kasim's passion, he wants to promote what he loves. But chess will never have the same type of "exitement" as tennis- comparing them is nonsense.
They are fundamentally different, not only in the way you play, but also the way you watch. Compares chess to other mind games if you want, but stop comparing it to physical sports. Even mathematical-challenges might be closer to chess in a way than physical sports (and I am sure for math-geeks they are very exciting!).

I am not sure chess needs "change"; but if one has an idea, find a "chess-way" (like Fischer did with Fischer Random) and do not try make it something that is not and will never be.

And last but not least: I damn love this game. No matter how many draws the pros play, no matter what changes somebody thinks should be made, at the end of the day it makes me happy. As it is. Let's play!

Drag Queen's picture

I like you.

Michel83's picture

Drag Queens are almost as cool as chess, so I am flattered!

Michel83's picture

I want to add that of course chess DOES have oh-so-big-emotions; but while playing they are not externalized visibly and exctingly for a potential spectator besides some nervous movements and such.

I know this comment of mine is not interesting anybody, but read that I wrote "no big emotions" before and felt that chess would feel insulted and not talk to me anymore if I didn't specify what I meant...


If the match rules are that you have to win, say 10 or 6 games in order to win the match, draws not counting, then the match can theoretically go on forever. In practice this means that it forces the players to try to win games. Likewise, in a tournament if draws were not counted and the player with most wins would be the winner, nobody would get anywhere if not trying to win games.

In The World Chess Championship 1992, game 14, Spassky offered a draw on move 22 and they had been playing for less than one hour.

Fischer playing Black said "OK" and then immediately reminded Spassky about the rule that within 5 minutes another game had to be started with colors reversed! A game with the same time control that is, because they had been playing for less than one hour.

These were the rules set up for the match! Spassky had forgotten this rule and said to Fischer "If I have to play another game now you will kill me!" So Fischer agreed to continue playing the same game.

Arctor's picture

Stop calling it that. Fischer played one World Championship match and that was in 1972


The World Chess Championship played between Kasparov and Short, London 1993 and the FIDE Title Match between Karpov and Timman, Zwolle/Arnhem/Amsterdam/Djakarta, IX-XI, 1993, are not any more or less title matches than The World Chess Championship between Fischer and Spassky, Sveti Stefan/Belgrad 1992 and of the three matches the Fischer match was most interesting in my opinion.

Arctor's picture

Nonsense. Of course they were more title matches than Fischer/Spassky '92. Kasparov/Short was the World Chess Championship in every sense.

Have you ever seen a charity football match where two teams of legends play against each other? They put on an entertaining display and show us that they've still got a little bit of something, looks great to casual viewers and amateur players, but alas the game is littered with mistakes due to the vagaries of age. Except in that case they're not deluded enough to think they can still play at the highest level and challenge the best players in the world

stevefraser's picture


Luis Gonçalves's picture

I agree in part with Kasimdzanov's idea of having a winner at the end of the day.But I suggest 3 points for the winner in classic chess (0 for looser) and if draw, than they should play the tie-break where the winner only get's 2 points and the looser 1 point. Otherway´s the better rapid player would win tounaments, without winning a single classic game.

ebutaljib's picture

And what does this have to do with tournament play?

Michael Lubin's picture

"If the match rules are that you have to win, say 10 or 6 games in order to win the match, draws not counting, then the match can theoretically go on forever. In practice this means that it forces the players to try to win games."

Oh, REALLY? See Karpov-Kasparov I.

Sivananda Palla's picture

Like someone below said ..I also feel..Fisher random chess is the only solution for this computer dominated chess world. Otherwise ..any one can memorize 20 to 30 moves of a good opening or a well played player's games. Probably ..FRC is a best way that we can save importance of middle game, before human chess becomes obsolete..and stale.

Gogu Pintenogu's picture

It's a good idea for closed tournaments with strong players.

gg's picture

Agreed, Kasim's whole suggestions almost sounds like a parody:

"There will come an age of great champions, since with this system there will be times when Vishy or Magnus will win Wijk-aan-Zee with 13 out 13"

How stupid does he think chess fans are? An age of great champions will arrive thanks to Kasim if classical chess is turned into the road to blitz like in Kazan. When Ivanchuk plays some exciting game against Carlsen and it's drawn after seven hours, what happens then? Keep playing more games until one of them blunders in blitz.

How big a problem is the draw as a result? Looking at short draws, I don't think it's a problem at all. I followed Wijk closely and in every round there was at most, but usually not even that, one rather short draw. Then there were six complicated and interesting games. If players know they have to keep playing until one of them wins they won't waste all those hours on playing fighting chess to be exhausted already by the next round. More Kazan style chess will ensue, and players that do well in rapid tiebreaks, like Kasim himself, will do better than players with better results in classical chess.

sab's picture

@Arne Moll

First of all, I would say I get a good laugh reading your comment because I understand yours feelings ; it reminds me the innumerable defeats I got against some strong opponents. At least, we learn from our mistakes.

Secondly, it depends on the way you lose ; A defeat after let's say 10 hours of fight is not the same as a defeat after 30 min. Even if the official result is the same, you will be more praise in case of tiebreak than if you lose just after 30 moves.

Thirdly and finally, one of the purposes of that system is probably to see which one of the chess fighters is in the end the stronger as a draw do not always show all the player's abilities (at least for the neophytes).

Brandon's picture

Three traditional results, sure, but natural? Chess is a man made construct; natural doesn't seem to be the right word. I, personally, don't see the abolition of draws as any different a change then using a 'football' scoring system, or past changes to how pieces moved.

If chess players, as a community, feel that draws are a problem we should be considering possible solutions to the issue such as this.

As for your final objection, how is that any worse then the early grandmaster draws that we currently have? If they're going to agree to a draw we might as well get another game out of them.

RdC's picture

Those who dislike the notion of draws are quite free to devise a new board game with mostly identical rules. They can then try to attract players to their new board game.

The convention or rule of players not offering quick draws is designed with spectators and commentators in mind, so that there's something to watch or commentate about. One standard play game, agreed drawn after about 15 minutes, one rapid play game the same, a short blitz series, it's not giving much watching time. Good value for GMs though since they get the rest of the day off.

The London Chess Classic attracts a lot of spectators. There's going to be long games both because of the invited field and the no-draws rule, so there's lots of material for the commentators. Also the players discuss the game with the commentators and audience once completed. Would 15 minutes of standard play, 15 minutes of rapid-play and a blitz series have the same appeal?

Gens una sumus's picture

Well, it depends what do you want to achieve. If you are good player you will win your league and make your way to the top. That is your reward. Top chess needs this kind of change! Otherwise, for most of the people, it is just boring game...

stevefraser's picture

I agree with you. What about all games unless decisive must proceed to the sixtieth move. The player who on the move brings about a third repetition of position loses.

Michel83's picture

What I don't like is that Kasim thinks about how HE thinks he would psychologically react to that system (=with more fighting spirit) and assumes everybody else would react the same way.
However, I do not think it would automatically lead to more "fighting spirit"; in some games it might, but then again let's assume we have a player who is stronger in classical chess and one who is strong in rapid and/or blitz. What will happen?
What will happen is that the one who is strong in rapid/blitz will purposely play very quiet, "drawish" lines in order to get to the rapid-match.

Additionally the result would also be that rapid/blitz would become a far higher importance than classical chess; strong rapid-players will have an advantage.

Whether that is better or worse than the actual situation and whether it would make things more "exciting" I can not say; however it is an illusion to think that Kasim's system would eliminate boredom or "tactical" ways of thinking. Players will adapt to the new system and find ways to use it in a way that advantages them. We're humans.

I find the whole idea very little thought-through; Chess960 makes more sense if we wanna compare.

ChessGirl's picture

Well, from my ignorant point of view, I think one classical game is already tiring enough for a day. If you implement such a system, you will need almost as many rest days as rounds if you are hoping for good quality, and I don´t think that, given the estate of chess finances, organizers are ready to pay for all those extra days.

TMM's picture

Actually, many tournaments (not the 2700+ elite tournaments) have no rest days, and sometimes even 2 rounds on 1 day. So I don't think *professional* chess players should complain about tight schedules with a rest day at least every 4 rounds.

But for those other tournaments this would indeed be a problem. A weekend swiss with 5-6 rounds squeezed in 3 days would not be happy if they also have to do these rapid and blitz games.

Peter's picture

"But for those other tournaments this would indeed be a problem."

There are not any those other tournaments. Kasim talks only about the ones top-level players play. Why should he care about bottom-level players?

voyteck's picture

Then let's simply shorten the classical time controls, they were conceived when there was much less theory. And it wouldn't be so tiresome if chess players were doing some real sports. Does your heart rate increase to 160 bpm during a game of chess (a common argument)? Come on, most amateur joggers can run for at least an hour in this pace at their thirties without being particularly exhausted, it's a rest day pace.

stevefraser's picture

An excellent point....when I started following international chess back in the early 1960's ten to fifteen moves into an openning was considered deep.....now many well known opening lines are "book" past thirty moves.

Arsen Babayan's picture

Goog point, but as a matter of fact, most of the draws Kasimdzanov tries to fight against are not really tiring :)

noyb's picture

Bad idea. Chess is not tennis and it's not football. It's CHESS. Draws are a part of the game. If you don't feel that players are exhibiting the proper fighting spirit, don't invite them to play in tournaments.


In The World Chess Championship 1992 in Sveti Stefan and Beograd between Fischer and Spassky they used the rule DRAWS DON'T COUNT. The first to win 10 games wins the match, or it is a tie in case of 9-9 with money split evenly but the chamption keeps the title. I liked that and Fischer won 10 games, Spassky won 5 games and 15 games were drawn. By the way, today's World Chess Championship matches has a fixed number of games, usually 12 long games and if its a tie they play 4 rapid games, and if its still a tie they decicde the World Chess Championship in blitz games. That is just totally crazy. Fischer was the strongest World Chess Champion of all time and he was a fighter and he always strived to win even with Black. He never took an easy draw!!! Carlsen have the same style, only rarely he takes a simple draw.

GMs and IMs that often make silly draws should simply not be invited anywhere, that is one solution to the problem.

FISCHERANDOM CHESS (aka Chess 960) is another brilliant solution by Bobby Fischer, because draws are not going to happen as often when you don't know all the theory from the classical starting position. I want to see Fischerandom Chess at the very top level (and not rapid, I want to see long time controls), a tournament a year or so played between the strongest 6, 8 or 10 GMs in the world. I would be extremely interested in watching that, much more so than todays super tournaments. I would also strongly prefer to see Fischerandom Chess in the World Chess Championship. Instead of trying to decide the winner in rapid after classical games have ended a tie, they should play Fischerandom Chess at normal (long) time controls.

Arctor's picture

I've never heard of that World Chess Championship....

ebutaljib's picture

It was a world championship only for Fischer and few of his worshippers. Otherwise not worth to mention.

bernd's picture

Fischerubbish (aka Chess 666) is another worthless pseudo-solution which has nothing whatsover to do with eliminating short draws (i.e. draws due to the unwillingness of the participants to fight).

Arsen Babayan's picture

Chess960 is the future of chess. The earlier FIDE admits that, the better...

Arne Moll's picture

So if I work like a lion and make a draw against a stronger player, that will still be meaningless because I will probably lose to him in blitz afterwards. Nice reward for showing fighting spirit!

Ben's picture

That's a fair point. No reason to replace the current system in amateur events which have time controls that won't lend themselves to this format anyways. I think he is referring to top flight tournaments where the playing field is more level and sponsorship is critical.

arbiter's picture

Conversely, the stronger player now has to enter into a shorter timed game that is much more volatile.

Errors go up as time goes down in chess, which enables an upset to occur that would all but never occur within classical time controls.

To frame this obliquely:

For players of equal relative strength in classical, rapid, and blitz formats; an upset between opponents of a greater ELO difference is more likely to occur in blitz than in rapid, and in rapid than in classical.

The much stronger player should fear the blitz MORE than the weaker player, not less.

gg's picture

But going +12 -0 =1 in classical chess and losing a blitz tiebreak in Wijk would still be worse than going +0 -0 =13 in classical and winning all the blitz games (and becoming "a great Champion" by doing so).

Fireblade's picture

In a way they want to eliminate whats called a 'stronger' player. This system is to provide entertainment which will benefit the sport as well as the players and its fans.

In the past tyrannosaurus rex was much stronger but look at where they are now...only in movies where as the crocodiles are much adaptable and still going strong.

The point he is making is only the more competent/efficient/versatile/adaptable player will win in the long run......

TMM's picture

Compare it to tennis again: You worked hard to get to 6-6 against Federer, but you lose the tiebreak, and you lose the set just the same.


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