Columns | May 22, 2008 17:55

[lang_nl]Korte remises - heerlijk![/lang_nl][lang_en]Short draws - I love 'em![/lang_en]

[lang_nl]Zijn remises, of zelfs korte remises, een probleem? Je zou denken van wel, als je de eindeloze stroom artikelen op ChessBase (meeliftend op hun zelfgecre?ɬ´erde hype hebben ze het 'The Great Draw Debate' genoemd) en elders leest over het zogenaamde 'probleem van korte remises'. Het voelt soms als een heuse kruistocht.[/lang_nl][lang_en]Are draws, or even quick draws, a problem? You might think so if you read the endless strain of articles on ChessBase (creating their own hype, they've decided to call it 'The Great Draw Debate') and elsewhere about the so-called 'problem of short draws'. It sometimes feels like a real crusade.[/lang_en]

[lang_en]By Arne Moll

Are you a chess player? Then honestly ask yourself a question: how often have you seriously rebuked yourself for proposing or accepting a (short) draw? I must admit that there have been rare moments when this has happened to me. For example, I recall offering a draw in a completely won position against GM Viktor Kupreichik. This was silly, of course, but even then, I was much too happy with the result to ask myself such painful questions.
Usually, I offer or accept a draw for good reasons, and never think about it twice. (The only occasions on which I really think about it afterwards is when I have unjustly refused a draw offer and eventually lost!) I suspect most chess players have similar feelings. We all grew up with draws, and accept them as a part of the game itself. It's when others make draws, that many people start complaining and see problems.

When you think of it, drawing has many hidden advantages for any chess player. There are moments when I am even proud of a well-timed draw offer. They can be very useful in inferior positions (for example right after the opening) against weaker opponents, or in superior positions against stronger players. They can be theoretically important. They can be cleverly prepared repetitions. And short draws can even do something that, for me, no other aspect in chess can: they make me feel like a 'professional'. Personally, I always feel extremely smart when I drily manage play a correct and methodical draw against an opponent of equal strength. Look at me, playing like a real pro! It can be deeply satisfying.

And this brings me to an aspect of (short) draws which I have never heard yet: making a quick draw is extremely difficult! In my opinion, it's completely inappropriate for amateurs to complain about. Try it yourself. Making a quick, correct draw is something only very strong chess players can do, and we can all learn something from it. After all, making correct moves is the most difficult aspect in chess.

Recently, I tried to make a 'quick draw' against someone from my club whom I don't like playing against. The game was indeed drawn after 20 moves and I was of course rather pleased with it. But when I came home and looked at the game with Rybka, it turned out my (and my opponent's) play was full of small inaccuraries. The 'correct' draw vanished before my eyes. No doubt, this clever strategy would not have worked against a stronger opponent. A valuable lesson!

I don't know about you, but for me, it's the apparently 'boring', 'stereotyped' moves that GMs automatically, almost casually make, that always impress me most. Dazzling brilliancies, complex endings - it's great for the spectators, but as a chess player I prefer to learn from the small moves that are never commented upon in analysis, and from the small draws that are never analysed at all. I sometimes even try to copy them. It's to no avail, of course, but at least I have tried.[/lang_en][lang_nl]Door Arne Moll

Ben je een schaker? Stel jezelf dan eerlijk de vraag: hoe vaak heb je het jezelf echt kwalijk genomen dat je een (korte) remise hebt aangenomen of voorgesteld? Ik moet toegeven dat er zeldzame momenten geweest zijn waarop dit mij overkomen is. Ik herinner me bijvoorbeeld dat ik ooit remise aanbood in een totaal gewonnen stelling tegen GM Viktor Koepreitsjik. Dat was natuurlijk dom, maar zelfs toen was ik veel te blij met het resultaat om mezelf zulke pijnlijke vragen te stellen. Meestal bied ik remise aan of accepteer het om goede redenen, en denk er nooit meer over na. (De enige gelegenheden waarop ik er echt aan denk is als ik een remiseaanbod onterecht weigerde en daarna nog verloor!) Ik vermoed dat de meeste schakers soortgelijke gevoelens hebben. We zijn allemaal opgegroeid met remises, en accepteren ze als een onderdeel van het spel zelf. Pas als anderen remise spelen, gaan veel mensen opeens klagen en problemen zien.

Als je erover nadenkt, heeft remise maken voor iedere schaker veel verborgen voordelen. Er zijn momenten waarop ik zelfs trots ben op een goed-getimed remiseaanbod. Ze kunnen nuttig zijn in mindere stellingen (bijvoorbeeld vlak na de opening) tegen zwakkere tegenstanders, of in goede stellingen tegen betere tegenstanders. Ze kunnen theoretisch belangwekkend zijn. Het kunnen listig voorbereide zetherhalingen zijn. En korte remises kunnen zelfs iets wat voor mij geen enkel ander aspect in het schaakspel kan: ze geven me het gevoel dat ik een 'professional' ben. Ik voel me persoonlijk altijd extreem goed als ik er in slaag droogjes een correcte en effici?ɬ´nte remise te maken tegen een gelijkwaardige tegenstander. Kijk mij eens profi bezig zijn! Heerlijk.

En dit brengt me bij een aspect van (korte) remises dat ik nog nooit gehoord heb: snel remise maken is buitengewoon moeilijk! Mijns inziens is het volkomen ongepast voor amateurs om hierover te klagen. Probeer het zelf maar. Een snelle, correcte remise spelen is iets wat alleen zeer sterke schakers kunnen, en we kunnen er allemaal iets van leren. Correcte zetten produceren is tenslotte het moeilijkste aspect van schaken.

Onlangs probeerde ik nog een 'snelle remise' te maken tegen een clubgenoot tegen wie ik niet graag speel. De partij eindigde inderdaad na 20 zetten in remise, en ik was er behoorlijk mee in mijn nopjes. Maar toen ik thuiskwam en de partij met Rybka ging bekijken, bleek dat mijn spel (en dat van mijn tegenstander) vol kleine onnauwkeurigheden zat. De 'correcte' remise verdween voor mijn ogen. Ongetwijfeld zou deze listige strategie tegen een sterkere tegenstander compleet mislukt zijn. Een waardevolle les!

Ik weet niet hoe het met jou is, maar voor mij zijn het de ogenschijnlijk 'saaie', sjablonezetten die grootmeesters automatisch, bijna achteloos spelen, die op mij altijd het meeste indruk maken. Briljante offerwendingen, complexe eindspelen - het is mooi voor de toeschouwer, maar als schaker leer ik liever iets van de kleine zetjes die in analyses nooit commentaar krijgen, en van de kleine remises die helemaal nooit worden geanalyseerd. Soms probeer ik ze zelfs te kopi?ɬ´ren. Natuurlijk is dat zinloos, maar ik heb het tenminste geprobeerd.[/lang_nl]

Arne Moll's picture
Author: Arne Moll


arne's picture

I know, shane: I was there too that same day! And I was equally disappointed at the time. But then I realised that these players are not there to entertain me or you, but to win the title. Think of it this way: that draw was perhaps the ulitmate cause of Kasparov's defeat after 15 years of absolute supremacy. And you and I were there to witness this historical event!

Xtra's picture

Its good with a chess players opinion on the "problem" for once. in the chessbase articles there have been many pretty weird discussions and especially suggestions (like very complicated point systems...).

but I think John Nunn has more "healthy" opinions in those chessbase discussions. And his point, if I remember correct, is basicly that the only important time to avoid short draws is in super tournaments, and the only reason is because chess needs money, and to get money chess needs the broad audience. It is like this in all sports, if it isnt fun to watch then that will prevent the sport from growing. So I dont think it is entirely correct to, like you Arne, say that the WCC is all about the game between the two players, because money is just a very big part of it too. Maybe it wouldnt in the ideal world but in fact it is. :-) Maybe that isnt a good reason to ban short draws, but it is a reason for organizers to look at ways to give them more money, and if it pays to ban the short draws, like with sofia rules, then that is what they are gonna do.

Manuel's picture

Since i play many many games on internet i never play a draw because i am afraid of the opponent or just because it is an easy way to end a difficult endgame. OTB i play always for a win.

Coco Loco's picture

Chessbase (or Friedel, rather) think very highly of themselves, and their role in professional chess. And, of course, their stress on the "problem", and the "solutions" they publish are silly. But, apart from the super-tournament/spectator issue, I think there is that of short *planned* draws, i.e. agreed upon before the game. This has been accepted practice (e.g., in Eastern Europe) for a while, but recently I think the "market-based" chess tournament situation has changed that. (Steve Giddins will tell you otherwise, I'm sure.)

damian nash's picture

If one looks at the chess game as the spectacle, then a quick draw is bound to be a disappointment. But if one looks at the match or tournament as the spectacle, then the quick draw is a fascinating part of the overall strategy, tied closely to the player's personality, health, energy, etc. It makes the tabloid debacle potential higher which, like the toilet-gate scandal of Kramnik-Topalov, increases the visibility of chess in the media. I'm all for letting the top GM's choose their own outcomes. But then again... I'm also for the televising of bughouse, which is the most audience-friendly version of chess.

Vassily's picture

The truth is that chess has become quite boring after the introduction of computers.Players who normally shouldn't find even one good novelty in the opening in their whole life profit from novelties by others or from the computer's suggested innovations.
Today it is people who have a good memory who are leading the chess world.The creativity factor has been almost eliminated.
I think this is quite disgusting.
Given the fact that chess is not an immensely complicated game, even according to Vishy Anand,and that its average length should be something like 40 moves, the situation is that we witness fights starting sometimes as late as on move 25 or 30 as everything before has been worked out by the machines,which leaves just an average of 10-15 moves of real action.Considering that on move 25 already some simplification has taken place this leaves little, if any life at the position for one to show his creativity or intelligence.
This is the real problem of chess today, and not early draws.
The solution to the problem is a combination of three factors.
1) There should be a very slight change to the rules, not enough to change the symmetric nature and the character of the game,but enough to add new life to it .
2) The ELO rating point system should be abandoned.Only high placings in tournaments should give points and the world rankings should be based on accumulation of those.Then people will have much less to gain from a draw.
3) In high class tournaments the most fighting players should be invited.

arne's picture

@Vassily, personally I think all novelties, whether they're found by computers, amateurs or professionals, are of equal value. They bring us closer to the truth of chess. How can you call this 'disgusting'? How can any search for truth be bad? Surely chess is much more than just a competitive game?

Lajos Arpad's picture

Nobody complained at the Petrosian-Spassky matches, where short draws were played frequently. The organisers should make something nice if the players play short draws, for example problem solving or simultans. That would solve the problem of the spectators and let the players play the game.

shane's picture

arne makes a good point, and so does arpad.

After the very short draw the TD and commentators played a series of entertaining blitz games for the audience, against members of the audience. That was awfully good fun. And I remember everyone commentating on how uncomfortable Kasparov's chair was!!

Christos (Greece)'s picture

I think that draws are not a problem, and even if I thought they were, there is not much to do about it. IMHO there is no way to prevent two players from making a draw if they want to.
For example I remember reading in Chessbase one brilliant "solution" to the problem: to change the points given to the players after a game, like in football, so that a player who wins one game and loses another gains more points than another player who makes two draws. This means promoting risky and unsound play instead of correct play, and it would alter the whole game of chess as we have known it for such a long time.
I don't want chess to change so that amateurs, who usually blunder pieces in their games and understand close to nothing when they watch GMs play, are satisfied.

Theo's picture

I also agree that draws in chess is not a shame.
Fightless draws in 12 moves, well... sorry: that IS a shame!

I hardly accept a draw and like to fight out the position for another 20 or 30 moves until i'm convinced it might be drawn.

Drawn is one of the 3 logical results in chess. Draw is a part of chess.
But if you intend to play a draw in 10 moves, you better find another hobby like collecting stamps or watching TV ,-)

arne's picture

Christos, you've made an excellent point. A question people (organisers, sponsors, chess lovers) rarely ask themselves in this discussion is this: do we care more about spectacular play, or about the nature of the game? As many (including Kasparov) have said before, chess is probably a draw. This doesn't mean one has to make a draw after 14 moves in every game, and it also doesn't mean a draw is a more likely result than a win, but it does show that a draw is a natural part of the game, sometimes even after relatively few moves. And for this reason alone, it should be respected. Why should we want to avoid something which is natural and in a sense logical? Do we not care about the true nature of chess? Do we only care about the results? Then Christos is right and we should admit openly that we want to create a different kind of game altogether. Which shouldn't be called 'chess' in my opinion.

arne's picture

But Peter, can you show me some games from top tournaments where the players literally stopped in a theoretical position? In my view, this happens only extremely rarely. And even then, I know from experience how difficult it is to find exactly that equal line that the opponent also knows to be equal (what if he doesn't know it, and thinks he has an advantage and therefore plays on? This is a risk one has to calculate carefully!). When the draw is not pre-arranged, this is not easy at all to do.

On a more general note, you say 'the problem with short draws is ...' and then you next say there isn't a problem. Whose problem is it then, since it's not yours? The thing with this discussion is, everyone already presumes there is some problem, and then tries to find a solution for it, or to give his own interpretation of the problem. But as you rightly say, there is no problem at all and therefore it doesn't need a solution.

Peter's picture

I want to react on a specific part where you write that making a short draw is very difficult. This though is totally off the subject and also not true.

It is NOT difficult to make short draws, even for a patzer. The problem with short draws is not about finding good/correct moves, but about knowing good moves. The "problem of short draws" is not about playing calm positions or playing correct moves, but about stopping the games after 10 moves of theory in a position that thousands of players already know.

Nevertheless I am very happy with this article because it finally gives a counterattack to the false hype that there is a problem with short draws. In my view there isn't a problem.

Tom's picture

I think the issue is really about top-level chess, where sponsors want spectators and spectators want entertainment, so the story goes. Imo however the issue is a relatively minor one at present, because top-level chess for the most part is extremely entertaining, currently.

shane's picture

i travelled 800 miles by plane, train and taxi, paid for an expensive London hotel room, and settled myself down in a second row seat to watch a game live in the kasparov - kramnik 2000 world championship match. it was an anodyne 14 move draw. to say i was angry and disappointed is to understate things. i felt cheated.

Jean-Michel's picture

Great article. Very original. Thank you.

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