Reports | June 16, 2010 2:19

Experimental draw at Dutch Championship

Dutch Ch 2010During his game against FM Benjamin Bok at the Dutch Championship in Eindhoven, GM Loek van Wely today was involved in an experiment to measure his stress levels. And indeed, in a game that saw a repetition of the position between moves 14 and 37, clear signs of arousel on the side of Van Wely were measured, but for an unexpected reason...

The Dutch Championship takes place June 11-20 in Eindhoven, The Netherlands. The rate of play is 40 moves in 90 minutes followed by 30 minutes to end the game, with 30 seconds increment from move 1. Venue is the High Tech Campus Eindhoven, a technology center at the site of the former 'NatLab', the Philips Physics Laboratory. For more details see our first report.

An experimental draw

"Wouldn't it be nice to show the spectators how stressful a chess game is for the players?" This was the question the Dutch Chess Federation asked themselves when they realized that this year's Dutch Championship was held in the midst of 90 top-notch technological companies that are based at the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven.

It was Bert-Jan Woertman, Communications Manager of the Campus and host of this year Dutch Championship, who realized that there was an opportunity to create a synergy between the championship and the collective technological knowledge in Eindhoven. He made sure that the tournament got in touch with Holst Centre, an independent open-innovation R&D partnership between IMEC (Flanders, Belgium) and TNO (The Netherlands).

A technology that was developed for medical applications today was applied for the evaluation of a mental game of chess. Loek van Wely, always ready for a stunt, volunteered and so before the fourth round sensors were attached to his body which were to provide an indication of his stress levels.

Dutch Ch 2010

Van Wely wore a chest strap that measured his heart rhythm (ECG, electrocardiogram) and respiratory

Specifically, Van Wely wore a chest strap that measured his heart rhythm (ECG, electrocardiogram) and respiratory. Around his wrist, the grandmaster wore a sensor measuring skin resistance. The outcome would be the "arousal" level of the player, and this would be connected to the amount of stress the player would feel during the game. The results were quite unexpected.

Dutch Ch 2010

Around his wrist, the grandmaster wore a sensor measuring skin resistance

At move 14 already, FM Bok started repeating the moves Be2-d3-e2, and GM Van Wely had nothing better than to go Qg6-h5-g6. This went on until move 37 (!) when finally Bok claimed a draw based on threefold (or rather thirteenfold) repetition. After the game he said: "I knew I could continue with h2-h4, but I didn't remember the position very well, so I went for a draw." Bok explained that he offered the draw twice, but Van Wely didn't accept.

Asked why, the six times Dutch Champion said: "I didn't want the draw, and I didn't want to give the impression that I was happy with a draw. I wasn't. Whatever opening you play these days, these youngsters always know the theory. Why didn't he play something sharp, like against Smeets? Then he dropped a piece. I got very angry when I realized he was going for a draw right from the start. I mean, the organizers give him a wildcard, but then instead of getting some experience here, this idiot just goes for a draw."

So much for the experiment, you might think. But the results of the test did show something interesting. Van Wely clearly wasn't exaggerating when he said he was angry during the game. According to Holst Centre the diagram with the test results showed a clear sign of arousel at the point when Bok first repeated moves.

The game

Game viewer by ChessTempo



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Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


noyb's picture

I vehemently disagree with Kasparov and Van Wely on this point. I understand their arguement, but if I had a chance to say that I drew a GM, or to play on and almost certainly be crushed, F*** them, I'm taking the draw! I think they're just embarrassed and sore that they were drawn by a "lesser" player!

Bert de Bruut's picture

Ignacio, who cares you ever drew vs a GM? The only thing that counts is to try to win for once in your life. If you get the opportunity, take it! (I lost vs Rogers though)

Willem's picture

thirteenfold repetition???

If you really want a draw, why not claim it after tree times?

Igor's picture

37. Bd3!? seems interesting ^^

4i4mitko's picture

amazing game

john's picture

what a pathetic waste of white against a top GM! Give me a crack at Van Wely and I will play on until he takes all my pieces.

Frits Fritschy's picture

Very strange.
Van Wely was angry, so he didn't want to claim a repetition. But why didn't Bok claim it? Didn't he like being part of an experiment he wasn't invited to? Was he too shy?
Van Wely is a top level grandmaster, Bok is a FIDE master. Usually the GM would avoid the repetition, even at the cost of a slightly worse position, and would see it coming. Was Van Wely just angry because he didn't see it coming?
Or was this experiment (for either or both) getting in the way of usual behaviour?

Nima's picture

I am happy that Van Wely spoke his mind even if he wasn't polite. It is true that some players do not appreciate the opportunity to play against a GM like him. Years later, when you look back, what do you want to remember, a hard-fought game or a stupid draw? I guess that depends on the person.

Kasparov put it best years ago in his simul against US junior champions when a player behaved the same way (the video was posted on ChessBase).

The question does remain, however, if Van Wely himself could have deviated without too much risk? Walking the talk so to speak...

Ignacio's picture

"this idiot just goes for a draw" -->OMG

I will not whink twice if i have the option to draw against a GM. It will not be something idiot. Its part of the game.

Yoo low actitude mr. Van wely.

Luis's picture

Everything is so stupid...ridiculous
Why not draw after 3 repetition?Why draw in move 37?Why not in the 25?Or after 185?
After this game i will consider both players as a very stupid persons,it's nonsense.

Why such stupid game is played during the experiment?Is there any connection?
If it wouldn't have played under the experiment should have been different?

As always,the best publicity of chess from the chess player,we don't need anyone to fuck us,we are self-sufficient

Sergio's picture

This game is so stupid. Why isn't he just claiming the 3 fold repetition? I also think the experiment failed. It would be nice to see how the stress is of players in endgame positions or where they really have to defend or have a great attack going on.

Adrian Clemens's picture

In my opinion black had a choice.
If mr. (as a very strong grandmaster he deserves our respect) Van Wely would have wanted to play he perhaps should have chosen 11...Nfd7 instead of 11..Qxe5.
Me, and more importantly mr. Hellsten in Play the Siclian Kan and mrs. Rybka don't see an immediate refutation of 11...Nfd7 while after 11...Qxe5 white seems to have a pleasent choice between a cast iron draw by repetion or play for a win with 14.h4!
So I think mr. Van Wely can only be angry at himself.

By the way,

there is a precedent,

I remember a game Van der Wiel - Karpov in the Spanish Zaitsev with many repetitions before playing on. Karpov probably didn't want himself to propose a draw against Van der Wiel and Van der Wiel stated he thought he might profit from the gain of time before the time-control at move 40.
Ended a in draw anyway.

Brian Karen's picture

There are some GMs I would consider hypocrites if they made a statement that the FM was foolish to waste an opportunity to gain experience. But Van Wely has always been a fighter who tries for a win even when faced with much stronger opposition.

Nima's picture

@ noyb

That is an interesting argument noyb. What if a GM offers you a draw at move 1 or even before the game? What if all the GMs in the world do the same? What do you have to look back to?

The best games are those when I fought in the mud kicking and screaming and came out on top at the end. Or didn't. Those are the ones that give me pleasure or pain long after! :-)

Peter Doggers's picture

Indeed. You're missing the point noyb. After such a game one cannot say 'I drew a GM' without feeling at least a bit uncomfortable, hoping that the other person won't ask how, in which case one would have to admit 'I threw a theoretical line at him that ends in a perpetual. Isn't that great?'

Bartleby's picture

This wasn't a once-in-a-lifetime chance to play against a GM. Bok has already beaten several GMs, and is young and strong enough to become a GM himself. In theory I agree with Van Wely (and Kasparov) that a young player should grab the opportunity to improve. On the other hand, in practical play, when you are 12 moves into the game against a higher-rated opponent, and don't feel sure about your line, a move repetition is a temptation that's hard to resist. The curious thing is that both kept on repeating moves without claiming the draw. Why?

chess fan's picture

i understand why benjamin did it, but what does he have to lose? No one expects him to win the tournament so if I was him I would simply play chess, all the pressure is with the GM. He is supposed to win every game so just play the best you can you might learn something :-)

Webbimio's picture

Hey, isn't chess a game of freedom? From my point of view, Bok has the right to do anything he wants that doesn't contrast with the rules without being called an idiot. Van Wely, calm down :)

sosko's picture concern is if Loek said 'idiot' or not !...I did not notice in Dutch news piece (in KNSB site) the word 'idiot' I am not sure whether he really said that...


Remco G's picture

@Webbimio: nobody is arguing whether Bok has the right to do it, of course he has.

Van Wely is just saying it was _stupid_ of him, and I agree. If you are granted a chance to improve like this, it's no use wasting it by taking well known theoretical draws as White. What is there to learn in that?

Arne Moll's picture

Great article! It would be interesting to see the diagram with results, isn´t it available?
I do find it a bit unsporting from Bok to ´ruin´ the experiment with a prepared quick draw - he must have known Van Wely was part of it, surely?

Still, I don´t agree with Loek that his opponent wasted a learning opportunity. I´m sure it´s useful to know that a superb attacking player like Van Wely has nothing better in this line that to go for the draw. Also, if Loek wanted to avoid a draw so badly, why didn´t he simply play the Najdorf which used to be his favourite fighting weapon?

chandler's picture

umm.... it could be a psychological ploy when you play against a player who needs a win (in this case Loek). Play a line which, with best play, ought to draw; maybe the guy needing a win will thus deviate and incur a slight disadvantage.

But if the player needing to win is also a GM, then what the heck, I'll take the draw. But if he's arrogant over the board, I can get an advantage. (But what about post-game arrogance in the media? Can't help.)

Noah's picture

As van Wely said, Bok went for a sharp line against Smeets.and dropped a piece. But he did learn. He learned it was not a good idea to do that against a top 100 player. With this lesson he then severely punished van Wely by taking some ELO and exposing him as a bad loser. If I were Bok I'd seriously consider filing an official complaint about van Wely's remarks. As for Kasparov when he reacted in a similar way to van Wely; I shudder to think how many of his wins were the direct result of theoretical novelties found by his seconds and not by him. So what's the difference?
I believe it is always the 'better' players responsibility to avoid these positions. If it is true what van Wely says, and that this is indeed not possible anymore, it means the alta vista commercial has become reality and Fischer random as our main sport is not far off, but somehow I think this is just van Wely crying: "Mummy, I got beat up by a smaller kid"

Bart's picture

I think it is a good experience for the youngster Bok to make a theoretical draw against a much stronger player. After all, draw is a good result. Van Wely shows no respect to his opponent nor to the game itself. Poor attitude indeed...
I would call it arrogance, overbearing pride. And good luck Benjamin Bok for the rest of the tournament.

Durrr's picture

If Loek wants to change his professional career to poker, he still has to work on his reading-abilities!

the champ's picture

It is not uncommon for chess players to blame everything but themselves when things go wrong. Van Wely is in very good company. I think when his stress levels come down he will regret his comments.

As for Bok I think he made a mistake. Not that it´s bad to get a draw against a top GM and gaining some ELO points along the way, but playing chess at a high level demands fighting spirit. He showed no spirit in this game. If he follows this path in the future he will be proned to opting out in the crucial moments. Chess history is full of people that took the safe road - but they are not found at the top.

luzin's picture

repeating for 23 moves...

mishanp's picture

If you could just have delayed the article 10 months or so it would have made a wonderful April Fools double bluff!

Great Gatsby's picture

Two words for Van Wely and other players who want to play and enjoy real chess:

Fischer Random

GuidedByVoices's picture

Playing against a GM consistently among the World top 150 is a luxury. If you do not rack your brain trying to beat him, you better stay at home, playing cards or watching TV...

This is what happened when I lost to GM Simon Williams (2540) a year back:

I am proud of the game, and I would show it countless times to my grand children... Anyway, a lot of FMs are not more than amateurs with plenty of free time, so I would not expect too much.

Van Wely can say whatever he likes, he is quite a unique character in the chess scene, outspoken and sharp...

Raspje's picture

I do not understand at all why so many people here are saying FM Benjamin Bok is unsporting by forcing a draw. He wins some points, some extra money (150 euro for half a point) and gets some rest to prepare for the next opponent (the strong GM Giri by the way). This is just what a lot of top GM's do. In other games Bok showed a great fighting spirit. And it is not a chance in a lifetime, Bok is a strong FM (2430) who, like someone already said, has beaten a lot of strong GM's and who, considering his age(only 15) might become a strong GM himself.

I also do not agree with Arne Moll (quoting Moll) "I do find it a bit unsporting from Bok to ´ruin´ the experiment with a prepared quick draw – he must have known Van Wely was part of it, surely?" that the experiment was a failure; it registrated perfectly van Wely's angry reaction when Bok decided to repeat moves.

Van Wely's reaction is childish and insulting. He could have tried another line, so he is solely to blaim. Plus calling someone an 'idiot' and especially a youth player is not very sporting behaviour to say the least.

Comparing playing van Wely with playing Kasparov is foolish. Playing Kasparov is an 'once-in-a-lifetime-oppurtunity'.

CAL|Daniel's picture


That was truly a beautiful game even with the mistakes, thanks for sharing it. I would be proud of that game as well result aside. I too am of the camp regardless of result, its the effort that counts.

Martin's picture

Why do you keep on bashing Van Wely?. I believe Van Wely spoke in dutch, and this is just a very crappy translation. Unless he said more after the dutch interview, he didnt use the word idiot to my knowledge.

Peter Doggers's picture

He did say it. In fact, we published it first, so don't make assumptions.

Rick Massimo's picture

A friend of mine was once offered a draw by Spassky after about 12 moves. He refused, and was crushed. He still doesn't regret this. Someone else, maybe he would've taken it, but a 12-move draw against Spassky is something many, many players can "boast."

As for Bok, I think the fact that he had White is an important disctinction. In the Kasparov video referenced above, GK thought that was a big deal.

"Hey, isn’t chess a game of freedom? From my point of view, Bok has the right to do anything he wants that doesn’t contrast with the rules without being called an idiot."

No. Bok has the freedom to can do anything he wants that doesn’t contrast with the rules AND Van Wely has the freedom to call him an idiot. And we have the freedom to decide whom we agree with. I agree with Van Wely, although I admit I'm not in Bok's chair during the game so I don't know what I'd do.

4i4mitko's picture


Castro's picture

Van Wely does have the freedom to call Bok idiot, but not in the sense of doing something right (unless they are friends and he was joking/teasing). Not even in the sense of doing something not worse than Bok's, because Bok did something perfectely normal, legal and understandable, even though many of us wouldn't do it, in his shoes.
By the way, Van Wely was at least as responsible for alowing the draw as Bok. Was he playing black, so it is white who must play for a win, and so avoid drawish lines? Bullsh*t!!! What a poor (almost idiotic) excuse!
So, like "Great Gatsby", I join the recomendation: Any complains? Fisher Random! (though I don't agree standard chess is ended already, of course)

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