I have a student with whom I work mainly on openings. He is a decent player, has all the IM norms, and understands the game well from a positional and tactical point of view. He knows a lot, and has read a lot of books. And still, while analyzing, if I tell him that he is somewhat better in a certain position, I almost always receive the same old question- “But is it certain that I am going to win it?”
This question always puzzles me, and my reply is always the same- “Yes, you will win, if you want, and if you fight for that win!”
There is much more in these words and he knows it, as I have seen him offering draws against much lower-rated players in positions full of life. Yes, they might be objectively drawn, but please, my dear opponent, prove that first! Chess is a sport like any other in the fighting aspect, and the game should be played until the very last opportunity if you want to be successful.
We are human beings, we get tired towards the end of the game, or we lack knowledge in certain areas of the game. So why not try our chances in the endgame if the opponent was good enough in the opening preparation, careful in the tactics, and skillful in the positional maneuvering? Or why not just test their psychological stamina? There are so many places where they can go wrong!
As the great Emanuel Lasker stated first,"In the game of chess there is a clash of personalities, not only wooden pieces." And a human makes mistakes.
The following position arose at the Bulgarian Team Championship. My opponent, a very strong and experienced IM, an extremely solid player with excellent endgame technique, had just offered me a draw. Indeed, seemingly there is not much to play for. To make things worse, I was already in time trouble, counting only on the thirty-second increment. However, as the tournament was conducted in a knock-out system, and I had lost one game already, my only chance to qualify for the final was to win this game:
Nikolay Ninov made a relatively simple mistake. Why? Did he just want to finish the game quicker? Or did he want to play for a win himself? Did he feel uncomfortable?
You know what I will tell you honestly-- I do not care! I tried, and it worked, that is it!
If this sample was not enough to convince you that it is worth playing every position till the last bullet, you can check Robert Fischer’s games. This is what Tal wrote about him after the Zurich tournament in 1959: “Fischer did not like easy draws and he would battle until the material was completely exhausted. Against the Hungarian GM G. Barcza the 16-year-old American did not get any advantage from the opening, but kept on playing until move 103. Even after the kings only were left on the board Fischer made a further two moves! Staggered by such a fanatical onslaught, Barcza could hardly get up from the chair and replied to his young opponent’s request to analyze the game with the words: “Look, I have wife and children. Who would feed them in the event of my untimely death!”"
This game ended in a draw indeed, but the fundamental was there. Just have a close look at the period 1970-1972- those Candidates Matches in which he wiped out such "mastodons" as Taimanov and Larsen with a 6-0 result, as well as the iron Petrosian 6.5-2.5. Check those games carefully; you will see what made the big difference.
And looking at today’s heroes, one cannot help but be reminded of the play of Magnus Carlsen. Here is a most recent sample:
While one can only admire Carlsen’s superb technique, I believe that the key to his success was the fact that he kept on finding good moves, and posed problems until Gashimov erred. Or like he explained the game in his typical laconic way:
I was slightly better from the opening. In the endgame it looked pretty drawish but I had a passed pawn and my pieces were a little bit more active.”