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Draw?

About five years ago, one of my most favorite and one of my most difficult student asked me a casual question over a cup of coffee in Starbucks. “Why is it Ok for people to agree on draws in chess before the start of a game, isn't that match fixing?”, I casually turned his way and started explaining to him that chess is very different from the other sports and also made it clear to him that throwing away your game with some sort of money deal is what you call match fixing and just agreeing to a draw cannot be. Players agree to a draw for different reasons and the result is mutually beneficial, so it cannot be wrong, right? As I was explaining to him why he was wrong, I could feel that my whole argument was baseless. His question was simple, “Did you finalize the result of the game before it started?” and my answer should have been pretty simple as well, “Yes”.

 

If you are a chess player who has participated in some professional tournaments, you would have noticed that offering draws before the start of a game is quite a common scenario in the chess world. If you have no idea what I am talking about and you have never done such a thing, good for you, but I know this for sure because I grew up with such practices. I remember offering a draw to my opponent before a game during the under-18 national championship in India to clinch the tittle in a safe manner. My opponent gladly accepted this and I have proudly confessed this to many of my friends since I have never felt this was a wrong thing to do. However, after being in a field for more than 20 years, opinions are bound to change. My take on draw offers, particularly the ones offered before the actual game have changed drastically.

 

Even today, being a Grandmaster, it is very common to face a situation where I am up against a young kid who is 'this' close to making an International or Grandmaster norm and I receive a draw offer from either the parent or the player themselves in order to guarantee their result. In fact, it goes to an extent where some people even get mad at you if you are not willing to accept such offers since that is 'supposedly' a courteous thing to do. When I was that young kid, I felt the same way! What these people or the young me did not understand is that I am not refusing a draw offer before hand because I have become a Grandmaster and I would like that elite pool of geniuses to be small and I make sure anyone who tries to share that glory with me has to go through hell to pay their dues (Well! partly this reason too :D). Rather it is because I have grown as a chess player and I feel there are some do's and dont's that need to be distinguished very clearly in the chess world.

 

Chess is one of the most beautiful sport/art that I have ever learned and I love my fate for leading me into such a game. Having been based on war and battle field, it is natural that this game, right from the beginning has had this optional truce signing process, where both parties can agree not to waste their resources and just agree upon a peaceful result. In modern day, things have gotten so competitive that agreeing on a draw result cannot even be dreamt about in any other sport. Imagine Nadal being up 2 sets to 1 against Federer, but feels some slight pain in his legs and decides to offer a draw which Federer accepts and they both happily share the cup! Before you even think about it, I can tell you, I am comparing apples with apples here, Tennis is a sport and so is Chess. Peace, can be a wonderful thing in a real war, but unfortunately it cannot be celebrated as much in a sport.

 

People only want to watch a competitive game where the players are out for each others blood. A game which produces a result no matter how equally two teams or individuals are matched, excites the viewers. Draws are of course a part of several other sports and it is easy to argue that Chess is played mainly in the Swiss League format where a result in each game is not an absolute necessity. But if we carefully notice, in no other sport can you mutually agree for a draw thereby avoiding an intense battle for whatever reason. A draw can eventually happen at the end of play, but two soccer teams do not agree on a draw at the end of half time because they do not feel like playing anymore! Chess may not be a spectator sport, but by having such practices we are just pushing away the few who respect and enjoy the game. In any case, agreeing to a draw during play is just a whole different ball game, let us get back on track about the technically illegal draw practices.

 

I am not aware of why other people follow such pregame draw practices, but I can talk about the reasons why I agreed to draws and they have been for the following reasons,

  • One of the main reason was fitness, if there were two rounds in a day and I was facing a strong opposition particularly from the black side, I am not in a mood to fight and I tell myself, a draw should be good here and I can come back and play fighting chess the next day.

  • The second reason is what I had pointed out earlier. In order to achieve a tittle or a norm result without risking the actual play of a game where one might lose and not achieve their desired result.

  • The third reason, also a very popular reason, monetary benefit. Let us say if you win the last round you get paid 2000 dollars, a draw will fetch you 1200 dollars and a loss will get you only 200 dollars. It is natural for professional chess players, who are inherently poor (not much money involved in professional chess) to safely pocket their 1200 dollar prize money without taking a chance against a fellow Grandmaster and lose it all.

 

I have given these three reasons at several different occasions in my chess career and I know several of my chess playing friends have given such reasons as well to agree to a draw before hand. Now, let us consider each of these reasons and see if they really are valuable reasons that should be appreciated in the future?

 

The first reason clearly shows that I am not fit for the level of competition. If I cannot play 8 hours a day and deliver good results that just shows that I have not trained myself to face the right tournament conditions. If a player gets heat stroke in the Australian Open then the equation would be simple, either the player has not trained himself well or he is just not fit to play there. In any case the player does not have any other excuse.

 

The second reason is just too tempting as a player. You have played eight rounds of hard fought chess to achieve what would be one of the best tournament results in your life, but you are a tad bit scared about what would happen if things did not work well in the last round and you lose? This is just fear. If you do not wrap up a good position and give up a good lead in your game or get scared in between a tournament, you are the only one to be blamed. The chances are that you are going to definitely complete that norm or the tittle if you continue to play the same way you did through out the tournament without giving room for fear.

 

The third reason in my opinion is the most practical defense to such draw offers. It is very hard to be a chess professional and there is no secret about that. Playing cannot fetch you enough unless you are in the top 10 in the world. If you are married and have children, then you can forget about making a good living out of professional chess as a normal Grandmaster. This situation makes it even harder to follow principles such as avoiding draw offers. This just draws the debate into a bigger social problem of breaking the law when one is pushed to a corner (legally wrong, but practically necessary). I am not sure we have enough time or space in this blog to cover that.

 

 

As always, my blogs are not intended to create a change (maybe nice), but just to invoke a thought. It is important to know why we do certain things and how we justify them. Sometimes I continue to do things that would be wrong in a perfect world, but unfortunately we do not live in the perfect world and we need to be practical to lead a good life. Nevertheless knowing where we stand just helps.

Comments


  • 24 months ago

    guru200773

    Nanri!!! Nannum draw ethuku puriyama iruthen nalla villakkam alithathuku mikka nanri :)

  • 2 years ago

    WIM HarshHashu

    If players think agreeying to draw before playing a game will bring them to a good spot in the tournament, remember this wont help them in long run. Even the same player in the next tournament whom they drew with want to play for a win when the other want a draw desperatly. I believe that draw should be the result of the game we played and not we decide. Also i feel chess reflects once personality, where winning and losing dosen't matter if he fights for it.

  • 3 years ago

    PalmliX

    For me it always comes back to, why are you even playing chess in the first place?

    If 'playing' chess is what you want/like to do, then agreeing to a draw before the game even starts is completely pointless, unless of course you want to make money, but then I would argue what you really want to do is make money first, play chess second....

    Not directing this to anyone in particular, just in general.

  • 3 years ago

    FM TVEDAS

    This is a fantastic post Captain, thank you for it :) 

  • 3 years ago

    naserovic

    by SophiaMarieFan - 9 months ago
    Sydney Australia 
    Member Since: Sep 2010
    Member Points: 17

    If the decision was affecting third parties (and their money) then one has a case to say an arranged draw is a bad thing, but when we are generally talking about obscure games where the only people even taking an interest are the players themselves, then it is nobody elses business what the players decide to do.

    i absolutly agree , 
    and with the idea of the smallest possible  elite pool !!! 

  • 4 years ago

    Elubas

    This issue is like issues with the US Constitution: there's just no perfect way to do some things, in this case making sure every game is hard fought; you have to compromise. If a rule was made for forcing people to play out 30 moves, then people who really want the draw can play 30 pointless moves. To then say "ok, obviously you played ridiculous moves" will just complicate things further: then we'd have a whole judging system based on "ok, was this guy really trying?". That's why you need to go by the classical rules: there are loopholes, but there is no real way to get rid of them, and anyway this is only one of very few. You can't force a person to fight, and if they're in decent tournament position, well I guess it could be part of the benefit of having a lead.

    Just like lots of laws: some people may disagree or whatever, perhaps think of it as too harsh or unnecessary, but we go by the law because that's final: there's no arguing against it if it has been broken. It can be changed, but as long as it's still there, that's all that counts.

    There is a new point system going on to try to encourage fighting chess. I honestly don't get a good instinctive feeling about it; a lot of chess is a draw at the high levels, and I think as a result it not only disrupts the natural flow of the game, but gives too much reward for, for example, someone who "just barely" managed to score a full point (but, with the alternative rating system, more like two or three); they should get their full point, and that should be reward enough (especially if they're black). People would figure, that since decent, principled chess will often lead to a draw, why not play low quality but aggressive moves to dive for that win, since a draw is nearly as bad as a loss anyway? Like I said, that's just my instinctive feeling; maybe it will work well, I dunno.

    I think we should just let go on this issue and let people who want the draw, get it. It's simplest, and the, at least mutual, laziness is forgivable. In fact I think we all get that feeling sometimes.

  • 4 years ago

    pattrik

    Makes sense... this helped me too, because once I accepted a draw early in a game, and later when analyzed it showed I was winning...

  • 4 years ago

    Abhang

    u r great man.....

  • 4 years ago

    kjits1

    i think chess as game has a unique distintion that here both opponent can end tehe game on equal footing.

    this privilege has been conferred upon chess only and no other 2 player or multi player game.

    The provision of mutually agreed draw in chess is fair and a compensatory provision for the great mental exertion and fatigue (tiredness) involved in this mind game.

  • 4 years ago

    SophiaMarieFan

    If the decision was affecting third parties (and their money) then one has a case to say an arranged draw is a bad thing, but when we are generally talking about obscure games where the only people even taking an interest are the players themselves, then it is nobody elses business what the players decide to do.

  • 4 years ago

    fernandobtn

    "These people are not entertainers. They went to the tournament for themselves, most likely to win some sort of cash prize, and not to put on a show for the audience; so the audience is not a party relevant to the situation."

    This was the most enlightening part of the discution. Thank you for the article, since it made possible such an elegant refutation.

    As I imagine, a chess game is a little battle, compared to the whole war that is going on, meaning the tournament. Therefor, an agreed draw means at the same time, an estratégical and political decision. There can't be a rule forbiding it to heapen. It is simply pointless, since the draw can be arranged, as described previously, with a wink and a nod in the beguining of the came. There can only be mecanisms to prevent such to heapen, such as the simulnearity of the maches, making it harder to figure out what would be the final result of the draw.

    I was pondering about the war/battle scales of the chess tournament, and was leaning towords the ideia that agreed draws was not only not a bad thing, but acctualy quite beautyful. An unique possibility of chess. Personaly, after eight hours of rough chess, even the spectator is tired, and I see no reason why we should be sad with such a movment.

    I imagine, of course, a perfect world. In reality, the arranged maches that happen because of a corrupion scheeme, let's say some one would ofer money for the result, don't difer whether this result is a draw or a lose. The problem, in this case, is corruption... elements that do not belong to the universe of the game influenciating it from out side. That's simply cheating.

    In any other case, an arranged draw in the first two moves, or even before them, can not be considered as going agains the rules, or even as being anti-sportif.

    What I'm saying is the imediate consequence of the first statement I quoted from Vhazhiphor -

    "These people (professional chess players) are not entertainers. They went to the tournament for themselves, most likely to win some sort of cash prize, and not to put on a show for the audience; so the audience is not a party relevant to the situation."

  • 4 years ago

    Vhazhiphor

    @Andune: Godwin's Law, ftw.

    Please don't get started on good and evil. Especially when we're talking about chess. Whilst I appreciate and oft revel myself in using exagerated examples to get a point across, not only do the Nazis have no direct relevance to the discussion whatsoever; the thought that the average Nazi soldier did evil is highly disputable. There is a possibility that the average Nazi believed that he was doing good. Good and Evil are such subjective and relative terms. And don't forget that history is written by the victors - had the Nazis won that war, the rest of the world would have been seen as an evil opposition that was fortunately stopped. The Inquisition was carried out in the name of God. And of course, the witch burnings, which, however misguided, were done to kill the "evil" witches.

    You're also confusing practical choices with "necessary evils". They don't mean the same thing. I can choose to cook my baked potato the old fashioned way, or I can choose to take the practical route and have it done in three minutes via mircowave. That does not the microwave a vessel for evil make. And finally, getting back on topic: if a draw was agreed on mutually before a match, because it benefits both parties involved, then it isn't evil. At all. How does something that benefits all of the interested parties end up being a bad thing? These people are not entertainers. They went to the tournament for themselves, most likely to win some sort of cash prize, and not to put on a show for the audience; so the audience is not a party relevant to the situation.

  • 4 years ago

    KingPawner

    In my opinion, a draw should be called when the position is drawn, after some effort. I was told that every start of a game, is a drawn position, with only a very small favour to white, correct me if I'm wrong. This obviously doesn't count as "after some effort", and therefor I dislike draw at the start by mutual agreement

  • 4 years ago

    Omegaile

    Putting out fear and other psychological conditions, I don't see reason for drawing for money prize.

    A professional chess player goes into a lot of tournaments.If he choses to play every one to the end he will end up getting the same money as if he choses to draw every, or some of them, in average. Wins some, lose some.... or draw then all _ no matter, the average prize is the same.

  • 4 years ago

    arthur_pendragon

    DRAW IS FOR LOSERS!

  • 4 years ago

    Andune

    I agree with Everything you have said up till the end of your article. Where you say to live a good life you need to make the practicle Decisions. This is meant for thought not to necessarily change any of your actions. What did the common Nazi soldier do evil for, the same thing, to live a good life they made practical reasons for doing evil. i'm not calling you evil and i have no reason to suspect you to be evil but the end doesn't justify the means, ever, nomatter what Machiavelli may say.

    As I said before this is not ment to force a change in people but to invoke thought.

    enough ethics Back to Chess

  • 4 years ago

    WaterAlch

    @ForzaJuve

    "But to agree to a draw to win a tournament and money is not sporting.  Infact I believe it is cheat.  I feel very sorry for professional chess players and the suffering they endure for their craft but by agreeing to the draw they have taken money from another professional chess player who is still trying to win it."

    The other player still gets to decide whether to accept the draw offer or not, so I am not sure who they could be taking money away without the other person's consent.

  • 4 years ago

    Sk8ters

    cool article

  • 4 years ago

    restinpeace

    Great thing to discuss on, I think offering a draw right before the game started is not bad, for me that was a way of offering a peaceful and courteous respect to your opponent. In his example Nadal winning 2 sets against Federer's 1 and the situation is not that favor at Nadal at all because he was suffering an injury yet he was up by a set. Nadal offered a draw and shared the cup in which Federer agreed on because he knew the handicap that Nadal was suffering with, it's like being a good sportsman.

  • 4 years ago

    ArnesonStidgeley

    There was much fuss over a match in the World Cup finals a few years ago (one of the teams was Germany). Both sides needed only a draw to progress to the next round and a draw - with less and less competitive action as the game went on - was what happened. There was an outcry.

    I'm not so sure it was wrong. The manager, players and fans of the team wanted to win the World Cup. Why should the teams fight each other 'to the death', just for the gratification of the fans, as though they were fighters in a Roman gladitorial arena, when they didn't need to?

    The World Cup has since learnt its lesson and final matches in the group stages are now played simultaneously, which makes the 'draw-win-win' scenario far less likely.

    As for 'buying' that final GM norm ("agree a draw and there's $5k in it for you"): v difficult to police - but it does not smell good. Perhaps it depends whether you have received an invitation to the tournament with the implication that you will try your best. It's then a case of living with your own conscience.

    Can one define 'right' and 'wrong' outside of 'something someone else doesn't like and/or harms them'? But's that OT.

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