Chess World Cup 2013: War of Attrition

Chess World Cup 2013: War of Attrition

| 15 | Strategy

World Cup Round One 2013

The strongest Chess World Cup of our time has begun! The first round pits the top half against the bottom half in such a way that the higher seeds are given the most favorable parings, i.e. 1 vs. 128, 2 vs. 127, 3 vs. 126… 64 vs. 65.

In case you don't know much about the World Cup, you can watch my introductory video (25 minutes long) on it that explains what it is:

(By the way, I don't mean that Gelfand's face is actually scary. When I say scary, or call someone a monster, it's because he is very skilled. I don't want any comments about how I'm disrespectful because that's totally untrue.)

Given the quality of play and the huge amount of games, this is a golden opportunity to learn from all the high level examples. Let’s see how most players win their games.


This is by the far the most common way a stronger player wins against his outmatched opponent. What is attrition exactly? Well, here are two definitions from 1. A wearing down or weakening of resistance, especially as a result of continuous pressure or harassment: The enemy surrounded the town and conducted a war of attrition. 2. A wearing down or away by friction; abrasion.

This is Marge Simpson grinding her teeth.


Can you imagine what would happen if she kept on going for days? If you can’t imagine and you need a picture, click on the following link. *WARNING* It’s very nasty! Teeth suffering from severe attrition

Another kind of attrition that’s not as gross is the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon was made after millions of years of water erosion. Millions. And in chess games, it can take many moves. Not millions of years, but it can definitely take a few hours.

So, what’s going on exactly? It’s very easy to understand teeth attrition and water erosion but how does attrition work in Chess?

It’s about making better moves than your opponent consistently. These are just segments from games but they illustrate what attrition is. Consistently better moves from one side over another. The difference is subtle but if you look at it carefully, it's obvious one side is getting the better of it even if only slightly. Look at the computer evaluations to see the long-term effect.


Ortiz Suarez - Polgar


Polgar made more than a few #1 moves but her -- moves really hurt her position. Ortiz Suarez was more consistent. In just 15 moves the position went from equal to winning for White. Judit's really busy and it wasn't her kind of position. She is still the greatest woman player to ever live. Things like this happen. The full game is given below plus a picture of Isam Ortiz Suarez.


Shabalov - Vachier-Lagrave


Vachier-Lagrave is a beastly animal when it comes to attrition.


Aronian - Markov


Aronian consistently played better than Markov.


Svidler - Ushenina


Excellent, consistent play from Svidler.


This is the #1 way to win. Elite players could do this forever. They don't need some amazing novelty to beat you, all they need is an equal position and some moves; you might not even last 5 moves before the evaluation starts shifting significantly. It doesn't matter to them, though, they'll play as long as it takes.

One of my friends once started telling me about how much he hated some master (he even used vulgar, offensive and embarrassing language) because the master declined his draw offer in an equal position. My friend said that he should have been a classy gentleman and accepted. In the end, my friend lost the game. I could only laugh and shake my head. Some people get it and some people don't.

There are other ways of winning (obviously) but this is an article, not a book :)

Now, I leave you with my second world cup video (26 minutes, be warned) where I talk about the coverage in general, mention some of the top stories and the most interesting match-ups for the next round and make two more upset picks like I did in the first video. (I was 1 out of 2 in my last video.)

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