Chess World Cup 2013: War of Attrition

  • IM Squarology
  • | Aug 14, 2013

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.)


  • 3 years ago


    Nice videos, can't wait until your next one. Wink

  • 3 years ago



  • 3 years ago

    IM Squarology

    @doalliad thank you! :)

    @Felipe You are right: I have to choose my words carefully and that would've been a much better thing to say. And crime in the US is just as alarming as it is here in Bogotá. It's sad.

    @DrCrisAngel You know a lot of it has to do with stamina. I saw this kind of thing in an article on ChessBase, And in that articles it states that both Carlsen and Kramnik's quality was godly until the later rounds when their play deteriorated significantly. 

    They are related and yet distinct. One is about your ability to find good moves (and the best moves [which is like overall chess skill]) and one is about maintaining that ability at your maximum level (which is stamina). Overall chess skill is influenced by the amount you study and your experience and your overall aptitude for chess whereas stamina can be influenced by your sugar levels, mood, age, etc. I know there have been grandmasters with unbelievable stamina (namely, Korchnoi) but have been outshone by some with better attrition skills. I hope that makes some sense on how I look at things.

  • 3 years ago


    Thank you for the explanation on attrition! That's very helpful! Would you say that part of that is "stamina"? It seems that a player with more stamina could wear down their opponent. Not sure if that's appropriate at this level of play -- but indirectly, I've discovered another weakness of mine and that is I get exhausted from the opponent wearing me down. I thought it was stamina. Perhaps they're similar albeit not the same

    Sorry for my rambling. This was very interesting and I enjoyed it a lot. Thank you.

  • 3 years ago


    I live in a developing country and I have running water and money to buy milk. Crime is not much different to what I found in the U.S. You could argue that the Cori siblings achievements are remarkable because there is in general little support for chess in Peru, but is simply offensive to state that they are because they do not have running water. I have no idea what terrible experiences you had in your country, but that is not the case for most people. You are giving people a very distorted impression of Peru and of Latin America. Great article nevertheless. Saludos!

  • 3 years ago


    Great article!, very informative and the way you explain complicated subjects it becomes very easy to understand for me. Looking forward to read more articles from you. I've been getting much more interested in this Chess World Cup 2013 than the previuos ones. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. 

  • 3 years ago


    got ur point. LIKED

  • 3 years ago

    IM Squarology

    Carlsen is the king, you're right. I've seen the numbers, and they all point to him being the best EVER.

  • 3 years ago


    Carlsen is the king of attrition

  • 3 years ago


    Yeah, I was fairly sure nothing malicious was meant. The comments just kind of jumped out at me in an otherwise fantastic piece. I've certainly enjoyed your other articles and work here, and the original manner in which you make them, and look forward to more good stuff in the future!

  • 3 years ago

    IM Squarology

    @manichessrookiee I use Prezi and Camtasia Studio. To create some of the images I used Photoshop and Fireworks. It is time consuming to be honest, but I studied advertising in college and it's good for me to keep using these tools since in my real job I never use them.

  • 3 years ago

    IM Squarology

    I have a friend who always closes his eyes in pictures and when someone tells him to keep his eyes open, he says, "racist". It wasn't serious at all.

    But I wasn't mimicking asian people speaking English! No way. I was mimicking fast speaking people. Basically all of my students are asian... Their parents would kill me.

    But for sure, I'll tone it down a lot. Thank you for your comments and advice. You sure said it a nicer way than I would have... :O

  • 3 years ago


    Very appreciative of the work that's gone into this. As well as getting me interested in the World Cup, the article and videos were highly entertaining. So thanks! But the casual racism is not cool; poking fun at Japanese eyes, mimicking the way 'Asian' people speak English? Don't even get me started on 'American English'!

  • 3 years ago


    Thank you Squaralogy, your video about what is chess worldcup was informative. 

    Got to ask : how do you these videos? Is it not time consuming? 

  • 3 years ago



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