I offer a draw... or I resign!

  • GM Gserper
  • | Sep 1, 2013

It is a very common situation in chess when in the last round, one chess player is in a must-win situation and his opponent needs just a draw to achieve his goal. Sometimes it leads to hilarious incidents.

The year is 1935 and it is the last game of the World Championship match Alekhine-Euwe. Grandmaster Max Euwe is one step away from the goal of his life - the World Champion title. All he needs is a draw. So, before the game he told Alekhine:  "I will accept a draw at any point of the game." Forty moves and several hours later, Alekhine found himself in a completely lost endgame. Nevertheless, he said: "Dr. Euwe, I accept your draw offer."

Here is the final position of the game:


A similar situation happened in the last game of the Candidates’ Match Petrosian-Korchnoi in 1971. Korchnoi needed a win to equalize the score, but his position was completely lost. So, reportedly his words were: "I offer a draw... or I resign!" Petrosian chose a draw (they were still friends at that point).

And who can forget Kasparov's draw offer in a completely winning position in the last game of his World Championship Match vs. Karpov in 1990:

phpugNmTi.jpegKasparov explained that it was New Year's Eve and he felt that he didn't really deserve to win this game due to his poor play, so he decided to offer a draw. Probably the huge paycheck that came with a win in the match was also a part of his decision to offer a draw.

Have you ever seen a game where a chess player resigns but the result of the game is a draw? That's exactly what happened in the last game of the Candidates’ Match Yusupov-Ivanchuk. The Ukrainian grandmaster needed a win, but the position on the board looked anything but. Judge for yourself:

The next move White is going to capture the b5 pawn and Black will suffer in the endgame two pawns vs. one on the same side of the board. If Black plays accurately it should be a draw, but there is absolutly no chance for Ivanchuk to win. Since a draw or loss was absolutely the same for Ivanchuk, he resigned and immediately left the playing room. Here is what happened next according to Yusupov's coach and second IM Mark Dvoretsky:

"How did the game end?" — the arbiter asked Yusupov.

"It was drawn." 

"But I heard him resign!" 

"That is not important. I offered a draw, and the position is in fact drawn" — the grandmaster replied.

As the result, a peaceful outcome of this extremely tense fight was agreed, and Yusupov reached the Semi-Finals of the World Championship Candidates’ Tournament for the third time in succession.

Many people heard the story of the "sunglasses game." GM Pal Benko was supposed to play Mikhail Tal in the Candidates’ Tournament in 1959, but the score of their previous games was 5-0. So, the evening before the game, Benko announced that he knows how Tal beats his opponents: he hypnotizes them! As a result, Benko wore dark sunglasses throughout the whole game. You can see it here:

But not many people know that in this game, all Tal needed was a draw to win the tournament and qualify for the World Championship Match vs. Botvinnik. Tal's second Alexander Koblencs insisted that Tal offer a draw on move 12, which Tal did. Despite his awful score against Tal, Benko decided to play and five moves later he could already resign. But instead of going for a winning endgame with two extra pawns, Tal forced a draw by a perpetual check:

After the game Tal explained: "When I want to win against Benko, I win; when I want to draw, I draw!"

There are many people who want to enforce the so-called Sofia rule in every single tournament or even ban a draw offer altogether. For them the sheer thought that Tal offered a draw on move 12 is unbearable. And making a draw in a completely winning position? Disgusting! But in my opinion all these amusing episodes are an integral part of what is known as "the golden age of chess." Without them the history of our beloved game would be poorer.


  • 3 years ago


    very interesting article... I have ever read that GM Miguel Najdorf when met GM Michael Tal, he said to him that he would give up if GM Tal made a sacrifice in their game whatever its position. Then when they met in a match between them, GM Najdorf  resigned after GM Tal's sac. Gentlemen agreement.. I think they admired amongt them and keep it in their hearth.. In this case, GM Najdorf was admirer and respect of GM Tal very much. What wonderful gentlemen.. :)

  • 3 years ago


    very nice articale

  • 3 years ago


    Great Grandmasters! Greater men!

  • 3 years ago


    they are great ...

  • 3 years ago


    Good old times when people actually had something called "sportsmanship", nowadays the players are way too rude and inpolite, especially here at chess.com... There are still such kind players left, but their numbers have diminished greatly.

  • 3 years ago


    Another funny chess world cup example.

  • 3 years ago


    Great article, funny to read and very interesting. Thanks a lot! :)

  • 3 years ago



  • 3 years ago


    Personally, I think Kasparov was taking the piss / showing off when he offered Karpov that draw. That fits his profile more accurately.

  • 3 years ago


    In shogi (Japanese chess), you can't offer a draw. Draw by agreement is considered disgraceful in Japan. Also, you can't force a draw by consecutive checks. The only way for a game to end with a draw is to have the same position reoccur four times (not three times like in chess). The percentage of draws in shogi is about 2%. It's a fantastic game, very chess like, but superior in many areas. That's why a lot of chess GMs are getting into it lately. Check it out!

  • 3 years ago


    I love this article. Chess is an absolute gentleman's game!

  • 3 years ago


    @PhilipN The GMs know what the result is, and they respect each other, unlike a club member I knew who would offer a silent handshake just to cause trouble. Officially, the handshake has no meaning, he would insist, and so if his opponent accepted the obvious "resignation," this joker would say his handshake meant he was offering a draw!?!

  • 3 years ago


    ahhhh now this was fun to read :)

  • 3 years ago


    omg funny read thanks

  • 3 years ago


    Use sunglasses against hypnopponents!! XD 

  • 3 years ago


    TO EHLONDON: "Of course the other guys who tied for third place weren't so happy with me because they wanted me to beat the guy so they could get more money." SO WHAT!?? If a draw wins you clear first. YOU TAKE THE DRAW! What others think means nothing. Chess is war. If they wanted to win they should have played better... You absolutely did the right thing.

  • 3 years ago


    I had this happen to me I needed a win and my opponent needed a draw my opponent told me he would take a draw no matter what the position I ended up winning but close enough

  • 3 years ago


    If you are higher rated than your opponent and losing versus your lower rated opponent, be careful when he offers you a draw.  This probably happens only in kids, but when he offers you a draw - that mean A) psychollogically intimidated (just get over it) or B) you have a winning combination/good advantage.  My advice - reject the draw and keep playing.

    If you are lower rated than your opponent and equal/winning person, do not accept or offer a draw.  That means your opponent is A)psychollogically intimidated or B)You have a winning combination/good advantage. 

    However, if you can not find a winning combination/do not have initiative or you feel like you are scared, accept it.  A draw is better than a loss, and you will have to work less next round.

  • 3 years ago


    Kasparov explained that it was New Year's Eve and he felt that he didn't really deserve to win this game due to his poor play, so he decided to offer a draw. Probably the huge paycheck that came with a win in the match was also a part of his decision to offer a draw.

    What's this? Is it a suggestion that Kasparov had communist inclinations? Doesn't make any sense - absolute rubbish for a chess website.

  • 3 years ago


    Great article! Nicely written.

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