How Not to Play for a Draw

How Not to Play for a Draw‎

GM vbhat
15 | Middlegame

After the Bacrot game from the 4th round that I went over last week, I had the white pieces against Tiviakov. This was maybe my best game of the event, but in light of my upcoming event in Texas (the SPICE Cup, group B), I didn't quite have enough time to finish annotating that complex game.

So, for now, I'm going to discuss my game from the 6th round, as black against IM Thomas Roussel-Roozmon. Like me, Thomas qualified from the Quebec Championship in June by finishing in 4th place. In that event, he surprised me with an aggressive opening choice and got a definite advantage (although I later turned it around and won - see

However, in this event, he was struggling mightily up to this point with only 1/5. The tournament was set up with 6 rounds, a rest day, and then 5 more rounds, and I guess he wanted an easy game going into the rest day to regroup. For that purpose, he chose the Exchange Slav.

Question 1: What would you play for Black after 11.0-0?

Question 2: What would you play for Black after 19.Be1?

Question 3: What would you play for Black after 24.Qf1?

Question 4: What would you play for Black after 29.Nc3?

Thomas was not playing particularly well in the first half of this event (he did turn it around a bit in the second half, scoring 2.5/5) and I think part of his problem in this game was that he came looking only for a draw. When you play just for a draw, you run the risk of always choosing the passive continuation and eschewing "complicated" lines which might introduce the possibility of losing. The problem with this approach is that it is quite easy to drift into a very passive situation and then instead of drawing comfortably, you are struggling to secure that half point.

As a supplement, without annotations, here's an example of the same approach failing for White. Mikhail Gurevich, a very strong GM, tried the Exchange French against Nigel Short and in his quest for a draw, made a lot of unfavorable exchanges that slowly and surely gave Short a tiny edge. Once he got that edge, Short was merciless in his execution. If you want to "make" a draw, it's usually better not to simply try and exchange pieces whenever possible - you have to make sure the exchanges don't favor your opponent!

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