How Can Prearranged Draws Hurt Your Own Openings?
What you don't know can hurt you in chess opening prep.

How Can Prearranged Draws Hurt Your Own Openings?

| 34 | Opening Theory

The end of 1970s and the beginning of 1980s were definitely the peak of Anatoly Karpov's chess career. He was larger than life in the Soviet Union! 

His wedding with Irina Kuimova (you see, 40 years later I still remember the name of Karpov's first wife!) took place in Red Square next to the Kremlin and was covered by media similar to royal weddings. 

red square

It was a time when the chief of the Soviet chess, grandmaster Krogius, famously told a young Garry Kasparov that "we already have the world champion and we don't need anyone else." In my old article,I've already mentioned  how Karpov's book of selected games influenced my chess style. It was a truly great book and I still remember its strange, mustardy smell.

But Karpov's games...they were like from another world. Whenever I could understand one of his deep positional concepts I felt like I was talking to a chess god. Take for example the following famous game:

Karpov played 24.Nb1!! and I could almost hear the first notes of Toccata and Fugue in D minor:

It is not surprising that one of his games ended up in my opening notebook. Indeed, a sharp, cute game was very important for the theory of the Petroff Defense:

I analyzed the line a lot trying to find an improvement and hopefully trap one of my future opponents. It turns out that I was not alone. 

This beautiful game of GM Gurgenidze has pretty much closed this chapter of the Petroff Defense. You can read the verdict in the opening books.

"We agree with Keres, 6.Nxf7 is correct but doesn't give White an advantage.[...]Gurgenidze's 7. Qe2 is taken as a refutation," write Haag and Forintos in their 1983 book Petroff's Defense.

"6.Nxf7. Despite its superficially aggressive appearance, this is a very limp move since even if Black simply takes the knight, White has no more than perpetual check," says Janjgava in The Petrov, 2001

I could keep quoting opening books, but I haven't seen it mentioned anywhere that the Zaitsev-Karpov game was never really played since it was a prearranged draw! I strongly suspect that one of the most brilliant chess analysts, Igor Zaitsev, found this very interesting line in his analysis, so when he and Karpov agreed to a draw before the game, Zaitsev suggested to play a lovely miniature!

By the way, he did it more than once:

Today this variation of the Petroff Defense is the opening of choice when players want to make a short draw, like this one:

But there are still players who prefer the "inferior drawing line":

As you already know, this line is essentially refuted by GM Gurgenidze's move 7.Qe2!. I am sure that there will be some innocent chess players who will find this inferior drawing line in their database during their opening preparation and decide to follow it without realizing that practically all the games there are prearranged draws. As you can see, this line is still waiting for more victims!

No doubt, the most notorious case of an opening catastrophe of this kind happened in the following game:

How could a chess genius like Vishy Anand lose so badly? We already discussed this story in our old article. Young Anand followed the following game of two very strong grandmasters:

What the Indian grandmaster didn't know is that the game was a prearranged draw, so even though Miles noticed his opponent's mistake, he only polished the e2 square with his finger, showing Larry Christiansen the winning move.

As you could see in the first part of this article, many prearranged draws have their secret stories. And now you know that some of these prearranged draws can hurt you.

So, next time you are going to follow the opening of some exciting, sharp game that ended with a quick perpetual, check the database. If you see a dozen of similar short draws, you will know what it means. 

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