ih8sens On The "Draw Problem"

NM ih8sens

I have a slightly different opinion on this nonsense.

What nonsense? Well for those of you who have been living under a rock, Carlsen and Caruana just drew 12 consecutive classical games in their WC match and a bunch of people are screaming that chess is broken because of this new record.  My two cents? You're all wrong.

This WC match was a perfect storm.  Carlsen was 100% convinced he was going to win in rapids, and so he had absolutely no reason to take on Caruana's computer.  Caruana, on the other hand, is brilliantly prepared.  But he's not prepared the way my blitz opponents are prepared, memorizing all kinds of useless theory in some stupid gambit.  Caruana is deeply prepared to equality in some of the most solid lines ever known in chess (QGD and Petroff).  Nobody, nobody's team, and nobody's computer is going to find a way to create legitimate problems against these openings.  They're simply too sound.  I figure if chess is ever solved and there's only one way to a draw against d4 and e4, it's the QGD and the Petroff.  Of course there are probably many ways...

So put yourself in Carlsen's shoes.  You know you're not going to get anything with white, and so your job becomes to not be surprised with black.  What does he do? Sveshnikov.  He has 6 blacks and he picks a line that will probably surprise Caruana twice.  If I'm Carlsen, I'm looking to survive the opening and wait for chances in the middlegame, and that's exactly what he got in game 1.  Not winning was unfortunate, but Carlsen has always been on the safer side, and nobody is complaining as long as he's winning.

Now pretend you're Caruana.  Your job is to stay as comfortable as possible and avoid grinding positions. Honestly, your repertoire is a piece of cake.  You're an e4 player so you stick with it, and you stick with the Petroff and QGD because there are no real "offbeat" lines of any value whatsoever.  If Carlsen tries to throw a Catalan at you you just prep yourself to a draw.  It's all fine if you take absolutely no risk with black.

Like I said, it's the perfect storm.  Caruana is unwilling to take any chances with black, and is unable to find any meaningful surprises with white.  Carlsen is unwilling to take any chances whatsoever because he's fine with draws.

Both players play out their match strategies perfectly, and Carlsen wins the rapid as he expected.  In the olden days, a drawn match would mean that the existing WC keeps his title, and Carlsen obtains this result with extra steps.

Now move ahead to the next World Championship... Will anybody be willing to test Carlsen at faster time controls? No.  So you'll have Carlsen avoiding risk but trying to get a game, and the next Challenger trying to surprise Carlsen in the opening, hoping to bust him with some unique preparation.  I predict the next WC match will be explosive fun.

Now go look at your own games. I bet you have zero or one draw in the last ten. Calm down people.


about the author:

This author has no formal writing training and just blitzed out this piece in about 5 minutes.  Spelling and grammatical errors are unintentional.  Your opinions are welcome in the comments as long as they fully agree with mine.