The Truth about Grandmaster Draws

The Truth about Grandmaster Draws

FM zibbit

I am sure nobody missed this "masterpiece" of a game at the end of the Magnus Carlsen preliminaries

Both players had qualified at this point so there was really nothing to play for. An alternative way would have been to actually play a real game and just have fun and give the fans something to watch. Instead Magnus decided to play this joke on Hikaru and refer to his Bongcloud Speedrun series.

Hikaru after a big laugh responded with the Double Bongcloud and they shared the laugh and then repeated the position. Funny to some, disrespect to others.

This game prompted me to take a deep dive into Grandmasters draws and I wanted to find the most used draws and perhaps some "repeat" offenders when they offered themselves. Here is the result:

I'll add most of the lines and games from the video here below but some of the best bits will be left on the video only ;-)

After discussing the Carlsen-Nakamura game we have a bit of a talk about this recent monstrosity:

This BS happened EIGHT freaking times at the Magnus Carlsen invitational. This has become the "stock" non-game repetition draw in these tournament. Hikaru Nakamura had FIVE of those eight games, so in fact in the prelims, Nakamura only played 9 real games, achieved his +3 and advanced.


Under this category we'll put draws and very often Grandmaster draws that may or may not be pre-arranged. Sometimes one side just doesn't want to play and he'll indicate that by playing one of these boring lines and usually a quick draw is agreed. In case of pre-arranged draws, the Slav exchange one is one that is usually a huge "tell"

The Slav exchange itself has the 2nd most number of draws in less than 15 moves only behind the exchange French. However, this position after 11.0-0 0-0 has almost 2200 games in the database ending here or in a few more moves.

The French has a similar line

It's however not even close in volume with the "stock Slav exchange" draw.

Others that come to mind are the Berlin Wall after the Queen trade or the Symmetrical English...specifically this line:


The Sofia Rule introduced some problems for some Grandmaster draws.

This rule has mostly been present at elite events but several opens and other events have employed such a rule. Therefore, the repetition draws became more important for those wanting to settle a game in a quick draw.

The king here is still probably the Zaitsev draw with well over 1500 games.

Former World Champion Anatoly Karpov has a staggering 12 draws with this repetition!

Next on the list of repetition draws is the Sveshnikov draw which has 1200+ draws with repetition similar to this one:

The 3rd highest culprit that I found was a repetition draw in the Spanish Exchange.

Can you find it for black?

This is incidentally not the first such games between the Kostinseva sisters. They have in total 8 games in the database with this exact draw!

Nadezhda Kosintseva

They are not the only siblings to use this one. The Belarussian Zhigalko brothers have this as one of their stock draws as well!

Sergey Zhigalko

Next on my list is the infamous Pirc draw. This draw was very topical when I was a young chess player and later many players used this move sequence when they didn't feel much like playing on a particular day.

Another GM level draw is the following in the QGA

This one was quite funny to research.

Aleksej Aleksandrov from Belarus is the king of this draw! He has 17 total games ending in this exact draw, 11 with white and 6 with black.

The rabbit hole only become bigger though when I found out that the Greek GM's Hristos Banikas and Ioannis Nikolaidis had played this exact draw in 12 of their games, yes 12!

Hristos Banikas
Ioannis Nikolaidis

They have also several other stock draws in individual games, including the Zaitsev one and then these:

This particular draw in King's Indian E76 has 18 total games ending in this repetition.

They've also played the "Immortal Draw" two times....that particular draw has been played in 43 games in my database....quite a spectacular game in fact!

Make sure to check out the video for several other draws like this and the numbers associated with them!

Here are some other "minor" repetition draws that didn't make the cut for the video.

Psakhis had 5 draws in this line, Vaganian 2

I found none like this one, but thought it was pretty funny

This one had about four cases....this particular one probably for family reasons!

Here is one in the Scandinavian

A recent one from the London

Hope you liked this quick survey on short draws (grandmaster draws) in chess.  Don't try these at home!

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