Abolish Chess Draws Says Kasimdzhanov

  • SonofPearl
  • on 7/21/11, 10:20 AM.

Rustam Kasimdzhanov (pictured) is a Grandmaster from Uzbekistan, and a former FIDE World Chess Champion (2004-05).

He has published an open letter to FIDE making a proposal to eliminate draws from chess in order to make it more popular as a sport.

His letter is below. What do you think?

Add your thoughts in the comments.

Open letter with a proposal

Dear chess friends,

I am writing this open letter, addressed both to FIDE and the entire chess playing world, due to a certain crisis, in which our noble game finds itself lately. This crisis is not only defined by a general dissatisfaction, coming from sponsors, organizers and amateurs; also among the professionals there has been some growing distress. Quite a number of traditional tournaments are no longer organized; in those still out there an ever growing number of extremely strong players is competing for the same money. At the same time voices from all around are expressing serious concern about lackluster play in some top tournaments, and notorious short draws.

To understand the reasons why our sport has never made it to the heights it deserves I find it useful to take a look at a sport very similar to ours – tennis. Both games feature the battle of two personalities, showing a whole array of technical weapons in their fight, competing in speed and precision, in patience and wisdom. Why, despite this apparent similarities, despite the fact that many more people worldwide are capable of playing chess properly, do we stand light-years behind tennis in everything that defines success in professional sport?

The reasons are numerous, no doubt, but the main problem, as I see it, is an existence of a draw as a result in chess. Short draws (and I also have made a number of those) make our game look more like an insider academic activity, rather than sport; but they can't be avoided – the preparation of today and the inherent qualities of chess are such, that a draw, and in fact a short draw, is a most likely result in a game between strong well-prepared players. Still, in a well-organized tournament, top players, getting up to go to their hotel rooms after a ten minute draw, do not add attractiveness to chess.

Returning to tennis, the main attraction is, as I see it, the fact that every single fight produces a result; a winner and a loser at the end of the day. And there is a thrill for every spectator to see, say, Nadal and Federer, come to court, and know with certainty that one of them will triumph and the other one will lose. In short, to put it figuratively, there will be blood. And there will be great champions.

In our game, however, things are different. We also have great champions, but their greatness is sometimes limited to insiders of the game. In order to be successful outside of our little world, in order to make front pages and TV, and thereby also the finance that comes in a parcel, we need champions that appeal to a general public, even to a public far from intricacies of chess. Such was a winning streak of Novak Djokovic this year, for instance. Something that a win in a chess super tournament with 8 out of 13 simply cannot match.

And now comes my proposal. If we want success, sponsors, public and the rest of the parcel, we need to abolish those draws in classical tournaments. And not by Sofia rules – tournaments with Sofia rules produced as many draws as any other; and not by 30 move rule, where players are often just waiting for move 30. We need something entirely different. Like a tie-break in tennis. We need a result. Every single day.

And here is how it works. We play classical chess, say with a time control of four to five hours. Draw? No problem – change the colours, give us 20 minutes each and replay. Draw again? Ten minutes each, change the colours and replay. Until there is a winner of that day. And the winner wins the game and gets one point and the loser gets zero; and the game is rated accordingly, irrelevant of whether it came in a classical game, rapid or blitz.

This way the expectations of the crowd will never be deceived. There will always be a winner, there will always be blood. There will come an age of great champions, since with this system there will be times when Vishy or Magnus will win Wijk-aan-Zee with 13 out 13; and there will be winning streaks, when some of the great champions will win 50 games in a row. We'll make front pages.

And much more than that. It will be good for our sport. Not just sponsors and attention and prizes. It will be essentially good for our game. People will try extremely hard with white, in order to decide the issue now, and not in a black rapid game. Instead offering a draw in a slightly better ending in order to save energy and catch a movie, chess players will show their whole ability and will win these endings. As a matter of fact this will develop classical chess.

And there is so much more. Often players, playing white, feeling rough in the morning, get to the game with an attitude "I'll just make a draw today" Imagine, what will happen to this attitude? Chess will become a true sport. We'll wake up to win or to lose that day. We'll come tho the board, ready to play chess. And just like when we come to see Federer play – we see his whipping forehand, his effortless slice, his hammer serve and immaculate return – same will happen in chess. Every single day we'll see players like Aronian or Grischuk pressing with white, wriggling out of trouble with black and showing some blitz skills to an ever larger public. That is something I would like to watch and play.

Grandmaster Rustam Kasimdzhanov

9415 reads 112 comments
5 votes


  • 5 years ago


    friendjonny -- yes, you are 100% correct. 

  • 5 years ago


    I am very much against any idea which would devalue draws. A draw should always be worth at least half of a win (I would sooner raise the value of a draw rather than devalue it considering a win comes because of a blunder by the losing player rather than perfect play by the winning player, however, perfect play by two players theoretically results in a draw). And most importantly, games using classical time controls should be the only sorts of games used to determine the results of matches. 

  • 5 years ago


    excellent suggestionSmile

  • 5 years ago


    excellent suggestion, that would be great....thank you Rustam...



  • 5 years ago


    Hey I am also tired of draws; hence my suggestion:


    WIN - 2 points.

    LOSS - 1 point.

    DRAW - -1 point

    What then would players prefer??

    haha; then let us see the results!!

  • 5 years ago


    Yashasin mustaqil uzbekiston
  • 5 years ago


    draw are a problem in chess I approve of abolishing them...

  • 5 years ago

    IM dpruess

    i agree with Valentin's previous comment that it's probably profitable to try a variety of new/different ideas on a small scale, and see what results you get.

  • 5 years ago


    Peter Zhdanov's thoughts (on Natalia's site, quoted by her recently) makes a lot of sense to me.  Particularly I agree with the recommendations for publicity.

    I was going to suggest the following:

    • taking chess into schools (as they do regularly in several countries in the world);
    • having GMs, IMs, etc. hold frequent simuls on the street for the general public (which is also common in certain places where chess is already part of the social culture);
    • promoting the benefits of chess to everyone as a thought process training exercise (independent of its content) and life skills -- among them patience, concentration, memory, quick thinking, risk management, etc.  This can strike a chord with parents, who wish to provide good training opportunities and meaningful pastime for their children (e.g., compared to violent video games, spending all day on facebook, etc.).

    You can see how one can pursue multiple avenues for popularization of the game.

    Seeking to turn it into a spectacle in the way that physical sports are, is likely a non-starter.  But this is by far not the only avenue to look into...

  • 5 years ago


    if your playing chess to be rich and famous, you really not paying attention.

  • 5 years ago


    There are too many comments to read them all, and so if I reiterate any of the points already made, I apologize. I have to disagree entirely with the premise of the letter. The fact that chess is not a popular sport with the public does not have anything to do with the presence of draws. The elimination of draws would certainly make the sport more exciting for those who are active in chess and appreciate it for the beautiful game that it is, however, this would do nothing to attract the interest of those who do not currently follow chess. The analogy drawn to tennis attempts to convince the reader that what distinguishes the two sports is the predetermined fact that “there will be blood”, however this is simply untrue. It is possible for someone with no technical skill in tennis, and in fact, incomplete knowledge of the rules to appreciate and enjoy the action (and here, I use action in the most physical sense of the word), however this is impossible in chess. Unless you are at the very least a competent player, you will not find any noticeable difference between a game played by the two best players in the world, and a game played by the 100th and 101st ranked players. Chess is not popular because it is an intellectual sport and not a physical one, the rules are too complicated to understand, (unlike poker) and without a good understanding of theory and tactics, it is not possible to really appreciate it.

  • 5 years ago


    "Seriously, it's chess. Chess is boring and filled with nerds. Hot girls don't bang chess nerds."

    The facts paint a different picture.

    Capa was quite the ladies man. Tal was was infamous for his affairs. Fischer received many proposals after his victory over Spassky. Seirawan was the Cosmopolitan bachelor of the month, and he also received many proposals of marriage.

    Capa never had to deal with FIDE ....but Fischer is clearly on record as being against matches of short duration. Seirawan is on record against fast FIDE time controls and so is Tal. All three had no problem with ladies. Coincidence? I think not.

  • 5 years ago


    Well, I for one agree with Rustam. I beleive draws have made our sport less appealing for sponsors. On the other hand, I don't agree with his approach of deciding a clasical game with a series of speed chess games. That approach would be similar to what just happened at the candidates matches which we know how everybody felt about it. I would favor a system like the one used at the Biel tournament right now (as Godspawn suggested) where: Win = 3, Draw = 1, and Loss = 0  I think its called the Barcelona system.

  • 5 years ago


    there  are positions that basically leads  to  the draw,in tournaments where high prizes are at stake sometimes  strong players agree to play draw even  only  aftera handful of movesfor  fear of getting  zero point, others  do not  when they believe they  can beat each other.if  theres  a  familiarization and  bonding  between  the  two players the game  might  also  be  arranged  to  a  desired  result  whoever comes  to  the top., to the  detriment of other  qualifying  player.chess is  a  fight  to  win not for  draw but  stalemate  happens  also  and is  unavoidable  when not  seen.

  • 5 years ago


    I mean, really. Look at the guy's picture.

  • 5 years ago


    Seriously, it's chess.

    Chess is boring and filled with nerds. Hot girls don't bang chess nerds.

    Eliminating draws won't get players any more poontang - therefore, it won't get chess any more fame.

    Case closed.

  • 5 years ago


    Lets make it this way:

    WIN = 1.0 pt

    draw= 0.0 pt

    LOSS=0.0 pt

    either swiss system or round robin I think it may lessen the game being drawn as you can see there's no more value for getting a draw. players will opt to play for a win if they want to get on top in the tournament.

  • 5 years ago


    This guy's letter is so logically flawed, I don't think anyone should take it seriously. How do you even make an excuse for such an idiotic comparison?

    Tennis is popular because it's an athletic sport with fast-paced action and the only barriers to enjoying it are knowing the very simple rules of the game. Chess is not any of those things. It's a board game. Standard time controls are incredibly slow-paced and the barriers to enjoying it include understanding the rules, strategy, openings, etc. 

    Poker, especially Texas Hold-Em, would be a more reasonable comparison, but even then, poker is much more aligned for mass appeal. It is fast paced, with "moves" coming every few seconds. It's usually played in groups instead of 1v1. It's much more psychological, which in turn makes the learning curve much more moderate, and thus accessible to many more people.

    To suggest that chess can be as popular as poker simply because they are both non-athletic sports is awfully ignorant.

  • 5 years ago


    Peter Zhdanov seems more concerned about chess as a worthy pursuit in its own right rather than a path to money. Well done Peter.

    There was an observation made by the American master Viktor Pupols some years ago. He observed that when ever large amounts of money find their way into a sport, any sport -- it changes the sport, and usually for the worse. He was therefore skeptical of it in Chess.

    I have previously quoted Botvinnik on this idea, now here is Tal (from http://www.chesscafe.com/skittles/skittles.htm):

    Silman: What did you think of the recent Candidate matches?

    Tal: The six-game match system and gambling at Atlantic City is exactly the same. I don't consider this system to be too serious. The tiebreak with one hour, half an hour, etc., is also ridiculous.

    Only the less skilled would favor the introduction of luck into chess.

    Oh, did I mention that Kasimdzhanov is an idiot?

  • 5 years ago


     chess can be presented very similiar to billiards where they  just give an overview of some games and show some games in more detail and then can show blitz games completely. When there is a crucial tactical move coming up they can delay the moves (with a message coming up - what do you think is the solution) so that viewer takes part in the tv programme. THen there must be a website where you can download "last nights game:

    Has anyone ever go to ESPN with a business plan?

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