London Draw Fest Continues Amid New Calls For Change
Again five draws in London. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

London Draw Fest Continues Amid New Calls For Change

| 120 | Chess Event Coverage

On the third day of the London Chess Classic all games again ended in draws. While even the players themselves have started to make jokes about it, others are (once again) calling for change.

It's common for super tournaments to have more, and sometimes much more draws than decisive games. But to have three rounds in a row with draws only—15 in total—is quite rare.

2017 London Chess Classic | Round 3 Results

Fed Name Result Fed Name
Ian Nepomniachtchi ½-½ Fabiano Caruana
Levon Aronian ½-½ Sergey Karjakin
Magnus Carlsen ½-½ Vishy Anand
Michael Adams ½-½ Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
Hikaru Nakamura ½-½ Wesley So

Whenever a chess event has a high number of undecided games, people start start talking about chess having a "draw problem." For some, quick draws are problematic, whereas others (such as GM Nigel Short) want to rule out the ½-½ result altogether.

Another radical solution was suggested six years ago by former FIDE knockout world champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov (now in London as Caruana's second). It deserves another mention:

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.

Kasimdzhanov's idea wasn't used much at top level yet, except for Oleg Skvortsov's tournaments in Zurich. Maybe it deserves another try?

In the morning, the playing hall saw more (decisive) games!

Levon Aronian today said that he doesn't understand why there is still the possibility of a draw offer after move 30 in London. As Silvio Danailov and Veselin Topalov have advocated (and before them, Leo Battesti in Corsica), it makes sense to get rid of the draw offer altogether and work with the so-called Sofia Rule throughout the game. 

A game ending in a draw is not unnatural for chess, but players offering draws is something the game can perhaps do without.

Levon Aronian, 2017 London Chess Classic.

Aronian today suggested to do without draw offers, not just before move 30. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Speaking of Aronian, the Armenian GM was very happy to have the option to offer a draw today as he was close to losing in the final position, when Sergey Karjakin accepted! As Aronian told, only after making his move and offering the draw, he noticed the strong move 33...Be7 for Black.'s interview with Levon Aronian.

Dejan Bojkov Game of the Day

Levon Aronian vs Sergey Karjakin at the 2017 London Chess Classic.

A lucky draw offer by Aronian today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Aronian wasn't too worried that the streak of draws will continue for the whole tournament, saying: "At some point some people will try to play some complicated stuff and they will blunder certain moves and lose games."

Nonetheless it's the talk of the town among fans and top grandmasters. Teimour Radjabov was one of the first to chip in, during the round.

Anish Giri's tweet at the end of round three, consisting of just two words, is an instant classic:

One colleague playing in London, and the tournament director, responded to Giri on Twitter:

Caruana: "We're thinking of renaming it to the Anish Giri Cup"
Giri: "Leave jokes to me, stay focused there brother. Tomorrow another black. Be solid. Stay true to yourself. Repeat your files. We don’t want any accidents."
Caruana: "True! Wouldn't want an accident like against Van Foreest"
Giri: "Below the belt. Good news: I got to watch tomorrow and you got to suffer! In 1.e4 or 1.d4? Regardless, popcorn is ready."
Malcolm Pein: "We miss you - who are we going to blame??"
Giri: "Yes, all the sins were on me. Remember that bill that I didn’t get to pass?"

In case you missed it, Caruana was referring to the Dutch Rapid Championship, which was held on Sunday in Amstelveen, the Netherlands, where the young GM Jorden van Foreest won, ahead of Giri but also e.g Jan Timman and Loek van Wely, and crushing Giri in their mutual game:

Right after his game today, Karjakin wasn't too cheerful when he heard about his missed opportunity but later he joined the Twitter jokes:

Sergey Karjakin and Levon Aronian, London 2017

Aronian and Karjakin spent quite some time analyzing their game in the playing hall. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Shortly before the tournament Magnus Carlsen said: "I don't expect to be crushing it from the start, to be honest. I don't feel so fresh." And indeed, the world champion's play is slightly below his regular level it seems. Today he was a bit worse against Vishy Anand with the white pieces after a typical pawn sac in the Catalan didn't give him what he wanted.

"I think he was the one fighting for an advantage and I don't really know where things went wrong for me," said Carlsen. "Usually White has ample compensation in this line with long-term play on the queenside against the black bishop on c8 but somehow he is getting out and I couldn't really see how to prevent it in a good way and then I just had to beg for a draw."

Viswanathan Anand vs Magnus Carlsen, London 2017

For a moment Anand and Carlsen had more eye for MVL-Adams than their own game. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Anand, however, thought White had just enough compensation. "I never quite had the feeling that I could be better," he told "If he pushes his luck, then I can be better."

The five-time world champion surprised his opponent in the opening. "I think I caught him slightly offguard in this line because I haven't played it in a while. He tried to catch me offguard with Na3. Neither of us was very familiar and we were mostly working things out at the board."

Vishy Anand & Magnus Carlsen, London Chess Classic 2017

Carlsen being interviewed, Anand waiting for his turn. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Like yesterday, Ian Nepomniachtchi tried to avoid hardcore theory. He played a Réti setup. His 17.Nd5 looked flashy but after the down-to-earth reply 17...Ra5!? (frowned upon when Ashley suggested it!) Fabiano Caruana was fine, and White needed to be accurate.

Before looking at Twitter, Caruana gave a logical explanation for the many draws in his post-game interview: "At the end of the year, before the Candidates', you see slightly more cautious play. Players are not going all out as they normally would."

He also noted that eight players are playing for much less money than Carlsen and MVL, who can still win the Grand Chess Tour.

Ian Nepomniachtchi vs Fabiano Caruana, 2017 London Chess Classic

Nepomniachtchi and Caruana chatting after agreeing to a draw. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The games Nakamura-So (where White's extra pawn in an opposite-colored bishop middlegame was worthless) and Adams-MVL (where the Englishman held a 3-vs-4 rook endgame) can be found in the PGN file.

2017 Grand Chess Tour Standings After Round 3

2017 London Chess Classic, Round 4 Pairings

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Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

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