Pawn Sacrifice – the movie & the future of draw by mutual consent

This week’s hot question in the poll is about draw by mutual consent. Is this something we would have if we were to create chess now? Andrew Greet asked. But of course the game comes with baggage and traditions… It will be interesting to hear your views. In general we will work a bit more as moderator in the discussions of poll topics in the future than hardliners for a point of view.

Last week’s poll was about the anticipation of the Fischer-film PAWN SACRIFICE:

Pawn SacrificePersonally I am sold. Definitely going and forcing my girlfriend to come…

31 thoughts on “Pawn Sacrifice – the movie & the future of draw by mutual consent”

  1. Looks like it has a grounding in reality at least…. Lombardy and Efim Geller feature as characters in the script. I’ve never seen film of Bobby playing…was he a Kasparov stylee smash his winning move down and gloat type- Tobey Maguire seems a bit too laid back as an actor?!

  2. Michael Stewart

    I am pumped about Pawn Sacrifice !!! I can’t wait to see it.
    I grew up in this time zone and recall the excitement of Bobby winning.

  3. I don’t think tournament games should have a minimum number of moves before a draw can be proposed. I don’t see what’s inherently wrong with agreeing a draw. Besides, how would such a rul apply to situations in which a repetition of moves or a perpetual check would be the optimum outcome? Should people than be forbidden to play the best moves in these cases? Moreover, if two players desparately want to play a draw in view of the tournament standings, they can always play the minimum number of moves before proposing a draw. So which problem is being solved by this rule?

  4. Jacob Aagaard

    Without taking a stand, let me reply to your points.

    Just because you do not see what is wrong with agreeing a draw does not mean that others do not see it as a problem. Football matches do not end after 22 minutes with a 0-0 agreement either. Different sport altogether, but the same result.

    The repetition is obviously not included. But to reach it without the illegal pre-agreement of moves from the players is not so easy.

    The same with the case where both players are wanting a draw. Unless they have illegally agreed the result in advance, a lot can happen in 30 moves!

    So practice and theory shows that it makes a difference.

  5. I find it strange that a tournament organiser would go to such lengths to prevent one of the three natural outcomes of a game i.e. 1-0, 0.5-0.5 and 0-1. Each of the three possibilities is a valid result of a game.
    In a game or a tournament, there are a host of reasons for wanting to offer a draw:

    You can find yourself in a position which is extremely drawish way before the 30 or 40 move non-draw proposal limit, after mass piece exchanges, for example. For example in the following game, my opponent and I felt the game was drawn. Maybe objectively speaking there’s a lot of play left, or a GM would be able to grind out a win for whichever side is marginally better, but us mere mortals felt the life was gone from the game.

    A player might find themselves playing three games in a day, and find themselves extremely tired in the third game. The player might feel the best way to avoid making silly blunders, and to save energy for the next day might be to offer a draw.

    Psychology also plays a big part in chess. Player A might find themselves in a worse position (for example against a weaker player) but be unsure that Player B realizes this. Player A can try to bluff Player B into a draw by making a ‘well this position looks drawn to me’ gesture and then offering a draw. Player B might accept so as not to look foolish! This may seem a little dishonest to…

  6. This may seem a little dishonest to some people, but it’s part of the game. Chess isn’t just pieces on a board; humans are part of the game too!

    To be honest, I can’t really see the point of limiting draw offers. In most amateur tournaments, there aren’t generally thousands of euros at stake, so it’s not like the organizers need to fight against grandmasters working out the best way to divide up the prizes amongst themselves.

    I can see the argument in favour of quick draws in tournaments where there is a possibility of spectators, especially at the last round where the press may turn up, but this generally doesn’t apply to most tournaments amateurs play in.

    Amateurs are playing for themselves, not for sponsor, TV, live internet etc. so if they feel they want to be able to offer a draw to optimize their results, they should be allowed.

  7. Jacob Aagaard

    @Niall Doran
    I am not taking sides here, but I could think that for a lot of people the ability to offer draws at any time is a distraction and annoyance. Not just that their opponent can do it, but also that they get obsessed about thinking about doing it themselves.

    Also, is it a good or a bad thing for developing players?

  8. @Jacob Aagaard
    I agree with you in principle, but in practice I guess it will be very difficult to prove that two players have illegally agreed on a draw before the game. Or maybe I’m being too pessimistic?

  9. Another question I’m having: why set a minimum number of moves? I’d think the argument of annoyance / distraction and development of players wouldn’t just apply below, say, move 40? Why not either allow or not allow draw offers at all, forcing players to continue until there’s 1) too little material left to win for either side or 2) a repetition of moves or 3) the 50-move rule applies?

  10. @Jacob Aagaard

    Absolutely Jacob, it’s even been the case in some of my own games, thinking ‘is this position drawn, should I offer a draw…’ Generally what I’ll do is have a think about whether the position really is drawn (or just equal) and think about what result I want, and then either make an offer or mentally move on. In most cases I won’t offer the draw. I’ll admit it could be a distraction to a player, but it’s just one of those things that a player has to learn to deal with. So I think I’d agree with Ray when he asks ‘

    Good or bad thing for developing players? I suppose if a developing player offers too many draws, it could be a problem, but most trainers generally advice their players against this, and to be honest, in the scholastic tournaments I help organise, the number of draw offer is tiny. Most kids are just happy to play, take pieces and chase the opponent’s king!

    Another point is that the number of draws in amateur games is fairly low compared to games between GMs. My own draw percentage is 15%, and having had a quick look at my clubmates’ stats (players with a similar rating to myself) on the Fide website, their draw percentage varies from 9% to 23%, with the average around 17%. Magnus Carlsen, who’s generally considered a fighting player, draws 50% of his games. So I think Ray’s question is very pertinent; which problem is being solved by this rule? It’s certainly not the excessive number of draws…

  11. Jacob Aagaard

    Of course. But people who look at it like you do miss a big point. It will be much less frequent and be frowned upon more. What people who are trying to introduce such rules is not to prevent games from ever being drawn, but to increase the amount of fighting games. And all these rules do achieve this.

  12. Jacob Aagaard

    The question in the poll is of course reflecting the real World effect such a rule has on amateurs (on holiday!?) and if this is desired or not. I have no big view, so it is quite interesting to follow the voting.

  13. @Jacob Aagaard
    I do not think that those new rules achieve more fighting chess, it’s the new generation of top players. With guys like Carlsen, Caruana and Nakamura around you don’t need to limit draw offers as it was in Leko/Kramnik times. And I’m quite fed up with those many games often seen, where they reach opposite coloured bishops plus rooks around move 15 or 20, just to be able to drag that game to move 40 without any risk avoiding any anti-drawing rules.
    I see no problem with drawn games. They are part of the game. Liek it or not.
    Comparisons to other sports do not apply, in chess no one ends the games after 90 minutes and gives the win to the guy with the extra pawn. It’s just not comparable.
    Why the hell do we need to change the rules to make the game more “attractive”? Attractive to whom? If some want a different game – well ok, but don’t call it chess.
    People will always prefer women beach volleyball – no matter what we do.

  14. Jacob Aagaard

    I cannot see how you can possibly believe that these new rules make no difference – ignoring the other part of your argument, which I agree with.

  15. @Thomas
    I guess the idea is to make chess more attractive in the end to sponsors / television. Which is ridiculous in my humble opinion, especially if we are talking about amateurs. What’s next? Forcing female chess players to play in ‘attractive’ clothing just as in Beach Volleyball? Let’s face it, chess is not football and it will never be as attractive to the general public, nor should it try to be. Throughout the history of chess it has mainly been dependent on people with money and a love for chess (e.g. Wim van Oosterom, Bessel Kok, Sinquefeld, and even the FIDE president). I don’t believe for a minute that Tata Steel, who has sponsored the Wijk aan Zee tournament for over 70 years, is earning any extra money through their sponsorship. It’s just not comparable to the big sports like football. So I say to all ‘chess officials’, give us back our sport and get a life 🙂

  16. I was reading the blog and, being strongly opposed to the ‘draw offer’ rule in chess, I’d like to address a few of the points that have arisen in the discussion.

    Firstly, my main problem with draws by mutual consent isn’t the fact that they make it easier for players to prearrange results, or that they make the game potentially less attractive to sponsors, or that draw-inclined players may miss out on the chance to improve their skills by playing out certain positions – although you might say all of these are undesirable side effects of the rule.

    Rather, it’s the simple fact that Chess is supposed to be a COMPETITIVE game. If you take the current rules as a frame of reference, then it might seem like a drastic step to outlaw draw offers (whether banning them outright, or before a certain move number). However, I would ask you to imagine for a moment if you were designing the game of chess from the ground up; why on Earth would it make sense to allow the contestants to be able to halve out whenever they feel like it? It’s a crazy idea, which is virtually unheard of in any other game or sport.

    (continued below)

  17. And yes, the comparison to other sports does hold up. Sure, other games have different types of rules: in football/basketball etc you play up to a time limit; in tennis you win points/games/sets; in racing you go until you cross the finishing line. But in each case, the contest goes on until the winner (or draw) is decided. Just because chess is played out in a different way, it doesn’t make it the least bit saner that players can agree a draw whenever they feel like it.

    Niall (in post 7) and Thomas (post 15) seem to think the no-draw-offer argument is about preventing one of the natural results of the game. This is false. I am all in favour of a well-played draw, as long as the game is actually played out. If the position is equal and dull after move 25, then it should be no problem for you to play on, exchange some more pieces, and draw in due course.

    If players are tired after two or three games in a day, then tough! It’s supposed to be a challenging game. If there were no draw offers, players would get used to it in time. If three games in a day are too much for you, you can take a bye in one of them.

  18. An Ordinary Chessplayer

    I think such rules make a great deal of sense for sponsors or potential sponsors. There is a big difference between a draw because there is no fight left in the position, and a draw because there is no fight left in the players.

    “In the 2003 U.S. Championship, there were eight Grandmasters vying for first place. After fifteen minutes, the stage was almost empty. All the other contenders had drawn their games, ensuring them a decent payday but depriving fans of exciting, high-stakes chess. Shabalov’s game was the exception. He played a six-hour slug fest against Varuzhan Akobian, ending in a victory for Shabalov. In addition to the 25K he won for first place, main sponsor Erik Andersson awarded Alex and Varuzhan 5000$ each for their fighting spirit.”

    I was present in 2003. What was unsaid is that Andersson invited some guests for the last-round “action”. They arrived discretely at 30 minutes, to find only the Shabalov game amongst the top boards. But it would not have been more exciting for them if they had arrived at the start of the round.

    I don’t think it could happen in other sports that contenders “agree” not to contend. If one competitor decided not to contend, they would lose, plain and simple.

  19. @An Ordinary Chessplayer
    I want chess rules, that make sense for the players. And not for potential sponsors.
    And you can not force exciting, high-stakes chess, no matter how much you change the rules.
    If a draw ensure a payday for both, it will end in a draw. Please: no fake games just to reach move XY.
    About forbidding draw offers: Who wants to watch a rook ending with 3 pawns on the kings wing each for 50 moves? That’s the difference to other sports: You already KNOW, that nobody is going to score. Where is the sence in hours and hours of chess without changing the result?

  20. I agree that some restrictions on draw offers would be a good idea. Whether it should be 30 moves or some other restriction can be up for debate. A total ban on job offers would not make sense in chess, however, given there are some conditions where it would be ridiculous to play on.

    In terms of sports analogies, I think the best example would be cricket. In test cricket, the two captains are allowed to agree to a draw and call off play if they feel there is really no chance of a result – but only within half an hour before close of play.

  21. The problem of what to do in dead-drawn endgames can easily be solved by drawing via threefold repetition. If one player starts shuffling the same piece back and forth, the other will recognize it and do the same.

    An important point is that, for a player to be able to get away with moving the same piece back and forth, the position will need to be heavily simplified and sufficiently ‘dead’ that the opponent will not be able to use the extra moves to improve his position.

  22. One cannot avoid agreed-upon draws. There are too many openings where the “best” move is to force repetition, or variations are just dead-draw.
    But, many quick-draws are made out of lazyness – or respect for higher rating – at least at lower level (I just cannot pretent to know anything about elite-level chess).
    I remember a game about a year ago where I wanted to offer a draw in a much better but unbalanced position after 15 moves, but I wasn’t allowed to. Talking to my opponent afterwards (team mate of mine as well, curiously), he would have happily accepted, despite having 250 Elo more. Neither of us had played a good tournament, and we just wanted a decent conclusion. Looking back, I’m happy we weren’t allowed to draw. I lost, but I learned much more than I would have otherwise. I was forced to think about the position.

    Also, I got two draws this year where I was clearly worse early in the game, but my opponents accepted my draw offers, purely based on my higher rating – they would have surely played on otherwise. The games would surely have been full of fight if we would have been forced play on.
    So, there’s the educational aspect – don’t play based on rating or tournament rankings, play based on the board position!
    In my experience, especially young players are prone to accepting a draw offer in view of earning some rating. I know I was, and nobody stopped me, back in the days.
    So yes: No draw offers before move 30 is a good idea.

  23. An Ordinary Chessplayer

    I am not against draws. When I have a bad position, it is my fondest wish.

    I always admired players like Fischer and Larsen for their fighting spirit. I admit I have not always lived up to their example, having made a handful of short draws in my life. I think it was Kavalek who made the point that Petrosian would have an effect on the other players so that they would agree early draws with each other, but only if Fischer or Larsen was also playing this would not happen. So it may happen that a simple rule can have a small positive effect on the players as well. If the players are determined to draw, at least 30 moves is more decorous than 15 moves.

    @Thomas – Sponsorship also makes sense for the players.

    “Sponsor” is not a bad word. Sponsors are also fans of the game, their views on the game are just as valid as anybody else’s. And unlike other fans they are putting their own money forward, in a sense that might make their views more valid than anybody else’s — or less valid, depending on your relationship to money.

    I don’t care about forcing exciting, high-stakes chess. I care about not letting players run away like cowards. Just make some chess moves. As Andrew Greet says, if it is a draw it will take care of itself. BTW, I have won the ending R+3 vs R+3 against an expert player (he had broken pawns). He should have drawn, but found a way to lose. It was far from exciting, far from high-stakes.

    “Where is the sense in hours and hours of chess…

  24. An Ordinary Chessplayer

    Sorry, I went over the limit. I will complete that last thought, and in future try to be more brief.

    “Where is the sense in hours and hours of chess without changing the result?” I don’t even understand the question. There is little sense in playing chess. There is even less sense in showing up to play chess and then quickly shaking hands. Far better to fight for hours “without changing the result” than not to fight at all.

  25. A very nice example is the game of Andreas Dückstein against Michail Botwinnik when he played on Austrias board one against Russia at the 1958 olympiad. Dückstein quickly got an excellent position and consulted his team captain about offering a draw. He was the clear underdog and Botwinnik was the reigning world champion back then. But they didn’t figure out how to do this as they did not speak any Russian… Meanwhile he had played on – and was winning soon after.

    More than half a century later he still has to tell the story over and over again how he beat the reigning champion. Certainly a great moment in his career.

    Makes me wonder how many interesting moments of chess had been missed by stronger opponents escaping with a draw offer which a lower rated player felt he cannot decline, or with a weaker player offering draw afraid of screwing up a winning position. Sadly, I have done both… So I can only agree with anything that stops this…

  26. Jacob Aagaard

    Obviously people can cheat, but most don’t, because they are good people and because just asking your opponent if he wants to prearrange a draw can be a big loss of faith. Will it work in all cases, no of course not. But if you have to make 30 or 40 moves or have to ask the arbiter’s permission to agree a draw, a lot of moves will have to be made before this is relevant. And strange as it might sound, some people will actually make mistakes. And then suddenly the opponent might not want the draw after all.

    So your black/white scenario where everyone breaks the rules, because some do, and everyone makes draws, just because it would be a good result from the start, are obviously not true. Sometimes, yes, but football also ends 0-0 on occasion. But rarely. Even when both teams want a draw…

  27. @Jacob Aagaard
    I wasn’t talking about cheating. A draw is a legal result after all, isn’t it?
    But to see the Slav-Exchange or the famous “queen sac” in the Spanish Exchange in every second games doesn’t get me excited about last round games. It’s much easier to get a draw in chess than in football.
    Of course you are right, some games might get played, and might get interesting. Even without Sofia rules some people prefer to play.

  28. Jacob Aagaard

    The way you worded it clearly suggested a situation where, wink-wink, the players both knew that the other player wanted a draw. This is cheating according to the rules, though not always thought of in this way. If you do not know this, you will have to enter into the Spanish Exchange knowing that this is how your opponent will play, when you really have no idea. Sorry, it is a minority issue and will happen just as frequently when one player would actually like to play, but has a drawing line in their repertoire.

    I entirely fail to see your argument :-).

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