Saturday, February 09, 2008

Drawing conclusions

I drew my game last Saturday. Higher graded opponent, Black pieces, equalised, symmetrical pawn structure, fourteen moves, thank you very much.

It's the way I play: chess is an intellectual challenge and the way I make that challenge to myself is to see if I can get through the game without throwing it away. Moreover, if you avoid throwing it away, there's every chance that your opponent will step in and throw it away instead.

Not recently, though - it was my fifth draw in a row. I offered all of them, except for one, which was a repetition neither side could avoid. In fact, I don't think I've played a game since March 2006 which has ended in a draw at my opponent's suggestion, rather than mine. (The game concerned, being such an historic occasion, is given below. It's a decent game against a strong player, but I ought to have won it. Obscurely, it appears in Chessbase Database Online as having been played in November 2005, which it was not.)

Well, there are different views of this sort of thing, different approaches: there are those who will never offer a draw, at one end of the scale, and people like Bogdan Lalic (see round six commentary) and myself at the other. To some extent I view it as a psychological ploy. Offer a draw - especially if your opponent is a stronger player and especially if you have Black - and if your opponent turns it down, they are always subsequently playing under the pressure of having had a draw for the taking and having let it slip. Let it prey on their mind - and if they accept the draw, well, that's a good result anyway.

Possibly. But possibly it's also a psychological weakness - the very fear of losing which it seeks to exploit in the opponent. It manifests itself in a tendency to offer draws in positions which are winning, or close to winning - because I've been too keen to ensure I avoid defeat to examine the possibility that I might, in fact, do better. The clock plays a role, for sure. But so do nerves, and the lack of them.

Still, it is better to draw than to lose. But what does one do about the fear of losing? Isn't the fear of losing basically a fear of oneself?


Tom Chivers said...

I've had twelve draws in a row before...

I think fear of losing is also partly fear of letting oneself down. I don't feel so bad about losing if I've been outplayed by a stronger player or theoried by someone; these things are always going to happen. But blunders, lapses, loss of composure, oversights - this is when I feel worse about losing.

I think there are two poles in attitudes to chess: at one pole, a player will risk the loss to play for the win, at the other the opposite. Some are firmly at one pole, other players alternate depending on mood, form, opponent, colour, etc.

I am not sure psychologically what all this implies though.

Jonathan B said...

I have a similar problem.

At least two games earlier on this season (both with me playing Black which I think is probably relevant) I offered a draw in what turned out to be a better position.

It's been hard for me to address this problem other than just to resolve not to offer draws at all. This has worked for a while but then during a game I find an excuse to break my resolution.


ejh said...

I drew again on Saturday....