Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Never Ending Debate About Draws in Chess

Former Florida chess champion Bill Cornwall is a national award-winning chess trainer and columnist. Here is his column today from the Chess: A Knight's Tour: Draws threaten chess success February 17, 2008 The great draw debate: Chess spectators "gather" online in the thousands to watch their favorite stars in action. They see live and recorded videos from the playing sites while listening to color commentary from famous grandmasters (GMs). They follow move-by-move as their heroes do battle, and they discuss the tactics and strategies they imagine are being employed. They also engage in an important ongoing debate about the negative impact of drawn games and what to do about them. With chess becoming more of a spectator sport and attracting advertising and serious sponsors, it is possible for professionals to make a real living and for top champions to become millionaires. Quick agreed-upon draws threaten this Camelot. Baseball has extra innings, football has overtime, and tennis has sudden death. Imagine if the Super Bowl, the World Series or Wimbledon were to end in ties or if the preliminary games were to be drawn. Even worse, imagine if both sides agreed to early draws before a real contest occurred. Presto, no spectators; presto, no sponsors; presto, no money. Currently, a majority of games played in top events are drawn. One of the strongest tournaments ever played was just completed in Wijk aan Zee, the Netherlands. Containing most of the top-10 GMs, including world champion Viswanathan Anand and his predecessors, Vladimir Kramnik and Veselin Topalov, the competition nevertheless saw only 31 decisive encounters with 60 draws. Almost half of the draws were in less than 30 moves. In the end, teen wonder Magnus Carlsen (17) tied for first with World Cup champion Lev Aronian with, sadly, no playoff for the title. Debated quick fixes: 1. Motivate players to win by making draws worth less than a half-point so that a win is worth more than two draws. 2. Reward players financially with bonuses for winning games. 3. Don't allow draws to be accepted unless the board position is adjudicated truly drawn. 4. Make playoff games required for matches and titles.

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