Draw Offers Can be Strategic

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Chess is war. However, there are some unwritten rules which are based on politeness. For instance, one should never offer a draw in a completely lost position. (As a side note, I don’t generally fault newer players or those with three-digit ratings, as they legitimately may not know that the position is lost.)

However, what about offering a higher-rated player a draw? Well, generally, the unwritten rule is that the higher-rated player should be the one to offer the draw. That’s a rule that I only believe in if the rating difference is extreme. For instance, I wouldn’t offer a draw against a GM since they’ll let me know when they think the position is drawn.

When it comes to offering draws against players who are within a few hundred points I have been known to use them as a strategy. Here’s an example from last Thursday.

Here I am Black, and I have been defending a worse position for some time. Here, however, I decide it’s level enough that I will offer a draw. I should point out that while Edgar and I are only about 70 points apart currently, historically he has outrated me by 200-300 points in most of our games.

My thought process is as follows:

  1. Edgar generally doesn’t like draws.
  2. Regardless of current rating, overall Edgar is the stronger player.
  3. Sometimes stronger players will overpress trying to prove that the position is not a draw.

Let’s go back a few moves.

As you can see, I was worse a bit earlier in the game.

After I play 19…Nxa5, Edgar recaptures with the pawn. Had he played 20.Rxa5 I think he has the better part of the game in perpetuity and I have to fight to hold essentially for the rest of the game.

However, after 20.bxa5 I can see a tiny ray of light ahead. This is what allows me to essentially equalize and offer the draw. Edgar had spent a lot of time to this point and continued to spend more. Eventually the overuse of time led him to blunder. The game continues for 15-20 moves past when we stop recording, but ends in a win on time for me in a completely winning position.

Here is the game. I still need to analyze it, but the idea of the strategic draw offer is a lesson in itself.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott