Make A Draw And Belly Up To The Bar

In the fourth round of the recently completed Hollywood Chess Norm Classic! (https://www.learn2chess.com/norm) the following game was played:

IM Victor Matviishen 2490

http://amargaryan-round-2020.chessacademy.am/static/article/41?lang=en

vs GM Aleksey Sorokin 2541

https://lichess.org/coach/AVS2000
  1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5 Nbd7 7. Qe2 h6 8. Bh4 g6 9. f4 e5 10. fxe5 dxe5 11. O-O-O Qc7 12. Nb3 b5 13. Rxd7 Nxd7 14. Nd5 Qb8 15. Bf6 Nxf6 16. Nxf6+ Ke7 17. Nd5+ Ke8 18. Nf6+ Ke7 19. Nd5+ Ke8 1/2-1/2
    https://lichess.org/broadcast/hollywood-chess-gm-norm-classic/round-4/y5op7bmp
    https://live.followchess.com/#!1000gm-hollywood–2022/1784075715

It was the move 6…Nbd7 that attracted my attention, not 7 Qe2. When playing the Najdorf what now seems like another lifetime ago I invariably played 6…e6, which was the preferred move of Bobby Fischer, and now Stockfish, or at least the Stockfish program utilized by Lichess.com. Although 7…h6 has been the most often played move by we humans, Stockfish plays 7…b5. Again humans place this move below the move played in the game and 7…e6 and 7…Qc7. After 8 Bh4 Stockfish shows 8…Qc7 as best. Yet GM Sorokin played 8…g6, which has been the most often played move by human players. Then comes a series of moves of which Stocky approves, until after 12…b5, when the program would play 13 a3. After 14…Qb8 Stocky would play 15 Na5, but the IM chose to make a draw. This has all been seen previously:

Dmitry Kryakvin (2589) vs Aleksandr Rakhmanov (2647)

Event: TCh-FIN 2018-19
Site: Finland FIN Date: 04/05/2019
Round: 9.1
ECO: B94 Sicilian, Najdorf, 6.Bg5
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 Nbd7 7.Qe2 h6 8.Bh4 g6 9.f4 e5 10.fxe5 dxe5 11.O-O-O Qc7 12.Nb3 b5 13.Rxd7 Nxd7 14.Nd5 Qb8 15.Bf6 Nxf6 16.Nxf6+ Ke7 17.Nd5+ Ke8 18.Nf6+ Ke7 19.Nd5+ Ke8 20.Nf6+ Ke7 ½-½
https://www.365chess.com/game.php?back=1&gid=4187357&m=41

Shardul Gagare (2468) vs Shalmali Gagare (2100)
Event: XXIX Elgoibar GM 2019
Site: Elgoibar ESP Date: 12/14/2019
Round: 4.4
ECO: B94 Sicilian, Najdorf, 6.Bg5
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 Nbd7 7.Qe2 h6 8.Bh4 g6 9.f4 e5 10.fxe5 dxe5 11.O-O-O Qc7 12.Nb3 b5 13.Rxd7 Nxd7 14.Nd5 Qb8 15.Bf6 Nxf6 16.Nxf6+ Ke7 17.Nd5+ Ke8 18.Nf6+ Kd8 19.Qd2+ Qd6 20.Qa5+ Qc7 21.Qd2+ Qd6 22.Qa5+ Qc7 23.Qd2+ Qd6 ½-½
https://www.365chess.com/game.php?gid=4237624

Yi Xu (2527) vs Yi Wei (2732)
Event: ch-CHN 2021
Site: Xinghua CHN Date: 05/07/2021
Round: 1.4
ECO: B94 Sicilian, Najdorf, 6.Bg5
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 Nbd7 7.Qe2 h6 8.Bh4 g6 9.f4 e5 10.fxe5 dxe5 11.O-O-O Qc7 12.Nb3 b5 13.Rxd7 Nxd7 14.Nd5 Qb8 15.Bf6 Nxf6 16.Nxf6+ Ke7 17.Nd5+ Ke8 18.Nf6+ Kd8 19.Qd2+ Qd6 20.Qa5+ Qc7 21.Qd2+ Qd6 22.Qa5+ Qc7 23.Qd2+ Qd6 ½-½
https://www.365chess.com/game.php?gid=4286099

And this will no doubt be seen again, and again, and again… It will be used, especially after this post, by anyone and everyone with a desire to draw. It is the perfect game with which to make a draw because who would ever expect the venerable Najdorf variation, the favorite of World Chess Champion Bobby Fischer because it was a fighting defense that could be used to win with the Black pieces, to be used to make a “quick” draw? The game can last twenty moves, so older, weaker, Grandmasters, like Julio Becerra and Jacob Aagaard (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2022/07/29/gm-jacob-aagaard-blasphemes-caissia-at-the-charlotte-chess-center-gm-norm-invitational/) can make a peaceful, short draw and not have Chess writers rake them over the coals for being old and weak by playing two moves and calling it a day, err…draw.

In the excellent book, Seven Games, by Oliver Roeder,

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/25/books/review/seven-games-oliver-roeder.html

the first chapter concerns the game, Checkers. It is written: “Competitive tournament checkers games begin with the drawing of a card from a deck. The familiar game, played in living rooms and school cafeterias, with its initial checkers starting in the traditional formation shown below, is known on the competitive circuit as go-as-you-please, or GAYP. But expert players know this version so well that any game can be effortlessly steered toward a draw. To combat this, the first three moves of a typical competitive game are determined randomly by drawing a card from a predetermined deck of opening moves. This version of checkers is known as three-move ballot or, simply, “three-move.” This variation has been played for the game’s most prestigious titles. Checkers openings come with colorful names: the White doctor, the Octopus, the Skull Cracker, the Rattlesnake, and the Rattlesnake II. There are 174 possible three-moves openings in checkers, but not all of these appear in the deck. Some would simply give too big an advantage to one side or the other, resulting in lopsided and, uninteresting play. The deck currently sanctioned by the American Checkers Federation (https://www.usacheckers.com/) contains 156 openings,each of which seasons the game with its own unique favor. Some of them remain bland, typically leading to uneventful draws. But some of them are sharp, bestowing on one side an instant advantage. In those sharp games, it is incumbent upon one player to attack, and upon the other player to fight for his life.” Top players have all this memorized, of course, along with lengthy continuations beyond the third move. Whatever checkers lacks in complexity compared to, say, chess, its top players make up for in depth (itl). Elite players can often see some twenty, thirty, or even forty moves ahead. This is what Tinsley meant when he said that playing checkers was like staring down a bottomless well.”

It has been obvious for decades that Chess has a draw problem. The problem has only gotten worse with the utilization of the computer Chess programs, and the problem will continue to grow, and fester, until it sucks the life out of the game of Chess, just as it sucked the life out of the game of Checkers. The problem is obvious. Players are awarded far too much when “earning” a half-point for drawing. I have posited changing a draw to only one quarter of a point, while some have said a third of a point should be awarded for drawing. The problem is not going away. How long will it be before Chess has to resort to using cards, or some other random generator like a computer program, to choose the openings for the players? Even then players who want to draw will be able to make a draw, unless and until what is gained by making a draw is far less than the 1/2 point the players “earn” by “playing” a game before bellying-up to the bar.

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