An unexamined life is not worth living.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Chess Psychology - Prematurely Agreeing to a Draw

Jiganchine – Degtiarev, 1996

image White to play.

Since I was not sure what I was supposed to do here, in this position I played 18. Ke2 and offered a draw, which was accepted.

Agreeing to a draw prematurely was a sin I was suffering from a lot during most of my years as an active chess player, especially in Junior tournaments back in Russia. How to do you assess the above position? I had just missed a winning line a few moves ago, and was disappointed by that. But looking at the position today, White still has several advantages:

  • most importantly – White has extra space
  • pawn tension on kingside is in his favour
  • Black pieces on the kingside are dramatically tied up

Ironically, even today I did not think of it way it until I realized that a computer engine evaluates a position as +- without giving any direct winning ideas. I think White should:

  • manoeuvre to improve placement of his pieces
  • d5 is a potential weakness in Black’s camp
  • prepare for either opening of the ‘h’ file, or opening the queenside with b2-b4 at the right moment
  • transfer rooks and other pieces to wherever the play opens up. This transfer of pieces from one side of the board is what will give White and advantage since his pieces are more mobile than Black’s

I moved the pieces around, and arrived at this sample position:

image White to move – b2-b4 opens up the game to White’s advantage in what is still a complicated position. If ‘b’ file opens up – White will be quick to double his rooks on it, and Black’s rooks will have a hard time defending ‘b7’.

In short, nothing is really indicating a draw here, White can play for a win without significant risk. Offering a draw can be explained by a combination of factors:

  • chess factors lack of understanding how White can play for a win
  • psychological disappointment after immediate break with h2-h4 failed to win
  • outside influence – I was a tired kid, playing a game in the evening on the weekday after school


  1. Another great post.

    Maybe after 18. Ke2 a draw isn't so bad. It looks like White has advantages but after 18...b5 threatening b4 maybe White has to open the h file with hxg5 as Black seems to have improved on the qside.

    hxg5 is powerful for White but I'm not sure it wins and if one isn't feeling energized in such a sharp position it could easily go wrong.

  2. @ChessClues Thanks for commenting. I think one other lesson in psychology here is about the effect that a computer evaluation +- has on a modern chess player (myself). In the long run I think opening of the game on the queenside should favour White as a side with more space and more ability to transfer pieces around, but yeah, the position can get a bit messy.


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