What to do about the Draw


    This issue came up on  Chess Fm on Friday 2/18/2004. The show was covering the Linares Tournament. Tony Rook was hosting with IM Malcolm Pein, James Coleman, and Chris Duncan of Chesscenter. The issue of what to do about the draw came up during the show’s coverage. An Interesting suggestion was made that Chess should use the same scoring system as Soccer (European Football).  3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw, and zero points for a loss. Now this is an interesting concept. 

    However soccer is different than chess. In soccer to determine who moves first, they toss a coin to determine whom kicks off. In the second half the other team receives the ball. So there is no opening advantage in soccer like there is in chess. In soccer no team has an initial advantage. One team gets the ball first, and then in the 2nd half the other team gets the ball.

    Chess is a different sport. The first move is an advantage. This gives white the initiative. In top-level chess white's goal is to keep this initiative and build small advantages and hopefully win. Now black's goal is to equalize, in other words to dissipate white's initiative. Giving 3 points for a win will certainly give white more incentive to win, after all white does have the initial advantage of the first move. However this will cause black from a psychological point to fight harder to draw, why should black, with the disadvantage of not having the first move, take chances and go for a win.

     Chess is an exciting game when both sides go for the win. The key here is to give black the incentive not just to equalize but to try to win. Giving black 1.1 points for winning  can accomplish this. So, white winning is 1 point, a draw for both sides is .5. I have heard arguments for giving black .6 points for the draw, this will only encourage black to draw more.  Since chess is a draw when played correctly by both sides, no side should be penalized for drawing. The draw is one of the things that keeps this great game of chess exciting.  

    The draw gives an opponent hope in positions where he is losing or down material. The draw keeps the fight alive. There are many ways to draw in chess being down a whole piece. The king with knight or bishop cannot mate a lone king. Even in bishop of opposite color ending where one side has pawns and the other doesn’t can be drawn. In certain positions a player can build a barricade preventing the other side from breaking through. A lone king can even draw being down a bishop and rook pawn in certain endgames where the lone king can cover the queening square and the opposing bishop cannot. The draw is good for chess. It keeps the game alive. It keeps the fight in the game. 

    Now all we need to do is give black incentive to go beyond equalization and try to win. Giving black 1.1 points for the win could do just that. Of course this is not going to fix all the problems with the draw, after all you need two opposing players with the will to win. Certainly there is nothing wrong with a hard fought exciting draw.

 More on the draw here