Mar 082011
Savielly Tartakower

“Drawn games are sometimes more scintillating than any conclusive contest” – Savielly Tartakower

As I sat watching the fantastic and astonishing drawn match between England and India at the cricket world cup last week I found myself recollecting this famous quote by Tartakower. Of course the key word in the sentence is “sometimes”. In chess (as with lots of other competitive sports) we normally assume drawn games to have been dull affairs conducted by risk averse contestants who fear failiure to such an extent that their main aim is to avoid defeat. Certainly football has produced plenty of turgid draws. This seems especially to be the case when the stakes have been at their highest, in World Cups for example.

Cricket is an interesting exception to this rule because (in the limited overs version of the game at least) a genuine draw is a very rare occurrence. I say “genuine” because of course some games are drawn due to bad weather. When games are played in full however a drawn fixture is a collectors item.

Why do we enjoy the “thrilling draw” so much? I think it is because the very best drawn games are the ones in which the outcome is in doubt right until the very end of the contest and the longer the contest has taken to complete the more dramatic the climax becomes. In fact as I watched the cricket coverage one of the commentators summed this all up nicely by saying that “all three results” were still possible in the last over of the game. Indeed, all three results were still possible even on the last ball of the game!

So, if we want to try and define a brilliant draw ( in chess or otherwise) then I think we must say that it must have the following characterisitcs:

  1. Both contestants/teams must have strained every sinew and taken some risks in order to try and acheive a victory. It only adds to the drama if the stakes are raised because, owing to the broader context of the game, nothing less than a win will do for either player or team
  2. The quality of the play must be of a high standard. Two simpletons can draw a game through sheer incompetance. That doesn’t make the contest “thrilling”
  3. The balance of power during the game must change hands at least once. If one player or team has been on top all the way through and throws away his/her/their advantage at the end then that’s just an error or a swindle
  4. The outcome of the contest must be unclear right up until its end. Some games just tail off and it  becomes obvious that a draw will be the result some time before the end with both contestants just going through the motions

Here are a couple of chess games that I hope readers will enjoy for all of the reasons set out above.

Truly a ‘thrilling’ draw from two of the worlds greatest players.
Now, I would like to offer a draw from my own score book that I hope readers will also enjoy even though it is really unworthy of sharing space alongside the modern classic above.

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