Published by Ingvar on March 5, 2013

When Pavel Eljanov and Wesley So became joint winners of the Reykjavik Open (with Amin Baseem later joining them) five minutes or so into the last round they were immediately given a hard time about their quick draw on board one.

For instance in the above picture we see the response of Silvio Danailov. Later there was an article in Chess Life online by Ian Rogers.

Also as per usual the internet is full of people commenting with big opinions and so many gave them a hard time. Even though nobody wants a 3 move draw in their tournament surely people must understand the tournament situation. It’s hard to be a chess professional you’ve played fighting chess for nine rounds and now in the last round if you make a draw you are guaranteed +2000 EUR or something in that region. If you however fight really really hard, yes it’s possible you would get more but it’s also possible you would go down in a blaze of glory with something like 350 euros to show for it….yeah but of course it’s more important that people watching your game on the internet then praise you for fighting, right??

Tomorrow there is a big Champions League football match. Do you think afterwards Man Utd fans would prefer a bore 0-0 draw which would mean they advance or go down in a blaze of glory in a 4-4 epic draw?

For Wesley So this draw meant both a very big tournament victory and he secured his +2700 rating on the rating list for the first time, a big achievement. 

I do not understand what is wrong with taking a quick draw on the last round to secure a 2700 elo…. Haven’t I given the spectators 9 games of fighting chess already? 

Pavel Eljanov also wrote a long post about this on his Facebook wall: 

My final point about draw against Wesley So

First of all I hope that`s clear for everyone that our game was not pre-arranged. Otherwise there could be much more moves and maybe some interesting stuff. I know a few simply brilliant pre-arranged draws between top grandmasters where no one from spectators even the thought that it was pre-arranged. In that case it might be a lot of praise to me and Wesley after such a finish but in fact from moral point of view it`s much worse. I’m totally sure that if in our game was 10 or 12 moves there would be no so enormous criticism. 

Probably we were wrong when he offered a draw and I accepted on move 3. We’re not proud of it. But first of all I don`t see a big crime here anyway and nobody still didn’t prove me that 10-15 moves grandmaster draw any better in fact that 3 moves draw. Of course it looks more challenging to chess fans but this is more about emotions. I would like to point that other 18 games played by Wesley and myself was spectacular and two of them where awarded as the best in respective rounds: my game vs Cheparinov in round 5 and Wesley for the game vs Dziuba in round 9.

Now I would like to discuss the problem of short draws in general. Mr. Rogers writes that “short draws ruin tournaments” and “damage chess”. I can’t fully agree with it. This is the same as to claim that diving ruin football tournaments. But somehow hundred millions of people still are fans of this sport. This is just the side of sport. Not the best one of course but our world is not ideal at all. 

In both case you can try to fight but you still never prevent it. In chess the problem is as follow: if two is happy with a draw so it will be a short draw in 90% of such a games. This is absolutely natural. This situation is not common in open tournaments but in qualification tournaments it`s very common. And it was just the case in our game in last round. I don`t know any active top player who never made such a short draw to secure some important achievement. I would like to bring some examples but first I would like to quote from the site from the comment made by user Thomas Oliver

“Even if it’s bad for chess, the two players had done plenty of good things in the previous rounds. It’s a bit like a football game where one or both teams tried hard for 80 minutes and not much happens in the last 10 minutes – because they are exhausted or because they don’t want to run any more risks. Would a newspaper report focus on these last 10 minutes?

At least, all players should be treated equally under such circumstances. In the penultimate round of Wijk aan Zee 2011, Hikaru “always a fighter” Nakamura played a non-game against Kramnik (5.Re1 against the Berlin) to secure a quick draw. He was praised by a journalist fan (Mark Crowther) for “a very professional decision”, and others blamed Kramnik for his opening choice. Nakamura had shown enough already in the tournament, but so have Eljanov and So in Reykjavik”.

I sign under almost every word.

I remember from the same tournament but next year 2012 a 12 moves draw by threefold repetition in last round game Aronian vs Radjabov. Levon also played brilliant chess in previous 12 rounds and secured clear first after “sleepless night” as I remember he admitted.

I remember the game of my compatriot the great improviser Vassily Ivanchuk from Gibraltar this year who made a draw in Exchange Slav 14 moves draw vs Le Quang. There where even rules 30 moves without draw offer they violated. But organizers decided wisely not to punish players and reach a compromise – agreed with Vassily about interview and lecture. As far as I can see from reviews the chess fans where happy after all.

We are all humans and our forces are not unlimited. 

After the tournament I talked about our draw with main organizer of Reykjavik Open Mr. Gunnar Bjornsson who is also the president of Icelandic chess federation. He told me that he didn`t mind, has no claims for me and Wesley and satisfied with our performances during the whole tournament. Also he has no plans to invent Sofia rules. 

I agree with him as in open tournaments (unlike closed tournaments where Sofia rules fit perfectly) I don’t see a big reason to do it as there is always plenty of games to watch and usually fight is tough as this is kind of natural selection as financial conditions not so sweet like in super-tournaments and prizes are not so high. So after all I think that all accusations that we have not fulfilled our obligations to the organizers are far-fetched. Now I want to give a full quote from an article of Mr. Rogers:

“One leading chess journalist was ropable after the Reykjavik finish and declared that neither So nor Eljanov should be invited back to the tournament – or other top tournaments – if they held the organizers and their fans in such contempt. Appeals that Eljanov and So were really nice guys cut no ice – players had to be taught that their actions which damage chess, even though perfectly legal, can have consequences.”

I would like just look into the eyes of this Mister X who believes that we deserved that our careers have been destroyed after one of the best for both of us tournament ever. My personal opinion that it’s very much in the spirit of repression in 1930s of the twentieth century in USSR. 

I’m grateful to Mr. Ralph Stoever from Montreal who found in database an interesting information that Mr. Rogers – a very strong grandmaster in the past made two 5 and 6 moves draws in 1983 (year I was born) and 1985 against D. Johansen and J. Speelman in last rounds both. I checked and found also more than a dozen of games of GM Rogers in 10 moves and less that of course ended in a draw. 

I propose to respect the work of each other and to focus more on the positive things in the chess world and beyond. 

Certainly those writings such big words about them that they shouldn’t be invited and their careers are destroyed should feel a bit ashamed. Like Eljanov said they both played great chess to get to where they were in the last round and along the way both picked up “Game of the Day” prizes.

I am sure that in the near future both of these great individuals will get invitations to tournaments for their fighting chess and +2700 ratings and not a slap on the wrist for being practical about their financial income. What do you think?

Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
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