Saturday, January 12, 2008

Draw Offer Psychology

In playing a lot of kids who are 100 to 200 points lower rated then me I've noticed an interesting trend if their attack fizzles out. Some kids will attack the living day lights out my king position. However if I survive the attack and the position is even the kid will switch from attack mode to draw mode. It happened again last night in my second round game.


Ethan was throwing everything but the kitchen sink at my king, but I beat back the attack. After 19. Bxg7 he offered me a draw. I thought about it, but I just felt there was too much play left in the position and the clock was no factor. I sensed he simply wanted a draw because of the rating difference. In the first round he kept offering draws to his higher rated opponent, and eventually lost. I wanted to see where this position was going so I played on. After he played 24. Nxf4 he offered another draw. I liked the play I was getting on the kingside so once again I declined his draw offer. I didn't say anything, I just played 24...exf4. Also the clock was becoming an issue for him.

He played 28. Qa1 trying to get me to trade queens. Again he offers I draw. At this point I'm getting irritated with the draw offers so I tell him that if I want a draw I will offer it so stop asking. I retreat my queen to e8. I was aiming to double the queen and rook on the open h file. I wasn't afraid of his queen on the diagonal. He tried to penetrate with Qf6, but my rook and queen hold the position. After I played Rg6 he should have retreated the queen, but he probably thought he'd get pressure on my g pawn by playing Nf3. At first I was concerned about that but 30... Bc8 trapped the white queen. Oopsies. Still think it's a draw? On move 37 with 29 seconds left he resigned.

I think when a player changes his goal from trying to beat his higher rated opponent, to simply drawing the opponent his play changes. Turning down the draw seems to unsettle the player. Perhaps that's what may have caused my implosion in last week's time scramble. I think when he turned down the draw despite my having the better position I think I just lost focus. I guess well timed draw rejections can be a good weapon in chess psychological warfare.


happyhippo said...

in the upper echelons of chess, it is considered improper etiquette to suggest a draw coming from the player who is in a losing position. usually it is the side who has the advantage who will normally make the draw offer.

i consider draw offers to be part of the game. i have had draw offers made to me before but if there was enough play in the position, i just simply reply,"no." and play on.

if my opponent constantly plagues me with draw offers with lots of play in the position esp. when i have the advantage, i will consider it a rude gesture and simply concentrate on my position and do my darnest to win and simply ignore the requests (nothing irks a player more than having his question non-answered), play my move and hit the clock.

one more thing, wrt to draw offers. i sometimes accept my opponent's draw offer if i reached an endgame that is a known drawn position.

if i suspect my opponent is shaky in the endgame, i will reply in the negative and "test" out my opponent's endgame knowledge.

i will recount one incident. in a game last year, my opponent and i reached a known drawing position (in a slightly complex but easily drawn R+2P v B+N+P position). at this point, i was tempted to make a draw offer on the next move but my opponent suddenly made a slight inaccuracy.

smelling blood, i got the impression he doesn't know how to handle this endgame and proceeded to slowly zugszwang him and push his Bishop into a bad position and made his clumsy knight tied up in knots and won it in the end. it was still a very tough win to fight it all the way. i eventually won his extra pawn and being 2 pawns up, he had to sac the bishop later on to stop one of my pawns queening, reaching a winning R+P v N endgame. the game continued for another 40 odd moves.

for myself, i believe in losing with grace. i have never made a draw offer when in the losing position but i will continue to fight as long as there is a slim chance of survival.

as for psychology, when my opponent makes a draw offer, one thing that i will ask myself is:

3 months from now, will I look back on the position and wondered if i regretted that I could have won the game?

if yes, then i will reject the offer and play on. if no, then i will accept the draw offer (after some considerations).

i find no shame in drawing a lower rated opponent. sometimes it is better to draw than to lose. esp. when the position is dead drawn but i will not draw a game that has plenty of play left.

just my 2 cents.

Polly said...

Happy: This was hardly the upper echelons of chess. LOL It's not that I felt he was ever losing at the three points he made the draw offers.

I just think that once I beat back his attack he felt a draw was now the goal. I find then a player's attitude and approach to the position changes when he goes into "draw mode". I think he probably did get annoyed that I kept declining his offers by simply making a move. At the end I think he got so focused on trying to get me to trade queens, that he over looked the danger his queen was in by staying in my territory after my Rg6 move.

I will certainly accept draw offers when there's nothing left in the position, or there are too many risks involved to play on for a win.

My last draw of 2007 was offered to me by Dario who tends to go into "draw mode" against me. The previous two times I refused and he blundered within 3 moves of my refusal. I knew his history, but I had played a alot of kids over the weekemd and did poorly. This time my mindset was such that I just wanted to be done with the game and not risk having another meltdown against a 12 year old.

I too will play on in a drawish ending if I feel the opponent's end game technique is suspect. Sometimes I've won, and other times the player has demonstrated the ability to hold on. I've had draws with plenty of lower rated players. I don't play the rating, I play the player. It's just my observations have been that lower rated players will play for the rating only.

Polly said...

Happy: Another point I wanted to address was having regrets about accepting a draw. There are very few times I regret accepting a draw. It's more likely I will regret not accepting a draw offer.

Read this post if you want to see a classic regret!

My apologies for making you do copy and paste. I'm html challenged so I don't know how to put the tags in to make a link to the post.

happyhippo said...

polly, i don't see that as a classic regret.

the position was unclear. you had every right to play on. i myself would have played on. rather than trying to steal a few rating points. i believe that over time, your rating would truly reflect your playing level, trying to "steal" a few points here and there, while might be ego-boosting for a period, in the end, it will drop back down again. such things just don't last.

i applaud your bravery to play on.

dun worry abt being html challenged. sometimes, blogspot confuses the heck lot of me too.

i see what you mean now by when the attack has faltered, the player goes into draw mode.

this is quite typical of chess players. they threw everything except the kitchen sink at it and when the defence was conducted successfully, the attack just "ran out of steam". they had put so much energy into the attack that upon realisation that their concentration had all come to naught, it resulted in a loss in confidence and rather than finding new ways, they mentally give up and try to take the easy way out. this has more to do with the psychological makeup or rather, mental toughness of your opponents.

Scourge said...

White misplayed the attack here with 16.Rf2? Instead, 16.Bxg7 Kxg7 17.Rxf6 Rxf6 18.Qxh7+ Kf8 19.Qh8+ Ke7 20.Qg7+ Rf7 21.Nxf7 Qxf7 with an extra pawn and good winning chances.

When he offered the draw on move 19, white had lost the edge. It's not wrong to offer a draw at that point, but it's definitely wrong to badger the opponent afterwards.

BlunderProne said...

I don't know about your club but I find my opponents from Who-ville to be clickish. They tend to draw rather quickly when faced with one another and then hover around your board when thier buddy is playing.

Draw offers abound when they are losing to us grinches. It's almost comical how it happens but it borders annoyance. I end up being the curmudgeon who plays on until they say Checkmate just to make sure they know how to play the endgame. There's no avoidign these kids today in the chess world.

Some are genuinely sweet and respectful. I look forward to playing them.

drunknknite said...

They offer a draw because they have seen so many games where the attack is the only focus. It succeeds and the game goes one way, or it fails and then the commentary in their opening or tactic book says 'and they played on to a draw.' They don't realize that this is an important point at the game, both sides need to refocus their entire army when the initiative dries up. And the initiative can pass easily to the other side if you are aimlessly moving thinking the position is even and the other side catches a nuance that you didn't see.

Unless the attack clearly leads to a perpetual or repetition I would never accept a draw offer at the end of an attack. They are very likely to lose focus especially if they are offering a draw. Offering a draw at that point is like admitting you have nothing left.

I have thought about the topic of a 'fake' draw offer which I think is also interesting. Faking repetition by moving back to a position you were just in puts an enourmous amount of pressure on your opponent with no risk. They must decide whether they can stray from the repitition safely or whether they are going to play the same move. A lot of mistakes are made here also.

Polly said...

Scourge: Nice find! That line is going to give me some problems. My best chance will probably be to go into the ending down a pawn and hope that I can leave him with the h pawn as his extra one.

Blunder: This is not your typical chess club. These tournaments are run by the local chess academy, and these kids don't take quick draws against each other. Everyone plays fighting chess.

They do hover, and I had to tell one kid from another quad to go sit down. A player from my section had gone to the bathroom, and this hovering kid comes and stands where the chair is and starts reading the notation of the absent kid. Grrr! Stuff like that makes me nuts.

Wahrheit said...

It's not a rule in the book, but at any level I think the proper etiquette is that if your draw offer is refused then it's up to the other player to offer the next time (unless, perhaps, a large number of moves have gone by). The psychological points of all this are indeed interesting, as I always feel a burst of confidence when the opponent offers a draw in a non-trivial position; in the A-B levels this usually meant that they've lost confidence. I usually don't accept draws where there is still some play in the position, but in the last round of the Western States Open in October I was pleased with my overall result and pretty tired, so I took one when I had a bit the better of it against someone about 150 points higher--by the three month test, I find no regrets!

Pawn Shaman said...

It a form of negotiation with someone whom you know has the upper hand. You make an unequal offer in the hopes that they will eigher make a mistake and take it or skew their perspective so that a smaller offer looks good. Unfortunately very few people ever fall for that sort of tactic.

Polly said...

I don't tend to offer many draws. When I do it's usually when time is running short in an even position. There have been times I've lost on time in an even or slightly better position and have regretted not offering a draw.

It's interesting to see the psychological impact of draw offers and the rejection of such offers. I rarely see someone get revved up over a rejection of their draw offer to the point that they suddenly unleash a blistering attack. Most of the time there is the questioning of "what does he see in this position that I don't see?"