Saturday, November 8, 2008

Going for Cheap Draw Versus Being Gracious?

Note: Take this post for whatever it's worth. I've spent way too long trying to put words down without sounding "holier then thou". I give up, so if sounds that way I apologize. For whatever reason what I recently witnessed bugged the living daylights out of me. So here it goes.

Around this time last year I had several posts where I discussed resignations and the timing of them. There was my discussion with King Kong about why I resigned. Then less then a week later I had the game where my opponent refused my resignation. There was this position that my adult opponent made me play out last winter. Then there was the game where I've felt kind of bad because I didn't resign in an ending of rook and 3 pawns vs my lone rook. I ended out winning on time. Though in that post I did make the remark "One never wins a chess game by resigning."

One can not get a draw by resigning either. But is there a point where dignity become more important then trying to squeeze a draw or win out of a hopeless position? How does one define a hopeless position? Down by a queen or more? Lone king against mating material? Positions like that are pretty resignable. Though one will see Grandmasters resign against other Grandmasters down considerably less material then a queen. How can I forget the master who resigned against me after blundering his queen in the opening? Actions such as these demonstrate the respect the players have for their opponents' ability.

Then you have the positions that were resignable many moves ago, and now it's a forced mate in one. Once it's reached that stage it doesn't really matter if the player opts to resign or allows himself to be mated. Pick your poison! Though don't be a total knucklehead like White in the position below.

Black had just played 66...Qb3+. 67. Kd4 is White's only move. Did he play it? No. He wouldn't make a move. He figured he'd let his remaining 50 minutes run out. I really didn't want to sit there for 50 minutes, especially since my friends were waiting for me to go out for dinner. I complained to the tournament director, who chastised my opponent for his behavior and awarded me the win. The next day my college aged opponent did come up to me and apologized for acting like a jerk. He said he was pissed off about playing so poorly, but realized that was not an excuse to behave the way he did. Apology graciously accepted.

I don't have problems with kids playing out a hopeless position against their peers. There can be educational value in seeing a mating attack played out to its conclusion, even if one is on the receiving end of it. It's important for young and inexperienced players not to give up. They need to develop the hang in there attitude. As they become more mature and experienced they will have better understanding when it's appropriate to fight on, versus accepting defeat and moving on. It's the same sort of process they will deal with in life.

So what about about an adult player rated mid 1700s who plays out lone king versus queen, bishop and king against an older adult rated mid 1400s? The best he's going to get is a draw if the opponent runs out of time or stalemates him. The former was not likely since they were using a delay clock and the opponent had over 5 minutes when he promoted. What will a stalemate accomplish?

Is this game deciding first place in the World Open where holding a draw means $10,000 clear first? No. It's a 2nd round game in a small club tournament. There's no entry fee or prizes. The tournament provides members a chance to play rated chess under tournament conditions. Here are some interesting questions:

Does that type of money on the line make it acceptable to play on?

What would you do?

Eventually they reach the position below is with white having about 3 minutes left.

White initially reaches for the king, but pulls his hand back. 1. Kc3 will cause stalemate, and 1. Kb3 will lead to mate on the next move after 1...Kb1, 2. Qf1# Then he reaches for the queen. Any queen move along the b file except b2 or b3 will force mate after 1...Ka2, 2. Kc3+ Ka1, 3. Qb2#. Unfortunately White played Qb3, rewarding Black with the cheapo draw.

I'm sure there may be many out there that are thinking "See! Black was right to play on and go for that draw! White didn't deserve the full point for botching such an easy win." I respectfully disagree. When I see opponents play out such an absurd position I feel as though they're insulting the opponent. Essentially they're saying "I don't think you're good enough to finish me off. I'll take a cheap draw if I can get it."

Readers remember my Saratoga Open saga and quoting my Tae Kwon Do school's mantra. "Quitters never win. Winners never quit. I'm not a quitter. I'm a winner." So how does that fit into a timely graceful resignation? After all when one resigns that's quitting, and one loses. How is one a winner when he just lost a game of chess? In my opinion a properly timed resignation demonstrates respect to one's opponent. It's a simple way of saying "You have demonstrated your ability by reaching this point. There is no need to prove more to me. Good job!" Showing and receiving respect goes a long way in this game we call life.

I'll get off my soapbox now. Am I becoming a curmudgeon in my old age? I hope not.


likesforests said...

Anyone who's been playing awhile knows there's a line between stubborn resistance and silliness, that changes depending on the circumstances of the game. These players crossed it--kudos to the TD for his ruling and also to your opponent for seeing the error of his ways and apologizing. :)

I had a R+P vs R+2P ending in a casual OTB game this weekend. I knew it was a theoretical loss, so I resigned, but in a rated game I would've forced my opponent to prove he knew how to convert it.

Polly said...

I think one would be out of his mind to resign an ending of R+P vs R+2P in a tournament game.

In an insufficient losing chance claim I'm sure the TD would not award the player with the etra pawn the draw. The simplistic view of the insufficient losing chance claim is a C player can hold the position against a master regardless of time. Most likely in a postion like you're discussing, the TD would place a time delay clock with the claimant losing 1/2 his time with a maximum of a minute.

There are too many things that can go wrong, and you're not insulting your opponent by playing it out. Hell I've even lost rook + pawn ending when I've had the extra pawn.

One adult player who I've played many times loves to bust his friends' chops by playing down to mate in hopeless positions. I can live with that because I know he's yanking my chain.

In this particular game I observed I know that the player wasn't hanking his opponent's chain. He doesn't like to lose to lower rated players, and his opponent is one of those old school no nonsense players who was probably pretty irritated by having to play it out. It's too bad a long game preceeded by a long day at the office lead to such a sad ending. Hope "Mr. OMG I'm losing to patzer" is proud of his draw.

Myself, I would have resigned that game long before, and gone home and had a nice glass of wine with my chess widower husband. Somethings are more important then salvaging a few rating points.

Rolling Pawns said...

First case is absolutely clear, you were right and he was wrong. I am not so sure about the second case. Rating and time are important. Mid 1400s is not very high rating and blunder is quite possible. And 3 minutes remaining is not much (I blundered a fork recently having 90 seconds). Just finish the game, show your technique. I do not see anything unethical in playing this to the end, annoying - of course. I am not sure that I would play myself in this situation, but I have lost to the people playing until the end and I can't blame them for doing that, only myself. You know, it also depends how people look at the game. Some spend a lot of time studying and maybe for them a loss is more painful, and for some it's entertainment so they don't care.

Polly said...

Pawns: You make some good points about the ratings. Though K & Q checkmate is so basic that even lower rated players should be able to do it in a short amount of time. In this case clock and rating should not have been a factor.

When I teach kids (2nd - 4th grades) that checkmate I will then challenge the kids to checkmate me in a minute or less with the king and queen. I'd put a minute on their clock and see how they do. The kids who understand that they need to use their king to help the queeen can do it in 9 - 10 moves, and in about 30 seconds. The ones who give non-stop checks can not do it.

Getting back to these particular players, the 1400 has been over 1600. He's an older player who still works full time in a demanding job. Like many older players who stop working at their game, his rating has gone down. I've lost to him a few times. When he's not tired or stressed out after a long day at work, he plays closer to 1600 strength.

The best the higher rated player could get out of the position is draw. It seems like desperation to play that position out hoping to pick up a cheap 1/2 point. However perhaps he was desperate, having lost to a 1200 the week before.

wang said...

I understand where you are coming from but like rolling pawns said, a blunder is somewhat likely. Bottom line if you've got the material convert the win.

This is harsh and there have been some times when I've blown the win and had to settle for a draw, but I've learned and my endgame technique has improved.

Hiddenleaf said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hiddenleaf said...

I think having your opponent play out the game is all right, but only as long as you really play.

My level of play is such that even in a won position I might make a fatal mistake that could turn the tables. Fortunately the people I play do the same so there is exitement till the final mate.

I don't know a lot of endgame stuff, but I would rather try to play it out then get the win, otherwise how will I ever learn to do it in a game?

I think people should be able to earn their victory trough hard work, but when I don't make huge blunders myself anymore I can imagine that at times I would prefer people to just give up and resign myself if the position is hopeless.

Anonymous said...

You are not a curmudgeon...yet. And what you say makes sense.

The most interesting situations involve clock issues. Say the dominant player has very little time, while the last stander has plenty. Part of winning is obtaining victory within the alloted time.

If the losing player wants to punish the victor for bad clock management, in my mind this is perfectly legitimate.

Rolling Pawns said...

It's really complicated. Recently I played a game and made a move after which I was winning a piece by force. My opponent, 12-year old boy, resigned. I was really grateful, after recent losses to take this deserved win and go home, without playing probably another hour. I would win, he knows me, so he did a graceful thing (like you said).
But ... my kid played several years ago with another 7-year old at the provincial championship and had K vs. K+Q. I teached her to play to the end, so what was the result?
The game ended in a stalemate, and I was actually very happy about that. It was an essential half a point, they only played 5 rounds.
Another case. I think many players (including myself) are not quite happy when then win on a blunder, like it's not a very respectful way to win. What about Magnus Carlsen, creating complications right in the opening, getting his opponent into time trouble, then making even more complications and forcing super-elite GMs, like Ivanchuk to blunder and lose the game. It was one tournament, he did it repeatedly.
For some reason I like it, for me it shows his superiority and bravery.

James Stripes said...

I define a hopeless position as one I could win against Kramnik from my opponent's side. When I know exactly how I'm gonna lose, I tip my king. As long as there's something for me to learn, I play on.

likesforests said...

James: I think we should instead define hopeless as a position where your *opponent* knows (or is very likely to know based on their rating and performance) exactly how you will lose. There have been quite a few endings where I knew how I could lose, but my opponent didn't.

likesforests said...

By the way, I visit Spokane from time to time. What a nice place to live. :)

denopac said...

Maybe I'm weird but it doesn't bother me at all when my opponents play out these absolutely hopeless positions. A chess game is such a battle that I don't mind enjoying the fruits of my labors for a few extra stress-free moves. Although what I don't get is when they finally resign when it's mate-in-1.

Polly said...

I guess based on my experience with time pressure I just assume everyone can convert that position with 3.5 minutes left with a 5 second delay. Having taught the Q & K vs K ending to so many students over the years, I can execute the mate in my sleep almost. :-)

Even better is being able to march a pawn up the board, get the queen, corner the king, and execute the mate all with 2 seconds on the clock with a 5 second delay. That's nerve wracking, but I've done it many times. I guess if the opponent resigned as soon as I promoted, I wouldn't get the thrills of living on the edge with the clock.

I'm not immune to time pressure implosions. I've chucked my share of "won" games in the waning seconds of sudden death. Like the two forks I walked into tonight in a game that I was up a pawn in. Grrrr! No I didn't play it out after dropping the two pieces. I was too fed up at that point.

chesstiger said...

First a little remark. If your opponent runs out of time and you only have a bare king (no matting material) the game must declare draw and not a win for you.

Secondly about resigning. I think that is up to the player himself or herself. There is nothing in the rules that state a player must resign if he is a certain amount down in material. So (s)he may play on until the opponent checkmate him/her without overstepping any rule.

In case of your opponent letting his clock run for 50 minutes one can call this is unsportive but not against the rules. So i find the action of the arbiter to much. Offcourse, if your opponent left the board then during these fifty minutes, then and only then one give this player a blame and award the win to you. Otherwise your opponent isn't breaking any rule.

Polly said...

tiger: Being the time pressure junky I am I'm quite familiar with the rules regarding material needed to win on time. If I know I don't have time to win, I will make sure the opponent has no pawns since that is considered mating material.

The rules do cover quitting a game without resigning, but its mostly in regards to someone who leaves the game for an extended period. In the strictest sense, a player sitting at the board and not making the only possible move isn't technically quitting as defined by the rules. The arbiter probably overstepped his boundaries by ajudicating the game in my favor without the opponent leaving the board. It would have been more appropriate to remind the opponent that his behavior falls under the scope of annoying and usportsmanlike behavior and warn him. Sometimes an arbiter will use his discrection in certain situations. I guess he felt it was within his right to force the issue. It's not like he penalized the player extra. He just hastened the forced outcome of the game.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Wow, he actually apologized? That's impressive. Usually such a brazen display of douchebaggery accompanies someone that would never apologize.

Polly said...

BDK: LOL That's one of the advantages of OTB chess. When you've played someone face to face it's hard for him to continue being a butthead for the rest of the tournament unless he's a pathological butthead and truly doesn't give a crap. This particular player knew that he let his emotions get the best of him, and wanted clear the air.

In the world of internet play, chat rooms or unmoderated forums people can say or do what they want, and not worry about looking the person in the eye. It always amazes me the crap people say and do hiding behind a screen name.

ChargingKing said...

I don't know I feel that the guy who played on in the King versus Queen,Bishop and King was justified...hence why his opponent plays the awful Qb3 stalemate. You only should quit if you think your opponent would win FOR SURE. Otherwise play it out.

Polly said...

King: I actually spoke to the player who played it out. He admitted playing on because he's seen this particular player make bad moves in time pressure. He figured he had nothing to lose.

I probably would have resigned in disgust as soon as the promotion occurred, but that's just me. The draw would have been meaningless for me. Maybe I should play more of the absurd games out, just to see what happens. LOL

Anonymous said...

Playing out those games will give you a shot at more Wacky Wednesday possibilities...not that you seem to be short. We all do dumb stuff.

Which makes it even more amazing that we're better than 95% of the world at chess.

Polly said...

LEP: Isn't that scary that even though we suck compared to many tournament players we're still better then so many. Is the world full of stupid people who can't master chess, or smart people who think it's a waste of time to try to master chess? Sometimes when I have one of those Wacky Wednesday moments I have to wonder just how smart I am.