Sunday, 22 July 2018

039. Taking the Draw as White

White: Raffzahn - thematic tournament,, 2018

It's a common fact in chess that very sharp openings often lead to quick draws. Take this line of the Jaenisch: 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 f5 4 Nc3 fxe4 5 Nxe4 d5 6 Nxe5 dxe4 7 Nxc6 Qg5 8 Qe2 Nf6 9 f4 Qxf4 10 Nxa7+ Bd7 11 Bxd7+ Kxd7 12 Qb5+ Ke6 13 Qxb7 Bd6.

Black has sacrificed two pawns for a lead in development and strong counterplay against the white king. Obviously the black king is none too safe either, which (unfortunately) means that White can, if desired, just take a draw.

Supposing White doesn't take the draw, what then? One possibility is 14 Qb3+ Kd7 15 Qf7+. I actually wrote an article on this for the BCCA magazine (CC#144, Autumn 1999), in which I was slightly dubious about Black's chances. But my conclusions there were wrong. Not least because, after 15...Kd8 16 Nc6+ Kc8 17 Ne7+ Bxe7 18 Qxe7 Re8 19 Qc5, the best move is not 19...e3?! (“!” in the article) but 19...Ra6! – as later shown by German gambit theoretician, Peter Leisebein, and consolidated in the games of CC-SIMs Hans-Dieter Vötter and Gerhard Ziese. This is significantly better for Black than my previously favoured 15...Be7 15 Nc6 Kxc6 17 Qxe7 Rae8.

As it happens, I've recently had a spate of 10 Nxa7+s, facing it eight times in online games in 2018. And I've taken to hectoring my opponents, trying to discourage them from taking the draw. For instance:

10. tsmenace: Bah, 10 Nxa7 again. This is just a draw I think. 10 Ne5 is critical, or else 9 Nxa7 if White really wants to take the pawn. But of course you may yet prove me wrong ;)

Whether influenced by my comments or not, they've generally played the position on. And rightly so – in principle – because why play 10 Nxa7+ at all as White if you're just going to take a draw? What's to be learned from doing that? On the other hand, I should perhaps mention that, of the seven players who didn't take the draw, six have lost. That was quite a surprise to me, I must admit. I mean, I knew there were decent practical chances in these lines, but to score 6½/7 as Black!?

It's inadvertently given me more respect for the one person who ignored my remarks and took the draw:

15. Raffzahn: offered a draw - Please use the Accept Draw or Decline Draw buttons to accept or decline the offer.

I declined and played on:

15. tsmenace: it's your move :) - obviously you can force a draw if you want one

My opponent was determined. So – a draw. Well done.


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