Grandmaster Colovic: All Positions Are Playable


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The final blog post of 2020 is a special one, as it is by our regular guest writer Grandmaster Alex Colovic, who presents a very interesting piece showing that all positions are playable.

What can one do when a strong opponent has decided they would like to draw the game? Do we meekly go along with their wishes, or find a different path?

Over to Alex…

Grandmaster Colovic: All Positions Are Playable

A lot of chess players are afraid that their opponent “will play for a draw.” Or that they will exchange queens early on and “kill off the game.”

We cannot control our opponent’s mindset, so they are fully entitled to “play for a draw.” It is another matter whether we will comply with that mindset and agree to their wishes or not.

Famous Example

There have been countless examples when the blunt playing for a draw has been punished. One of the most famous one is the game Geller-Fischer, from the Palma de Mallorca Interzonal in 1970. In the position below Geller played 7.cxd5 and offered a draw.

All Positions Are Playable

This variation of the Fianchetto Grunfeld is one of the most solid ones for both sides. Karpov tried to squeeze water from a stone here against Kasparov and failed, though he won games against other players. So how can it possibly be that a world-class player can lose this with White?

That was what Geller was thinking, but apparently Fischer wasn’t concerned. He simply recaptured 7…cxd5 and played on.

On move 38 we had the following position:

Geller - Fischer

Surely a dead-draw? Definitely. Just that the game continued until Geller blundered and Fischer won.

Extreme Cases

Let’s take a look at two more extreme cases of openly playing for a draw from the start of the game.

One of the most notoriously drawing lines is the Four Knights variation after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bb5 Nd4 5.Nxd4 exd4 6.e5 dxc3 7.exf6 Qxf6 8.dxc3

All Positions Are Playable

Soon the queens are exchanged and it is a dead-draw.

And yet Nigel Short lost to Vladimir Kramnik at the London Classic in 2011 and most recently Jan-Krzysztof Duda lost to Levon Aronian at the Stavanger tournament in 2020. Mind you, we’re talking classical games here, not Rapid or Blitz! To give you an idea what Duda managed to lose, take a look at the position that arose after Black’s 18th move.

Equal But Not Drawn

Yes, one of the best players in the world, rated 2757, lost this position with White in a classical game.

There are many other similar examples throughout history but players tend to forget them as the fear of their opponent “playing for a draw” grips them firmly. Fear is the worst vice, as Mikhail Bulgakov wrote in The Master and Margarita. The secret is simple – the game should be played out until the end. Another author, Grandmaster Hans Ree, wrote: “Play a boring game to the end and funny things start to happen. Fischer knew this.”

So if Fischer knew it, so can we. A game of chess should be played out to its logical conclusion. And if it does end in a draw, then so be it – our opponent probably deserved it with good play.

Further Reading

We hope you enjoyed learning how all positions are playable. We hope to have another guest post from Grandmaster Colovic early in 2021. Meanwhile, readers can find more excellent and instructive articles on Alex’s official website.

Thank you Alex, for bringing the posts of 2020 to an end in fine style, with a significant slice of Grandmaster wisdom.

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