How not to draw every game - Part 1 Introduction

Russell Sherwood  Friday, February 24, 2023



It’s an undeniable fact that the proportion of games ending in a draw is growing at all levels of the game. Whilst some believe this is almost wholly due to the increasing strength of chess engines, this I believe in incorrect and some of this increase is self-inflicted by the correspondence chess community.

How is this self-inflicted? By a very large number of players using a near identical approach, using near identical tools and equipment. This approach, which I will outline in a moment, was good enough in many cases to enable the player to reach a 2300+ Elo rating, but when continued to be used at this level, against players using the same approach leads to our current situation.

So, what is this generic approach:

  • Use the latest Stockfish.
  • Use the highest specification hardware the player can afford (or cloud engines)
  • Let the Engine run for a long time (or red in Chessbase terms)
  • Use an opening book based on recent high-rated ICCF games and play the statistical best option moves.
  • Play the first move choice of the engine.

The issue is that the draw becomes almost a self-fulfilling prophecy, with the same drawish lines being played over and over.

Is there another way? Yes! Does it guarantee victory? Hell no, but it does increase the changes of victory by a number of percentage points and allow for a far more interesting, less sterile game to be played.

There is no single alternative approach, if that was the case, we would be exchanging one generic approach for another.  So what do we need to do to improve our chances? To explore a number of potential areas, it is best to consider an anti-goal. What is that, you may ask? I came across the concept a few years ago during a (work based) annual review. Most are familiar with the concept of goal and objective setting, probably using the SMART methodology. Anti-Goals are designed to help to understand how to achieve a goal – so in this situation our anti-goal would be how to devise a plan to draw every game – these become the very behaviours and methods we avoid achieving our actual goal.

Before we move onto the first section, it is worth noting the predictability of human behaviour in those who also said “Losing is another option” or some variation!

So if we were looking to draw every game we would probably look to:

  • Use Same Engine as Everyone else!
  • Use Same Openings as Everyone else!
  • Use Same Databases as Everyone else!
  • Simply IA max time approach
  • Take and offer draws early.
  • Seek draws in Opening Strategy
  • Don’t prepare for the Opponent.
  • Don’t Take risks.
  • Play quickly.
  • Believe that all zero evaluations are drawn.
  • Believe that all zero evaluations are the same.
  • Be still playing a book line by move 20.
  • Not understand how to use the tools they have effectively.
  • Don’t look for the point where you drew!
  • Don’t look for new methods, ways to get an edge!
  • Not have a winning mindset
  • Believe that the openings played by the highest rated players are the best.
  • Use the same opening books as others.
  • Believe that greater depth always gives a better evaluation.
  • Believe the same approach will give different results.
  • Be afraid to experiment.
  • And many more

Come back next week for the first section – Mindset. To be published on the 3rd of March.

Correspondence ChessICCFWCCF
Welsh Correspondence Chess FederationClergy Correspondence Chess ClubSchemingMind Internet Correspondence Chess ClubSocial Correspondence Chess AssociationNational Correspondence Chess ClubWelsh Chess UnionInternational Correspondence Chess Association