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Old 02-21-2017, 03:42 PM   #1
Unguarded
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Learning to accept that draws are okay?

So I am a class B player who has been improving rather quickly. I have a strong background in sports and all sorts of games. I am extremely competitive by nature and have been especially successful in poker and video games. But here is the problem...

I have never competed in a game before where draws are a big part of the game like chess. I feel like my brain processes draws as losses rather than as something in between a win and a loss. I feel almost as bad after a draw as I do after a loss even though draws are obviously a part of the game that will only become more common as I move up the ladder.

The consequence of my overly negative attitude towards draws is that I often find myself trying to force wins in equal or slightly worse positions. As a result, I end up taking huge risks that ruin my position and lead to a loss because I would rather complicate things for a tiny chance at a win than accept that I should be competing for a draw.

Has anyone else experienced anything like this? I seem to really struggle to wrap my head around the somewhat drawish nature of chess. Does anyone have any suggestions for overcoming this mental block? I obviously don't want to become one of those guys who plays like a wuss and brags about his draws against higher rated players. But at the same time, playing for draws when appropriate needs to be a part of my game. Thanks for any help!
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Old 02-21-2017, 04:21 PM   #2
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Re: Learning to accept that draws are okay?

I haven't played for awhile but one aspect of a draw is that the player can see that the position is a drawing position. This means that understanding of the position is important irrespective of who you are playing.

Now, you may play on if you believe your opponent is not so understanding and may blunder but look at it as if its about the position and not the player(s).

Thinking/feeling in this manner may keep you from attempting to put a square peg into a round hole.
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Old 02-21-2017, 07:25 PM   #3
Rei Ayanami
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Re: Learning to accept that draws are okay?

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The consequence of my overly negative attitude towards draws is that I often find myself trying to force wins in equal or slightly worse positions. As a result, I end up taking huge risks that ruin my position and lead to a loss because I would rather complicate things for a tiny chance at a win than accept that I should be competing for a draw.
I think you're working with the faulty assumption that at Class B, a balanced, equal, or even dry position will naturally lead to a draw a lot of the time, as it might in a game between very strong players. You and your opponents will make mistakes naturally, so you shouldn't really be forcing the issue.

If you want to play more enterprising chess, which isn't a bad thing, you could also focus more on steering the game into imbalanced territory, instead of allowing dry positions to arise in the first place.
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Old 02-21-2017, 07:48 PM   #4
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Re: Learning to accept that draws are okay?

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I obviously don't want to become one of those guys who plays like a wuss and brags about his draws against higher rated players.
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Old 02-21-2017, 10:12 PM   #5
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Re: Learning to accept that draws are okay?

But seriously, unless you're a professional or undertaking a serious, realistic quest to become a master, you should want to play because you enjoy it. Consequently, if you want to play exciting, swashbuckling chess like Tal or Chigoran, go for it!
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Old 02-22-2017, 11:50 AM   #6
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Re: Learning to accept that draws are okay?

You know my view, that at our level there are no true drawish positions. You have the right attitude until you make the mistake of playing tournaments. I play lots of gambits in the openings and try to sacrifice pawn for initiative in the middle game. And the end game...who plays endgames.
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Old 02-22-2017, 12:29 PM   #7
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Re: Learning to accept that draws are okay?

Here is an example from my most recent tournament that is very typical of my thought process up to this point in my development:



My 1600 opponent has just played 14... Nfd7. Intellectually, I realized during the game that NxN was the best move. But it looked dead and drawish to me. I went into "a draw is a loss mode" instead of "play the best move" mode and was ready to do just about anything to avoid the dreaded NxN. So I played 15. Nd3 fully realizing that 15... e5 was a major problem. I voluntarily entered a worse position hoping to increase my winning chances even though I knew I was drastically increasing my chances of losing. Needless to say, my opponent happily played 15... e5 and my attempts to complicate the position were thwarted. I do this type of thing quite often. I almost never lose serious material or get checkmated in long time controls, but I frequently make these types of decisions which lead to a slow, grinding death.

I think a better title for my thread might have been "learning to adapt to the drawish nature of chess" or some such. To be clear, I am talking primarily about dealing with a psychological leak... my brain equating draws to losses or perceiving boring, equal position as losing positions.

I play for both enjoyment and competition... they are one and the same to me. I simply love to compete and improve at games. In all other games/sports I have played, draws basically do not exist. My mind is wired to compete for a win and to do my absolute best to find a way to win even if things are going poorly. The inclusion of draws into the mix really seems to confuse me.

And fwiw, I am fully aware that I have tons of leaks in my chess game. I just feel like this psychological leak should be a relatively easy fix. In the game I posted, I could certainly play NxN and win. But to do so, I have to be psychologically willing to accept that a draw is okay.

Some adjustments I have already made that have really helped:

1) Making myself play positional openings such as the Catalan, Caro-Kann, and the Accelerated Dragon where I will usually be playing in the center or queenside.

2) Working hard on my endgames and learning to appreciate their beauty so that I am less inclined to go kamikaze in the middle game.

3) Trying harder to appreciate the games of players like Karpov, Petrosian, and Kramnik.

4) Just generally being proud of myself when I win long, grindy games.

I have also considered creating a personal rating system for my USCF rated games that gives me a small bonus for draws or some such lol.

Fwiw, I spend the vast majority of my training time on tactical puzzles, endgames, and long over the board or online games. As long as my openings are "good enough" at my level (they almost always are), I am happy and spend my study time on more important topics since class players inevitably change our repertoires multiple times before reaching expert anyway.
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Old 02-22-2017, 03:14 PM   #8
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Re: Learning to accept that draws are okay?

It sounds to me that you may just not have much confidence in your endgame. Even at the top level of chess a lot of wins are squeezed out in slightly better or even drawn endings. At our relative level someone very good at endgames could just have a field day in equal endings. Although, note that being good at endgames often means having good patience in general.

As for that position, due to the structure there is definitely still a lot of play (if you want it) after you trade knights.

Now, if you just hate going into positions that "look dry" even after studying endgames or you don't want to get better at endgames, then you should be even a bit more enterprising in your opening choices so that you don't get to many "dry looking" positions.

Btw, not wanting to dry is a good thing. Most people have the opposite problem and agree to draws or go for draws and don't learn or improve.

But yeah, just play what you think is the best move and if that leads to a draw, when you go back over the game you'll see x234234234 ways you actually could have won it instead anyway .
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Old 02-22-2017, 04:58 PM   #9
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Re: Learning to accept that draws are okay?

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3) Trying to appreciate the games of Petrosian
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Old 02-23-2017, 05:43 PM   #10
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Re: Learning to accept that draws are okay?

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Originally Posted by carlo View Post
I haven't played for awhile but one aspect of a draw is that the player can see that the position is a drawing position. This means that understanding of the position is important irrespective of who you are playing.

Now, you may play on if you believe your opponent is not so understanding and may blunder but look at it as if its about the position and not the player(s).

Thinking/feeling in this manner may keep you from attempting to put a square peg into a round hole.
I love that last sentence! That is definitely what I feel like I have been doing in these situations... trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

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Originally Posted by Rei Ayanami View Post
I think you're working with the faulty assumption that at Class B, a balanced, equal, or even dry position will naturally lead to a draw a lot of the time, as it might in a game between very strong players. You and your opponents will make mistakes naturally, so you shouldn't really be forcing the issue.

If you want to play more enterprising chess, which isn't a bad thing, you could also focus more on steering the game into imbalanced territory, instead of allowing dry positions to arise in the first place.
Hmmm, good points... I do think I tend to underestimate my chances in "balanced, equal, or dry" positions. I have very limited experience in such positions and endgames... I am usually significantly ahead or behind by the time the endgame approaches. That being said, I have definitely put a lot of hard work into my endgame in the last couple months. I should definitely be more confident about entering these positions since I should probably be a favorite in an equal endgame against players at my level.

As far as enterprising chess, I started off as a maniac like a lot of 1200ish players. Currently, I focus very hard on fundamentally sound play and seek to "torture" my opponents with strong play in the center and queenside. I do think I am light years ahead of players at my level tactically though, so I maybe I should consider playing more violently lol.

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Originally Posted by DrChesspain View Post
But seriously, unless you're a professional or undertaking a serious, realistic quest to become a master, you should want to play because you enjoy it. Consequently, if you want to play exciting, swashbuckling chess like Tal or Chigoran, go for it!
Fwiw, my goal is just to reach class A and then reevaluate. If I am having fun and feel like I have a lot of potential left, I will try to keep going. Also, I am such a chesstard that I did not immediately realize that that was Anish Giri lol. I would obv be pretty happy to constantly draw the best players in the world even if my style was pretty boring!

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Originally Posted by The Yugoslavian View Post
It sounds to me that you may just not have much confidence in your endgame. Even at the top level of chess a lot of wins are squeezed out in slightly better or even drawn endings. At our relative level someone very good at endgames could just have a field day in equal endings. Although, note that being good at endgames often means having good patience in general.

As for that position, due to the structure there is definitely still a lot of play (if you want it) after you trade knights.

Now, if you just hate going into positions that "look dry" even after studying endgames or you don't want to get better at endgames, then you should be even a bit more enterprising in your opening choices so that you don't get to many "dry looking" positions.

Btw, not wanting to dry is a good thing. Most people have the opposite problem and agree to draws or go for draws and don't learn or improve.

But yeah, just play what you think is the best move and if that leads to a draw, when you go back over the game you'll see x234234234 ways you actually could have won it instead anyway .
Excellent point about lacking confidence in my endgame skill. I do think I am good at endgames or at least will become good with more experience. But I need to be willing to enter equal endgames to find out and gain this confidence. I agree that the game is still pretty interesting after I trade knights in that position. I feel like he has the better bishop, the safer king, and that ...e5 is coming with effect. But I should be able to untangle my bishop, keep my king safe, and fight for an open file. A minority attack might also be possible.

I have won a lot of games where I complicate positions like this and use my tactical base to turn the game in my favor. But my feeling is that purposely making weaker moves to complicate positions will blow up in my face more and more often as I approach 1800.

One final thought... maybe i should be less concerned about this "psychological leak" since it may just be a natural consequence of spending most of my study time on tactical puzzles. I have been training my brain to find the most violent continuation, so maybe this tendency will naturally resolve once I spend more time focusing on other aspects of the game. Great points, thank you!

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Old 02-28-2017, 04:00 PM   #11
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Re: Learning to accept that draws are okay?

Draws are perfectly ok as long as you gain rating points and they are also ok against equal opposition, because it reduces variance. They are also ok as part of an opening repertoire that is build on a freeroll. If your opponents manage to find all the perfect moves, they actually deserve half a point.

Needless to mention, there is: www.forced-draw.com
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