Four Types of Draw Offers

By National Master Evan Rabin

There are four common types of draw offers:

  1. The draw offerer is losing.
  2. The position is legitimately equal.
  3. The position its unclear and the draw offerer has no idea what is going on.
  4. A draw secures a prize.

At the 2021 US Open in Cherry Hill, NJ, I played against a player 200 points lower rated than me, who I beat once before in tournament chess. When I offered a draw, he fairly quickly took it. 20 Minutes later, he stopped me in the lobby to share how’ I was losing and he should not have accepted my offer. To his surprise, I only offered it because I knew I was in a lot of trouble.

If your opponent offers a draw, chances are he is not that confident about his position. As our 118th Podcast Guest Grandmaster Max Dlugy likes to say, chess is like a duel. In a duel, if your opponent offers you to do something, your inclination should be “why does he want to give it to me?”

Occasionally, one will offer a draw because the position is legitimately equal. I teach all of our students to almost never accept or offer draws. If it’s a dead drawn position like King and Rook vs King and Rook or certain opposite-colored bishop endgames, it is OK to agree to a draw, but if there’s a lot of life left in the position, one should play on, as suggested in this blog post.

Other times, a player will offer a draw in a position that is unclear; in this situation, he is not

Typical unclear position from the Nadjorf Sicilian

confident that he is either worse or better. However, with a lot of grey, he is nervous about the possibility of losing. If your opponent offers a draw in an unclear position, it makes sense to play on as he likely prefers positions that are more clear cut. Also, to improve in chess, its important to play things out and learn from mistakes.

Going into the last round of the Southern Arizona Chess Association December 2023 Open, I had a perfect score of 3/3. The three closest competitors in the standings had scores of 2/3, meaning a draw in the last round against Expert Robert Keough would secure first place. Since I beat all of the 3 players with 2/3, I got paired with Robert, who had a 1/3 score.

This unique situation basically equates a draw to a win. Before this game I was 0/1 against Robert Keough; he beat me at another tournament in Tucson back in 2017. In this situation I had an inner-conflict between my roles as a player and a coach. As a player, I was perfectly happy with a draw from the get go, as had I lost, it would be a tie for first, and there was no monetary gain had I won over drawing. However, as a coach, I do not like it when students accept or offer draws.

I offered him a draw in this slightly better position and he rejected it:

While a draw would secure first place for me, there was not much in it for him, other than a few rating points recouped after a tough tournament. 15 moves later, he was down a piece for only one pawn and I knew I was winning. However, it was  complicated position, with kings castled opposite wings and he having the two-bishops:

Under normal circumstances, I would certainly continue the fight, carefully defending and trying to simplify; however, I offered a draw, which he accepted. Our peace treaty was symbiotic; I secured first place and he survived a losing position.

As my Brandeis University business professor Detlev Suderow taught, you always need too consider everyone’s WIFM factor: “What’s in it for me?” Unless I am either substantially worse or a draw secures me first place in a tournament, I will rarely offer or accept a draw to a lower rated player. The next time your opponent offers a draw, be wary, especially if he is higher rated. Try to figure out if he is losing, the position is actually equal, it is unclear or if a draw secures his prize.

4 thoughts on “Four Types of Draw Offers”

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