Short on draws

3/18/2004 – "I know that with perfect play, God versus God, Fritz versus Fritz, chess is a draw," writes Nigel Short, who describes a deadly disease called Severe Acute Drawitis. "Those afflicted with SAD display an uncontrollable urge to offer or accept premature peace proposals." Read about it in Nigel's highly entertaining Sunday Telegraph column.

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The following are excerpts by the Telegraph columnist Nigel Short. The links given below each section lead to the full stories. Note that you have to register, free of charge, to read the columns. This entails giving an email address and a password for future logins. Each column contains an annotated game by the author.

Short on draws

29.02.2004 The World Health Organisation has given notice of a disease that is of potentially far greater virulence and destructiveness than the recent avian flu epidemic. The source of this latest deadly outbreak has been identified as the small Andalucian town of Linares where seven people have been diagnosed as suffering from Severe Acute Drawitis (SAD). Those afflicted with SAD display an uncontrollable urge to offer or accept premature peace proposals. Specialists warn that the latest strain of the virus is particularly contagious.


Nigel Short, Telegraph chess columnist

Previous outbreaks were largely confined to those with marked genetic susceptibility to the early handshake, but this one also affects those with no prior history of pacifism. It is a tragedy that the world’s greatest SAD expert, Senor Luis Rentero, suffered a near fatal car crash a few years ago and has been invalided ever since. The bluff doctor’s patent carrot and stick cures (bonuses and fines) were frequently criticised in their day as being primitive and excessive, but there was no denying their effectiveness in eradicating the scourge.

In the latest New In Chess Judit Polgar said of Kramnik: “I like Vladimir very much, a nice guy, but ... although he is the World Champion, he is not a real champion. He has hardly won a game since he beat Kasparov. He barely plays.” Judit’s views are, perhaps, exaggerated but, unfortunately, not much. In 2002 Kramnik was briefly removed from the rating list after failing to meet the less than arduous requirement to play four rated games in a year! The fact that he was subsequently reinstated after an additional two games were submitted still does him little credit.

07.03.2004 For a few wicked moments this morning I contemplated resubmitting last week's article on the draw glut in Linares, Andalucia, on the grounds that nobody was likely to notice what I had done. Alas, my conscience eventually got the better of me.

In defence of his frequently timid, safety-first approach, the World Champion Vladimir Kramnik said in an interview recently something to the effect that he would rather watch a 0-0 tie in the football Premiership than an orgy of goals in a lower division. A reasonable enough sentiment, but were the teams to shake hands and walk off after 20 minutes of perfunctory passing (which is more or less what happens in chess), I expect few spectators would share it.

In fairness though to the mighty toreros at the Hotel Anibal in Linares, it has not all been desperately dull. Fans of the Sicilian Sveshnikov in particular have had plenty to choke on. Indeed, at times I have wondered whether it was a Sveshnikov theme tournament, so prevalent has this 1970s opening been. Perhaps the participants should sport long wigs, flares and platform shoes to add to the retro feel. It might liven things up a bit.

14.03.2004 I am, metaphorically, still on the psychoanalyst's couch after the trauma of reporting on Linares for two consecutive weeks. O doctor, are my expectations too high? I know that with perfect play, God versus God, Fritz versus Fritz, chess is a draw and yet – unreasonably, I know – I keep hoping to see a few more decisive games. Can I be cured? Of course, I do not really want to be cured. Nor, it is clear, does everyone share my delirium.

I practically choked last week when I saw, in an article by a venerable and distinguished English columnist, the words "combative" and "Bogdan Lalic" in the same sentence. Was this the same Bogdan Lalic who made eight tedious draws out of ten in Gibraltar in January? Was this the guy who vacuumed the pieces against me and offered to share the point after just five minutes play? Apparently it is.

While I respect the former Croat's formidable theoretical knowledge and, indeed, his playing ability, I cannot help thinking that such a cynical approach to chess – consigning a high percentage of games to the rubbish bin – is both ugly and ultimately self-defeating.

Hypocrisy? Perhaps. After all, I did in fact accept Bogdan's offer, and it matters not a jot whether it was done with revulsion or satisfaction. Nevertheless, I would argue that there is distinction between those for whom the quick handshake is the norm and those for whom it is an aberration. It is incumbent upon organisers to recognise this.


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