GM Ashley's essay questions ethics of quick draw offers

GM Maurice Ashley has recently written an interesting essay titled, "The End of the Draw Offer?" which examines the questionable practice of quick draws in professional tournaments. This issue has received considerable attention in the chess world, but has recently picked up steam. In the day of large prize funds and the proliferation of roving professional Grandmasters, a draw offer has virtually become a standard practice of etiquette in itself.

Are top players damaging the competitive spirit of the sport by agreeing to quick draws? This is a question GM Ashley raises in his thought-provoking essay in which he even admits to his own abuse as a Grandmaster. While reflecting on both the final round of the
2003 U.S. Championship and the last game of the recent Kasparov-Deep Junior match, the Brooklyn-based GM mentioned the disappointment of the fans (and interested observers) after  anti-climatic draws in both events.  GM Ashley reflects on the  reaction after the conclusion of the Kasparov-Deep Junior match:

"The in-house audience booed raucously while my usually eloquent co-commentator, Yasser Seirawan, and I struggled to make sense of it for the TV viewers. Even my mother-in-law and her sister, who have never touched a pawn in their lives but who watched the entire three hours (imagine that), expressed their opinion that there must have been some prior arrangement agreed upon by the two competitors."

GMs Maurice Ashley and Yasser Seirawan provide commentary on  Game 3.

GMs Maurice Ashley and Yasser Seirawan commentating at "Man vs. Machine" match. Photo courtesy of

While it was not mentioned in the essay, the 20o2 Chess Olympiad was not free from these practices. The Russian-Israel and Hungary-Armenia matches in penultimate round #13 ended with the players on all four boards of both matches agreeing to draws in less than 30 minutes! In the current 2003 Linares tournament, there have been many jokes made about the high number of drawn games.

Perhaps one could hypothesize that players of high caliber are less likely to make gross mistakes so the games are more likely to end peacefully. It is interesting to note that suggestions have been made to award black a higher score for a draw.  Nevertheless, Ashley's essay brings a number of issues to the fore.  It is a provocative treatise examining an epidemic that may be preventing chess from gaining widespread appeal.

Read GM Maurice Ashley's "The End of the Draw Offer?"
(HTML/Web version - 4 short pages)
(HTML/Web version - 1 long page)
(MS-Word format)

Posted by The Chess Drum: 8 March 2003