17 December 2009

Serial Draw Offers II

The player who makes Serial Draw Offers, doesn't always appreciate that he is offering his opponent a valuable psychological clue about the game at hand. A few months ago I encountered a good example of the pitfalls in this practice.

The following position is from a chess960 game at Schemingmind.com, although there is no trace of the original start position and it isn't even relevant. A dozen moves earlier my opponent had already offered a couple of draws. The first offer came on ...a6-a5, when the a-Pawn was already passed, and the second offer came two moves later on ...a5-a4. The material was already unbalanced, Black having three Pawns for a Knight, but I was comfortable with my position, didn't feel any real danger from the a-Pawn, and decided to play on.

Chess960 @ Schemingmind.com

(After 45.Ke2-f3)
[FEN "7r/6k1/3ppp2/1R6/p1N1P2P/5Kp1/7b/4B3 b - - 0 45"]

In this position I was expecting 45...Rxh4 46.Nxd6 Rh8 47.Kg2. Black can force the exchange of White's last Pawn, when the reduced material gives Black the opportunity to swap down into a drawn endgame of Rook plus minor piece vs. Rook. For my part, I was planning to win the a-Pawn -- note that the Black Bishop is out of play on h2 and can't participate in the defense -- while keeping Black's King confined to its Kingside, threatened by a mating net. At the right moment my own King would join the attack and perhaps force a win. The plan was very tentative, but the winning chances were all on my side and I suspected my opponent was not looking for my plan.

Instead of 45...Rxh4, Black played 45...d5 and offered another draw. He was undoubtedly thinking that any Pawn swap was a step in the direction of a drawn endgame. I continued 46.exd5 Rxh4, followed by the surprising 47.d6! Rxc4 48.Rb7+, when Black was forced to give up the Rook for the d-Pawn. He resigned a few moves later.

Obvious draws are not always so simple.

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