The World Chess Champion GM Magnus Carlsen decided on what I admit was a very cowardly decision, he offered a draw to his opponent GM Fabiano Caruana in a very promising position in what could have been the last game of the World Chess Championship.
He was scared and it’s very clear why he went for a draw. That was the plan before the game and he executed it quite well. Given that a loss would mean losing his world champion title and also move him from ranked first in the world, two things he described as “part of his identity” wouldn’t you be scared? However it is worth noting that this is very uncharacteristic of Magnus as pointed out by Super Chess Grand masters Peter Svidler, Alexander Grischuk and Anish Giri who was particularly surprised by Magnus taking a draw in a position that still had lots of play.
While again I admit the decision was cowardly as a chess player and chess fan I very much understand. What I don’t understand however is people somehow thinking there is something wrong with chess just because we had 12 draws in a world championship. It’s not as if the games were not exciting and not like the weren’t opportunities for both sides on multiple occasions. This was a huge fight and in a sport like soccer it would be seen as an exciting 0 – 0 draw and fans would be happy to go to extra time.
I’m yet to understand this urge chess fans have for a decisive result. Perhaps it makes things more dramatic and interesting, but even the most exciting draw would be seen as not sufficient. I’ve come to conclude that since the majority of chess players are new or very lowly rated players they don’t care much about the games but more about the result. Decisive results are also more interesting on the news whereby rather than reporting on a very exciting critical moment they’ll report on the result, and well, seeing draw after every round as such is very boring.
Perhaps this is what it takes for our sport to grow bigger and better? A move away from our classical game to chess variants and lower time controls and/or significant rule changes aimed at achieving decisive results would attract more attention to our game, but at what cost?