04 Apr The “Bittersweet” Perpetual Check against stronger opponents
Drawing against a stronger opponent feels good, especially when it comes to young players and beginners/intermediate learners. In this level, it is not unusual to see the weaker player offering or accepting a draw in a clearly winning position, for example while being a whole Rook up, due to psychological factors that influence such decisions, like showing too much respect, fear of the more experienced opponent or lack of confidence.
As the player’s psychology improves with knowledge, this kind of impact is not as powerful as before in advanced or master level, because the evaluation of positions becomes more objective. For instance, a 2000 rated player playing against a GM, would be delighted with a draw possibility before the game, would likely be fine to draw even in a slightly better position, but would not be happy at all with half point, if he had obtained a big advantage during the game, like a healthy, extra piece. In this case, being aware that the position is objectively winning, he would probably look for the best continuation that leads to victory rather than thinking of the half point prospect.
Even so, winning superior positions against better opponents can be challenging, even for strong chess players. Firstly, because the psychological aspects influence mentioned above is still there, to some extent. Furthermore, there are some additional obstacles to spotting the winning continuation and achieve the goal, arising from the brain’s reaction to unexpected circumstances during the game, such as the “bittersweet” perpetual check opportunity.
Having the option of a perpetual against stronger players is undoubtedly pleasant, you opt for it and draw by force at once, no offers, no rejections included. Nevertheless, to achieve a win in chess you need to actively look for one instead of “pretending” that you are looking. Most likely that is not going to happen when you think and play safe, for example by entering an inferior continuation only because it offers you “at least” a perpetual and not because you believe it is the best. It is not going to happen either, if the tempting perpetual right before your eyes does not allow you to use your good calculation skills and you just try to convince yourself that all the other lines are not working for you. This is the same voice in your head we talked about in the “Fearless against the Discovered Attack” article, calling you to compromise your winning expectations: “Grab the sweet draw!”
Finally, keep in mind that there is a good possibility that the perpetual opportunity handed to you on a plate, is not necessarily an oversight but perhaps the path for your stronger opponent to escape from a worse or even losing position. A clever attempt to trick you I would say, as opposed to a direct draw offer, which could make you suspicious of the real evaluation of the position. Therefore, next time you find yourself in such situation, it would be wiser not to allow the perpetual check chance to distract your focus and calculation, even against the World Champion. No draw for you Magnus! 🙂