Kill the Draw


The advent of HYDRA chess is the finely-tuned result of two main goals: shortening game time (while preserving the dynamic nature of classical chess) and eliminating draws.


Magnus Carlsen recently said:

“There are going to be a lot of draws when the best players in the world play classical chess over-the-board. There is no way around it, if you don’t change something fundamental that is simply not going to change. It is a little bit sad but I think it is very, very hard to do something about.”

Did Magnus suddenly become me? Because I would have said the exact same thing. ~ Hikara Nakamura, American Chess GM

“Draws make for dull chess.” ~ Bobby Fischer

15 seconds of focused thought may tell you that preserving the dynamics of classical chess and eliminating draws are mutually exclusive. While draws cannot be fully eliminated without changing a rule, they can certainly be made rare by adding a new element.

Carlsen also called the future of chess “a little bit dubious,” saying he would “love to see more Fischer [random] chess being played…”

And [Fischerandom] stays very true to chess. ~ Hikara Nakamura

Carlsen and Nakamura are hardly the only authoritative voices to endorse random chess.

In HYDRA chess, draws are pushed toward extinction by the aggressive, bold play the short-board format demands, paired with the sudden introduction of random pieces. The increased violence and unpredictability inherent in the game require a player’s constant attention, as well as the “spontaneous talent and creativity” that Bobby Fischer endorsed as the future of chess.



Popular facts and opinions on draws and short games:

In the course of 1000 games, AlphaZero crushed Stockfish, 155 wins to 6.

Oh, and there were 839 draws.

That means almost 1 game out of every 6 had a winner. Apparently you need to be the smartest, and the luckiest computer, to win.

Nothing will kill the new found popularity of chess faster than a bunch of wide-eyed newbies tuning into the WCC and watching nothing happen for six hours. This must change. Hour-long games are still good, and more exciting as players actually play for the win and can’t calculate out every variation to a draw. I’m all for halving the number of draws and players taking risks.

It’s unwatchable. Who wants to watch a 12 game match featuring 12 five-hour draws? And it’s not even good chess compared to what is possible [with computers].

Kill it. Make it go away. No game should last longer than a movie.

My take is that they simply have to encourage players to win more. Much like the others, I think a win with white should be 3 points, win with black 3.5, loss zero, and draw 1. If players play out of their skins, they get more points.

That way a win plus a loss (3 + 0 = 3) will be worth more than a two draws (1 + 1 = 2). Players will be encouraged to take risks and unbalance the game in pursuit of wins.

In the old days, interzonals, candidates matches, or tournaments that resulted in ties were decided by a coin flip. Of course players went all-out for the win in the final games, trusting more in their own abilities than hoping for luck. And world championship matches that ended in ties left the defending champion with the crown, so the challenger had nothing to lose by playing riskier lines trying to win. I’m sure there are even more ways to get players to go for wins rather than playing it safe.

I don’t think that Chess960 is the solution. A bigger board? New pieces? Kasparov also talked about it years ago.

Horrible attention spans?!?!?! Good lord. Two dudes staring at a board game for six hours is a ridiculous thing to expect ANY sane person to bear. Honestly, who would watch such a thing? In the past they didn’t! They just read about a selection of games in the New York Times or in a monthly chess magazine.

Chess becoming a popular spectator sport will never happen.

Speed chess or bullet played by grandmasters go far too quickly for anyone watching to understand what is happening. Who would be interested in seeing pieces fly around the board so quickly that the audience can’t follow what’s happening?

Long format games are stupid-dull online. Nothing happens, and the analysis drags. Players play conservatively and most games are drawn. Frankly, it stinks, and everyone knows it. Even the recaps of the games on YouTube couldn’t make the drawfests fun. It was yuck.

I think most of us of a certain age have been hearing “Classical Chess” is dying for the past 40 years. Classical will outlive all of us… I simply believe in “Live and let live”. I encourage everyone to play the version of the game that best suits them. Many people find classical music “boring” and constantly tell me “that music just puts me to sleep”. For those people the best music is the current top 40 pop, hip-hop and dance music. I say AWESOME. Whatever makes you happy.

Chess has always been a fringe activity, completely outside of the mainstream. It has survived under those conditions for hundreds of years. If the mainstream forgets it again, chess lovers will keep it alive as they always have. No need to please the mainstream by altering it in any way.

Unless they shorten the time formats and appeal to viewers, classic chess will fade into irrelevance.

As I said before, hour-long games don’t produce bad chess, just slightly less perfect chess that’s infinitely more interesting. It’s always the purists who kill a sport.

Why does classical need to be more popular? It does not have to be popular or understood by most. Just enjoy the game in all its forms, and let all of its forms exist in peace.

Notice how nearly all the games you see analyzed in depth on are classical games. That’s because there’s more of interest in these games. Changing chess to become today’s fad won’t keep it popular tomorrow. Elvis Presley was the greatest musical sensation of his time, but how often do you hear his recordings today? Mozart is still popular worldwide 230 years after his death.

No castling, exclusively 1-square pawn moves, no en passant, no stalemate … would do the trick, but I like classical. Though I would prefer shorter games.

I would not change the draw rules in USCF chess. I have 3% draws in my daily games on It can even be satisfying to wind up with a draw from a losing middle game position or with a player who has a much higher rating.

The games in the Airthings Masters were brilliant! Play was risky and the games were beautiful. It was a delight for chess fans.
Insert slow chess: players have six hours to calculate every possible variation and find a draw, players become risk averse, and sludge ensues.
We can’t ever go back. The peasants will bring out the pitchforks and storm the castle. Carlsen’s initial claim was about how the new chess is exciting and fun and people expect it to be exciting and fun. The revolution is here. Classical chess has become niche.

Even with draws and record long play times, this game has endured for centuries. It has outlasted Bobby Fischer, and it will outlast “Queen’s Gambit” and Magnus Carlsen too – and anything else associated with popular culture.



Octagon King
Hydra King