Things look different from the perspective of the professional and the spectator

I saw an interesting article by young American chess Grandmaster Sam Shankland on his recent successful tournament in Brazil.

His goal was to qualify for the Chess World Cup, the tournament that feeds into the final candidates for the World Championship match.

“I knew before going that I’d be unlikely to face any of the top seeds until the end of the tournament, and that it would largely be about taking care of business against guys 100-200 points lower than me. While normally I would avoid such a tournament, it all goes back to that one goal: the World Cup. I did not care about playing good chess, challenging myself, raising my rating, playing with strong players – all things I normally prioritize – all I wanted was one of the four coveted spots. As such, I played very differently than normal.”

Short draws

One thing about high level chess that often seems to confuse and frustrate spectators is the high percentage of short draws. Spectators find it easy to make fun of the elite competitors for being cowards or the like, not trying harder to win when it seems possible to do so in chess positions that are not yet dead.

But if you put yourself in the professional’s shoes, you should be able to understand the strategic decision-making that happens on the board and off the board. I’m happy that players such as GM Sam Shankland are writing in a personal way about their choices.

“I made more short draws in this event than I have in all my other tournaments combined in the past year and a half. I love chess and I have a well deserved reputation for being a fighting player, which is largely due to my priorities.”


GM Sam Shankland is a fine American chess player and writer. I appreciate his candor in explaining not only his chess moves but also his approach to his games and tournaments.

How do you perceive and judge professional behavior in the world that often seems at odds with the interests of other people than themselves: by chess players, teachers, politicians, physicians, musicians, writers, athletes, etc?

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