I read opening books a lot and they are always focused on finding a way to draw for Black and finding a way for White to play for a win. This makes me wonder why people are not writing opening books on how to draw with White. Is there no market value for a White repertoire book focused on the most efficient way of making a draw?

From the scientific point of view it is would be highly advisable to first devise a drawing method for white and only then look for a draw for Black. Why is this not done this way? Is it about the buying tastes, or about the emotions related to winning? I sometimes read comments to the effect that playing for a draw should be below one's dignity. But from the scientific point of view and also from the practical point of view it is fascinating to investagte the art of making a draw. Any ideas?

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    "From the scientific point of view it is would be highly advisable to first devise a drawing method for white and only then look for a draw for Black." Can you explain this some more?
    – Cleveland
    May 26 '16 at 16:01
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    The task of drawing with White looks easier than drawing with Black but both are extremely difficult. It is common practice in science to first try to solve the easier of two related problems. May 26 '16 at 16:51
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    Personally I can't understand playing for anything less for a win with either colour. If a better result is available a priori shouldn't you initially aim for that, an only pull back dependent on circumstances?
    – Ian Bush
    May 26 '16 at 19:11
  • There are so few good reasons to draw at the amateur level that I would not spend any time on it. I could certainly understand someone with the White pieces going for a draw if they needed 1/2 point for a GM norm.
    – Tony Ennis
    May 27 '16 at 11:27
  • If you can win then why you need draw? May 27 '16 at 18:33

Most opening books claim to maintain the advantage for White and equalize for Black. This is slightly different than winning and drawing.

Most of the incentive to write this way is the psychology of selling. Nobody wants to buy a book on how to draw against a lower rated player. You higher rating should make this act trivial. Winning is your objective, so that is a key word they try to put into titles.

Since White starts with the initiative, White can choose a line which end in a lot of draws. These line normally have "exchange" in them: QGD Exchange variation, Slav Exchange Variation, and French Exchange Variation.

"The turning point in my career came with the realization that Black should play to win instead of just steering for equality." Bobby Fischer. This lesson should have encouraged editors to have put winning in both repertoire book titles.

There is some risk aversion psychology that could be used in selling books. The Safest Sicilian by Delchev and Semkov is aimed at players who don't want to get into the hair-raising tactics of a normal Sicilian. The Closed Sicilian has the same objective from White's point-of-view. Petrosian and Giri have mastered this safety first approach. (Capablanca may belong in this group.)

The general consensus is that below a rating of 2000, you should not study openings more than to reach a playable middlegame without falling into an opening trap. My personal feeling is that these opening books forget to include the line which puts up the most resistance. It would be better to get someone who knows the line to explain them to you or to play against a computer just to find all of the inferior moves.

  • But people might be interested in buying books on how to draw against strong opponents. In fact, the Black repertoire book on the French Defense by Hannes Langrock explicitly states that it is a drawing weapon against stronger opponents. This brings me to the question why not write a book on how to draw against the French Defense for example, when playing White against a stronger opponent. May 27 '16 at 6:47
  • I have bought the book "Winning with the Najdorf Sicilian" which has winning as Black in the title but the book is really about neutralizing White's initiative, happy with lines that end up in perpetual check for example. There is some effort to find alternatives but the logical structure of the book is as usual, to equalize with Black. May 27 '16 at 6:50
  • In most repertoire books, there is a drawing variation, in the French it is the exchange variation. The problems with writing a drawing for White book are 1) you have to learn two variations, one for higher rated and one for lower rated players, and 2) you expect White to have better chances and therefore do not want a drawing line.
    – Mike Jones
    May 27 '16 at 9:08

Isn't a win better than a draw with either color? Yes, there are tournament situations where White only needs a draw, but in general, White begins the game with a slight advantage - the initiative - and should be looking to use that.

The question is specifically about opening books. You can't force a draw during the opening, especially against a higher rated player. The best way to get a draw is to gain equality or better in a position in which you are more comfortable than your opponent. That's all that an opening can aim for, and it's already covered by the existing books.

  • I don't know. Maybe, but players play to draw all the time. You answer the question, "Should I play to draw?" but is that the question the OP has asked? If his premise is valid (and it is), then his question can be answered as asked. (Incidentally, for players rated under 1700, draws are uncommon and thus, to them, are inherently interesting, not despicable at all.)
    – thb
    May 26 '16 at 23:31
  • It also speaks to why there is no market value - it is usually a suboptimal result, and skilled analysts will earn more (money or reputation) by finding lines that give advantage. Converting advantage into equality doesn't sell. May 26 '16 at 23:41
  • This "answer" should be a comment because it is not an answer at all. A draw against a strong opponent is interesting and using the white pieces to obtain a draw is also a very interesting way of playing chess. Perhaps this "answer" really is the real answer I am looking for because it shows the attitude to the question, which translates into buying tastes, and so little market value, so thanks anyway. May 27 '16 at 6:41
  • Umm, I think you have a strange definition of "interesting." If, from the outset, I playing White have a greater chance of winning than losing (draws are fairly easily produced, this should be obvious from their sheer number) how can anything that sets out to reduce my probable outcome be at all interesting to me? According to the statistics I've seen, players with the first move, if playing for a win, score at about a 53% clip. Why would it be interesting to find a way to reduce that to 50%?
    – Arlen
    Oct 12 '21 at 21:48

White has the advantage of the first move, and would normally be playing for a win, not a draw.

The people that would want to read the kind of book you are describing are people who think, "How can I draw against a superior player if I have the first move as partial compensation?" Relatively few people are in that position (or at least are willing to admit to that position).

The answer is to keep Black on the defensive and keep the initiative, and then only at the "last minute" (toward the endgame), release the tension and simplify the position into a draw.

  • But if you can keep the initiative until the endgame then you already know how to play with White! The problem is how to get through the opening without getting a bad position against Black. Perhaps instead of a multivolume monumental work on how to fight for the advantage with White according to some world champion it would be better to write a shorter book on how to obtain good playable positions as White against anybody. May 28 '16 at 13:53

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