If in a tournament game, white is only aiming for a draw, what openings and strategies will be recommended for him? I guess that the answer may depend on the following different mindset for black:

  1. Black is happy with a draw as well.
  2. Black would love to win but can accept a draw.
  3. Black must win.

I am aware of a related question but my questions seems to be different.


The main ideas in playing for a draw are to exchange as many pieces as possible, and to avoid getting into a sharp opening. This simplifies the position and reduces the tendency of either side to blunder. For each case, some openings are suitable.

If black is OK with a draw, then 1. e4 is the best. The only risk of drawing the game here is getting a sharp opening in return (a Sicilian, for example), which your opponent won't do if they are playing for a draw.

If your opponent is playing for a win, then open with 1. d4. A typical reply is a QGD, or perhaps a Slav defense. In both cases, to draw you would go for an exchange variation:

QGD: Exchange Variation

[FEN ""]
1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. cxd5

Slav Defense: Exchange Variation

[FEN ""]
1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. cxd5
  • The exchange variation of the QGD is by no means drawish: actually, it is a strong try for an opening advantage by White and Black must defend properly to avoid losing by force. Standard plans for White are to play a minority attack or fr-e4 and break open the centre. See for example Botvinnik-Keres (1952.12.09) or Suetin-Shishov (1954?? something). – gented Dec 31 '18 at 8:36
  • If Black ist playing for a win, he probably won't reply with the Slav or the QGD but rather with some Kings Indian oder Grünfeld. Then it is not so clear what an easy way to a draw is (without memorizing all the drashiw lines in the Grünfeld) – Jonas Lenz Dec 31 '18 at 10:43
  • I agree with the "avoid getting into a sharp opening" and generally into very complex combinational positions, but many grandmasters warn against going for exchanges, this just makes it too obvious for the opponent that a draw is wanted. – AnonymousLurker Dec 31 '18 at 10:49

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