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While similar questions have been asked before and many comments were given, I couldn't find a thread dealing with my particular experiences. So:

Whenever I discuss openings with professional and even with semi-professional players the issue inevitably reaches the point where somebody says that he doesn't like a particular line because he would have no prospects of winning this position at all - meaning that it is equal and dull, too drawish etc.

This fear is not foreign to me but after all those years I concluded that it is hypothetical in nature. I played several thousand classical games but I cannot remember a single one that resulted in a draw exclusively due to both sides knowing a long main line. Very seldom did I reach a position after about twenty moves that a book's author evaluates to "=". And even in these rare cases, the rest of the game saw complications that granted winning chances to one side. Without checking it, I guess I had more decided games then draws in the Exchange French and the Exchange King's Indian.

Even on low GM-level I don't have the feeling that this is a common scenario. In the few cases I witnessed a GM game where both players were blitzing out their prep and agreed to a draw quickly, I never had the feeling that one of them was disappointed and doubted his opening choice, although this is different on world class level.

For some years now, I bring up this point again and again - this "empirical" objection to a concern understandable form an "analytical" perspective. But it never catches on. (Most surprisingly, a lot of people expressing this concern also show a tendency to make quick draws.) Recently I heard of a talented 9-year-old. His caregiver was concerned that he exclusively plays the Petroff against 1. e4. His supposedly weaker opponents learnt about this and prepared drawish lines against him. As it turned out, during that tournament he didn't draw a single game in the Petroff.

So to my eyes, this is an unjustified concern for players below, say 2500. Sure, you can loose half a point due to being out-prepared. But not in lines of which you know the details. But nonetheless every opening adviser seems to be proud to state that a certain position is full of life, although there is no objective advantage. I wonder whether I am misled by my subjective experiences. Is the scenario of a fully bloodless game more common than I am willing to grant? Is there anyone who is experiencing this regularly? And anyone who got so bored by this that he quit chess? And if not: Why is this concern so pervasive anyway? Might it be that weaker players mimic super-GMs, pretending we all share the same problems?

And if someone shares my feelings: What is the threshold above which this becomes a problem?

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    I think that the paragraph where you recount your discussion with professional and semi-professional players gives a pretty good indication where the threshold for this particular problem lies, at least approximately. – Scounged Oct 25 at 18:58
  • @Scounged Which raises the uneasy question what separates a professional player from a semi-professional one. Just that price money is a main concern? – Durtal Oct 25 at 19:36
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    I think there might've been some miscommunication here. I simply meant that since even the semi-professional players are complaining it's an indication that the threshold is somewhere before one could even be considered "semi-professional" to begin with. Moreover, I think that terminology like "professional" and "semi-professional" in terms of chess players and their general level is a bit misguided since it only takes into account whether the player considers chess their job; consider GM Luke McShane, who is an amateur despite being strong enough to play professionally. – Scounged Oct 25 at 20:57
  • @Scounged I agree with your terminological remark. But I don't think the problem at hand should bother "semi-professionals". For sure, many are concerned about it. But never did I hear a 2300 player convincingly complaining about a much weaker opponent forcing a draw just by encyclopedic opening knowledge. While many players are concerned, they barely make bad experiences. This discrepancy (obvious to me, but I might be wrong) is what makes me wonder. – Durtal Oct 25 at 21:49
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You're right that drawing lines don't really affect people who are lower rated. However, your bar for 2500 isn't practical. Most people who are close to master rated (say 2100+, and even some lower rated) will have memorized some of the main drawing lines in their main weapons. That being said, there's a huge difference between playing openings that give you level positions but with a lot of play left in the position (such as the Petrov or the London), and playing openings that give you drawing lines (such as the forcing variations of the English attack Najdorf or Bg4 Panov-Botvinnik attack).

If it's easy and practical to memorize one or two main branches in a "drawing line" you can be sure: the higher-rated your opponent, the more likely they are to know these lines. If your opening simply gets you a roughly equal position, but there are enough pieces still on the board that you have something to actually play for, then that should be totally fine for most people up even to the highest levels of chess.

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I don't see a "drawish" opening line as a concern. Every decisive game comes from a close to equal position, the starting position. Outplaying your opponent from an equal position to win is seen at all levels. My goal in opening is to get the kind of position I prefer to play. Some so called equal positions are easier to play for one side. The King's Indian Exchange is equal but easier to play as White. This we may call "objectively equal" but White has the better "practical chances"

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I am currently a 2100 rated FIDE player, so my experience is limited, I've only played about 50 classical games and truthfully it's hard for me to find a variation in my repertoire which would fit your conundrum. But it's not impossible, I have analyzed and actually performed full theory games in the main lines of the King's Indian (Bayonet, and Panno specifically) and the Taimanov Sicilian where after you and your opponent play the 20-30 moves of theory you end up in a completely lifeless position with usually opposite coloured bishops and or pawns only one side of the board. Obviously I have been able to win some games in these positions, but the amount of technique and luck required was insane, and yes, sometimes I wish I had a coach who warned me in advance of the staleness of some line and suggested an objectively worse but more dynamic line instead.

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Should be almost certainly fine at practically any level. As others have said, unless there's a repetition or perpetual check, there's still stuff to play for up to a fairly high level. Even then, the opponent very well may not know it

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