Quiet Offering
By Joel Benjamin   
January 7, 2007
Dear Joel,

I liked your article on offering a draw very much. I was at the US Championship in 1990 or 1991, and four games were being played. All four games ended in agreed draws. I was close enough that I should have been able to hear a draw offer. Instead, it seemed that a player would look down at the board, then look up at the opponent, and that constituted a draw offer. Is that the way it is actually done at that level?

Jud McCranie

There are occasions where a look is enough, but only in trivial positions. I always say something, even when I know my opponent won't give it any thought. It just avoids any misunderstandings.

Body language is easily misconstrued. One example: GM Alex Yermolinsky has a mannerism where he lets out a deep breath while shaking from side to side. The first time he did this I thought he was about to offer a draw. He was actually about to make a powerful move.

There is one thing about draw offers that I want everyone, particularly our young readers to understand. You DO NOT offer a draw by sticking out your hand. If you put out your hand without saying anything, most players interpret that as resignation [A colleague of mine told me of an unfortunate incident where a kid put out his hand in a simul against Kasparov. The kid exulted in his draw until the meaning of his gesture was explained to him. And then there were tears.] If you say "DRAW" while putting out your hand, the proper response for your opponent is to sit there until your hand gets tired. A player can consider a draw offer for as long as his clock permits. Extending your hand is rushing your opponent, and rather rude. You may have seen it in Searching For Bobby Fischer, but the movies and real life are two different things.

Joel Benjamin