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What is a proper moment to resign a game?

  • GM Gserper
  • | Feb 4, 2013
  • | 26037 views
  • | 128 comments

The subject of today's discussion might sound bizarre for most of you.  Indeed, all the chess coaches as well as books, magazines and Web sites teach you how to win your games and here we talk about when to resign? And yet, I think any experienced chess player knows what I am talking about. Just look at the following games :


"So what?", many of you would ask, "we see this kind of games every day in our chess club".  Indeed, this kind of 'endgame' where a lonely King fights practically the whole opponent's army is very common in the games played in parks or in your local Elementary School championship. But unfortunately all the games above were played in the Invitational US Championship (an adult Championship, mind you!) and the 'Player X' played all the games till a checkmate regardless of the position and the opponent's title. Some of you might call the last 15 - 20 moves in every game just a waste of time, but look at the situation from a different angle.  In all the games the opponents of the 'Player X' were Masters or International Masters, so playing out this kind of a position is like saying " I know that you have a ginormous material advantage , but are you good enough to checkmate me with an extra Queen?".  Some people probably can get insulted. 

Another extreme is when a chess player resigns too early. Sometimes he does it (or at least has the temptation to do it) for a reason. Look for example at my own game:

After Kramnik played 18.f4! (somehow I totally missed this simple move), I immediately realized what happened, but of course it was too late. With absolutely no counter play in the center or on the Queen's Side, Black can only helplessly wait till White annihilates him on the King's Side. Black's position is absolutely hopeless, but it was a Super Tournament (Karpov won it) and we played in a theatre packed with spectators. This explains my comment to this game published in the New in Chess magazine: "I should have resigned on the 18th move but was afraid that spectators wouldn't understand." By the way, I think professional chess players should never forget that sometimes we need to play even absolutely clear positions for other people.  Like in my last week's story I kept playing an absolutely drawn endgame for my wife (http://www.chess.com/article/view/should-your-girlfriendwife-play-chess), here I played a completely lost position for the chess fans who wanted to see the beautiful finish of Kramnik's positional masterpiece.  So I thought that I had the right to resign only when it was absolutely clear that my King was going to get checkmated very soon.

But sometimes chess players resign a position which is not lost.  Moreover, there are some examples where a game was resigned in a completely winning position!  Here is probably the most infamous and old example where Black resigned in a winning position:


So, what is a proper point to resign a game?  As always the answer is : "it depends!"  If you are a beginner, then you should never resign: Play till checkmate. First of all, your opponent, who is probably a beginner himself, may possibly stalemate you despite (or because of) his huge material advantage.  But even if he does beat you, you'll get another lesson how to convert a winning advantage in to a win. But if you are an advanced chess player, then playing every single game till your opponent actually checkmates you is not the strategy I would recommend. Use your common sense because only you can decide what is the exact point when there is absolutely no hope to save the game. Just ask yourself from time to time what is the chance my opponent doesn't win this position.  If the answer is "only if he has a heart attack right now," then probably it is time to quit.

Comments


  • 11 months ago

    DefinitelyNotGM

    I normally try swindles

  • 13 months ago

    TennesseeThunder

    I personally believe there is more character in resigning (when it's appropriate) as opposed to marching your king around the board like a little 5-year-old who can't have his cake and eat it too.

  • 17 months ago

    CP6033

    In my opinion if your opponent has a huge material advantage then you should resign. But if you are a rook down or something like that,and have lots of pieces left on the board you may as well play it out until your game is lost.

  • 17 months ago

    TheYear9876

    errrrr you carried on because you had  a material advantage,that makes sense. but if you had lost your queen without compensation the right thing to do would have been to resign. 

  • 17 months ago

    Rod_Welder

    In a recent game I lost one of my queen to my opponent due to my foolishness but kept my head up and kept on playing. I had material advantage even tho he had got my queen and his queen fell into one of my traps and i killed him after that . So best is u play on and on and try to do your best.

  • 17 months ago

    pingo420

    "Just ask yourself from time to time what is the chance my opponent doesn't win this position.  If the answer is "only if he has a heart attack right now," then probably it is time to quit."


    this is spot on. one should use his common sense to figure out when to quit. I have seen some people, in correspondence chess, "fighting out" their lone king against a queen and a bunch of pawns, and taking as long as possible by the laws to "think" over their moves. This is within the laws, but certainly an extremely bad manner.


  • 17 months ago

    delcarpenter

    No, I do not have an overwhelming need to win.  Long before I'm in a "hopeless" situation I'm usually able to reconize I will lose.  Then I alert the other player that I don't resign because I may learn more in my fight to delay the end than I would have if I had won. 

  • 17 months ago

    Joshius

    I believe that the refusal to resign in a hopeless situation is a sign of a desperate need to win. In my opinion, having such an excessive desire to win is unhealthy for both you and your game. Chess, for me, is about knowledge, friendly contest, and of course, fun. I find that my best play comes out not when I am only concerned with winning, but when I am enjoying myself. Learning to accept your losses is a sign of maturity, and it shows respect for your opponent by a)acknowledging that they are skilled enough find the winning moves and b) not wasting their time trying to fulfill a need to win.

  • 17 months ago

    narek_sargsyan

    Don't resign at once , but find a way to draw the game like stalemate, there're so many examples. And you will be so shocked of those ones

  • 17 months ago

    TheYear9876

    hope you won. thats the important thing ! lol

  • 17 months ago

    fsinal

    While playing bridge, not chess, I had an opponant have a heart attack and on another occassion a partner have a stroke. In both cases they insisted on playing on until the ambulance came.

  • 17 months ago

    pastoryoshi

    good point! especially if your opponent is using dial up connection. But you still gotta choose the moves that prolong the mate as long as possible to increase the chances of them dissconnecting, that is how i loose all of my live games, not dissconnecting, but running out of time even though I am TOTALLY winning, i just can't get my responses to connect fast enough.

  • 17 months ago

    FakeName6

    Never resign in a live game, your opponent may accidently disconnect or something. I do, however, sometimes resign in real-life and correspondence games.

  • 17 months ago

    Seraphimity

  • 17 months ago

    seaeagle

    @chesst22. agreed. The resign button is only there to be considerate to your opponent.  No other reason.  People who refuse to use it, and instead find some way to waste their opponent's time are just being rude.  Period.

    Granted, you have a right within the rules to not be considerate and resign, but it doesn't make it any less rude.  To be clear, I'm not talking about when you have a legitimate chance to draw or swindle a win. I'm talking about when people quit playing, disconnect, purposely dump material, make spite checks, that kind of thing.  

    Just be a grown-up and resign.

  • 18 months ago

    chesst222

    I find it rude when people disconnect or stop playing with a good amount of time left on the clock and make you just sit there..the resign feature is there for a reason..

  • 18 months ago

    Spektrowski

    In the serious tournament play before the advent of computers, it would just have been too much strain for the players to play all games until checkmate/obvious overwhelming advantage. You play your 40 moves, then adjourn the game because you (or your opponent) are stubborn, have to spend some time analyzing it, and you also have to prepare for another game tomorrow. This game also gets adjourned because of the same reasons, this all piles up until you can't take it anymore, and the quality of the games suffers much as the result. So, in the OTB play, resigning early was something like saving time, playing strength and nerves of both you and your opponent.

    In online chess, on the other hand, any kind of attitude is possible. Just don't expect to be treated better than you treat your opponent.

  • 18 months ago

    sammyndad

    When you dont resign at a hopeless position the oppenent feels offended sometimes.

    One guy got seriously frustrated when i was roaming around the tournament area that he lost his control of the position and drew the game!

  • 18 months ago

    maDawson

    I agree to the "fight to the death and make your opponent earn that 1-0" mentality. I rarely resign again.

    Playing a game holds up a friendly competition. 

    No possibility of counterplay AND continuing a game derived of poor performance is engraving into my mind.

    I also play to the majority culture customs.

  • 18 months ago

    pastoryoshi

    "timlawson...."

    I agree with you and have a similar interesting story. Saddly the true end result is simply that I am disgusted by my own faulty play, but am inspired to go on stronger.

    A "weak club player" that I am playing but infomally sort of coaching, who is also a very respectful friend and is my favorite person to play; he never resigns ever, until today was his first time ever to resign and I felt hurt by it. Although I new I am going to win, I judge my own skill by whether or not I can finish the mate in less than 10 moves or less or do i need more endgame practice. Is there a quicker way to mate or should I just do the old march and promote with all my pawns, If I am skillful I can mate with just my rook and bishop and not need the extra Qs to make it happen.

    Anyway, there was a game where we were at a definate draw and it was by repetition because we were at a mirror image of eachother and if either one of us deviated by even one square, the other would definately win. After repeating the position three times I was pleased with myself that I was able to pull off a draw because he had been beating me the whole time. I was ashamed of myself because I was at the time rated 1800  and him 1400 and I made to many moves at night while half asleep, (can anyone sympathise?). Nevertheless, I was playing on my phone app and pressed the button to "claim draw" and then for some strange reason it came back, then again after claiming the draw 3 or 4 times I realized that the app was not recognizing the claim, but my friend was also making moves from his iphone and when he was tired he decided to just "try something else" and I was completely SHOCKED! He deviated from the one and only possible move that could prevented a win. And I went on to slaughter him the long way just to make him suffer. Purely out of my own love for him and to help him remember to never make that mistake again. Then on my little cell phone typing pad I chewed him out over and over and over about how dissapointed I was in him for making a ??? tripple blunder like that and how he should have beat me.

    I did not resign, but I won, and still I had no satisfaction in the win because I know I didn't deserve it. Still it was a memorable experience and I have increased my studing to ensure that I never let him him beat me again!!!

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