Never Resign Prematurely!

  • GM DanielNaroditsky
  • | May 30, 2014

Throughout my chess career, I have resigned in several different ways. During my very first games with my brother, I - well, I resigned by knocking the pieces over in disgust. In my first tournaments, I flicked the king over, old style. Then, for another few years, I stopped the clock before extending my hand. Now, I do the reverse - shake hands, sign the scoresheet, and only then stop the clock. Throughout this veritable evolution, one thing has remained constant: I have never enjoyed resigning! 

Some players are under the impression that grandmasters sense the "right" moment when they should throw in the towel. This is nothing but a misconception. It is certainly your right to play on as long as you wish, although its invocation can be unethical.

In some cases, the opposite takes place: a player is so disgusted with the course of the game and so confident in his opponent's strength that he surrenders before exhausting all of the defensive resources in the position. Even at the very top level, grandmasters have resigned in drawn (or even winning) positions. In this article, I would like to present several instances of premature resignations and try to understand the reasons for their unfounded pessimism. 

We will start with a particularly memorable example. Keep in mind that at the time this game was played, GM Jan Timman was one of the strongest players in the world. 

The moral of the story, in my opinion, is twofold: 

  1. Pawn endings are very, very tricky. Quite frequently, a connected passer - even on the sixth rank - is not decisive. Even in a pawn endgame that appears totally hopeless, you might still be able to construct an improbable fortress or attain miraculous counterplay. Do not hurry to resign! 
  2. Never resign before an ostensibly forced sequence. Humans are inherently fallible, so there is always a possibility that your calculation is flawed. Therefore, even if your opponent appears to be winning by force, you should play out the sequence or combination in its entirety before resigning. Who knows, maybe you will find an extraordinary defensive resource that your opponent failed to foresee! 
Timman Jan | Image Wikipedia

The next game, played between the fabled Deep Blue Computer and Garry Kasparov during their second match 1997 (Deep Blue prevailed with a crushing 19-move victory in the final game), features another "tactical resignation." Understandably convinced that the silicon fiend had everything worked out, Garry capitulated... 

Even Titans are not immune! Once again, Kasparov's reluctance to test his inhuman opponent is forgivable, but a timely application of the "never resign before a forced sequence" might have changed the result of the match. 

Resignation on impulse is a second relatively common type of premature surrender. It is always difficult to keep a cool head after a tactical blunder, and it is therefore easy to misevaluate the position and overlook defensive resources. In the following game, a strong IM let pure shock dictate his actions. 

To be sure, Black would have still won in nine cases out of ten, but far, far more hopeless positions have been turned around against stronger opponents. 

Finally, take a crack at the following (relatively famous) position. Carlos Torre (1904-1978) was a tremendous chess player, but in this simul game against New York club player Frank Parker, he was steadily outplayed and threw in the towel a few moves before checkmate - or so it would seem. 

Hopefully, you found this article both instructional and light-hearted. As my first coach often told me, "you cannot un-resign!" 



  • 24 months ago


  • 2 years ago


    though I've also lost games , i wound up drawing and winning games by not resigning. fight on and learn... you may draw or even win!

  • 2 years ago


  • 2 years ago


    It all reminds me of those fools who leave the stadium / arena to beat the mad rush of traffic because "it's over" and then in the most furious comebacks of the age, rush to return to the stadium to find themselves closed out of the historic event.  Ray Allen for 3!!  Tennessee Music Miracle, Cardinals over the Rangers, Giant's Win the Pennant.  All these resigners miss their moment in the sun, and those who in here who don't resign but pull out the occasion miracle realize that sometimes the seeds of luck are planted in the garden of Will. 

  • 2 years ago


  • 2 years ago



    My Opponent (White) saw ghosts in winning position!!Laughing

  • 2 years ago


    Experience demonstrates (particularly in correspondence) the under 1000s will not, no matter what, under no circumstances, come hell or high water, ever resign. Prima facie it seems funny; it is not; imagine the patience needed to beat a 945 who plays to the # (14 day controls); cripe, the game takes a whole year. This attitude is so frustrating for the eventual victor that it is easily dismissed as stupidity or stubbornness. To the impartial observer the lesson is clear; these non-chessers play to the end and are not emotional about the outcome. They are learning technique and how one wins the won game. It is something we all did and learned and then forgot how to do, since technique improves as you climb and one presumes to "know" what will happen, and moreover the soon-to-be defeated defeatist employs the false logic that "I'd easily win this game if I were him, so therefore he will." To just quit and start a new game is easy, sure, (don't take it all so seriously, one says, yes of course, great point), although it actually creates a pattern difficult to break. Just rolling over when the going got rough is something I noticed in my games, so I vowed to stop resigning and saw an instant improvement in rating, ranking, self-worth, and I learned how others finish off a game (stylistic techniques vary), and became gratious and humble, which helped me when I won to not be such a weener.  Let go of your ambitious mind, learn the art of loss and in this way you will cultivate the non-fear needed to succeed.

  • 2 years ago


    Why can't you play the game until you are in checkmate?

  • 2 years ago


    Even more importantly, don't deliver mate prematurely.  During a USCF tournament back in the 70s, I made a rook move and announced "mate" to my opponent.  He looked at me with a startled expression and quickly made a safe king move that I had totally missed.  I was so flustered that I blundered and lost a few moves later.

  • 2 years ago


    Kinn72: Kasparov should have played on at any rate. Deep Blue was not as good as Fritz or Houdini.

    Maybe that's the explanation to Kasparov's success; his ability to see into the future...

  • 2 years ago


    The author of this article is 19!

  • 2 years ago


    in a complicated position, never resign. In a simple lost position, i resign. In a complicated lost position, i keep on playing. I keep on wondering how to resign a game officially.....I somtimes offer my hand in resignation, however i don't want my opponents to think i'm offering a draw....of course there is the knock the king over......

  • 2 years ago


    Yeah it's hard not to be discouraged after overlooking something so I tend to play without much enthusiasm when I'm already losing. I also have fun- because when losing, you can do whatever you want! 

  • 2 years ago


    My worst resignation was when I resigned after unexpectedly losing my Q...I was disgusted with myself, so I resigned. When I calmed down and reviewed the game, I realized I had a mate in 1 or 2, I don't remember.

  • 2 years ago



  • 2 years ago


  • 2 years ago


    Kasparov should have played on at any rate. Deep Blue was not as good as Fritz or Houdini.

  • 2 years ago


    Umm @nitsujfortwo qxg5 is good for black. D4 as u suggested is wrong! Qxg2 and now we're threatening your rook + the e4 pawn and now were up a piece + 2 pawns :)

  • 2 years ago


    agreed wuth naruhodo

  • 2 years ago


    While it's been a long time since I last played in a more formal setting, I have to say that I very rarely resign at all unless the game whittles down to an endgame where I have lost all major/minor pieces or where there is no counterplay and the material advantage is clearly overwhelming.  I don't feel this violates the spirit of the game at all, given that winning a "won" game is by definition not difficult to do.  If it is difficult to do, perhaps it's not a won game!

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