What is a proper moment to resign a game?

  • GM Gserper
  • | Feb 4, 2013

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.


  • 4 years ago


  • 4 years ago


    Do not resign before playing move 40.  

    My advice is to never resign, but if that seems too harsh try "never resign before playing move 40."  Or, don't resign if the game could still hold a lesson useful in a future game.  (Learning something new is a partial win.)

  • 4 years ago


    You resign when they play d4.

  • 4 years ago


    Also when playing a timed game it is good to check the time, and if you are losing, and both you and your opponent's time left is low, then you should play on and frustrate your opponent who will shed time away as he looks for a way to checkmate you. 

  • 4 years ago


    I resign when, if the board were turned around, I'm certrain that there is no way I could loose.  Exceptions are time trouble, and those rare occasions when I feel the need to force my opponent to prove the win.

  • 4 years ago


    cool Sealed

  • 4 years ago


    As you say....I'm a beginner so I play until checkmate and rarely resign. That's how I learn. Thanks for the information! Cool

  • 4 years ago


    thanks for the article

  • 4 years ago


    Resigning in a game of Chess is basically a SURRENDER as in war!

    Hence even if YOU have a slight hope of a WIN or WIN on time; a DRAW or a STALEMATE; keep playing!  In saying this; in a hopeless situation; it is better to resign; and start a new game with your newly gained experience!

    A winner has to WIN the game; ie: force a check mate to really win the game; hence let him prove it.  Just having material advantage does not mean he has won the game!  There are a zillion games where people have won or forced statemate with tactics; in a less materially advantageous position.

    If a 15 minute game is played and your opponent is not allowing you to use your 15 minutes to think; then he should not be playing a 15 minute game in the first place!  He should play a one minute game; if he wants quick results.

  • 4 years ago


    As a general rule I don't like to resign until the fat lady has sung. There have been games in which I probably should have resigned, but hung on and actually pulled out a win. Your opponent can make fatal mistakes.

    In absolutely horrible positions in which there is no hope, resigning is the best thing to do for many reasons:

    1) Your time is better spent on games with a higher likelihood of winning

    2) Respect for you, your opponent, and the game itself

    3) Playing with a large material/position disadvantage is highly frustrating, and doesn't usually advance the player's ability

  • 4 years ago


    Interesting article. I have heard this discussion before, and I like GM Serper's answer of 'It depends!'. So true! Is it poor sportsmanship not to resign a lost position? Well...define lost position! :D A lost position in a master game may not be a lost position in the hands of us less skilled players. I will play on in lost positions if I have reason to believe my opponent could blow the win; once it becomes clear that they won't, resignation enters as hope departs. There are those who play on with foolish optimism, some play on out of spite, and some play on due to ignorance. I appreciate that GM Serper did not take the 'Always resign when you are lost' position, because as he said, "It depends". If my opponent doesn't resign a lost position, it only means to me that I have not won yet. I resign when I have no hope to draw or win, and that hope is based for the most part on what I have seen of my foes' ability.

  • 4 years ago


    I feel the same way about complementing my opponent's hard work, nevertheless the time to resign is different in so many situations. Of course it will be different between GMs or coach/student relationships. begginer or advanced, and especially if it is a timed game or not. I have been in totally winning positions in the live chess room and almost ALWAYS lose on time by just a few seconds.

    Sometimes, like the author says, it is for the benefit of the viewers. Sometimes you might just be mad and do it as an insult to the person you are playing, hopefully in higher level play GMs would be more proffessional, but some GMs are excentric and it makes a good channel nine news to see some guy throwing a board accross the room.

    I almost always ask my opponent if they will be offended or not if I play it out, as a way of practicing my endgame calculating skills. It also trains my eyes to visualize the board better. And with my students, I hold on as a courtesy so they can have the "thrill" of shouting "CHECKMATE!!!"

  • 4 years ago


    When checkmate will happen in the next two moves, I like to oblige my opponent and let them mate me. This would be my preference as the winning player. Would others rather win by forfeit? Am I all wrong?

  • 4 years ago


    yes i had a game once where i had 4 pawns and a king against a king with no possibility of a stalemate. most   players would have resigned but not this one. so i promoted all 4 pawns to knights. the joke was it  took  me quite a long time to win lol.

  • 4 years ago


    Another awesome artical GM Gserper. Thanks Smile

  • 4 years ago


    I like to have fun with underpromotions and all with players who refuse to resign in absolutely hopeless positions.

  • 4 years ago


    The first game of [url=http://www.chess.com/forum/view/game-showcase/quartet-of-games]another thread[/url] rewarded a player a queen and rook down.  The game never made the transition from a lost game to a dead lost game and Black wasn't alert when he had to be.

  • 4 years ago


    Question for the crowd: Would you consider it impolite to resign if you see that your opponent has a pretty-looking forced mate? This came up in an OTB game I had last year, where I had calculated a really cool mate in 8, and was quite happy that my opponent didn't resign and let me demonstrate the awesome forced mate on the board. Thoughts?

  • 4 years ago


    I won't resign a lost position in a blitz match if I have a good chance at winning on time. Part of the strategy in blitz is to make your opponent spend more time thinking, and this can still be done in losing positions.


    If it is hopeless and I have no counterplay, and I'm just going through the motions (but mate is a long time away) I will resign if my opponent's path to victory looks obvious and forced.

  • 4 years ago


    be a gentlman and resign when you are cooked

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