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


    Thanks for the nice article & the fantastic puzzle !

  • 4 years ago


    Resign and hug it out.

    simple and affective.

  • 4 years ago


    ok my rating is quite low but i think if you are in  clearly losing position and wish to play more games that day then resign as chess dose tire you out mentally no point wasting energy on a totally hopless position!!

  • 4 years ago


    Never resign before move 40.  

    For players like me (currently 1690) all positions in all chess games offer lessons in defense and offense.  My profile contains the warning that I never resign.  If never resigning seems too harsh, try using "Never resign before move 40" as a rule.    

  • 4 years ago


    i ask myself could i beat Carlsen in this position, if the answer is yes , then my opponent really should resign.Laughing

  • 4 years ago


    I think the proper moment to resign is when you realize you have no chance to give checkmate to your opponent, and there is no hope for a draw.

  • 4 years ago


    when i feel about to loss

    i wish if he have connection out LOL

  • 4 years ago


    You could have some fun and mate with castling if your opponent refuses to resign.

  • 4 years ago


    I think that in day to day life, as well as at chess,

    one should not take major decisions witout consult with his superiors,

    if its his boss or his grandmother..

  • 4 years ago


    great subject matter

    just to addfor those who comared chess with other sports and why we should not resign since no one resigns in football or tennis !

    Well, I have to bring out the obvious about any sport where in basketball if you are down 30+ points you send all your bench players to the court, in football if you are down 3 touchdowns, in last minute you just run the clock down, in soccer is the same as basketball, and many other sports

    You can not resign in professional Tennis since people pay top dollar to watch at least 3 sets.

    I am all with resign when you feel there is no way out

    do not waste your opponent time

  • 4 years ago


    Do the apologists really think there is any excuse for forcing your opponent to play out (for instance) a K+R v K endgame? Especially in Correspondence Chess, where the inevitable victor has to keep logging in daily to play out a completely won position. One has to question the beaten player's motives there.

  • 4 years ago


    This question: "What is the proper moment to resign a game?" will give a lot of answers. This is the reason why I hate to study masters' games (without any commentaries of course) who resigned in the middlegame or early in the endgame.  Because I cannot figure out how masters convert that certain advantage to a win... (poor me) So, I beg all of you masters DON'T RESIGN in the middle game or in the middle of the endgame for the sake of all those who love to learn high level chess. (But of course, you can resign if it is already a losing position where even a class C players understand that no matter what you do, you are done.Cool I appreciate GM Serper that he didn't resign for the sake of the spectators! Bravo!!!

  • 4 years ago


    The beautiful of simple and impossible.  Thank You GM Gserper.

  • 4 years ago

    NM iFrancisco


    The difference is that chess is an extremely unforgiving game at high levels. In tennis you can afford to have unforced errors (so at most, one point loss on the worst error possible), or in football you could have turnovers and still win (at most, the other team scores a touchdown off your turnover). In chess, a serious error (hanging your queen) ends essentially any chance you have to win the game against a competent opponent.

    You cannot affect how your opponent plays (as you can in tennis or football), which is why it is so different. You can play perfect "god-like" moves after you are, for example, down a rook with no compensation against a GM and will likely never win in your lifetime.

    Regardless, I can understand your viewpoint from the POV of a lower rated player; however, that viewpoint is very rare at higher levels and really comes off as rude to many. In the end though, you are free to do whatever you want within the rules of the game, but don't be surprised if players screw around with you (promoting all their pieces to bishop or knights) to waste your time for wasting theirs.

  • 4 years ago


    All these people talking about "chess etiquette" ... What RUBBISH! Do tennis players give up and stop playing just because they are losing? Do football teams give up just because it seems all hope has gone?


    Whether you resign or not is completely down to your personality and mood at the time of playing.


    I will generally fight to the finish unless I have other urgent matters to attend. 

  • 4 years ago


    Thanks for the article and the great puzzle in the last game. I pretty-much agree with the philosophy. If I'm down a minor piece and I don't have a good position to compensate for it, I'm not going to prolong the agony hoping for a blunder on my opponent's part. OTOH if someone on the other side wants to put himself through that agony I'm quite willing to keep tightening the noose until checkmate.

    I don't get upset about these things.

  • 4 years ago

    NM iFrancisco

    You choose to resign based on how good you are and how good your opponent is. For example, I wouldn't resign down a rook to a beginner, but it was be ridiculous to not resign down a rook to another master.

    There have been a few correspondence games here where I have had to show my opponent that I can win up a piece+ with no compensation. It's so silly, and, in all honesty, a waste of time for both of us. It probably has to do with not all players here play OTB and are not aware of some more common "chess etiquettes." 

  • 4 years ago


    I'm 1600-1700 OTB player, and I love it when my oppoenents don't resign. There's nothing better than basking in an easy to win position...


    But I guess this depends on how much OTB chess you play. I only play about 10-20 rated matches a year, so I can see how someone who plays 40-50 matches may have a different opinion.

  • 4 years ago


    Resigning in a clearly lost position is simply being considerate to your opponent.  I believe it's the anonymity of the internet that causes people to not be considerate.  I cannot recall a single time, in over 30 years of OTB play, where my opponent forced me to mate him when I was more than a Q up, had lots of time, and he had no counterplay (for instance, was down to just his K).

    But it's a lot harder to be inconsiderate to a person who's sitting right across from you.

    I find it ironic when someone refuses to resign, and I'll refuse to mate them (just moving my K around the board and advancing a pawn every 50 moves) and THEY get angry and accuse me of being rude.  They get to exercise the letter of the rules, but their opponent can't, I guess.

  • 4 years ago


    I am a relative beginner at chess, only a couple hundred online games played and virtually no OTB. I've been tempted to resign a game where I saw my opponent could easily mate me in 2 or 3 but they DIDN't see it themselves and I in fact ended up winning... so, the advice above, that beginners should hang on, is probably very good advice. It also gives a beginner a chance to learn how to force a draw if you really have a losing position.

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