Never Resign

Aug 9, 2013, 4:43 AM |

When it comes to Chess, you'll often find yourself in one of two positions: Either you're winning, or you're losing. There is of course the middle ground in which the position is equal, but it is often the case that it is when the position is decidedly advantageous to one side that we are acutely aware of the advantage, and therefore whether we are playing well, or badly.


Examining our attitudes when we are in these situations brings to light just how important psychology is in Chess; when we are playing well, it fills us with confidence, and inspires us to play more. Conversely, when one is playing badly, it causes us to adopt a defeatist attitude. This is best illustrated by the phenomenon of compounding one's mistakes: When a player makes a blunder, if they become immediately aware that they have made a mistake, it is very often the case that they follow up with more blunders that make the opponent's job even easier. Such a thing is a shame, since it is clear that after a blunder, the proper thing for one to do is to attempt to defend as accurately as possible, but it is nevertheless the case that this is much harder than it sounds in practice.


All this said and done, we are all familiar with the common result of this tendency to beat oneself up after a blunder: The resignation. The point at which a player is essentially saying, "I can no longer win, and there's no point in prolonging this agony any longer." It is somewhat interesting that even if one is thinking "I can't win anymore", they too often ignore the possibility that they may still be able to draw.


Yet, resigning is clearly the objectively incorrect response. If you resign, your result will be a loss. If you play on, you may clutch a draw, or even a win if you're lucky enough for your opponent to return the favour with their own blunder. This post shall concern two recent games I played in which featured such positions, in which I found myself in entirely resignable positions, but chose to play on in the hope of finding something more. The first game was played at my local Chess club, in which I played White, and exemplifies one approach to playing in a lost position: If you're already lost, you have no more to lose, so play as aggressively and actively as possible, and try to confuse the issue.


Of course, one cannot always hope to be as lucky as this, and indeed, it is often the case that when one is losing, they are instead struggling to avoid losing for as long as possible, even if it isn't a realistic option. This second game will showcase such a situation, in which I played Black.


So there you have it. Hopefully the games I showcased serve to effectively illustrate the point being made: Do not resign. Do not get into a mindset in which you tell yourself there is no hope. Always try to swindle your opponent, and if you can't get a win, at least hope for a draw somehow. Any number of methods can be used to achieve this, such as a perpetual check or a stalemate.