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What is a proper moment to resign a game?

  • GM Gserper
  • | 4 feb. 2013
  • | 26240 x bekeken
  • | 135 reacties

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.


  • 7 uur geleden



    If you go to a restaurant and buy something for 19.95, do you tip the waitress?  You are completely in your rights not to.  If you didn't would you be a jerk?

    This is more in line with the resigning discussion, because the accepted convention is to be considerate and resign when you have nearly no chance to hold the game, in the same way accepted convention is to tip at a restaurant (or hold out your hand for your nickel).

  • 22 uur geleden


    Spektrowski, I agree there are situations where using vacation is the action of a jerk.  

  • 26 uur geleden



    Now imagine that the cashier, instead of giving you your 5 cents back immediately, closes their cash register, goes for a lunch, and only then, upon returning, gives you 5 cents (if you did wait that hour out of principle). Do their actions qualify them as a jerk?

  • 48 uur geleden


    If it takes a vote chess team weeks to play the last 15 or so moves, then it also took the same team weeks to play the first 15 or so moves.  The team which has not yet been beaten (no checkmate & not timed out) has as much right to continue playing as their better opponent.  When I buy something for $19.95 with a $20 bill I am not being a jerk by enforcing my right to receive back my 5 cents.  When I enforce my right to continue playing until the game (any kind of game) is officially over I am not being a jerk.  

  • 2 dagen geleden



  • 3 dagen geleden


    I am in the middle of a team vote match.  We are up by a R and a P and our opponents have no counterplay.  I realize they have the right to play to a mate, but it will take us weeks to play the 15 or so moves that it will require us to queen a pawn and mate them.

    Is there a point where exercizing your "right" to play as long as possible is just being a jerk?

  • 3 dagen geleden


    Personally, I will resign as soon as I think the situation is PROBABLY lost.  That doesn't mean there's no chance of a late blunder by my opponent, but that it's very unlikely.  By resigning, I respectfully acknowledge that I have been bested by my opponent. Does that mean there's the odd draw or win that I miss out on?  Maybe... but that's not the point.  I like the resign option because... and this is going to sound very "Klingon" to Star Trek fans... I feel like it's a more honorable way to lose.

    HOWEVER, I don't have the same expectation of other players (they may not like Star Trek, after all).  If I am beating someone and they wish to continue... all the way to mate... so be it.  If they wish to drag out the misery of being beaten in the hope I will make some late blunder, I'll take the opportunity to enjoy finishing them off.  If they wish to resign early like I normally do, equally good.

    I play chess because I love playing chess, so it doesn't matter to me whether my opponent wants to play it out or throw in the towel. 

  • 11 maanden geleden


    I normally try swindles

  • 13 maanden geleden


    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 maanden geleden


    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 maanden geleden


    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 maanden geleden


    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 maanden geleden


    "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 maanden geleden


    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 maanden geleden


    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 maanden geleden


    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 maanden geleden


    hope you won. thats the important thing ! lol

  • 17 maanden geleden


    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.

  • 18 maanden geleden


    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.

  • 18 maanden geleden


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

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