Why do Chess players resign? And should you resign before checkmate? This article explains why, when, and when not to resign in chess.
“The player frantically searches for a defending move that could be used as his last resort, but to no avail. With the time closing in on him too, he realises that not much can be done now. With a final sigh, he extends his hand in resignation”
Many games that end with a decisive result finish pretty much like the above mentioned scenario. When you observe games of professionals and elite players, there are very few that actually conclude with a checkmate.
Resigning in Chess is a widely accepted norm and is in fact also seen as a sign of good etiquette. It acknowledges the fact that your opponent has played really well and has reached a very strong position.
But have you ever wondered – how does one decide that it is time to resign and throw in the towel? If yes, does this apply only to grandmasters’ games?
And most importantly – as a beginner, should you resign in Chess at all or continue playing?
Continue reading below to find out.
How to decide whether you should resign in Chess?
Facing a loss in any game is surely upsetting. In Chess however, you have the option of resigning before facing an actual defeat on the board. Even though this choice exists, you should think very carefully before opting for it.
The following are certain things you must consider before resigning –
1. Make sure you have exhausted all possibilities of counter-attacking or defending
As the famous quote says, “It isn’t over until it’s over”, you too must check all possible ways in which you can fight back or resist your opponent’s attack.
Sometimes, we assume that the position is already lost and give up mentally. However, if we dig slightly deeper, we may find ways to hold our own for a bit longer. Let’s learn via this example:
This position is from the famous game between GM Viswanathan Anand and GM Garry Kasparov. As you can observe, Black has a very strong advantage in this position and is very close to winning. However, GM Anand held his own and kept defending to the best of his ability. And guess what happened? GM Kasparov blundered in the above position by playing 33…Qe3. White simply continued with 34. Qg4! and went on to win the game.
So you see, even the greatest of players can make a mistake. That is why you should not resign unless you have exhausted all the possibilities for defense. You must be aware of the resources available at your hand and make the best use of them. And who knows, you might manage to turn around the game too!
2. Time is a crucial factor
Out of all the external elements of the game (basically those that don’t actually happen on the board), the time on your clock is probably the most important. Professional players truly know the value of every single second on the clock, especially when they are under time pressure.
While contemplating your decision on whether or not to resign, you should most definitely consider the time factor. If your opponent has a great position but very little time on the clock, there are high chances that he or she might commit a blunder or face difficulties to convert the advantage into a win.
This is because being under time pressure is like a test of your nerves. And not everyone can effectively manage this stress. Sometimes, even the best of players stumble in this area.
Look at this complicated position from the game between GM Anand and GM Topalov. In such positions, where it is unclear who has a clear advantage, having a shortage of time on the clock can create an additional pressure. Here White, even though lacking a queen, is in no way inferior to Black. In fact, you would be surprised to know that this game ended in a draw.
As famously said by former World Champion Emanuel Lasker, “The hardest game to win is a won game.” – and all chess players will testify to the fact that converting an advantageous position into an actual win is really hard. And when you add less time on the clock to this mix, it gets even tougher.
Hence, you should not resign if your opponent has very little time left on the clock.
3. Format of the game
Closely associated with the above time-related element is the format of the game. The three main formats of the game – blitz, rapid or classical – should be kept in mind before making a decision.
In my opinion, you should never resign in a blitz game. The format itself is designed to make it a fast-paced game. With limited time on the clock since the beginning, players play under time pressure throughout! By the time you reach crucial junctures, you only have a few minutes or sometimes even a few seconds on clock. In such cases, the chances of committing an error are pretty high.
Take this position for example. Complicated endgames like these require precise play from both sides. Especially when there are situations with only 1 winning move but plenty drawing or even losing moves. Now imagine if such a delicate position arises in the blitz game. It is easy for your opponent to go wrong, right? This is exactly why you should fight till the end.
When it comes to the rapid format, I would say that it really depends on the position and time that is left. As the pace of this game is neither too slow nor too fast, it is difficult to assess how much time might remain. But more often than not, I’d still suggest to not resign in rapid games. The reason is similar to that of the blitz format.
Classical games are slow in nature and progress gradually. In such games, if you make a terrible blunder, especially during the early part of the game, it is pretty difficult to recover from that. If you find a fighting chance then definitely go for it. However, if you check all possibilities and find nothing, then it is okay to resign in classical games.
4. Level of your opponent
When you make a mistake or a blunder in the game, your opponent must be skilled enough to spot it. Similarly, having an advantageous position is one thing, but to be able to convert it into a win requires skill.
Have a look at this game between GM Grandelius and GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. At first glance, it might appear that White has a clear advantage. With the king in the centre, queen on the side of the board and a bishop stuck on e7, Black’s position looks pretty bad, right? But the positions that often look completely hopeless, aren’t all that bad always. If your opponent is inexperienced, then handling this position from White won’t be a very easy task. In games like these, fighting back should be the only option you consider.
If your opponent is a beginner in chess then he or she is very likely to stumble during this process. In such cases, you must definitely not resign and make good moves to stabilize the position as much as possible. Chances are that your efforts will be rewarded and you will at least draw the game.
However, if your opponent is a professional chess player with tons of experience, then it is very likely that he or she knows the way around. In such situations, you should put up a fight for sure but if the time comes when there are no resources remaining at your disposal, it is okay to resign.
What if you check all the above aspects but still don’t find a good defense?
Sometimes no matter how much you try, you can’t escape from the claws of defeat. Maybe your opponent played too well or perhaps you misplayed the position; no matter what the reason, wins and losses are a part of the game.
If you find yourself in such a situation where there is absolutely no chance left for you to make a comeback, you should graciously resign. Even though you may be upset, you should calmly stop the clock and extend your hand in resignation. This is one of the most respectable ways to accept defeat and acknowledge your opponent’s victory.
Chess is a rare game that has the option of resigning when you can foresee defeat coming your way. However, this option must be used sparingly.
Renowned GM John Nunn had once said, “Don’t resign unless you are really sure the position is hopeless.” This holds true even today.
More often than not, there is always a fighting chance available at hand. You must carefully assess the position before making this decision. Only after you thoroughly check everything, should you resign in chess.