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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Resigning a Lost Position

This particular topic has been of interest to chess players of all levels for quite some time, and always will be. When should we resign a game? When *we* know it’s lost? When we are sure our *opponent* knows it’s lost? When we are sure even a complete beginner could find the correct continuation? When?

I believe many factors come into the equation, and it isn’t as simple as it may sound. Sure, the game might be technically and completely lost, but there is no guarantee your opponent knows it. I mean, if you outright drop a queen for no compensation, you may want to resign just to save yourself fifteen more frustrating moves. But if you drop a piece on accident and in return receive a couple pawns, you never know. Play it out. Folks on the winning end of a chess game sometimes relax, which is an open window for you to jump right back in the thick of things.

The time control plays a huge role in game-resigning decisions, as well. For instance, in 1-minute chess, literally almost anything can happen so I always recommend playing on no matter what the position. 15-minute games are a little more difficult to win in a lost position, but it’s really just glorified blitz and so of course possible. Now, a grueling six-hour match in a real tournament situation is a whole different ball game. In almost all instances, the time remaining in the game and the strength of your opponent should be taken into consideration. If you are really low on time *and* losing on the board, maybe it’s time to wave the white flag. But if your opponent has a huge advantage but only a few minutes on the clock, maybe stick it out.

I have heard it said that playing on in certain lost positions is “insulting” to the other player. It is? Why? Both players agreed at the outset of the chess game that the thing could last a given amount of minutes, and so for one player to use those minutes thinking, even in a lost position, is perfectly acceptable. I don’t care if one player is 2000+ and the opponent is a 1300s player, if both sides are relatively equal or if both players are completely unrated: If the game is a fifteen-minute battle, then both players agreed at the start that the game could take very near a half-hour to complete, no matter what positions are or are not on the board. It is perfectly within each player’s rights to keep playing no matter what. Period.

A lion cannot simply bite the hind legs of its prey and then expect it to give up because “things aren’t looking so good”. No, if the animal keeps running then the lion is forced to give further chase and *prove* to the other beast that it is superior in that setting. Why would it be different on the chess board? Simply because your opponent has taken a bite out of you does not, by any stretch of the imagination, mean that he or she will accurately move in for the kill. Stay in the game. You may still end up in the lion’s stomach, but you may as well make him really hungry before you do so.

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