Why Do Chess Players Resign? Know when it is ok til give up


Chess handshake

A resignation is an integral part of competitive chess that has been used for ages, there are many reasons why it is present in the ranks of the elite. If you are new to competitive chess you might question why a resignation always keeps on happening instead of a checkmate, and this might feel weird.

After all, the main objective of the game is to try and capture the opponent’s king yet the most prestigious competitions do not even feature a checkmate 98% of the time. There are very good reasons for this which has to do with the word “competitive”, keep on reading if you are interested.

Chess players resign in order to show their professionalism

When somebody gets to the professional level there is a certain degree of “class” that a competitor needs to uphold, it is basically pride. This also applies to a competition like chess, when someone has reached the professional level they are unlikely to play in a losing position.

These titled players have pride, they usually understand when the position is hopeless and would rather not get embarrassed making pointless moves. Resignation is a sign of respect for the player’s time and their opponent’s, most of the time it does nothing since they are playing on a higher level.

Playing on might work in lower-rated games but it is likely going to be pointless in elite games since the competitor can convert the advantage, it is not by the same standard. Do not get me wrong, there might be cases where the game could be overturned, but the probability is so low that chess players would rather rest.

Also most chess professionals would rather resign than to allow a checkmate, there is nothing more shameful than allowing a checkmate on the board (not always). Titled players usually get embarrassed simce is a sign that the player may have not considered the forced mate in “x” number of moves, which leaves a question mark in their abilities.

If we are talking about professional chess, most players resign as an act of sportsmanship in order to show that they have calculated everything to the end. If there is a forced mate in 4 it is rightful for a professional to resign, allowing it to play on will make it seem that they have missed the variation.

Chess players resign in order to detach themselves from the loss

This is something that is big in an individual computation such as chess, the accountability in each of the losses are usually magnified. You know this if you have spent any time playing the game, whenever you win it feels awesome, but whenever you lose it feels absolutely terrible.

This is because unlike other team sports you cannot blame anybody, if you win then all the glory will be on you since you don’t have any teammates. If you lose however then all of the fault will be on you since you cannot blame anybody either, this means that losing will kill your momentum.

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In a chess tournament where every individual point counts, competitors are not willing to hamper their own momentum, they just want to move on to the next game without any emotional attachment. Resigning is a good way to do this since it gets the player out of the losing position as quickly as possible, this way competitors can move on quickly.

Psychologically speaking there is a toll for the players whenever they have lost a game or two, it will usually have a lasting impact on their future tournament result. Resigning early before a checkmate is realized is one way to cope with this, it normalizes the loss and allows the players to move on quickly.

Chess players resign in order to mess up their opponent’s momentum

If you only think that it is only to prevent any loss of a player’s momentum then you are wrong, resigning is also a way to mess up with your opponent’s own momentum. By allowing a checkmate or a winning sequence of the moves someone is likely to get the confidence that can transfer to the next games, this is pretty bad for the player.

In any kind of competition there is something called momentum, it is the pace by which things are easier accomplished by a particular side (momentum is usually gained from previous accomplishments). Chess players don’t want to allow their competitors to get hold of the momentum since it can make the tournament difficult, resigning early is a good way to kill someone’s momentum.

Again a single point is all that it needs to knock a player out of the competition, players do not want to give their opponent a free momentum so they just resign early. I think that you have experienced this yourself, when you are winning a lot you are likely to win a lot more games in the future, this is catastrophic in a tournament.

Resigning early without allowing the position to matute is one of the best ways to kill someone’s momentum, it will prevent them from getting confident later on. It is like beating a baby tiger while it is still weak, you have to start now since the tiger (confidence) can go bigger beyond your strength if left unchecked.

Chess players resign in order to preserve energy

There is also another key importance in resigning early and not allowing the opponent to deliver the winning blow, primarily it is used as a form of self-preservation so that the player’s energy is maintained. Chess tournaments require chess players to continuously perform at their best for consecutive hours; professionals don’t want to spend their precious energy defending a position that they know is losing.

There are many stories of chess players losing significant amounts of weight from continuously playing in stressful chess tournaments, this gives you an idea how self preservation is important. You might think that most chess tournaments are not that intimidating, when in fact most are going to test your mental and physical limit.

Chess is not only a competition where someone’s mental capability is being put into the test, the drawback can also appear on one’s physical features. Using your brain burns body fat after all, and constant exposure to a stressful environment can have long lasting effects on an individual’s physique.

Most chess tournaments are life draining for the players, the amount of stakes can be the difference between night and day to a chess player’s career (since most of them are financially broke). The margin to error is pretty slim, plus losing games fill competitors with an indescribable amount of grief.

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Some can even win tournaments just because they are the one with the most endurance, this is despite the fact that they might not be the best player in the event. Now you can see why resignation is pretty important, it allows the player to rest and prepare for the next game with a healthy mind.

Professional chess players resign when they understand that the position is losing

Another reason why some chess players resign early (which some may find dishonorable) is to respect the skill of their opponent, after all when strong players compete there are certain positions where the result is understood. Some beginners might think that a position is still tenable, but some experts may have a different opinion and can warrant the resignation.

Being down a whole knight for example is a major disadvantage that a lot of chess professionals would consider resigning, some beginners however think it can still be fought. This might be true if we’re talking about lower rated chess tournaments, but in elite tournaments with the best in the world participating this is simply no good.

Even if the player in question is the world champion magnus carlsen, he would still consider resigning since the disadvantage is just too much to be bearable. Sometimes it can be conspicuous, maybe the material is completely equal but the position (in its entirety) is completely lost.

This can also warrant a resignation since chess experts can determine if they are going to lose a game, there is no point in playing on a game that will be lost 95% of the time. Some players would rather move on emotionally to the next game in order to prepare, there is a certain level of respect for each other at the professional level.

Professional chess players resign since they are confident that their opponent can convert

A reason for this phenomenon of chess masters resigning early without even giving a fight comes from fighting a significantly stronger opponent, if you are competing against a strong competitor you would not think that they will mess up. Of course even strong players make mistakes, however, there are certain disadvantages the professionals feel warranted to give up.

If you are playing against a lower rated player who makes significant mistakes every now and then, you wouldn’t feel committed to resign. However if you have been facing someone who consistently chooses the best moves since the opening then being down two pawns is pretty depressing, the result is expected.

Now does this mean that the position will be lost every single time? Of course not, but the disadvantage is enough to make you think that the position will be losing 95% of the time. This is a phenomenon that happens in elite chess, some players expect that their opponent can convert a win if given enough advantage.

Some might think that this reasoning is of a weak mindset, but it is because you have never played in the ranks of the elites, where mistakes are rare and blunders are even rarer. Some just don’t want to play if given enough threshold, they would rather resign and rest their mind than continually try to hold a position that they know is losing.

Chess players resign since they are not looking to entertain the viewers

Unlike with casual games, most chess players really only care about the result when they are playing in a tournament. If they cannot see a way to hold the position they would rather resign than to allow a checkmate, after all chess professionals are not looking to entertain the viewers looking at the games.

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There are many games such as basketball where competitors are still trying to get as close to the deficit in order to entertain their fans, just to show that they can fight. This is not the same with chess, it doesn’t really matter how you lose, what people look for is the one recorded on the score sheet.

Once a player loses the game it is the only result that matters, it doesn’t matter how close the game went since people won’t appreciate it. This is because beginners usually don’t appreciate positional games where not a lot of things occur over the board, even if it is a close game with a lot of fighting positions.

There is no reason to put up a fight against a losing position if nobody is even going to appreciate it, it is best to swallow the pride and let the other games continue. Additionally a board game such as chess doesn’t have as large a viewership as with basketball, players are not really that affected by their viewer’s opinions and one would rather do things their way.

Chess players resign because checkmates are not as valued in chess competitions

This is something that is discussed a lot by people who are new to competitive chess, why are the players not allowing a checkmate over the board? Is checkmate not the point of chess? This is usually asked by people who have only been playing casually so a checkmate is a regular sight, and it is understandable.

The reason why chess masters resign without even allowing a checkmate is that checkmates are not even valued in prestigious tournaments, most competitors are not concerned about the actual act of having a checkmate. Casual players think that this is bad for the game since checkmate is an important event in their own games, master games are different however, with checkmates being heavily desensitized.

In competitive chess players do not really value a checkmate, as again it doesn’t matter how you win the game as long as you are able to win it. Almost nobody appreciates the checkmate in practical circumstances, which is why players would rather move on since people will treat them all the same.

The only reason why some people even bring this up is because it is rare, when a chess player allows a checkmate people usually only respect his/her choice of the fact that it is rare. If checkmate is more common than I doubt that a lot of people will even value such an event, they will still just look at the score sheet and see who had won the game.

It is understandable why some would just rather resign and not fight back, this makes checkmate a less important aspect of competitive chess.

There are many reasons why chess players would rather resign without even fighting back, the biggest would be self preservation and professionality.  Competitive chess is an event where players are only looking for a win, usually without a care for the audience.

Resigning early in some lost games is a good strategy in order to do well in the long run, organizers shouldn’t take away this privilege since it will mess up the results. Many reasons have been listed and they are all good reasons, thank you for reading.

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