Is there a method to determine whether or not a player should continue playing, or resign?

I would currently consider myself a beginner at chess. So when for example I make a bad decision and lose a lot of material early, I will be naturally deflated from the loss and be tempted to resign.

  • I don't know if there is a formal method. I keep playing until I know my opponent will win: if I think there's a chance I can get a stalemate (or if they are in time trouble), I will play it out to the bitter end; if they've proven they understand the theory, and it's obviously going to be a win, I'll resign. (Often I will play three or so moves after I would normally resign, just to verify they aren't going to blunder.) The exception is a lichess tournament, where I'll resign earlier, just to let them get in more games for tournament points.
    – Ghotir
    Apr 11 '17 at 14:07
  • A good answer in itself. Now that I've asked the question, I'm beginning to understand that it's not a simple answer, and there are many variables involved! I guess for me specifically as a beginner playing a casual opponent, it is very different to the decisions made as a higher level player in a tournament. Apr 11 '17 at 22:17
  • Yes you're right I didn't see this. Basically the same question, but I guess with different answers, all useful in their own way :-) Apr 12 '17 at 20:39

It depends on your level. At the beginner level, most people recommend not resigning and instead playing until there is either checkmate or a stalemate. If you're a beginner playing against other beginners, blunders are so common that even being a queen behind doesn't guarantee losing.

Once you get past the beginner level, an easy way is to ask yourself if you know how you would force a win if you had the other side's pieces. If you do, then you would consider resigning.

  • Agree with the blunder bit. I'd only add that as a beginner, if you are so far behind that it is not fun... go ahead and resign (then start a new game). The other benefit of a resignation - it lets you mentally refresh so you can focus on your next game.
    – Paul
    Apr 11 '17 at 15:36
  • 1
    Great answer. I can see as a beginner (maybe an enthusiastic beginner looking to improve), it's very important to continue regardless to sponge the experience and info you get when continuing with the game. Otherwise, how will you ever experience this part of the game if you simply resign. Apr 11 '17 at 22:22

I don't think there is a universal method to determine whether you should resign. Many factors could affect your decision

First of all, if you are just playing a practice match for fun, you might want to resign earlier (assuming you have a lost position) instead of fighting till the bitter end. On the other hand, for a beginner player you can learn how to convert an advantage if you do not resign.

In a tournament however the situation is different and even if you have a theoretically lost position you might not want to resign immediately for any of the following reasons:

  • if your opponent is short on time
  • if the position is sufficiently rich (complicated with e.g. many pieces on the board); giving you swindle chances and your opponent options to screw up
  • if you think that your opponent is too weak to reliably convert his advantage in a normal position (playing a beginner you might still want to continue with a queen down or so, while playing a GM in most cases they will squeeze out a win if you are down say two pawns or so)
  • if you are playing in a team and your loss would help your opponents to adapt their strategy: for example, knowing that they have a point for sure on your board they could go for draws on other boards in some situations

Whatever you do avoid playing out until the end, completely lost/easily won positions against reasonably strong opponents.

  • Great answer. As you point out here, there are so many factors involved for different situations. I guess for me personally, I was asking the question from the perspective of a casual/beginner player who is looking to improve. But totally different reasoning is required in other situations. Apr 11 '17 at 22:28

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