Is it unsportsmanlike to underpromote a pawn to improve my chances? Sometimes I reach a won endgame where underpromoting my pawn will result in a slower but easier final checkmate.

Old example, easiest to understand: I was far better practiced at K-R vs K than K-Q vs K so I promoted a lone pawn to a rook. Improvising K-Q vs K would have had too high of stalemate chance for my taste.

Recent example: I deliberately underpromoted a pawn to a rook rather than a queen while having a queen. This makes mate in 9 moves worst case rather than 8 and again reduces the accidental stalemate odds dramatically.

I barely care about my opponent not resigning when he should. Primary reason: I once played out a losing game, sacrificing my last piece to push the ending int B-N endgame. My opponent said I should resign as he had a book endgame. I said, "Yes, but I don't think you can do it." Fifty move rule got him: B-N is tight and he was out of practice.

  • No, it is not unsportsmanlike.
    – Cleveland
    Jul 1, 2018 at 20:35
  • "I barely care about my opponent not resigning when he should" -- if you really don't care you would not mention it at all. Now you sound like a TV drama character, "I don't care you don't love me anymore!" (tear droppin' =)
    – lenik
    Jul 2, 2018 at 10:19
  • 3
    @lenik: Some people would call failure to resign a lost cause unsportsmanlike and I wanted to discourage answers depending on it.
    – Joshua
    Jul 2, 2018 at 14:05
  • hahaha love the ending. But in the time you came here to write this you could easily have learned the KQ vs K ending. You shouldn't be too afraid of stalemates, and put your time on learning properly the basic endings. That will save you a lot of points since you will be able to mate faster, avoiding losses/draws on time, and with practice it should be fairly easy to avoid stalemates. For example, in KQ vs K you can always mate in 10 or less moves, in KR vs K you can always mate in 17 or less moves. That could be the difference between winning and losing. Jul 12, 2018 at 22:21
  • @IvanLerner: I said old example. It does not represent my current skill level.
    – Joshua
    Jul 12, 2018 at 23:29

3 Answers 3


If, as you say, you are "improving your chances", then it's not unsportsmanlike. Even if your opponent misunderstands, he doesn't really have much to complain about - if he doesn't want to play on he is free to resign.

I barely care about my opponent not resigning when he should.

Good, because demanding that your opponent resign IS unsportsmanlike.


It's ok, top players do it too. But be prepared to face the consequence when the underpromotion doesn't work out.


(Move 77... f1=N by Nakamura)

  • 1
    Nice blunder that one.
    – Joshua
    Jul 2, 2018 at 14:03
  • 1
    Hah, I saw that one live. Incredible. Jul 5, 2018 at 13:42

Here's a game with pawn promotion to a Knight for checkmate. Nothing unsportsmanlike when one plays to win as far as I am concerned.

Zvonimir Mestrovic vs Svetozar Gligoric


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.