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Suppose you win a game in a noncompetitive way, when you know your opponent cannot feel good about his play. Maybe he dropped his queen early, to a simple tactic that should have been evident for a player of his level, for example.

Do you say "Good game" when you shake hands? Or do you say nothing at all?

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    This is not really about chess so much as it is about etiquette. Even when someone plays a good game, I just shake their hand...no words necessary. Oct 4, 2019 at 21:06
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    FWIW I've also heard "thanks for the game", which arguably is more neutral.
    – itub
    Oct 4, 2019 at 21:59
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    Sometimes I shake hands and make a little noise of acknowledgement... itub's suggestion is nice though. Oct 5, 2019 at 5:19
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    Good game is always acceptable. If they are upset because they know that played poorly, it's on them to deal w/ that. In that case, the correct response would also be 'Yes, good game'.
    – greg
    Oct 6, 2019 at 17:22
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    I suggest "good game (just kidding)" (just kidding)
    – xehpuk
    Oct 7, 2019 at 9:28

8 Answers 8

66

Why not just:

Thanks for the game.

You wanted to play a game, and your opponent gave you a game. Played well or not, you could thank him for giving you the opportunity to play.

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    Incidentally, this seems to be the proper etiquette in go/baduk: ny-go.org/go-etiquette
    – emdio
    Oct 5, 2019 at 20:19
  • Because this isn't actually answering the question X-D
    – Chuck
    Oct 7, 2019 at 18:33
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    @Chuck: The answer implicit in my post is that (in my opinion) you shouldn't say "good game" after any game, because "thanks for the game" is much nicer to the opponent when the game was not played well, and one cannot say "good game" only selectively if you are likely to play with that person again, otherwise the distinction would not be nice either. By the way, totally unrelated to this post, a very long time ago I played poorly at some game, and the opponent said "gg" at the end, and I got confused because there are two common meanings of "gg". XD
    – user21820
    Oct 8, 2019 at 3:41
  • I agree that this is more polite but even this could be misconstrued as "Thanks for [giving] me the [win]." If someone wants to be salty, they will find a way.
    – Kyle G
    May 8, 2020 at 17:12
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    @KyleG: Sure. All we can do is to choose the best way to say it, and how the other party interprets it is not up to us anymore. =)
    – user21820
    May 8, 2020 at 17:30
51

In short: Yes. It is a polite way to acknowledge an enjoyable game.

"Good game" isn't the same thing as saying, "well-played game".

Saying "good game" just means you enjoyed playing it. You could have enjoyed it for many reasons. For example, it could mean something as simple as, "thank you for being polite and not stalling or offering draws from badly losing positions", or "not being a d*** when you lost".

It could even mean, "yes, I clearly won, but you kept me on my toes".

"Good game" does not imply that the opponent played well in any way, and is the normal polite way of thanking a person for their time. If the person is rude to you, or obnoxious, then you wouldn't probably feel the desire to say "good game", no matter how well they played.

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    To me, "good game" also seems to imply that one of the reasons for enjoying was the game itself. If I play very badly, I'd rather not hear my opponent saying that they enjoyed it when I played so badly.
    – JiK
    Oct 6, 2019 at 12:07
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    +1 for "thank you for being polite and not stalling or offering draws from badly losing positions or being a d*** in chat". 'Good game' is about acknowledging the player's good sportsmanship, not their ability.
    – Pharap
    Oct 7, 2019 at 6:33
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In general you say something like "Good game until ... That was a shame".

Maybe he dropped his queen early, to a simple tactic that should have been evident for a player of his level, for example

So, in that case "Good game until you dropped your queen. That was a shame because it was a real fight until then". It may be a small white lie but it is less transparent than the standard "Good game" which comes across as formulaic and lacking in sincerity.

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    This approach rubs me the wrong way, almost like the other player is implying that after the mistake, the game was a waste of time. Unless you are offering advice on how to not make the same mistake in the future (and the other player accepts the advice), I'd argue it's better to not mention the mistake at all.
    – Abion47
    Oct 7, 2019 at 19:49
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In Go (which I discovered after Chess, and ... much prefer now, I have to confess), we usually say "Have a good game!" before we start (the meaning being: let's both play a nice game, and enjoy it), and "Thank you for the game" at the end, said by both parties. There can be tons of variants, but there is usually a good attitude from both players before and after the game. If the game was well played on both parts, it's often pointed out by saying something like "This was a really nice game!", as we are both happy we played it (even when one loses, if the game was well played by both, it is a good feeling to have lived it and contributed to it). And often the game is then discussed by replaying key moves of the game and exploring what each could have done better instead of those moves. Being fiercly fighting on the board during the game shouldn't lead you to be rough to your opponent outside of it, so saying "good game" to your opponent for a game where the opponent blundered seems a bit misplaced, even hurtful. Just saying "Thank you for the game" is enough (and hopefully doesn't convey the same feeling. Intonation is key.).

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Whatever you choose to say to your opponent, consider also saying something along the lines of:

Perhaps we should have a rematch sometime?

Which is a polite way of acknowledging that they messed up and offering them a chance to redeem themselves without actually embarassing them by stating that you know they played badly.


Not directly pertinent to your question, but if you do end up having a rematch with them and they make the same mistake again then it may be a good idea to tell them why it's a bad move/strategy in case they aren't aware.

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I try to, but in the case of egregious errors like that, I'll typically slide that into "...at least up until move 15" (or wherever the queen fell). If it's not just dropping the queen to a pawn, like maybe it was a long bishop move for example, I might add something like "Long moves are sometimes hard to see."

We all have those kind of games and we all feel horrible after it. I try to at least say something that might relieve the stress a bit. maybe ask a question about a moment that occurred earlier in the game, if I can come up with one.

To me the important thing is to be encouraging. Sometimes that can be really difficult.

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Personally I always say good game after a game, but I have had opponents storm out upset saying stuff like "you think that was good?" "you lucky...." etc.

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There is no silver bullet / “single size fits all” response - there will be occasions when it’s advisable / etiquette to give different responses (if any) accordingly. I provide a couple of examples to illustrate.

Depends upon opponent. If you’re playing your partners father, say, then yeah say “good game” to keep the peace with the outlaws ;)

If it’s a competition, then “thanks for the game” should suffice if anything -

It also depends upon the game and how you won - if your opponent was up a piece in the lead the the most part of a long drawn out game, but unfortunately blundered - “well played, you almost had me” with an appropriate tone could be in order if your opponent appears to be receptive (eg makes eye contact / smiles whilst shaking head etc). If you totally crushed him/her with the fried liver, foils, ant-fried, or due to early Queen capture, then perhaps don’t say anything (“thanks for game” could even be construed as unintentional sarcasm).

After playing a 6 hr game its polite but to say something - even if it pertains to effort / resilience / close call.

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