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Recently I played a blitz game (5m+5s) with an opponent with rating 1500+. I had a clearly losing endgame (K vs KQ). My opponent was not under any time pressure but he made a blunder and the game ended as a stalemate.

I know this does not happen every day; it is extremely rare that I can draw a clearly losing game, but it may happen say once out of 100 games. If I resign whenever I feel hopeless, my record for these games will be 100 losses; on the other hand, if I keep playing, it could be 1 draw and 99 losses. So my overall record will be slightly better if I never resign; instead, I keep playing until I am checkmated or rarely, the game ends as a draw.

So continuing to play in a clearly losing game seems a reasonable strategy. But it is considered as bad etiquette not to resign when the game is clearly hopeless?

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    In blitz or shorter what you're doing is definitely fine (as long as you're not moving slower with the sole intention of being malicious by prolonging the game). – Inertial Ignorance Jun 12 '20 at 2:54
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    Not strictly speaking chess, but I personally enjoy finalizing the win, and prefer the loser to not resign. – Evorlor Jun 12 '20 at 16:22
  • Related: chess.stackexchange.com/q/26828/20502 – Captain Man Jun 12 '20 at 20:30
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    Not an answer but the amount of time you spend in the losing position might be better spent playing a new game which you may win in blitz – dalearn Jun 13 '20 at 15:52
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    I'm confused by people's use of the term "wasting time" in this thread. Even if your opponent is highly rated, at the end of the day it was their choice to play a game with you, and they committed to playing the full game knowing that it could end in a prolonged endgame in which they must prove they know their piece mates. Perhaps if you are paying someone to train you, it could be a waste of your time to play a K-KQ endgame all the way out, but in my opinion it would be unsportsmanlike to regard an opponent--even a novice--as rude for wanting to play to the end. – Max Jun 14 '20 at 5:14
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As a general rule, if something is not done out of malice then it's not bad etiquette in my book (especially if it's allowed in the rules). So if all you do is play on in a lost position, then I don't see how anyone could complain; for instance, should a novice not be allowed to play on until checkmate? That would be absurd, no matter who said novice were facing!

The only unsportsmanlike behaviour I've witnessed in this regard was a player in an OTB tournament just sitting and waiting for his clock to run out when the position became hopeless, since his intent was obviously to spite his opponent and waste their time. If he had been making moves I wouldn't even have reacted, but since he was just doing it to annoy his opponent it was a clear act of malice and therefore bad etiquette.

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  • It's not bad etiquette, and further, many people think(and I partially join them) that resigning and draw agreements in chess should be forbidden.
  • Reasoning - it's necessary to expand chess popularity as sports and to make it possible for non-chess-players to follow competitions and games. It happens so often - two GMs playing - one resigns and half of spectators don't have even close clue of why
  • Also compare to other sports - imagine in tennis - someone resigns when result is 0:4 in first set or after first lost set or players agree to a draw after 1:1 in score in sets... - no one would follow such weird sports. Imagine similar in hockey, football, soccer, basketball, volleyball. Imagine how many people would follow boxing if two fighters would exchange one hit and then agree to a draw in a beginning of first round ...
  • So if we want chess to become popular and to make it possible to get TV time for it, make it Olympic sports, etc - we must behave like a sports - fight till end of game; if you watch NHL - so often team loosing 0:5 or more - keep fighting till end and score goal late in game when result is clear - that's why the game is so popular and can be watched as entertainment by people who don't really understand it.
  • Chess is too weird as a sport currently and something should be done about that.
  • and practically, specially in blitz there are great chances to get positive score in lost position - so playing on is completely normal.
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    "It's not only not a bad etiquette" might be better as "It's not only good etiquette to continue playing,.." - I was thrown off by this sentence at first – Robotnik Jun 12 '20 at 7:08
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    @Robotnik It's not necessarily good etiquette either, merely that the (presumably) losing player is not being rude by playing out to checkmate. – chrylis -cautiouslyoptimistic- Jun 12 '20 at 7:22
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    I don't see how resigning should be forbidden. If I choose to yield because I see there is no way I can win, how is this unsportsmanlike? In fact, if I know I lost, and my opponent knows they won, I think it's a sign of respect of their time to resign. – MechMK1 Jun 12 '20 at 12:01
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    Interesting! Also without drawing offer, it would be fun to watch two GM's playing KN vs KN for 50 moves. – Zuriel Jun 12 '20 at 13:06
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    @MechMK1 - This answer raises the point that resigning before spectators can tell who stands better would be like resigning a tennis match after the first lost set; good for players to keep more strength for the next match, but not very inclusive for spectators who may have arrived to watch a battle and a victory. – Jirka Hanika Jun 12 '20 at 13:34
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I would say it depends on the circumstances, mostly the time. If it's blitz and your opponent is low on time, sure, go for it.

In a match with increment or if your opponent has more than enough time, I would consider it bad etiquette since by playing on, you are basically saying "I don't think, you are good enough to win this". This also depends on the level you are playing, for higher ranks, this already applies if you are down by a knight in midgame for example.

The second point is about wasting time. If a match is decided and you keep on playing, you waste both your and your opponent's time by prolonging a match that has already been decided and many players consider it boring to play a match that has already been decided.

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  • Exactly. A weak opponent should not complain when we force them to show the technical skills to checkmate us, even when not under time pressure. And in a short match we are talking mere minutes anyway. By contrast, keeping a strong opponent playing for extended periods of time would be bad etiquette. – Peter - Reinstate Monica Jun 12 '20 at 15:00
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    @Peter-ReinstateMonica who is weak and who is strong player - relatively recently (if I'm correct - in 2013) women world champion could not checkmate with KBN vs K ... There are so many top 2700+ players funny game outcomes - because opponent did not resign or opposite - there are cases when drawn or even won positions are resigned because one would not be aware of simple endgame motive. There are no strong and weak players - its game of chess and its completely fine to play till checkmate with anybody. – Drako Jun 15 '20 at 6:31
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    Also @frangge - check in database how many of 2600+ games where one side was piece or even rook up did not end for winning side to actually win... one pretty famous example is Botvinnik - Bronstein world title match - Bronstein blundered rook in about move 10-15 and then got draw - and he got it not by resigning but by playing on... – Drako Jun 15 '20 at 6:31
  • @DRako Interesting! – Peter - Reinstate Monica Jun 15 '20 at 7:59
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No one plays optimally, so it is perfectly fine to continue playing in hope that your opponent will not play perfectly.

In any pure strategy game like chess, there is only a single possible outcome for perfect play. (For chess it's probably a stalemate, although I don't believe we know for certain).

Chess is only interesting as a game because it is too complex for anybody to play perfectly. As such, assuming that your opponent will play perfectly is clearly an unreasonable assumption. And if their skills are lacking in some way, then it's entirely possible that they lack the skills to beat you in this particular game. Just because a player has the skill to reach a dominant board position does not necessarily mean they have the skills to capitalize on their advantage.

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    I completely agree. – hangejj Jun 15 '20 at 1:13
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The ability to remain sharp even in unfavorable situations is a useful skill, and it is perfectly acceptable to use tournaments to hone one's skills. Even if one's position is such that one is almost certain to eventually lose against any reasonable opponent, there is nothing wrong with making an opponent earn his victory if one is in fact endeavoring to play as well as possible while making moves at a reasonable pace.

What would be poor sportsmanship would be for someone with an hour left on his clock to insist upon playing on in an obvious forced mate-in-three position, while taking twenty minutes to make each of the remaining three forced moves.

I think a fair criterion would be whether one either has a realistic chance of winning, or honestly feels that one is receiving some benefit from continued play. If one can't honestly say that they're continuing for any reason other than to annoy their opponent, then continuing play in such circumstance would be poor sportsmanship, but that would be a matter for the player's own honest judgment.

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It's totally fine, especially if it's blitz. It's a question of whether you have chances to win or not. If you have close to zero chance to win or draw, then there is no point of playing further and yes your continuing to play will be considered malicious and a waste of time.

An extreme example, you're playing Magnus Carlsen, and you're a Queen down. Now take the same situation, and you're playing a player only 100 rating points higher and you're a Queen down. I would continue playing and it's not bad etiquette. Especially if both of your ratings are low enough that he won't see that knight fork coming that he loses the Queen to. Now if you're 2200 and they're 2300, it's unlikely this will happen. And whether it's bad etiquette or not may depend on the position (and of course how much time is left). Some positions have enough nuances to continue playing, or the position provides a clear win for a player with those ratings and it's a waste of time to continue. Of course if you're a Queen down against Carlsen and he's got only a second on the clock, and you have an hour, then heck yeah continue playing.

For a blitz game, if your opponent is low on time, you have a good chance of winning, so pursuing the play is not bad etiquette. Since winning by time is a valid way to win. Now if your opponent had outplayed you in every way, they may be irked that you won the game. Things happen. Even Kasparov got mad every once in a while.

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