Suppose a chess game was decisive but didn't go to checkmate. Why does its notation not say whether the loser resigned or lost on time?

There are plenty of NAG symbols; even some ($136-$139) relating to time pressure. Why not for "White/Black resigns" or "White/Black lost on time"?

If we don't know because the only information known is what's on the scoresheets, then that doesn't answer the question; it merely redirects its focus: Considering that this fact is needed so that people know, and can say, how the game ended, why hasn't FIDE made it a law that players should record this on their scoresheets?

I know that players are not obliged to record this. I'm asking why it has not been thought necessary to oblige players to do this.

I know that PGN has a Termination tag, whose value is a string which someone might use to explain how come the game ended. But a game's score can be stated in a context which is not PGN. Even in a PGN file, the tags pertaining to a game are not part of its score (what PGN calls its "movetext"). Even among PGN tags, Termination is optional.

  • FWIW, on my scoresheets I invented my own symbol to record when a game is lost on time.
    – Evargalo
    Nov 17, 2022 at 10:00
  • 2
    Exactly what notation are you referring to? FIDE not requiring it on scoresheets? PGN not specifying it as a Termination-tag value? Or ... ?
    – user30536
    Nov 17, 2022 at 11:30
  • FIDE controls the life of Chess now. But notation can still be improved. I have modified notation in Shadyantra for logical reasons
    – ShadYantra
    Nov 17, 2022 at 11:32
  • @Evargalo, Can you show an example for your invention also.
    – ShadYantra
    Nov 17, 2022 at 11:32
  • 1
    I do notate a flag fall by ZÜ (German abbrevation) in my scoresheet (I can remember as a kid once I even wrote "Plumps!" :-) - and since the game is over, technically FiDE couldn't forbid me to write Johann Gambolputty de von Ausfern...no, that wouldn't fit :-) Nov 17, 2022 at 13:32

2 Answers 2


An answer to your question needs to go back to the beginning of PGN, which was invented by Steven Edwards in conjunction with countless contributors. Let's quote the man:

...it is important that future revisions to PGN must include a public discussion period. In fact, those of you who were reading the chess newsgroups back in the 1992-1994 time frame will recall the many polls and extensive discussion articles. I personally received uncounted hundreds, perhaps thousands of e-mails on the chess standards topics...

This teamwork under Stevens lead happened on rec.games.chess (to be found here). Todays kids can think of a discord server.

It is unlikely someone is going through all of it, and sadly, Edwards has passed away.

Most likely, they couldn't see a need for this since you really only miss the distinction between flagging and resigning, and what's the point of knowing when there is no move time indication anyway.

Another hint could be given by the paper scoresheets they had at their hands; if these didn't feature checkboxes for termination info (I've seen more that do, but 10 years later and in Europe), then they might just have missed it completely.

NAG came a year later, again done by Edwards, who wisely reserved indecies for future definition. Apparently it never occured to Edwards to attribute some of these reserved glyphs to the different terminations that he instead incorporated as 'optional tag pairs'.

Again, the why he did so is most likely lost with the man. But keep in mind these protocols were designed to allow for a client independent way of simply parsing a chess game, and NAG in particular to annotate games very efficiently. The related termination data may not even be at hands when the stagist had to type in scoresheet data via keyboard, so much better to have the option, but not the duty to.

  • 2
    "you really only miss the distinction between flagging and resigning, and what's the point of knowing" -> If a game ends abruptly with 1-0 when it seems Black could have played on, it is quite interesting to know whether the black player evaluated the position as desesperate or they ran out of time.
    – Evargalo
    Nov 17, 2022 at 13:05
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    Yes, sure, my take as well, but perhaps not Edwards' at the time? Was paraphrasing. Note however that there are glyphs to indicate Zeitnot that will give a hint when occuring in a PGN. Still very much true that we have been living by these standards for a while now. Nov 17, 2022 at 15:15

why hasn't FIDE made it a law that players should record this on their scoresheets?

The annotations on the scoresheet that FIDE requires all have to do with enforcing the FIDE Laws of Chess.

  1. If you want to claim a draw via the 50 move rule you need to be able to show via your scoresheet that 50 moves have been made since the last pawn move or capture
  2. If you want to claim a draw for 3-fold repetition, possibly with repetitions many moves apart you need to show this with the moves recorded on your scoresheet
  3. If you want to complain about your opponent disturbing you by making repeated draw offers you better have been recording all those draw offers with a "=" or else the arbiter isn't going to take you seriously.
  4. If you want the result of your game to be recorded in the tournament results correctly then make sure you put the result on your scoresheet, sign it and get your opponent to sign also.

Whether the game was decided by resignation, flag fall, phone going off, player not arriving in time, some other kind of default, etc. requires no special notation to satisfy any of the laws.

FIDE does not (or at least tries not to) make unnecessary rules. So, with no good reason for making it a rule, FIDE declines to make such a rule.

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