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I play online chess at 3 days per move. I like to tell my opponents how I'm going to checkmate them if they will never win. That way, that I won't waste time continuing the game. I also like to be told if I will be mated for the same reason.

The majority of the users find that insulting. Is it really insulting to tell your opponents how you are going to checkmate them so they can resign fast? I don't play against titled players, so they don't see the checkmate coming unless you tell them. Meanwhile, titled players fight to the end online often, with many games ending in checkmate, unlike real games where you very often resign.

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16 Answers 16

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It is not a question of ethics, but more about being courteous. Chess is a game where it is impossible to separate the joy of the game from the competitiveness/ego aspect so by declaring a forced win in N moves, you are effectively asking your opponent to resign immediately even though he hasn't seen the forced win yet owing to his lesser faculties/skill set.

Try doing that kind of thing at work/real life .. you'll be out of a job in no time (or get punched in the face) :)

Your opponent may be weaker than you and he may not be able to calculate like you do, but give him the chance OR let him play the game out till the bitter end. You can't just force somebody into resigning by brow-beating them, for God's sake :)

Beyond the probability (however small) that you may be wrong / You may have missed an in-between move or desperado yourself, you are essentially coming off as a jerk. The rare exception is that you are coaching somebody (as part of a mutually agreed session, not one where you suddenly decided to act like a coach! ) where you can afford to point things out to them and not come off as arrogant.

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The majority of the users find that insulting. Is it really insulting to [...]

I can answer the question based on this excerpt alone. The answer is yes.

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  • maybe literally the answer is yes but i think in spirit the answer to the spirit of the question is like 'the option of conditional moves makes the question a non-issue'. am i wrong?
    – BCLC
    Apr 4 at 3:47
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I would say this is not only insulting but unethical. Chess is a game that is intended to be a test of thought and concentration. It is unfair for a player to disrupt his opponents thought processes by drawing attention to any particular line of play as it may distract him from pursuing his intended strategy. Now you may think that the play is forced from the current position, but what if your opponent has seen something that you have missed? Worse still, what if your opponent fails to see that line of play because you had distracted him and resigns?

Now if you and your opponent agree before the game to discuss play while the game is in progress, that is another thing altogether, but as a basic rule, while playing keep quiet and let your opponent concentrate.

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It's not like they're going to resign just because someone tells them there's a forced mate. They will try to either:

A) Prove you wrong.

or

B) Know there's a forced mate, but play on just to irritate you.

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  • maybe literally the answer is yes but i think in spirit the answer to the spirit of the question is like 'the option of conditional moves makes the question a non-issue'. am i wrong?
    – BCLC
    Apr 4 at 3:48
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I guess I've never seen this behavior myself, but while I was reading the question I remembered that, many years ago, when I still read chess books (you know, the ones printed on paper), I read more than once something like "and (put the name of a famous ancient player here) announced mate in 5". Actually, if you google for "announce mate chess", it seems it was usual to do this in the times of Capablanca, Marshall, etc. I don't know if this was considered good/bad etiquette, but I doubt that people like the mentioned above didn't know how to behave over the board.

Edit: I just toke a few more time "googleing". From here it seems it was a good practice in the 19th century: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossary_of_chess

Here a link by Edward Winters (a prominent figure on chess history) on the topic: http://www.chesshistory.com/winter/extra/announcedmates.html

I wonder if in the times this was an accepted practice, the player who had announced mate, in case to be proven wrong, forfeited the game. I've read assumptions about it, and I'm pretty sure it'd be this way (it somehow fits the spirit of those times), but no "official" confirmation (maybe any old chess manual?).

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  • maybe literally the answer is yes but i think in spirit the answer to the spirit of the question is like 'the option of conditional moves makes the question a non-issue'. am i wrong?
    – BCLC
    Apr 4 at 3:48
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I don't think that this is very polite nor common. If they are playing so poorly that they don't see the checkmate coming, telling this isn't very helpful for them. They still don't know how to counteract against moves that you are planning to do, so they only become more stressed and probably angry with you, too. Because it's looking like sneering at them - "Even that I'm telling you what exactly my plans are, you still lose!".

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  • maybe literally the answer is yes but i think in spirit the answer to the spirit of the question is like 'the option of conditional moves makes the question a non-issue'. am i wrong?
    – BCLC
    Apr 4 at 3:48
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I don't know why anyone should be offended by this. We are talking about correspondence chess here, even if you play it using a web server instead of through the postal service! The rules of correspondence chess (at least the USCF's) allow players to send "conditional moves" to save time:

Conditional or if moves: An attempt to save time and postage by offering a plausible continuation beyond the required response. Conditional moves are binding if the recipient accepts the continuations. The game must then follow the indicated continuation or any part accepted in sequence.

One situation where conditional moves make a lot of sense is when there is a forcing line. Forced mates are just one particular example.

Just to give one notable example, according to Wikipedia, in the "Kasparov vs the World" game, "The game lasted four months, with Kasparov playing "g7" on his 62nd move and announcing a forced checkmate in 28 moves." Did Kasparov insult the world? :-)

From a practical point of view, chess.com lets you specify conditional moves. Unlike in traditional correspondence games, your opponents don't get to see all the conditional moves you set, but if they reply along one of the lines you predicted, they receive your next move immediately (and if they don't know about the feature, might wonder how you can alway be available to move so quickly! :-). This allows you finish the game in "autopilot". Personally, that's what I do instead of sending a message announcing the mate, but like I said, I don't think the latter is insulting, either. I only mention chess.com since it's what I know best, but perhaps other providers have similar features.

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Being a "not so good" player I would appreciate that, because I would learn something and next game I will try to avoid the same error. If people is reacting bad, It's a matter of bad attitude. Dude, it's a game!!!

Alex

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I guess I don't know about anybody else but I have both had people tell me that they had mate in n moves and have done the same myself. Both are rare but I have never had anyone get mad at me for it or gotten mad and anyone for it myself. I have even been wrong and had someone prove it on the board and have proven others who claimed mate in n moves wrong. My experience playing has been mostly online and I have seen VERY few games go until actual mate.

Especially with a long timer such as days per move I have always been told that one should resign when they know they have lost, and their opponent knows they have won and the person knows their opponent know they have won and know how to finish the game. Not resigning in those conditions is rude, essentially wasting the time the opponent could have spent on another game. If those conditions are not met, or you think you could learn something from seeing how the opponent finishes the game.

All in all I would error on the side of politeness, only mentioning mate in n moves and how if you are sure that it will be acceptable to your opponent, and allowing the benefit of the doubt to them otherwise, assuming that there is still something that they can gain from the game by continuing uninterrupted unless they say something to indicate otherwise.

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Is it really insulting to tell your opponent how you are going to checkmate him so he could resign fast?

I would say no, it's not insulting to announce your plans in correspondence chess. (However, you may not demand resignation.)

Presumably, if your opponent is playing on in a lost position, either he does not know how you are going to checkmate him, or he thinks that you won't actually play those moves. Showing him that there is a mate, and that you do see it, can save some time.

In chess by mail, you can even send official conditional moves stating where you will move next if the opponent replies a certain way - and being by mail instead of through a server, the opponent can obviously see those conditional moves. Far from being unethical, this is encouraged.

You'd better be fairly sure about your moves, however. If you tell your opponent your plans, and they aren't perfect, you may have just helped him to find the weakness.

The above only applies to correspondence-style chess. A live game is different, and you should not announce your plans in a live game unless it is casual and your opponent is OK with it. In live chess, it's more likely that you'll have focus that can be broken; in correspondence-style, you're normally doing many other things between moves and not continually focusing on the game. And in live chess, you have less time in general, and can't take notes to refresh your memory if you get distracted.

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Beware of hubris. That's the only reason why this would be rude or insulting.

I will tell you how I would handle such a situation, for an increased friendliness with the other player. It's almost totally disrelated from the actual strategies of chess; this has to do with interpersonal relationships.

As a fairly decent chess player, I still have a great deal of humility. First of all, if I am only fairly certain I have checkmate in three moves, I would not want to assume that there is zero possibility that I have overlooked something.

In the case where I have double and triple checked the finite possibilities carefully and know that there is zero chance I've overlooked something—I know it is mate in three—there is also zero harm (and much benefit!) in communicating it as a belief rather than a undeniable certainty, at least at first.

What I would say if I determined I had a guaranteed mate in three is:

"And, I believe that's mate in three. Do you see any way out?"

People are much more willing to accept things as true that they see for themselves. Of course they shouldn't just believe you. They should see it for themselves. And presenting it in this particular way opens the possibility for a dialogue, which is much more friendly than an adversarial relationship.

In this way you could guide them—without any arrogance or hubris—to be able to see the "mate in three" that you have your eye on.

They will either discuss the possibilities with you ("No, it isn't mate; what if I move my bishop?" "You would think—but don't forget about my rook!") and then finally conclude that it is checkmate—or, if you have overlooked something, maybe they will see it and the game will continue! And you will have learned something.

Either way is fun. Why be serious about it?


On the other hand, if your goal is just to prove to other people how much smarter you are than them, then the above method won't work at all. But in that case you have other problems than winning a chess game, like how to make friends. ;)

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It is not allowed to talk to your opponent, unless you offer draw. You can discuss the game with your opponent after the game is completed. This is known as the game analysis.

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I resign when I know for sure I can't win. Most people I meet play this way. Any time my opponent continues to play, that's fine. I would never tell someone how I will checkmate them. That would be totally rude. Only a fool would do that. Give your opponent the courtesy of letting them figure it out for themselves.

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An interesting difference of opinion perennially persists as to whether one has an obligation to resign an objectively lost game—or, by extension, to agree to a draw in an objectively drawn game. No consensus exists. See game 3 for example of the recent Carlsen-Anand world-championship match.

There is this, though. One has little to lose by affording opponents the benefit of the doubt on either side. If your opponent takes umbrage that you would fight a lost position, then consider resigning promptly and politely. It's not worth making an enemy, and it will not change the outcome, anyway (barring a spectacular error by your opponent, whereas you don't really want to win that way, do you?). On the other hand, when one has a winning position, one likewise has little to lose by playing on until one's opponent resigns or one achieves actual checkmate. After all, the beauty of a won position is that you will win it, whether now or several moves from now. Your opponent is in no way being rude by playing on. He's just playing chess.

You can afford to be likewise gracious in victory and defeat.

If I had to choose between the two positions though, I would say that it is never proper to demand that an opponent resign, whereas it is at worst slightly obstinate to refuse an opponent's demand for resignation. If your opponent will not resign, then just beat him. When the game is done, shake your opponent's hand and treat him well. It won't take so long. Opponents can have sound reasons for playing out a lost position, after all, reasons that have nothing to do with spite. Magnanimity always becomes the chess player.

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All you need to do is to ask for permission from the other chess player.

But first I would ask myself. Why do I need to tell him, that he or she is going to lose? Am I in a hurry? Do I want to lecture him? Does my ego needs to be fed? What is the real reason?

Once you found the genuine reason, than go ahead. Ask your opponent and reason it. Some might take it as an insult, but if you are respectful and have a valid reason and not just being a nuisance than its fine, in this case there is nothing wrong if you ask. When I say nuisance , I mean for example : you start a 1 hour live chess game and you can see the that there will be a mate in 5, but there is still 30 mins left from his time. Why would you want to hurry the other player? Is there an emergency and you need to leave your chess game? Obviously it can't be such an emergency if you'd still have time to ask the opponent to resign. Or you just don't want to wait the other for half an hour while you know you won? Where is the respect towards your opponent and where is your responsibility of committing yourself to an hour of chess game? Now that is the nuisance. This also applies to other things in life. If the other person reacts badly, you have might been just a nuisance or the other is taking it personally. You need to explain that you have no intentions of offending him/her. If you've done everything fine and the other is still not happy about it, that's fine too! You can't please everyone..

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Based on answers of itub and D M, I think the spirit of this question is more like

What's an alternative to telling opponent what I believe is going to be a mate in X?

I mean, who really wants to tell your opponent 'you've lost. you resign now' ?

The answer is to use conditional moves.

The thing is...

  1. OP has the right idea of saving time when the game is almost definitely won when you're playing correspondence.

  2. Other answers have the right idea of etiquette when you're playing live.

I believe the whole idea of conditional moves is to address this (and many other things). Once you think of conditional moves, there's almost certainly no practical reason to ask this question (in its literal form).

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