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I am a relative beginner to chess but have noticed particularly playing online a lot of players will resign if they lose a strong piece, for example, their queen.

Is this sportsman like? I wouldn't have thought so, but I read a thread on here that stated stronger players will resign if a checkmate is inevitable. I can only assume resigning has less of an impact on rating.

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    Impact on rating? Rating is calculated based on the result of the game (win, draw or loss), your rating, your opponent's rating and the rating system (e.g. Elo). The only special case that I know of is a so called walk-over, where the opponent does not show up to the board. – Rauan Sagit Jun 26 '15 at 11:48
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    Maybe slightly off-topic, but whether resignation is appropriate depends on the culture of the game. For example, resigning is common in curling, a sport that has strong ideas of sportsmanship and unwritten behavioral rules (and, interestingly, is sometimes called "chess on ice"). Meanwhile it's normal in basketball and American football to battle on until the end, even in a hopelessly lost game, even though those sports have resignation options. Boxing is somewhere in the middle - you can resign, but you're expected to be pretty beat up before you do.. but if you don't resign when you shoul – intx13 Jun 26 '15 at 20:14

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Yes, resigning a clearly lost game is indeed considered good behaviour. Sometimes not resigning is considered unsportsmanlike!

It makes no difference on the result of the game whether you resign, are checkmated, or lose on time - a loss is a loss. In any rating system I've ever heard of, the method of losing doesn't make a difference.

It's just that people don't like wasting time when they're 100 % sure that their opponent will win the game almost effortlessly with no danger of making a serious blunder.

  • "In any rating system I've ever heard of, the method of losing doesn't make a difference." - excluding walkover – user11153 Jun 26 '15 at 11:24
  • The last line: Particularly on board, when you're playing against a stranger, not in a competition, never resign. I once lost a whole piece in a careless blunder in the opening and checkmated the opponent in about 20 more moves. – bat_of_doom Mar 8 '17 at 17:42
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Resigning is considered polite in an obvious losing position among advanced players i.e. players that won't make an error, with a significant material/positional advantage and will almost positively win the game so there is no real point in playing it out. However, among beginners and less talented players, I would personally advocate never resigning as there is a considerable chance that a less experienced player will make a mistake that you can capitalize on.

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It's more sportsman-like to resign than to play on. When you play on in the face of an inevitable loss, in effect you are saying to your opponent "I don't think you're good enough to be able to beat me, even with an extra queen." Think about it for a while, wouldn't you find that sort of arrogance offensive?

By resigning, you signify your respect for the way your opponent has conducted the game, as well as enough respect for your opponent's time that you decline to waste it. In effect you're saying to your opponent, "OK, this time you outplayed me, and I won't waste your time making you prove you know how to finish this."

When to resign is always a tricky, highly individual question. My personal threshold is when my opponent has convinced me by their conduct of the game that they know how to win the position currently on the board. This means I may play on against some opponents in a position where I would resign against someone else. The decision is also affected by my position in the tournament; I'm more reluctant to resign a position when I need a draw or a win to finish in the prize list; I'll still do it, but not quite as early.

  • Another issue in tournaments, especially in the last game of a session, is that one's opponent may quite reasonably be wanting to go home (and/or have teammates that would like to do so). If in the last game of a session one has an hour left on the clock in an apparently losing position, playing reasonably quickly but making the opponent demonstrate the win might be considered reasonable sportsmanship especially if the situation is one where securing the win would require some care, but spending 45 minutes deciding on a forced move would be just plain rude. – supercat Jun 26 '15 at 15:35
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    "My personal threshold is when my opponent has convinced me by their conduct of the game that they know how to win the position currently on the board." This is a good rule, in my opinion. Once the opponent proves to your satisfaction that they can beat you, resign. – intx13 Jun 26 '15 at 20:21
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Resigning, as mentioned by Arlen, is a respectful act. It states that you believe it is no longer worth your time and their time to play out the game. It is recommended that newcomers not resign as often as the experts appear to do.

I would like to add to that answer with more of an explanation why. Often the reason is "the other person might make a mistake that you can capitalize on." It is true that this is a natural reason why beginners would choose not to resign, while experts resign quicker. However, there is a deeper logic which may help you identify when to resign: Chess is a game.

People play games for many reasons. Some simply play to win, but in the early levels, everybody plays to learn something. Both players enter a game with some reason to play it. If the game is no longer satisfying those reasons, there's no reason to continue it.

At the lower skill levels, it is worth playing every game to its fullest, simply to learn. Chess is a complicated game which takes time to learn completely. For instance, you may know that you are 3 moves away from entering a Queen+King vs King endgame (which is known to be completely lost for the person with just a King), but there's still some value for both of you to play it out. Your opponent gets an opportunity to practice a key mating pattern, and you get to practice trying to capitalize on any mistakes they may make. One of those mistakes may help you in a later game: you may realize that a particular Queen+King vs. King endgame is not lost because the particular position happens to cause a forced stalemate. You might never realize this if you hadn't taken the time to play out the earlier game to its fullest.

As you get to the higher ranks, you will become more aware of which positions are interesting to play out and which ones are simply dumb. An expert will understand the difference between a position where they are simply "behind by a Queen" and a position where they sacrificed a Queen to gain some tactical advantage. They will understand where "gains from winning the game" multiplied by "probability of my opponent messing up and letting me win" is less than the psychological stress of playing the game out.

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I think the answer to this question is bound to be subjective. You cannot expect someone to resign just because you think it is a sportsman-like act to resign a clearly worse position. Especially in online blitz games, there is no point to resign, because the time on the clock is such a decisive factor. In my opinion, not resigning is your full right and nobody can force you to resign or tell you that it was unsportsman-like of you not to resign.

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If playing a blitz game (say 5 min or under), part of the game is that it is against the clock, so if mate looks inevitable, but there are 2 seconds to go, I see no reason to resign. I don't consider this unsportsman-like whatsoever, and apparently, neither do my opponents!

  • Absolutely agreed! Although, I still find blitz players that take offense because I kept playing a lost position just to win on time... Why would that be unsportsman-like in a blitz game? Isn't 'time' another factor of blitz games, not just position? These guys... Anyway, that's my rant. – sergeidave Sep 20 '15 at 23:13
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Among other things, this strongly depends on the time control. While at slower paces resigning in lost positions is considered a good practice (although it also depends on the proficiency of the players, the time your opponent has left and other factors), it is almost never seen in online blitz chess as the time on the clock is as important as the pieces remaining on the board.

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Resignation is totally acceptable, even though people tend to resign games that they shouldn't.

Frankly, there are occasions when I feel that not retiring from an obviously hopeless position is unsportsmanlike - we've all got places to go, I've put in the work to beat you, everybody who spends ten seconds looking at the board can see that, would you please stop looking for that "magic move" that does not exist, man up, and concede?

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The subject has already been pretty well exhausted, but I'll just add that in my club I tell the novices to play out their games for practice when they are behind and also since a mistake by their opponent is quite possible. When stronger opponents are playing, not resigning in a clearly lost position is insulting to the player with the advantage. Why subject them to that unnecessary aggravation when the result is inevitable? Of course, if your opponent is a sadist like Alekhine was, he might enjoy tormenting you when you're losing.

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To all that has been told already I may add that sometimes, especially when playing a much stronger opponent, resigning at the right moment when the position is objectively lost may be the only chance to make your opponent know that you actually understand something of the game.

As a strong International Master told me once when I was a kid learning the game, "Everybody can have a bad game, but the strong player always knows when is the right time to resign".

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