Why do chess players resign?

People new to chess are always baffled when they see a professional chess player pressing the clock and shaking hands with their opponent, resigning a game before a checkmate is on the board. This confusion is understandable; after all, why would players resign before they lose?

Chess players resign when they know the game is hopeless and their position is indefensible anymore. Resigning before the checkmate is tournament standard in professional chess, and it is considered respectful to the opponent and a dignified way to admit defeat. 

Knowing when to resign is very easy to tell- what kind of chess player you are looking at because professional chess players almost always resign when it’s hopeless, while amateurs rarely do. 

Continue reading to learn more about why chess players resign and whether it’s considered respectful.

Why Do Chess Players Resign in the game?

It is common for professional chess players to resign because they prefer not to waste their energy on a game they know they might eventually lose. 

There are various other reasons why chess players resign, so let’s breakdown those reasons in more detail:

To Show Respect 

Usually, if a chess player is playing against an experienced player, and they continue to play in a position where they are very certain that they are going to lose, it is often regarded as an insult. 

Therefore, many chess players resign and accept their defeat.

In online games, it’s very common to see a losing player continuing to drag the game to waste the winning player’s time, and there is no way to describe it other than petty as if they are trying to “get them back” by wasting their time. Do not be that guy. 

To Accept Defeat

The faster you accept defeat, the easier it is going to be to overcome it and recover. In this way, as well as many others, chess and life are pretty similar. 

This can happen after a severe material loss, such as losing a piece worth 3 points or more (so three pawns, a knight, a bishop, or even higher). 

In a simple position where you know you may be heading for an indefensible endgame where the material gain of your opponent will be easy to turn into a win, there is no point in dragging it out. 

It can also happen, although rarer when the player is under severe time pressure and knows they will not be able to figure it out in the time they have left. 

In this case, the player may as well take the defeat due to time rather than a material loss or a mating pattern; it’s easier to accept the first kind of defeat than to accept the latter. 

To Prevent Wasting Time and Effort

It is a waste of time and effort for chess players to keep playing a game they are certain they will lose, so most professional players prefer to resign and save time and effort.

However, it’s not a good habit for beginner chess players to resign quickly, as finishing the game may be a great learning opportunity. 

Amateur chess players also mess up, driving their wins home all the time, so if both of you are amateurs, there is always a chance the other player will mess it up any second. 

To Get Ready for the Next Game

Chess players typically have to play many games if they compete in a chess tournament. Playing several games daily is not uncommon, particularly with rapid and blitz tournaments, and can become too exhausting sometimes. 

So, it doesn’t make sense to waste time and effort on prolonging a game in a losing position.

Chess players prefer to resign games they believe they will ultimately lose to gain some downtime, which they can use to unwind and mentally prepare for the next game.

How Do Chess Players Resign?

There’s no specific way for chess players to resign.  Most chess players stop the clock, say something simple like “good game,” and then shake hands. 

Grandmaster players tend to shake hands to resign after stopping the clock while nodding their heads and making eye contact with the opposing player.

They can also declare their resignation formally by saying, “I resign.” while extending their hand to their opponent. The opponent might then ask if they are resigning to confirm.

Another way to resign is to lay their king flat on the area that the piece is on.

Chess players are not compelled to give a justification for their resignation, and they are allowed to do so even if they believe you are in a strong position; however, that might not be very sportsmanlike of them.

Can Chess Players Resign Right Before a Checkmate?

Chess players can resign right before a checkmate, and it will be a sign that a player has realized they are losing and have accepted defeat at this point. 

Beginner chess players usually don’t want to let a checkmate happen because it might be too much for them to handle. On the other hand, most professional players do not miss checkmates.

However, some chess players will find resigning difficult even when they know the situation is almost hopeless. They will keep trying to find a way out of the situation and will only accept defeat right before a checkmate. 

But this is not recommended, and most chess players at the professional levels (FM, IM, and GM) know better than to keep fighting a losing battle. Instead, they will simply admit defeat to save their energy to fight another day. 

What Is Sandbagging?

Chess players with comparable strengths are usually pitted against each other in tournaments to make the game fair for all players. 

However, some players resort to unfavourable methods to guarantee their win, especially in tournaments involving prize money.

Sandbagging is a term used to refer to when a player deliberately loses a game of chess by resigning to get a lower rating and leading the opposition to believe that they have less strength and capability than they actually do. 

Players who do this want to be paired with other players with low ratings in chess tournaments to win the prize money easily. 

However, it is often considered highly immoral if a player with a greater skill set deliberately competes against a player with less skill for financial gain. That’s why the rules of chess prohibit this way of playing.

Why Not Resign from a Losing Game of Chess?

Although it is perfectly normal to resign from a chess game, sometimes it is preferred not to. 

Several reasons encourage players not to resign from a game of chess. We will be discussing those reasons below.

Good Opportunity for Growth

By letting games go on longer, whether a chess player wins or loses, they’ll find themselves in new situations and take on new challenges. 

Sometimes, even if the odds are not against their favor, they might also learn to be more creative in their play. This is especially true for beginners.

More Fun to Keep the Game Going

Many chess players prefer to keep the game going for fun. Many do not care whether they win or lose; they play for fun. 

Chess fans who like to watch chess games also might be frustrated when chess players quit too often.

Overestimating The Opponent

This often happens with new chess players. They usually overestimate their opponent. 

It is good to keep playing if their opponent does not realize their mistake. 

This could lead to a win, and quitting too early might prevent the beginner chess player from winning.

Games are Often Unpredictable

Many chess games are often unpredictable. 

Sometimes, chess players might be massively behind but are able to pull through and even win. 

Resigning too early might lead them to miss out on a great opportunity to win. Sometimes it is worth keeping it going and seeing where it goes.

Is it Respectful to Resign from a Chess Game?

Resigning in chess is generally considered respectful. Most beginner chess players might think that it is an uncommon practice; however, it is very common. Even the most experienced chess players can resign when they feel compelled to.

It is respectful to resign from a game of chess if you understand your position in the game and are aware that you are losing. As mentioned before, players do not have to give a justification for their resignation.

However, it is important to take the proper procedure to resign for it to be respectful and remember that frequently resigning in chess games might leave the players in an unfavourable position.

So, make sure to throughout consider all of your options before resigning and remain respectful of your opponent.

Related Questions

Can Chess Players Draw?

Chess players can draw, but it often has to be offered by one of the players. This is usually done when neither of the players has much of a chance of winning. They could also offer to draw if they are tired or bored and have no desire to prolong the game.

Do Chess Players Quit after they Lose their Queen?

Chess players usually resign when they lose their Queen because they know that the Queen is a highly important chess piece, and when they lose that piece, it becomes almost impossible for them to win the game. 

Can You Refuse a Resignation in Chess?

You can refuse a resignation in chess if the other player has no medical emergency. Both players then have to continue playing the game until one loses. This is sometimes seen as an unlikable trait a chess player might impose, so players do not often refuse resignation.

Is Resigning in Chess Better than Losing?

It is not better or worse to resign from a game of chess. Resigning counts as a loss, and it accounts for the same points. Sometimes, it might be worth not resigning and playing the game till the end, especially if a player is unsure whether they will win.

Harikrishnan A

I am an International Fide Rated player with 10+ years of experience. Played many International Chess Tournaments and Commonwealth games.

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