Fighting Chess: No draw and no resignation

Photo: David Llada

Have you ever felt embarrassed about waiting too long before resigning, or perhaps you resign early to avoid being rude to your opponents? And by the way, when is the right time to offer a draw?

Many years ago, I played on the Norwegian national youth team, and we were facing the Finnish national team. I don’t remember how my game went – instead, I was fascinated by the one next to me. My teammate was leading with a bunch of pieces, something like a queen, rook and an army of pawns, with no compensation for the opponent. Apparently, it was the right time to resign. Or was it...?

Instead of throwing in the towel, the Finnish player started thinking for ages, acting like the position was exciting and that he still had a chance. At first, my teammate was annoyed, but then he decided to do the same as the opponent; on every move, he started to think for a long time. This meant that the game lasted for hours, despite it being an utterly meaningless exercise.

What a weird situation. One of them wanted to annoy the better player, while the other guy wanted to teach the opponent a lesson on when to resign. Neither of the players showed great sportsmanship, but the incident raises an important question: When is the right time to resign?

I believe the answer to this question is individual, as you should play on as long you feel you have a chance to save the game. If you think you can win, even if there is a tiny chance, play on! If you have a small hope that your opponent will accidentally stalemate you; keep on fighting!

Only resign if you are 100% sure you will lose the game.

Larsen on draws

In a chess column in Huffpost in 2010, Grandmaster Lubomir Kavalek described the legendary Bent Larsen as follows: “Offering him a draw was a waste of time. He would decline it politely, but firmly. “No, thank you,” he would say, and the fight would go on and on and on.”

Bent Larsen was undoubtedly a role model. Imagine everyone having this attitude! I still remember his words of wisdom in a book I read when I was young. He said that offering a draw when you are better is stupid. If you are worse, it’s rude. And if it’s equal, you might as well play on!

I can’t possibly say it better than Bent Larsen, so I might as well end the post here!

Here is a puzzle for you!


White to move chose to resign as he saw no defense to the threat of 1...Rc1+, followed by promoting the pawn. Resigning was a big mistake, as White was the one with a winning position. Do you see why?

Check out our Magnus Trainer lesson covering just this topic: "One Blunder and Two Resignations"!

By Torbjørn Ringdal Hansen