This situation happens to all chess players. We are winning the game, but our opponent, who is material down refuses to give up the fight. I’m not talking about being down an exchange, or even just down a few pawns. But rather down a rook or a queen or both or more.
And yet, they still refuse to concede the game. Let’s look at some reasons, although only the first few have any legitimate reason.
But before we do, here’s a side note. Many a scholastic chess instructor would say, “Never resign”. When pressed for the reason why, their reply is usually, “Because you opponent might blunder”. Which in the case of scholastic chess, this is common enough to warrant such an action. The more enlightened teachers would also add, “…and you might learn a little more about your endgame skills.”
The listing below represents not just scholastic players, but adults as well.
1) In a game with sudden death, or a short time limit such as a blitz game, time becomes a weapon. The game becomes a battle between good moves and speed.
If you do not complete all your moves in a certain amount of time, you can’t win. And if your opponent has a pawn, or a rook, or both a bishop and a knight, you lose the game.
So, if one is down material and up on time, you can’t win by overwhelming him with material and it makes sense to keep playing (and faster) than your opponent.
The problem arises when a player is not only down in material, but also down in time. Here there is no reason to keep playing. Unless, of course, you have other reasons.
2) Every chess player needs to become more proficient in endgame play. Being the exchange is not totally a bad thing – you gain the needed practice in holding the game. Imagine, your endgame skill is going against the ultimate test – another chess player who will challenge your moves and your skill level. And who knows – you might get lucky. Instead of a loss, you might get a draw.
3) Massive material is chance for a draw. By stalemate. This a flip side of the above reason. Instead of being tested for one’s skill, the player’s opponent is being tested NOT to make mistake (or several mistakes) or him forgetting all about stalemates.
4) When playing in a team tournament, sometimes the Team Captain (TC) will suggest to a team member to draw his game as a draw will win the match for the team. Some players keep playing on despite being major material down, hoping his opponent will yield to his TC request to draw the game.
The four preceding reasons are legal, but borderline sportsmanlike. But the remaining ones definitely cross that line.
5) Playing on because of spite. Sometimes a player, having a winning position blunders and finds himself with a losing position. He’s suddenly behind a rook and a few pawns, and his emotions emerge. And instead of acknowledging his errors and blunders, tell himself, “I can’t win or even draw this game. But I make my opponent work for it. He deserves to be punished as he is beating me. I’m upset so he to be upset as well.” He might even add, ”I’m not immature. I’m not immature (and so on).”
6) Sometimes we have our priorities mixed up. There have been cases of players continuing the game with the intent of keeping the opponent from fulfilling other promises and commitments. His opponent may have to go to his daughter’s birthday, his son’s baseball game, a date with his girlfriend, a taxi, bus, or plane to catch, all later in the day so he can play in the tournament.
A player who knows this can use this information against his opponent. They reason, my opponent must know to keep the whole day, and part of the next day, to finish his game. So, they refuse a faster time limit or to start at earlier time. Instead, they play slowly, and once they are down material, play even slower. They keep playing on and on, sometimes looking for an easy draw, or even worse, spurring a draw offer to win the game.
But players, please don’t resign if you have a reasonable chance to change the outcome (to your benefit). But before you push ahead with your stubbornness and obstinacy about not resigning, ask yourself, why am still playing to the mate?