Tuesday, December 1, 2015


Young parents are probably familiar with the concept of triple p. This modern method of education solves problems with a positive attitude. Punishments are avoided as much as possible. I've been immediately fan of this approach but it is not always easy. Besides the older generation often doesn't approve this new philosophy as they used very different techniques.

The future will show us which parents made the best choices. Today I am satisfied with the relation I built up with my children although I sometimes ask myself if we don't make it too comfortable for them. Disappointments are part of life. Today some children miss a strong backbone as demonstrated a recent article of hln.

I believe chess can play an important role for many children to improve the resilience. I use the word "can" as I notice many children are following chess-courses but only few participate in tournaments. In the most recent youth-tournaments my son was the only one of 30 pupils from Deurne to actually participate. Of course there is a connection with the willingness of parents or volunteers but I also notice that many children prefer not to participate at competitions. Playing in tournaments is a difficult and tough experience. The emotions can become so strong for the youngest participants that some tears can't be suppressed anymore.

Even after many years of playing competitions I never got used to losing games. Maybe it also explains why I still continue playing chess contrary to many contemporaries. Closely related to losing is of course the eternal discussion about when is the appropriate moment to resign. My son, playing in the -8 group, I recommend to play till mate. However experienced players will rarely continue the game in completely lost positions. It is not only a waste of time but it is often also considered as not showing sufficient respect to the opponent.

What is a completely lost position or when is a game resigned normally? To get a more objective answer, I reviewed my last 100 games in which a player resigned or was mated. I used Komodo 8 on my portable to get an evaluation of the final positions. Each score above [9] I capped at [9] to avoid that some games would distort the average too much. I suspect nobody doubts that an advantage of [9] = queen is sufficient for any clubplayer to win the game.
My last 100 games in which a player resigned or was mated.

I was surprised to detect that the average was as high as 7,45 points. I scored 7,46 while my opponents 7,44 so almost exactly the same. I also thought it would be interesting to detect differences between the rating-groups.
Rating/ average score at resigning or mate
 Only a limited number of games are processed but still we see some kind of trend. The lower rated players are resigning more quickly if the rating-difference increases. Possible explanations are that the rating-gap increases the respect of the opponent for the stronger player or that the opponent expects that a future upset will become less likely. I don't dare to say anything about the higher rated players as the number of games is too small.

I deduct from the statistics one important element which is that averagely players continue for a long time to fight in lost positions. In 58 of the 100 games I even recorded a score of 9 or more. So it is a fairy-tale that serious players resign from the moment they have a lost position. As earlier mentioned, chess is above all a pure individual activity in which the public is not taken into account. Most players, myself included, choose to continue playing for quite some time in completely lost positions.

Nevertheless you also have players not willing to drag out lost positions. Especially in open tournaments you can experience that a bunch of kibitzers are watching like vultures to the agony taking place on the board. So I do understand that some players want to avoid this suffering by resigning when there are no more realistic chances anymore for a turnover. When can you resign with a clear conscience? Well if we look at some recent handicap matches between human and machine then it is clear that humans often error with extra material. Each situation is of course different but resigning being less than a piece down, must be considered too early. The earliest I resigned was with a score of 3 (in my disadvantage). Besides I had serious time-trouble and my opponent was rated more than 300 points higher see 1ste game of the article "to shoot a mosquito with a canon".

A couple of months ago I and the other present players of TSM were very surprised when my opponent Raf De Coninck resigned already at a score of 0,77.
White resigned while Komodo only shows -0,77
If you let Komodo calculate longer (10 minutes) then the evaluation drops further as whites position has no real perspective. However everybody except Raf agreed it was too early to resign. Of course it can still be worse as happened last summer in the Politiken cup with the famous Swedish grandmaster Tiger Hillarp Persson resigning in a dead drawn position.
White resigned while it is a dead draw.
The drawing-line was demonstrated on many sites, among them the blog of the Indian IM Sagar Shah. It is definitely not an isolated incident. On the blog of Tim Krabbe you can find a long list of special positions in which a player resigned while there was a hidden win available. Personally I don't think it is bad to force the opponent to show the winning line. Besides you often please the opponent by doing so as it brings satisfaction to execute the final combination on the board.



  1. Thank you for the article.
    As for me, I find it not compelling to speak about 'respect' to an opponent, although I often meet this attitude. For me, an opponent is who you fight with and want to make difficulties for him as much as possible on the battlefield. When I encounter someone who does not want to resign in a lost position I don't feel uncomfortable and I don't understand why anyone should. In my view, the indignation about a weaker but stubborn opponent can be attributed to... vanity? laziness? Demanding respect is also silly.
    From another point, at least as I take it, chess is a battle comparable to that on a field. There is no glory to an army that retreats, no matter how smaller it is. On the contrary, the will to fight till the end on the field is respected. So why chess should be different.
    One more point, there is an opportunity to lose in different ways in a given position. You can lose in 3 moves and can lose in 10, deriving pleasure from your efforts and... I would admire such a player.

    1. "On the contrary, the will to fight till the end on the field is respected."
      Sometimes this is done to buy time for other troops to get organized, to weaken as much as possible the enemy or to avoid munition getting in the hands of the enemy. These aspects don't play a role in chess at all.

      "You can lose in 3 moves and can lose in 10"
      In a tournament it often makes sense to save energy. I had many times that a long game, caused me to play weaker in the next one when played the same day as I didn't have time to properly rest.

    2. 1st part of your answer: The reasons may be different but this does not deny that 1) Sometimes for a general or soldier it is a matter of honour to not retreat even when no reinforcement is due 2) The readiness to fight to the end is admired by the foe. I doubt that rationality is the strongest cause in the hearts of people.
      2nd part: It is true but to me chess is much about HOW someone plays and not about who just wins and that's all (as it is for the majority).

  2. To make clear who I am, my profile is https://www.chess.com/member/oleg-kiev