Tuesday, March 18, 2008

When is the proper time to resign?

In the book "Chessmaster at any Age" Rolf Wetzell recommends that you not waste your energy in a tournament fighting a hopelessly lost battle, but let the game go, resign and prepare for the next round.

Several years ago in the Mass Open I faced a Wetzellite. Obviously because he dropped his flashcards on the floor before our game started. Me with white developed a hellacious attack having pieces swirling around my opponent’s king, No forced mate was yet obvious nor did I have any substantial material advantage, but it was obvious he was in trouble, and he subsequently resigned to my surprise.

At the BCF - given current demographics and distribution of player strength - I have had the (mis)fortune of being pared against IM David Vigorito many, many times for the first round game. This particular day our game went:

Griffin v Vigorito

1. e4 c5
2. Nc3 Nc6
3. Bb5 Nd4
4. f4 Nxb5
5. Nxb5 d5
6. d3? Qa5+
0-1 OUCH!

[This is an Annotation Novelty Mike has introduced which may be widely useful for describing many club games....rjo]

David found this short interesting and displayed charity when he named me "NN" when publishing this short in the MACA magazine July -September 2007.

I usually resign quicker than usual when playing a very strong master - firstly out of respect and secondly in the hopes they are willing to take time to review the debacle. I would rather spend the time learning something from the bad experience than being tortured to death. And I have found that pain is the best motivator for me to remember what I did wrong.

But normally I don't resign an obviously lost game until I have 99% confidence that given my opponent’s technique and the condtion of the position will bring my loss.

Under two situations I have played to the bitter mate or much further than above mentioned.

1. Anger at an opponent: One time about six years ago at game start a strong former-Soviet expert flipped his cigarettes by the set, made a grimace and grunt with no other response when I stuck out my hand. He gave me the impression that he was insulted to be sitting and having to waste his time killing this fish. Hitting like a hot poker was the decision that mate, stalemate, or naked kings would be the only way this game would end. Almost four hours later by some miracle I had an outside h pawn flying up the board (my 5 pawns and rook vs his 6 pawns and rook). As we were both in time pressure to meet the first control; our rooks both acting like PacMen gobbled up all of the pawns but one each. I was losing when all of a sudden the story of Walter Brown being unable to win a Queen v Rook ending against a computer flashed into my head. I realized I could arrange for that outcome and gleefully for the next two hours danced my king around my rook. Time and time again my opponent tried to pry them apart with his queen and king but did not know the technique. Unfortunately I was 5 minutes behind him and time running out. I no longer had time to keep score (analog clock) the mistake I made was not asking a director to count the moves because we clearly broke 50 without capture, and so my flag fell after 5 hours 58 minutes. One of my most enjoyable losses.

2. More common is anger at myself: Once in a while especially if it's the first round, having lost enough material without initiative making my game fatal, I play on just to get exercise for my brain because I want to get ready for the next game. This self flagellation probably doesn't make my opponent happy.

I've seen kids and beginners play on forever, and my chess nemesis always does. I try not to get offended about this because it's within my opponent's rights to play on as long as they play by the rules.

What is your feeling about the proper time to resign? Do you have any interesting stories about this?

Please Comment 03/18/2008 Mike Griffin

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