Advice to weaker players: Don't be so ready to resign!

I just won a handicap game against a weaker player because he/she resigned even though he/she was still winning by a huge margin at the time. This is not the only time by far that this has happened to me, so I thought it might be worthwhile to post about it here.

Why do weaker players resign so readily?

  • The most common reason is probably that they just suffered some kind of loss (or an outcome they perceive, rightly or wrongly, as a loss) and got discouraged by it. That seems to be the case in the game I just played.

  • They might be so flustered by that loss that they decide they’re now losing the game, even when they are in fact still winning.

  • But even if they see that they’re still winning after the local loss, they might extrapolate to the end of the game and decide that, at that rate, the stronger player is destined to eventually overtake them.

If you find yourself in such a situation, I’d like to recommend the following:

  1. First, see if the loss you just suffered is really a total loss. Often, you get some compensation somewhere: influence or territory or safety, or even just some freedom from complications.

  2. Then, evaluate the whole board as objectively as you can to see how bad the damage was. Often, even a big local loss will still leave you ahead in the game, especially in high handicap games where you start off with such a huge advantage.

  3. Finally, even if you’re sure your stronger opponent is now destined to catch up with you, please consider playing on! I know there’s a lot of talk about the rudeness of playing out a clearly lost game, but this can’t apply to cases where you’re still technically winning. Look at each game, not as a chance to gain rating points (so that you resign as soon as that hope fades) but as a chance to learn. Learn from the local loss you just suffered, and try not to make the same mistake again for the rest of that game. Fight to play the rest of the game as well as you can.

Anyway, these are my thoughts on the subject. If anyone has any other advice to give, or additional theories about why people resign prematurely, please chime in!