[ANSWERED ✅] When I'm convinced I can't win a game, do I pass or resign or keep on playing?

Hi all — I’m a bit uncertain about what to do when I’m convinced I can’t win a game (I guess you could call it etiquette). For example, look at this game: Tournament Game: Total Novice Tournament (TNT) - 9x9 - Dec 2022 (97285) R:1 (nathirl vs flat_chocolate_mountain). Do I resign and offer my congratulations, pass, or continue playing until the bitter end (I’m pretty sure it’s not this one, but let me double check anyway)? Thanks in advance!

Edit: My logic tells me to just resign and offer congratulations.


Well, usually it’s not good to ask for advice about an ongoing game, but in this case it seems to be about just finishing a game that is almost over and this seems to be just an etiquette question.

It’s always possible to resign at a point when you feel that a game has become hopeless. However, in this particular case, since you’ve already reached a point where the game could be scored, you could also instead just pass and score the game.

Playing on only makes sense if you feel that you have a shot at turning the game around. If you feel that that’s not possible, then I think you’ve already reached the end.


Thanks @yebellz. Yes, indeed not asking for advice on the game, just on how to conclude. I’m resigning. Thanks.

Edit: game now concluded.


I completely agree with @yebellz ’ words.

But I’d like to add emphasis to this particular sentence:

In this case, you can resign, but passing is also completely acceptable and perfectly good etiquette.

An argument in favour of passing rather than resigning:


The game was already “finished” in the sense that all intersections were either Black or White. There was no unsettled region of the board. So you could have passed instead of resigning. Then the game would be scored. You would lose, but the system would tell you exactly by how many points. This is good feedback, as you can compare the actual score with your personal evaluation of the game. This feedback is a good way to know how correct your personal feelings about the game were.

You said “I’m convinced I can’t win a game”. Why are you convinced that you can’t win? Usually this means that you have counted that your opponent has more territory than you, and that there is no leeway remaining to turn this around. Possible ways to turn a game around include:

  • expanding your territory
  • reducing the opponent’s territory
  • building new territories
  • killing an enemy group
  • reviving a group of yours that your opponent thought was dead
  • invading the opponent’s territory
  • negotiating the borders between your opponent’s territory and yours

But the first question is: how many points do you have, and how many points does your opponent have?

In your case, if you had just passed, the opponent would have passed too, and the game would have been scored, and you could have checked your personal answer to this question with the actual score of the game.

Resigning makes a lot of sense if there are more moves required to go to scoring, but those moves are “useless” in the sense that you can’t use them to turn the game around. But in your case, there were no more moves to be played. You could have just passed. So passing would have been perfectly good etiquette.

A warning about anyone telling you that you should resign because of etiquette, although not very relevant to this particular game:


You should never resign because of etiquette. You should only resign if you truly, deeply believe that you have completely lost. It is never impolite to try to win. In particular, if your opponent thinks they have won, but you can still imagine ways to win the game, then you don’t have to resign. If they think that they have won, it’s up to them to prove it and actually win. You don’t have to let them win easily because someone told you it would be bad etiquette to try to overturn the game.


To add to yebellz splendid advice: The most annoying thing to do is pass before the game is over, especially when there are unclosed borders. In that case the game cannot be counted, so your opponent has to play on. So never do that.

Also (in spite of that not being the question): Resign when YOU are sure you have lost. Not when your opponent thinks you have lost. :slight_smile:

And yet another point: If the game is very close to counting (say just a few moves) I prefer to play to the end (no matter if winning or loosing). But that is just a personal preference.


I would like to add:

There’s this misconception that, when a game is really heavily lost, etiquette says weaker player must resign so as not to waste stronger player’s time. This might ring true to certain people’s disposition, but it is not true to Go’s humbling, inquiring and communicating spirit.

A heavily lost game should end, because the weaker player earns nothing other than a heavy loss, the teaching potential is lost.

As long as a game is offering you an idea you want to explore (for example, can I live in this corner?), I say it’s valid to pursue it.

However, it’s always a good rule to be accommodating to other people’s dispositions. :wink:


Resigning is not only something about etiquette with your opponent.
It’s something about etiquette with yourself too.

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I don’t think beginners should worry about resignation etiquette. Go etiquette can be subtle and I don’t think 25k players are expected to know the finer details.
At the European Youth Team Go Championship I can find games going to scoring with a 100+ point difference up to ~10k level, and to my knowledge there is no complaint about it.

So I’d say: Resign only if you feel the game is lost and you really don’t want to continue. Otherwise just play on and go to scoring when it’s finished.

Maybe around 4k level or stronger, you and/or your opponents may consider go etiquette involved in resigning. But still no obligation to do so.


And then when you reach dan, all etiquette is gone again.


My attitude is if I’m still having fun in the game, I continue. Perhaps I’m old or self-centered (both probably true), but I’m playing go because I enjoy playing and winning or losing is secondary to the myriad challenges of a full-sized go game. Even if there is only one portion of the board that is still undecided, I play until there is nothing left worth fighting over. I appreciate small victories.


Really? In my experience (at least in over-the-board games) dan players adhere to good sportsmanship and etiquette. Breaches of etiquette are usually not more than friendly banter.
There are exceptions, but I haven’t encountered those much.


Good sportsmanship, yes.

I don’t know what “etiquette” is, though. Kyu players appear to have lots of concerns such as “should I resign out of politeness” or “is it impolite to try to invade my opponent’s territory” or “is it impolite to start a tsumego if my opponent is in byo-yomi and I’m not”.

Dan players tend not to have such qualms and instead have an “all is fair in war” approach.

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Your examples seem more like feelings of insecurity that a player might have when facing a much stronger opponent. When my opponent is a pro, I may have similar feelings of insecurity and I might resign when I feel I’m behind by as little as 10 points around move 150 (say in a simultaneous game with handicap).

But I wouldn’t expect such feelings of insecurity when the opponents are of the same level. Does a 10k in a game against another 10k feel inhibited to invade because of their notion of etiquette? This is a genuine question. I don’t really remember myself playing at 10k level (almost 35 years ago).


Resigning can be linked on the plans each had in the head. Like when you think you re alive but not. Or deeper. Getting that you were wrong will matter a lot on the time you chose to resign.


I can tell you about my own experience as a DDK. When I was around 18k (you said 10k, but you seemed to be talking about all weak players in your message), I read Bad Habits at Sensei's Library, which among other things brought me to read Speculative invasion/discussion at Sensei's Library.

I was forced to draw my own conclusions (for example my personal criterion for what counts as “rude invasion” is “if I’m sure that I could defend against it, it’s rude to hope/assume that my opponent wouldn’t, and an insult to their time and intelligence – unless it’s a handicap game and they’re weaker, I guess”), but from the discussion in that page I realized that there are people that have very different ideas about what’s considered rude while playing Go. As it happens with any kind of etiquette, I imagine.

So yes, for a long time I was worried about offending my opponents, even if they were at the same level as me. So much so that for my first games on OGS I had prepared an apologetic message that I would send at the start of every single game in chat. Something like “I’m a beginner so please forgive me if I do something rude”.

And I’m pretty sure I resigned multiple times out of fear of offending my opponent, even though I wasn’t even 100% sure I had lost, and even though I was aware that playing the endgame through would have been instructive for me. I still feel that playing the endgame through is instructive, but I always feel the peer pressure to resign if I know I’ve lost, so I ask my opponent’s permission to keep playing if I want to.

My experience is not necessarily exemplary of a typical beginner/newcomer, since it’s in my character to worry too much, but there it is.

Also, there is the distinction I just made: I learned Go on my own for quite a while before ever coming on OGS and playing other people. As a result, I was already over the 20k hump when I had my first contact with the Go community, so not really a “beginner” in the usual sense, but definitely a “newcomer” and someone unsure about etiquette. Since I don’t play often, I still am unsure, in fact :laughing:

(btw, this caused some of my opponents to be confused, though hopefully not offended: here I was, winning against them and calling myself a beginner. Worrying that it might offend them, I therefore changed the message to “I’m new to the Go community” instead of “I’m a beginner”)


On the contrary, I think your experience is extremely representative of many, many go players.


Fun fact: I might have resigned from that one game but I somehow ended up winning the tournament.



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If I see a game is completely not winnable, I resign to not waste my own time.

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Dear DDK,

3k here, since I have a bit of experience with this game, just chipping in my 2c.

I mean there are obviously time-wasters, i have one dude that use up the full 60s in byoyomi on every single yose move, when it’s obvious that he is far behind and have no chance to catch up, luckily I had time that day, so I just opened up a second screen to watch youtube and return the favour, the game lasted 4+ hrs, that’s one case out of my last maybe 300 games, that I consider a true time-waster.

BUT, like you said, if you feel that you have a shot, even tho you might feel it’s only 5% chance, and you just dont know, you need to give that a go. I certainly wont be offended if someone try to exploit some cutting points on my wall, in fact, I welcome it, and try to tenuki as much as possible to practice my reading. You can try to live inside opponent territory, and maybe after 3, 5, 10 moves, it become obvious that it’s hopeless after all, and you can read out the sequence that you are dead, you can resign then. I won’t consider it offensive, and I’d in fact, encourage, weaker players give that a try, I might make a mistake, who knows!! What is obvious to a stronger player is not so for the weaker players, and stronger players understand this. If someone gets offended by it, it’s their problem, not yours!! There will be maybe 1% of player who are impatience, but 99% will find it “fair enough”, or “i gotta go soon, but I need to make it clear to this dude that his group is dead”, and that’s perfectly fine. Don’t let that hold you back your invasion, just ignore the annoying 1%.

I will give you a good rule of thumb, if you cannot read out the sequence, and it’s not 100% clear to you that something cannot “happen” inside their “territory”, then just give it a go and get your answer :slight_smile: