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Endgame Fundamentals: Why Resign?

By Donny Gray

Many times a student and I will be reviewing one of their recent tournament games when they say, “I resigned here,” and I will say, “Why?  You are winning!”

Resigning too early is a well-known occurrence in chess throughout history.  Many times even GMs will miss the fact they have a winning shot and just resign.  Sometimes the position looks so hopeless, the only thing they see is resignation.  Only after the game when their super blunder is pointed out do they see it.

For example:

 

Position 09

 

It would be very easy to see nothing but gloom and doom here for white in this position.  There are 29 moves possible.  All lose but one.  If you had this in a tournament with the clock clicking, you may well miss the winning move and just resign. The winning move, of course, is the spectacular 1.Qb7+!!

Black is forced to take the queen and now the knight picks off both the queen and rook.  With a piece up, white wins the ending easily.

One of the things I like to do to my students is take GM games where one of them resigned.   I will then give them the position and tell them to win it against me.  You would be surprised how hard this can be sometimes!  A super GM resigns to another one his own level because it looks simple to the both of them.  But to normal mortals, not all is as simple as you might think.

For some examples I have decided to use a couple of games from the recent super tournament, the London Chess Classic.  The tournament had not only the current world champion Magnus Carlsen playing, but also most of the top players in the world.  The lowest rated player in the 10-man round robin was Michael Adams, sporting a hefty 2744 rating!  At the end of this article I will post the entire games.   By the way, Carlsen won 1st place.  No surprise there.

A good learning tool is to put the end position on a computer program and let it take the side of the one that just resigned.  Now before you check to see the best way to do it, you try to win the game against the computer.  Make sure you can win against the computer.  See if the GM that resigned had any play left.

 

32-1

 

In our 1st example we find the game from round 7, World Champion Carlsen vs USA’s #1 Nakamura.

White: Magnus Carlsen 2850
Black:  Nakamura, Hikaru2793

White has just played 78.Ba4 and black resigned.

It does indeed look bad for black.  In fact, I see nothing for black at all!  But before you continue, set up the position on your computer and take white.  See if you can win against black, who just resigned.

Let’s see how play could have gone and see if black indeed has any play at all.

78.Ba4     Nc8
79.Bd7     Nb6
80.c8-Q  Nc8
81.Bc8     Kf8
82.Ke6    Ke8
83.f7+     Kf8
84.Bd7    Kg7
85.Ke7    Kg6
86.f8-Q

White, in just a few moves, is now a full queen up.

Now for Nc5+

78.Ba4     Nc5+
79.Kd4    Nb6
80.Kc5    Nc8
81.Bd7     Na7
82.Kb6    Kf6
83.Ka7     Ke5
84.c8-Q

Again, white is a full queen up.  Seems that black was justified in resigning.

Next up we have the game from the 5th round Anand vs Topalov.

White:  Anand, Viswananthan 2803
Black:  Topalov, Veselin 2803

 

32-2

 

Here, Anand just played 74.Rg4 and black resigned.  Here is a great example of a position that a GM resigned, but for normal mortals it looks like a lot of play is left.

Again, for this exercise you take the white pieces and let the strongest computer program you have take black and see if you can win.  I bet you will find that black has a lot of play left, especially if your computer program is rated over 3000!  Play this position until you can beat the computer several times in a row.  This is good training.

Now let’s take a look at the best lines for both sides according to Komodo.

74.Rg4       Rb1
75.Nd5+    Ke6
76.Nc7+     Kf7
77.Kd7       Rb6
78.Ne8      Rb7+
79.Kc6       Rb4
80.Nd6+   Ke6
81.Rg6+    Ke7
82.Kd5      Rb8
83.Ke5      Rf8
84.Rg7+    Kd8
85.Nf5       Re8+
86.Kd5      Rf8
87.Kc6      Kc8
88.e5        Kb8
89.Kb6     Rd8
90.Ne7     Rc8
91.Nc6+   Rc6+
92.Kc6     Ka8
93.Kb6    Kb8
94.Rg8++

Wow!  Now that was a lot of work.  Never would I have resigned with that much play left.  Many places white could have gone wrong.

Now below I give the entire games of the two above examples:

 

 

 

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