How to properly resign in chess? Etiquette/Nuances!

Resigning in chess is a situation that all players will have to do at some point, even the world champion loses sometimes and have to resign. Doing this, it’s important to learn the corresponding etiquette to properly resign without causing problems.

There aren’t any hard-to-knock rules in written form that dictates “this is how you should resign”. But there are definitely practices that should be followed (unwritten) to avoid some misunderstanding and whatnots.

As a chess player here is what I know:

To properly resign in chess you should first stop the clock and make eye contact. Whisper in a soft voice that “I resign” or just “resign” so it wouldn’t be confused as a draw offer. Offer your hand and respectfully shake their hand then write the result on the scoresheet afterward.

This simple procedure is a common pattern that you will witness in most tournaments. It’s just a good guideline to follow which can get you out of trouble from just misunderstanding things.

Let’s answer some common questions.

Do you have to do something before resigning?

The best thing that you can do before resigning would be stopping the clock, offering your hand for a shake, and nod a bit.

Stopping the clock is a good way to relieve the tension from the game by diverting the player’s focus. That’s the thing that after all, both players will be noticing all the time so you could actually communicate non-verbally (without talking).

It is forbidden to speak loudly in the playing hall since it is a form of distraction that may affect the silent atmosphere. You would suffer some penalties and warnings from making too much noise, just stopping the clock should do the trick.

While doing this you should state that you are resigning not offering a draw (just whisper it). This of course is also liable for some regulatory action (if you say you’re offering a draw when you’re actually resigning).

Just say “I resign” (official USCF resign phrase) or just “resign” if you are uncomfortable, so that your opponent can distinguish it from a draw offer.

After this it is a good practice to shake hands as a form of sportsmanship although is not necessary. This may make you appear really intolerable after the game that is just distasteful behavior in general.

And if you do appear angry or distressed (which every player does at a degree after losing a game) it may cause an arbiter-worthy issue which you don’t want.

To reiterate, you should resign by stopping the clock, offering your hand, then you can nod a bit, and just shake hands. Do not be afraid of stopping the clock when resigning, since that is actually the most common way people do this.

Another thing that I want to discuss though is a tendency to tip the King over (during resignation) mostly for people who don’t have that much experience in tournaments. Perhaps they saw that from games of really old players they look up to which makes it classic.

I warn that you shouldn’t try this in an actual tournament setting, it might be misinterpreted as slander behavior worthy of regulatory action. This is not necessary, I’ve looked up a lot of forums and a lot of people say that it is very disrespectful.

Is a handshake necessary?

We’ve seen handshakes so much that some people think it is a part of the legit procedure for a resignation.

Handshake is not a mandatory action that should be practiced during resignation, although it is part of good etiquette.

This is not meant to say that you shouldn’t shake hands with your opponent after the game. This is the same in basketball where people come together and pat each other after the score settled to indicate sportsmanship.

There might not be a legal basis for doing it but should do so out of respect for the opponent and the results.

But I will note that you don’t break any rules by not doing a handshake (during resignation (although a handshake is a must at the start of the game). And therefore shouldn’t be accountable for any disciplinary ethical action.

Although there is a rule concerning the ethical behavior of chess participants regarding collaborativeness and uprightness, which can be imposed if the lack of handshake comes with personal aggression.

By the same light, a resignation cannot be undone by a lack of handshake since it’s not an official step for the process. The resignation will still resolve regardless of the presence of this ethical procedure.

Literally the handshake (again, during resignation) does not interfere with the action at all, it is just a good camaraderie between the players and shouldn’t be part of penalties (the behavior is the one that can be penalized).

What is the difference between resigning and offering a draw?

Now this is the one that I don’t want you to even think about (trying to express a resignation then later claiming it was a draw offer), since it is just trickery not worthy in the playing environment.

When offering a resignation so should clearly express the will to resign by whispering “I resign”, in order to distinguish it from a draw.

Your opponent may hesitate to actually go with your decision thinking that it can actually be a draw. You might even be accused of attempting such even if it’s not the case (which again, may call for disciplinary action).

You don’t want to be in this position, so that’s why I want you to make clear that you are resigning and not trying a draw. The arbiters are not incompetent to fall such a feint anyway (it is only a hassle).

You can stay away from trouble just by making things clear.

Can you resign at any point?

So yes, we all know that we have the ability to resign a game. But can we resign at any point we want for example, even in the opening?

A player is eligible to resign a game as soon as the first move has been played. Although there are a couple of top tournaments that restrict resignation and draw offers until a certain amount of moves has transpired.

You shouldn’t worry about this though since the exception mostly exists in really high-tier tournaments where draws occasionally occur. Organizers don’t want the players to draw or resign early in the game before anything significant happens.

Most of the time, regular tournaments will allow you to resign (if you want to) at any stages of the game. You can resign at any point in the game even as early a move two if it’s your will for some reason.

Although there are a couple of details that surround this that we may have to discuss.

First, the position over the board does not in any way constitute consideration for a resignation call. This means that you can resign even in positions that you’re winning, and it would actually be legal.

So if your opponent actually tries to accuse you of a resignation, the reason “but I am winning” doesn’t count. You shouldn’t worry about this though since it wouldn’t be an issue if you haven’t stopped the clock or anything that has been mentioned above.

I just find that really interesting but also kinda useless. I can’t think of anyone who would personally give up a winning position.

Speaking of interesting, another one that I’ve found is you can’t actually resign if the game already ended. Now you might call me stupid for this one but here me out.

Some people do not want to be shown losing in time troubles, checkmates, or some annoying way. So if it actually occurs they may go for resignation instead (so it will only count as losing in a more favorable fashion).

This of course is an illegal concept that is not allowed in any way low or high competition. But is mostly a problem faced by people who are not that experienced in tournament play.

I just want to throw that one in there for context.

“Nobody Ever Won A Chess Game By Resigning.”

Savielly Tartakower

What do you do after a resignation?

After a resignation is there a step-by-step method that should be done in the score sheet for example?

The scoresheet should be signed with the results after a resignation has been determined. Some tournaments will even require you to write the cause of the result (if you lose by resignation for example).

This is why it is important for you to fill the form (scoresheet) with who wins the match, and occasionally if it is a lost by resignation. You can write “I resign” as a go-to phrase for doing this (although some tournaments don’t even require such).

Signing the scoresheet is just a reliable practice for saying that this actually occurred within your knowledge. The opponent will do this too on their own scoresheet.

But what if you want to appeal a resignation since a checkmate has occurred earlier, is it possible?

Yes, you could actually do this and depending on the time format can overturn the result of the match. Although for the most part the organizers are not really willing to replay a game, so most people just consider a loss by resignation as an absolute defeat that cannot be nullified.

So don’t be surprised if you still lost even when an actual checkmate has occurred (since you resigned). I heard from some people that this is a common occurrence in lower-end tournaments, where the participants don’t have good visualization yet.

I myself though have not observed this personally.

Do you now know how to properly resign?

Resignation in chess may seem like a tricky proceeding that requires some special knowledge to properly do. I suggest you shouldn’t really worry though as long as you stop the clock and do the handshake. 

In the early days of chess there is no standard execution in this whatsoever and anything is acceptable. This really only matters in high-paying tournaments where it can cause some controversies.

But as a beginner, every tournament matter to you (which is normal) and you would likely like to do everything in an acceptable way. This should get you in that direction, sleep well and play chess.

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