Why do Chess Players Resign Before a Checkmate? Solved!

After watching many professional games I have seen comments about chess players resigning early and how this is disrespectful, people think that it is not professional to do this. 

I completely disagree, I have been watching chess tournament games for years and this is the way to do it. In this article I will explain why chess players do this and how this is actually the professional standard in chess tournaments.

I have played competitively too, and here is what I’ve learned:

Titled chess players resign before a checkmate for three main reasons: To respect their opponent, save time, to undermine the dissatisfaction of a loss, and uphold their pride as a competitive player. It is tournament standard to resign before the actual checkmate, it is not considered disrespectful.

I have participated in chess tournaments myself and pretty much everybody does this without anyone getting offended, but I understand that not everyone has the same tournament experience. I will share the reasons here.

Without further ado, let’s get started. 

Chess players resign before checkmate since losing can be demoralizing

If you have ever played a game of chess then you are familiar with the feeling of regret after losing games, this is something that can be painful to bear.

Even professional chess players are not exempted from this, everyone who loses will regret a move or two.

In a competitive setting where players are expected to perform their best on a consistent basis, being disappointed is not a good emotion. Resigning early before a checkmate actually occurs is one of the best ways to move on quickly.

The player won’t have time to think about the mistakes that they have made while it is still fresh, they can settle down early and self-reflect in isolation. 

Seeing one’s opponent will just encourage negative emotions, resigning early is one of the ways to cope with it.

People who are competitive in chess usually take the game very seriously,  if there are no more possible moves to save a position players rather give up. It can be frustrating to see a checkmate and players usually don’t want to let it unfold.

Psychologically it also devalues the worth of a single game (chess tournaments are likely to be played game after game), the loss can just be compensated by a good win later. 

Getting worked up about one game is not ideal, a loss will appear here and there and competitors have to continue playing.

Chess players resign before checkmate due to professional standards

Another reason why chess players rather resign than allow a checkmate is due to professional standards, the act of resigning indicates that a player has understood that the position is losing.

Checkmates occur when players miss it, strong players rarely miss a checkmate.

People that are lower-rated do not resign before a checkmate since they are likely to have missed the checkmate in the first place, this is not very professional. Titled players will easily spot a mate in 1-3.

Getting checkmated over the board indicates to the other competitors that the player was not able to identify the checkmate in their calculation, this can be embarrassing. 

Competitors have pride as well, missing a checkmate in 1-3 moves is not something they want to show on their resume.

In professional games there is a standard to resign if a checkmate cannot be prevented, this at least shows that the player has understood that the position is losing. And we have to remember that this is a checkmate, basically there is no going back.

People want to boast their “never give up mentality” which will be applicable in some positions, however with an unstoppable checkmate threat we have to understand that the position is just losing.

Resigning early is just a courteous way to save time.

Chess players resign before checkmate to show respect to their opponent

In a chess tournament little advantages matter, if a competitor is able to gain an edge with extra preparation they will be willing to do it. 

One way to gain an edge is to never resign and just let the clock run out in order to annoy the opponent (and don’t let them rest for the time being). 

The benefit of this is dubious but at least there is something, however you do not see many chess players do this in actual tournaments.

Because we have something called ethics/sportsmanship, letting the clock run out when the position has no hope is a plain disrespect.

This is also one of the reasons why chess players resign early, they want to maintain professional standards and not look like a sly opportunists. Plus doing things like these makes people hate you in general, you can get penalized for rude behavior.

Titled chess players resign early in order to respect their opponent’s time in the tournament, multiple games are scheduled in competitive events and players need to rest. 

Letting the clock run out when the position is losing is the quality of a sore loser (unless it is a team event).

Chess players resign early because the checkmate is not necessary

This is another thing that is different from competitive chess and casual chess, people who only play casually glorify the idea of checkmating their opponent. The professional chess scene is much different though, the checkmate is not really that important.

Most games that are played in tournaments are positional where it is decided by a simple endgame or being up a pawn. 

A checkmate is rare if it is possible in some of the games, and when it does nobody really cares about delivering the final blow since the moves to get to the final blow are more important. A checkmate is not essential to a win since the players can calculate.

Along with the reasons above, it makes sense that chess players do not let a checkmate occur over the board. It is just courteous to resign early when the position is losing.

Competitive chess players usually don’t care whether a checkmate is achieved over the board, usually they prefer to write down the results immediately.

This is why grandmasters usually resign early, they want to save time and prepare for the next games as soon as possible.


Chess players resign early in order to respect the time of their opponent, the tournament organizers, and themselves, it is just a professional thing to do. There’s not much reason to let it unfold since the players need to recover as soon as possible.

A checkmate is also not that important in professional games, analysts and players are more concerned about how the checkmate is achieved rather than the actual act of doing it. That is all, thank you for reading.