After the previous article in which FM Yosha Iglesias took a look at resignations in positions that were drawn, or draws in positions that were winning, it’s time to tackle the worst of the “ultimate blunders”: resigning a won position!
Read the first article: The ultimate blunder: unnecessary resignation
This second article is in large part based on the compilation by Tim Krabbé on his excellent site. I took what I thought were the best examples and also added several games not referenced by Krabbé.
Let’s start with perhaps the only case of a resignation in a winning position in a high-level game that was captured on camera! Here at the 2018 Leon Masters Spanish no. 1 Paco Vallejo is pressing his compatriot GM Jaime Latasa Santos in an endgame that’s unpleasant to defend. After concerted pressure, the two players both believed that White could break down the blockade:
After 68.Rh8+?? Black has only one legal move, and it’s a winning one, but he still managed to go wrong… by resigning! After 68…Kxh8 69.Kxg6 Black can simply capture the bishop with Rxe5, controlling e8.
An even more recent example. 2352-rated German FM Reiner Odendahl had been outplayed by Russian GM Vyacheslav Ikonnikov and it was understandable that when his opponent decided to finally finish the game with 36…Qxg3+?? White resigned.
It turns out, however, that after 37.fxg3 f2+ 38.Kf1 Black has nothing – the e1-knight stops Bg2 and the king escapes if Black captures on e1.
This is the oldest and probably best-known example:
d4-bishop is pinned and attacked three times. Seeing no way to save the piece, Black resigned. The alternative 36…Bg1! would have won the queen and the game!
White, a strong German Master, here played 1.Qxf6! in this desperate position. Of course 1…gxf6?? 2.Rg3+ Kh8 3.Bxf6 is mate, but instead of Black resigns the move 1…Qg4!! would have defended g7 and left Black totally winning after 2.hxg4 gxf6. Incidentally, Black can even begin with the sadistic 1…Qd1+!! and only play Qg4 after 2.Kh2.
Mexican Master Carlos Torre is mainly known for the magnificent game he lost against Edwin Adams in 1920 after a number of sacrifices based on the theme of back-rank mate (though it actually seems to be at least partially a made-up game). Another of his defeats has gone down in history – this one, against Frank Parker, which he suffered during a simul he was giving at the Marshall Chess Club in New York in 1924.
Seeing no way to prevent the threat of Rc1+ White resigned, but 30.Rd6!! would have won the game after 30…cxd6 31.f7 or 30…Rxd6 31.g8=Q+ and, for example, 31…Kd7 32.Qf7+ Kc6 33.Qe8+ Kb6 34.Qe3! Kc6 35.Qxc5+!
If you give this game as “White to play and mate” then it would be fairly easy to find 1.Bxf7+! Kxf7 2.Rf1+! Kg8 3.Rf8+! Rxf8 4.Qg7#. But in the game he didn’t know that he was winning and, believing he was losing his queen, White resigned!
White resigned in view of 1.Rxd2 Rxd2 2.Qg4 h5! or 2…f5! and the queen can’t continue to stop the back-rank mate. However, the zwischenzug 2.Bxg6! would have won the game, since after the capture of the bishop and only now 3.Qg4 the moves 3…f5 or 3…h5 would lose to 4.Qxg6+.
Seeing no way to stop Qxh3 mate White resigned, but after 1.Re8+! Kd7 2.Re3! the rook takes advantage of the pinned d4-bishop to protect h3 and attack the queen, which needs to defend the bishop. After, for example, 2…Qf4, White wins with 3.Rxd4+! Qxd4 4.Rd3! Qxd3 5.Ne5+! and the fork leaves White a piece up.
A real classic that’s found its way into a number of endgame books in the chapter “pawn breakthroughs”. A pawn down, Black resigned, since he thought White would simply create a passed pawn on the kingside. However, Black could have won thanks to a long and instructive variations: 1…c4! (absolutely not 1…a4?? 2.bxa4 c4 3.b3) 2.bxc4 a4 3.c5 a3 4.bxa3 bxa3 5.c6 a2 6.c7 a1=Q 7.c8=Q Qf1+ 8.Kg3 Qf4+ 9.Kh3 Qf3+ 10.Kh2 Qf2+ 11.Kh3 Qh4+ 12.Kg2 Qxg4+.
Black to play and win!
It was important not to play 26…e2??, which nevertheless led to White resigns, since after 27.fxe7 Bd4+ White defends with 28.Ne3! Bxe3+ 29.Kh1 and White's queen defends the rook.
Simplest and best was 26…Bxf6! For example, 27.Qxf6 Qxf6 28.Rxf6 Rd1+ 29.Rf1 e2 30.Ne3 Rxf1+ 31.Nxf1 e1=Q.
In what had been a totally winning position for a number of moves Black was taken by surprise by 39.Rd7! and, in shock, resigned. 39…Rf7?? would indeed have lost after 40.Rxe7 Rxd1+ 41.Kg2 Rxe7 42.Qf8#, but Black had the resource 39…Qf7!! and 40.Rxf7 would lose to 40…Rxd1+. After e.g. 40.R1d5 Black now has the simple 41…Qg8! to hold everything together.
Black is totally winning and a move such as 35…Qh5, with the idea of Bh3 would be more than enough. However, he couldn’t resist playing the pretty and tempting combination: 35…Qxh2+?? 36.Kxh2 Rcg8 White resigned.
In fact White could have defended with the incredible 37.e6!! Bxe6 38.Rxc5! bxc5 39.Rxc5 and it’s Black who has to resign.
In 2003 Viktor the Terrible was still one of the best players in the world and his opponent, a strong International Master, trusted him and resigned in the position above after 36.Rg6??
Black had a win, however – perhaps the hardest to find of all those given here: 36…Nxe5!! 37.Rxe6 Nxd3! Black is threatening the rook and also a royal fork on f4, while 38.Rxh6+ gxh6+ is check!
The moral of the story: it’s never too late to resign!
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