Kujichagulia and Chess

Kujichagulia and Chess:
Self-Determination vs. Resignation in a Bad Position!
by Kimani Stancil, Ph.D.

Before I begin, please remember that this article is a sharing piece directed to inspire, add insight, and to convince you that there is more to competitive chess than finding the best move.  However, the truth behind the best move can’t be denied, especially when the stronger player is the one who sees it best.  Yes, I do believe ratings play a major role in scaring otherwise capable people from finding the best moves.  How often have you heard someone say ‘He or she is 400 points higher rated so I gave him a draw. (In my past, I am a little guilty of this as well.)

What does this mean when you can see with your own eyes that you are winning, or can you? Psychologically, it is very clear that lower rated players become a little blind when gaining the advantage against higher rated opponents.  Is it that they are too excited, inexperienced, or surprised that they are winning?  Is it the challenge of explaining why they are playing so strongly or why their higher rated opponent has just played so sloppily?  Maybe, the lower rated player is stunned in a way that he or she can’t believe his good fortune.

In the following game, I share my thoughts on why it is important to keep focused.  And it is important to consider carefully the chances for both sides when you are losing or winning.  With this insight, I hope to convince you that you should learn to never resign prematurely.  Especially, this is true if you are a developing player who wants to become better, but you can’t afford a coach, and sometimes can’t afford tournament entry fees.  I hope that if you consider all your chances carefully enough, you will save time and money in the long run as your understanding will improve.


Kujichagulia & Chess


Is this the comeback of the year?  No… I submit that this is simply an example of how a stronger player looks for and finds ways to maximize his chances of surviving a bad position.  Possibly, my opponent thought there was a rule in chess that one should resign when faced with poor odds of success.  But since there is always the option to fight, one must be prepared to work to win in spite of earning the advantage.  It is also helpful to consider that you may need to have grandmaster level stamina to hope to one day beat a grandmaster who is just another human being like yourself! 

We are not guaranteed to possess extraordinary physical powers like telekinesis, but we do have the will to endure and to overcome obstacles.  Our will and indomitable spirit for optimism is our super power, and we should value it before considering resignation in any chess position.  As evidenced by this game, even three pawns down, there is still time to admit your mistakes and find a plan of action.  At the very least, your plan will help you to practice stick-to-it-ness to improve your overall chess endurance.  Even if you lose today, by not resigning prematurely, you will be able to play better tomorrow.  Your opponent won't be the grandmaster sitting across from you, but in fact it will be yourself, the opponent you face every time you play!

Kimani Stancil (right) playing (now GM) Fabiano Caruana at the 2004 World Open (Stancil won). Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Kimani Stancil (right) playing (now GM) Fabiano Caruana
at the 2004 World Open (1-0).
Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Daaim Shabazz

Daaim Shabazz is the founder of The Chess Drum, while serving as a tenured faculty member of Global Business & Marketing at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida, USA. He holds a B.S. Computer Science from Chicago State University, an MBA in Marketing and a Ph.D. in International Affairs & Development, both from Clark Atlanta University. He has served the journalist community for more than 30 years and still competes in tournaments occasionally.

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