Zugzwang is a position in which every move would make the position worse, and the player that has to move would be better off if he could pass and not move at all. But in chess no such thing as skipping a move is allowed. You are forced to move.

In the picture above whoever has to make a move loses.

We have seen some examples of zugzwang before:

  • The Trébuchet was in fact a lesson about the mutual zugzwang.
  • The game Fischer – Taimanov (1971) contains some zugzwangs.
  • Opposition can be seen as an example of Zugzwang.
  • And in fact most of the endgames that we have discussed before, like the mating with the rook, make use of this zugzwang concept.
  • Most of the time it is an advantage that it is your turn to move, but sometimes it is a very serious disadvantage. In chess this is known as Zugzwang.This word Zugzwang originates from the German and means something like “forced to move”. It is your move and in chess you have to move since you are not allowed to skip a move in chess.
    Zugzwang isn’t something that happens to you. The concept can also be used by making a move which puts your opponent in zugzwang.
    Getting the opposition is in fact a way to get your opponent in zugzwang. Another famous technique is triangulation in which you reach the same position, but with your opponent to move.

    In some positions whoever is to move is in zugzwang. This kind of postions are referred to as mutual zugzwang or reciprocal zugzwang and are often very interesting postions to study, because these are a kind of balanced positions.

    8/8/8/3pK3/2kP4/8/8/8 w – – 0 49

    A famous example of this reciprocal zugzwang, called trébuchet, is shown in the figure above.
    The player that has to move loses the game. The pawn has to be abandoned. The other player will capture this pawn and is also able to occupy a key square.

    If you like to view the replayable moves belonging to this diagram you can find these at the end of this article.In all four diagrams below Black is able to win the game, because he is able to force his opponent in this famous Zugzwang.

    8/8/8/1k1pK3/3P4/8/8/8 b – – 0 48

    8/8/8/3pK3/3P4/3k4/8/8 b – – 0 48

    8/8/8/3pK3/3P4/1k6/8/8 b – – 0 48

    8/8/7p/4p2K/4P3/k1P5/8/8 b – – 0 42

    Let’s have a look at the last diagram and replay some of the moves.

    42… Kb3 43.Kxh6 Kxc3 44.Kg6 Kd3! Triangulation

    ( 44… Kd4?? would be a serious mistake 45.Kf5 The Trébuchet with Black to move )

    45.Kf5 Kd4 The Trébuchet with White to move 46.Ke6

    ( A move like 46.Kg4 won’t help either 46…Kxe4 47.Kg3 Ke3 reaching a key square )

    46… Kxe4 47.Kf6

    ( 47.Kd6 Kd4 48.Ke6 e4 )

    47… Kf4 48.Ke6 e4 and nothing can stop the pawn 0-1

    In the next lesson we will start with the first lesson about the checkmating with Bishop and Knight.

Next lesson: Make a plan.

teach something more about queens gambit

Some lessons about the Queens Gambit have been planned for the future.
Have you already seen the post about the Elephant Trap which is a famous trap in the Queen’s Gambit Declined.

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