Zugzwang


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Zug-Lite

"Compulsion to move" ... That's what Zugzwang translates into.

It's a situation when a player has to move - they're compelled to move ... because it's their turn, naturally - but to do so, no matter what piece they move and no matter where they move to, they'll end up in some sort of disadvantage ...

  • Such a disadvantage could be terminal - as in, it leads to them Losing the game.

  • Or, it could result in some sort of major handicap - such as key material being captured and/or giving positional advantage to their opponent.

Take a look at the following examples, plus their Reasoning...


Zugzwang
- Example 1 -



Black To Move (Results In Draw)

[Event "?"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "New game"]
[Black "?"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "8/8/8/8/8/5k2/4p3/4K3 b - - 0 0"]
[PlyCount "1"]

1... Ke3 1/2-1/2

White To Move (White Will Lose)

[Event "?"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "New game"]
[Black "?"]
[Result "*"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "8/8/8/8/8/5k2/4p3/4K3 w - - 0 0"]
[PlyCount "4"]

1. Kd2 Kf2 2. Kd3 e1=Q *

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Battle Log - Header Graphic
Black To Move
(Results In Draw)
  1. ... Ke3
  2. ½-½
White To Move
(White Will Lose)
  1. Kd2 ... Kf2
  2. Kd3 ... e1Q

This is known as a Reciprocal Zugzwang, as the outcome isn't totally desirable, for either piece ...

No matter which has to move first ...

Black to Move
(Results in Draw)

No matter where Black's King goes to, the game will result in a Draw (Stalemate) ...

Move 1, It will either be instant Stalemate, if Black's King goes to e3, as it will leave White's King with no legal square to go to, other than the one he's on.

Or, Black's King must move away from his Pawn, allowing White's King to capture Black's Pawn - which he MUST do, to stop it Promoting - and Draw the game, through insufficient material.


White To Move
(White Will Lose)

Move 1, If it's White's turn to move, that player's King must go to d2 - the only legal square ...

For Black's next move, he MUST stay next to his Pawn, else White will nip it off the Board, for a Draw ... So, his King goes to f2.

Move 2, White's King cannot return and goes to d3 ... This allows Black's Pawn to step onto e1 and Promote to a Queen.

Providing Black follows the principles of the Basic Checkmate - King + Queen vs. King, White is staring at a Loss: "Checkmate".


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Zug-Lite

Zugzwang
- Example 2 -



[Event "?"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "New game"]
[Black "?"]
[Result "*"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "8/8/5K2/5BnP/5k2/8/8/8 b - - 0 0"]
[PlyCount "8"]

1... Nf3 2. h6 Ng5 3. Kg6 Nf3 4. h7 Ne5+ 5. Kf6 *

Fritz 12 (by ChessBase):
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Battle Log - Header Graphic
  1. ... Nf3
  2. h6 ... Ng5
  3. Kg6 ... Nf3
  4. h7 ... Ne5+
  5. Kf6

Historical Game:
Fischer-Taimanov, Candidates Tournament, 1971

In this example, Fischer (White) has just sent his Bishop to f5 and Taimanov (Black) suddenly finds himself in Zugzwang ...

Black doesn't want to move his Knight, but has to - he's Compelled to do so, else Resign.

Move 85, Black's kNight drops down to f3.

Move 86, White's h-file Pawn advances to h6; Black's kNight returns to g5, in a vein attempt at keeping guard against White's Pawn's Promotion ambitions ...

Move 87, White's King steps right, onto g6; Black's kNight, again, drops down to f3.

Mobr 88, White's h-file Pawn advances to h6; Black's kNight, out of desperation, goes up to e5, placing White's King in "Check" (+).

Move 89, White's King returns to f6, threatening Black's Knight ...

Black Resigns, at this point - once again, he's back in Zugzwang ...

No matter what he does, he cannot prevent White's Pawn from Promoting to a Queen.


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Zug-Lite

Zugzwang
- Example 3 -



Reason 1 of 3

[Event "?"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "New game"]
[Black "?"]
[Result "*"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "6k1/3q2p1/p2bp2p/3p1r2/1p1Pp3/3bQ1PP/PP1B1rB1/1N2R1RK w - - 0 0"]
[PlyCount "2"]

1. Rc1 Re2 *

Reason 2 of 3

[Event "?"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "New game"]
[Black "?"]
[Result "*"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "6k1/3q2p1/p2bp2p/3p1r2/1p1Pp3/3bQ1PP/PP1B1rB1/1N2R1RK w - - 0 1"]
[PlyCount "2"]

1. Kh2 R5f3 *

Reason 3 of 3

[Event "?"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "New game"]
[Black "?"]
[Result "0-1"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "6k1/3q2p1/p2bp2p/3p1r2/1p1Pp3/3bQ1PP/PP1B1rB1/1N2R1RK w - - 0 1"]
[PlyCount "4"]

1. g4 R5f3 2. Bxf3 Rh2# 0-1

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Battle Log - Header Graphic
Reason 1 of 3
  1. Rc1* ... Re2
Reason 2 of 3
  1. Kh2 ... R5f3
Reason 3 of 3
  1. g4 ... R5f3
  2. Bxf3 ... Rh2#
  3. 0-1

Historical Game:
Samisch-Nimzowitch, Copenhagen, 1923

Apparently, according to this section of a Wikipedia article, this example could be argued as NOT being a true Zugzwang situation.

I'll let you make your own mind up on that, but here's what happened:

Nimzowitch (Black), on his 25th Move, has just advanced his h-file Pawn, to h6.

White Resigns immediately; here's what he foresaw ...

Reason 1 of 3

* Could easily have been Rd1, instead - either way, the out come would be the same dire mess, for White ...

Move 26, White's Rook slides left, onto c1; Black's Rook also slides left, but onto e2 ...

Now, White's Queen is Trapped and in Zugzwang - no matter where she tries to go, one of Black's pieces is at the ready to snatch her off the Board.


Reason 2 of 3

Move 26, White's King steps forward, up to h2; Black's response is to bring his Rook on the 5th Rank, down to f3 ...

Again, White's Queen is doomed, no matter what White does.


Reason 3 of 3

Move 26, White's g-file Pawn advances to g4; Black's response, as also seen in the last attempt, is to bring his Rook on the 5th Rank, down to f3.

Move 27, if White's Bishop captures (x) Black's Rook, on f3, Black's remaining Rook, will slide right, onto h2 and, backed up by the Bishop, from d6, will "Checkmate" (#) White's King.

So, Black would Win (0-1).


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Zug-Lite

Zugzwang
- Example 4 -



Reason 1 of 6

[Event "?"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "New game"]
[Black "?"]
[Result "0-1"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "6r1/1kp5/1pb5/p2q1PB1/P1pP3p/2P4P/3Q3K/5R2 w - - 0 0"]
[PlyCount "8"]

1. Bxh4 Rg2+ 2. Kh1 Rxd2+ 3. Rf3 Qxf3+ 4. Kg1 Qg2# 0-1

Reason 2 of 6

[Event "?"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "New game"]
[Black "?"]
[Result "0-1"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "6r1/1kp5/1pb5/p2q1PB1/P1pP3p/2P4P/3Q3K/5R2 w - - 0 1"]
[PlyCount "6"]

1. f6 Rxg5 2. f7 Rg2+ 3. Qxg2 Qxg2# 0-1

Reason 3 of 6

[Event "?"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "New game"]
[Black "?"]
[Result "*"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "6r1/1kp5/1pb5/p2q1PB1/P1pP3p/2P4P/3Q3K/5R2 w - - 0 1"]
[PlyCount "4"]

1. Kg1 Qh1+ 2. Kf2 Rxg5 *

Reason 4 of 6

[Event "?"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "New game"]
[Black "?"]
[Result "0-1"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "6r1/1kp5/1pb5/p2q1PB1/P1pP3p/2P4P/3Q3K/5R2 w - - 0 1"]
[PlyCount "2"]

1. Rf2 Qh1# 0-1

Reason 5 of 6

[Event "?"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "New game"]
[Black "?"]
[Result "0-1"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "6r1/1kp5/1pb5/p2q1PB1/P1pP3p/2P4P/3Q3K/5R2 w - - 0 1"]
[PlyCount "6"]

1. Re1 Qxf5 2. Bxh4 Rg2+ 3. Kh1 Qxh3# 0-1

Reason 6 of 6

[Event "?"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "New game"]
[Black "?"]
[Result "*"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "6r1/1kp5/1pb5/p2q1PB1/P1pP3p/2P4P/3Q3K/5R2 w - - 0 1"]
[PlyCount "14"]

1. Rg1 Rxg5 2. Qxg5 Qd6+ 3. Rg3 hxg3+ 4. Qxg3 Be8 5. h4 Qxg3+ 6. Kxg3 b5 7. axb5 a4 *

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Battle Log - Header Graphic
Reason 1 of 6
  1. Bxh4 ... Rg2+
  2. Kh1 ... Rxd2+
  3. Rf3 ... Qxf3+
  4. Kg1 ... Qg2#
  5. 0-1
Reason 2 of 6
  1. f6 ... Rxg5
  2. f7 ... Rg2+
  3. Qxg2 ... Qxg2#
  4. 0-1
Reason 3 of 6
  1. Kg1 ... Qh1+
  2. Kf2 ... Rxg5
Reason 4 of 6
  1. Rf2 ... Qh1#
  2. 0-1
Reason 5 of 6
  1. Re1 ... Qxf5
  2. Bxh4 ... Rg2+
  3. Kh1 ... Qxh3#
  4. 0-1
Reason 6 of 6
  1. Rg1 ... Rxg5
  2. Qxg5 ... Qd6+
  3. Rg3 ... hxg3+
  4. Qxg3 ... Be8
  5. h4 ... Qxg3+
  6. Kxg3 ... b5
  7. axb5 ... a4

Historical Game:
Steinitz-Lasker, World Chess Championship, 1896-97

In this example, you get to see Zugzwang happen in the Middlegame.

Lasker (Black) has just moved his Rook, from e8 to g8, prompting Steinitz (White) to Resign immediately, owing to the following reasons ...

Reason 1 of 6

Here, it doesn't matter where White's Bishop goes to - any move away from its g5 square will result in catastrophe ...

Move 35, if White's Bishop were to capture (x) Black's Pawn, on h4; Black's Rook would sprint down to g2, putting White's King in "Check" (+) and triggering the following ...

Move 36, White's King evades Check, to h1; Black's Rook captures (x) White's Queen, on d2, revealing a Discovered Check (+), from Black's Queen.

Here, it doesn't matter whether White moves his King or Blocks with his Rook - he's still doomed, by the same, eventual result ...

Move 37, White's Rook Blocks the Check; only for Black's Queen to capture (x) White's Rook and put White's King back in "Check" (+).

Move 38, White's King can only escape, to g1; Black's Queen, then marches onto g2 and, backed by her c6 Bishop, issues the "Checkmate" (#).

So, that's ONE way that Black would Win (0-1).

Here's another ...


Reason 2 of 6

Move 35, if instead, White's f-file Pawn attempted to break for Promotion, starting with f6; Black's Rook would capture (x) White's Bishop, on g5.

That could result in ...

Move 36, White's f-file Pawn advancing to f7; but Black's Rook, once again, going down onto g2 and "Checking" (+) White's King.

Which would lead to ...

Move 37, White's Queen capturing (x) Black's Rook, on g2; only for Black's Queen to capture (x) White's Queen, on g2 and put White's King in "Checkmate" (#).

Another way for Black to Win (0-1).


Reason 3 of 6

Move 35, and should White's King step down, onto g1; Black's Queen would attack from h1 - a "Check" (+) protected by her c6 Bishop.

Move 36, White's King would be Forced to escape, to f2; allowing Black's Rook to capture (x) White's Bishop, on g5.

Black would have yet more of and advantage to crush White's resistance.

Next up is another way for Black to Win ...


Reason 4 of 6

Shouid White's Rook attempt to leave Rank 1, to any square above, While will quickly Lose ...

Move 35, say White's Rook steps up to f2; Black's Queen will rocket down onto h1 for another "Checkmate" (#).

Black would Win, again, (0-1).

But he would be done there, as Black has yet one more route to victory ...


Reason 5 of 6

Should White's Rook move anywhere along Rank 1, other than right, onto g1, White will get thoroughly slapped ...

Move 35, if White's Rook goes onto, say, e1; Black's Queen will capture (x) White's Pawn, on f5 - and snuff out that chance for Promotion.

Then, if on ...

Move 36. White's Bishop captures (x) Black's Pawn, on h4; Black's Rook would race down to that, by now, familiar g2 square, placing White's King in "Check" (+).

Move 37, to preserve his Queen, White's King would escape Check, down onto h1; only for Black's Queen to capture (x) White's Pawn, on h3 to "Checkmate" White's King (#) ...

And so, another Win for Black (0-1).

Onto the final reason, for White's early Resignation ...


Reason 6 of 6

Move 35, if instead, White's Rook steps right, onto g1; Black's Rook will capture (x) White's Bishop, on g5.

Move 36, White's Queen would then have to seize the chance to capture (x) Black's Rook, on g5; that would allow Black's Queen to step upwards, onto d6 and "Check" (+) White's King.

Move 37, if White's Rook then Blocks the Check, from g3; Black's h-file Pawn would capture (x) White's Rook, on g3 and put White's King in "Check" (+).

Move 38, with limited options, White's Queen would have to capture (x) Black's Pawn, on g3; but that would let Black's Bishop to cunningly slide up to e8 ...

That move, by Black, was to prepare for White's intended dash to Promote his h-file Pawn.

Move 39, White's h-file Pawn would start the race for Promotion, by advancing to h4; Black's Queen would take the opportunity to capture (x) White's Queen, on g3 and "Checking" (+) White's King.

Move 40, White's King would then be Forced to capture (x) White's Queen, on g3; Black's b-file Pawn would then advance to b5 ...

Indeed, it's a sacrificial move, by Black's Pawn, but one that'll contribute to an easy Win!

Move 41, White's a-file Pawn would have no option but to capture (x) Black's Pawn, on b5; a move that creates a clear path for Black's a-file Pawn to advance, down onto a4.

The sequence ends here, but you can easily count the square moves of both White's h-file Pawn and Black's a-file Pawn, to determine Black will get a Queen first ...

White won't be able to react in time and will be severely disadvantaged - at this World Chess Championship level, Black would be odds-on to Win this game.

Hence White's Resignation!



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Zug-Lite

Zugzwang Lite



[Event "?"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "New game"]
[Black "?"]
[Result "*"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "1rbqk1nr/1p1pppbp/p1n3p1/2p5/2P5/P1N3P1/1P1PPPBP/1RBQK1NR w Kk - 0 0"]
[PlyCount "6"]

1. b4 cxb4 2. axb4 b5 3. cxb5 axb5 *

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Battle Log - Header Graphic
  1. b4 ... cxb4
  2. axb4 ... b5
  3. cxb5 ... axb5

Historical Game:
Hodgson – Arkell, Newcastle Upon Tyne (UK), 2001

Here's an interesting case, arising in the Opening phase of a game, after Move 9 by Arkell (Black), where it's Hodgson (White) turn to move ...

Scotsman, GM Jonathan Rowson, commented on this game and subsequently proposed the term Zugzwang "Lite", by stating ...

"Both sides want to push their d-pawn and play 'Bf4 ... Bf5', but White has to go first ...

... So Black gets to play d5 before White can play d4. This doesn't matter much, but it already points to the challenge that White faces here ...

... His most natural continuations allow Black to play the moves he wants to ...

... I would therefore say that White is in 'Zugzwang Lite' and that he remains in this state for several moves.

We enter the game on Move 7, White's turn ...

Move 7, White's b-file Pawn advances to b4; Black's c-file Pawn captures (x) White's Pawn, on b4.

Move 8, White's a-file Pawn captures (x) Black's Pawn, on b4; Black's b-file Pawn advances to b5.

Move 9, White's c-file Pawn captures (x) Black's Pawn, on b5; Black's a-file Pawn captures (x) White's Pawn, on b5 ...

And now, White's "Lite" Zugzwang headache begins.


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Zug-Lite


Further Studies Of Zugzwang Can Be Found At This Wikipedia Page
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