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Fatal Compulsion

  • GM BryanSmith
  • | Sep 7, 2012
  • | 8681 views
  • | 36 comments

The German word “Zugzwang” means “move compulsion”. “Der Zug” is a chess move – it also means “train” – and “der Zwang” means “compulsion”. There is no equivalent English word for this concept, so chess players use the German word; and this word is widely understood by us, whether we speak any other word of German or not.

What would our game look like without the requirement to make a move on one’s turn? If a player could skip his turns freely, what would the game be? Well, I think I can tell you in one word—it would be a draw. Positions such as this one:

…would be hopelessly drawn. The black king just doesn’t move. Okay, it seems like a small deal. But also this position would be drawn:

And worst of all, so would this one:

So this means that to win a game, if the players are allowed to skip as many moves as they want, would require a huge difference in the level of the players. Basically it means that if Anand and Carlsen play each other, probably nobody is ever going to win. I suspect that it would even be tough for either of them to beat a 2300 under such rules.

Sometimes I have thought it a little artificial that so many positions are decided by just this – that a player is forced to move, even if he doesn’t want to, per the rules. In a real battle, you can stand still. You can wait for your enemy to come, or refuse to relinquish your position. In chess, there are positions where a player loses because his king has to step back and forth, Kg8-h8-g8-h8, etc; when he would rather just sit there. So does this make something in our game a little artificial?

But then I realized that no, this is in fact one of the areas where chess best mirrors life. In life, many problems could be solved if one could stand still at some point. You pause yourself when you are young and things are going well, the wrinkles haven’t started to appear. You often hear people talk about better times in their lives. So the question arises - why didn't they just keep things that way?

But that would not be life, that would be death. In chess it would be a draw death. The chess player has to make a move, just as there are forces making the world keep changing and forcing people to act, whether for good or bad. Physical aging, as well as the constant need for food and water and other needs, prevent one from reaching an ideal “position” and then standing still.

Now let’s see some puzzles in which the game is decided by one player’s fatal compulsion:

The following allegedly happened in a blitz game between Capablanca and Lasker:
I don't know where the following problem came from, but GM Zubarev told it to me during a tournament in Greece:
In the last problem, the white knight on d7 is hopelessly pinned and attacked, and with opposite colored bishops resulting and an extra pawn for Black, it seems like White has no hope of winning. But a fatal compulsion to move ends up bringing Black down.

Comments


  • 7 months ago

    thegreatauk

    good!!!!!!!!!!!

  • 19 months ago

    piphilologist

    I'm very surprised Capablanca played 5.Kc6?! in his blitz game with Lasker, and Lasker replied 5...Kc8 instead of 5...Ka7. After 5...Ka7 White's only way to win is by repeating the position, by 6.Kc7 Ka8 7.Kb6 Kb8 and then playing the winning move 8.Ka6!

    If White tries the standard method of 6.Kc7 Ka8 7. b6?? or 6. b6+?? Ka8 the stalemate possibilities at the edge of the board make it only a draw.

    But apparent this stalemate trap is not well-known an I have seen several master games with the same mistakes in (White plays Kc6, black plays Kc8)

    Wikipedia says "Capablanca excelled in simple positions and endgames" whith makes the error even more surprising.

  • 20 months ago

    irafinkelstein

    I must apoligize for bad grammar and spelling but I am having techtonic problems with my laptop.

     

     
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  • 20 months ago

    irafinkelstein

    There  has been a eternal contrpversy over whether or not the end should be studied first like capa says or whether opening studies are more important . I suspect when capa studied openings little complex theory existed like today.Openings were more patterned oriented and systemitized and little memeorization was required.Today tatical compications can begin right from the opening. therefore tons of mem is required.That is why gms today probably differ in the approach.Do not forget he drew many positions from opening dis advantages because of super human end game technique.Who the hell knows with the razor sharp lines in the sic mash. and open ruyetc. he might mak it to the end speil totaally busted. maybe then he will have a change of heart

     

     
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  • 20 months ago

    irafinkelstein

    Are these puzzles end game studies or can they come up in practicle endings? `Excellant examples of  according to John nunn of a squeeze or one way zug. He claims real zug is reciprical.One of yourgreat geniuses generally sxpeaking but teYnds to cloud everything.I like the conventional definition.Your death and time not stand still and zug analogy are excellent Life and chess are dynamic not static. In chess even the most static advantages in pawn structure can change.

     

     
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  • 20 months ago

    irafinkelstein

    Please be relevant, helpful & nice!

     
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  • 20 months ago

    AllogenicMan

    @ Chesswith:

    'Write'-on! - Chesswith ... Well-delivered!  Tell it to 'em the way it is ...

  • 20 months ago

    vischtxy

    Interesting ! Life could stand still at the same time solved many problems not like chess ' best of art in chess Rubi n stein !

  • 20 months ago

    Chesswith

    To the people who keep saying rook and king vs king is not a draw. Read the article before commenting. It's says (if) you could choose to hit a skip move button. Come on guys

  • 20 months ago

    Kasvarof

    very nice puzzle and very good article. Thanks :)

  • 20 months ago

    unusualkid

    awesomeCoolLaughing

  • 20 months ago

    malachi76

    King and rook would be a draw because white needs the black king to move to a square in order to deliver mate. So black just doesnt move and if white repositions to mate on the square where the king sits, then the black king moves to another safe square and waits. People should really look into a position and really analyze it before they say a position is not drawn. It most certainly is!

  • 20 months ago

    gyrados_2002

    King + Rook vs. King is never drawn...

  • 20 months ago

    ChessLord9

    Informative.

  • 20 months ago

    HasanBadshah

    i think its the article mistake about King+Rook VS king Example of draw position...its not the draw position

  • 20 months ago

    Darthstapler8

    I don't see how the king and rook vs king example would be drawn

  • 20 months ago

    nyLsel

    Interesting one!

  • 20 months ago

    superconsciouschess

    Genial!

  • 20 months ago

    bigknoll

    I always enjoy reading your article.

  • 20 months ago

    matthewq

    nice puzzles

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