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  • Last updated on 5/13/15, 1:01 PM.

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Pronounced "tsoog-tsvung", Zugzwang is a German word meaning "obligation to move".  The term is used for a position in which whoever has the move would obtain a worse result than if it were the opponent’s turn to play. A player is said to be "in zugzwang" when any possible move will worsen his position.[1]

The term is also used in combinatorial game theory, where it means that it directly changes the outcome of the game from a win to a loss, but the term is used less precisely in games such as chess.[2][3] Putting the opponent in zugzwang is a common way to help the superior side win a game, and in some cases, it is necessary in order to make the win possible.[4]  

The term "zugzwang" was used in German chess literature in 1858 or earlier,[5] and the first known use of the term in English was by World Champion Emanuel Lasker in 1905.[6] The concept of zugzwang was known to players many centuries before the term was coined, appearing in an endgame study published in 1604 by Alessandro Salvio, one of the first writers on the game, and in shatranj studies dating back to the early 9th century, over 1000 years before the first known use of the term. Below is the Immortal Zugzwang game, where in the final position, any move Black makes, loses quickly.

Whoever is to move in the following diagram IMMEDIATELY loses. This is because they must not only cease attacking the opponent's pawn, but must give up defense of their own! This situation is refferd to as a 'trebuchet'. Zugzwangs are very rare in normal chess games!

White to move:

Black to move:


  • 4 years ago · Quote · #61


    That would be the most heartbreaking lose in the diagrams above. 

  • 4 years ago · Quote · #62



  • 4 years ago · Quote · #63


    Nice Cool

  • 4 years ago · Quote · #64


    Trebuchet, a marvellous term

  • 4 years ago · Quote · #65


    Trebuchet, a marvellous termSmile

  • 4 years ago · Quote · #66


    no one ill win in that game for sure. 

  • 4 years ago · Quote · #67


    essential tactic
  • 4 years ago · Quote · #68


    This happened to me once! I lost soon after.

  • 4 years ago · Quote · #69


    always something about chess that i didn't known

  • 4 years ago · Quote · #70


    My definition of zugzwang is the disadvantage to move; all moves are losing, and not drawing. The double zugzwang doesn't appear very often, but it's always weird to find a double zugzwang.


    If you want to find a course with zugzwang, search around in Chess Mentor... I think the zugzwang is in some Knight vs. Bishop lesson.


    To keep zugzwang, don't give up your advantages, and do something on the other side of the board with doesn't effect the zugzwang. In this diagram, black is in zugzwang. As white to move loses for black and black to move draws.







    White to move will play moving by the side of his pawn, and black to move gets in front of the pawn, securing the draw. 

  • 4 years ago · Quote · #71



  • 4 years ago · Quote · #72


    Awesome!  Wow this is an old post!

  • 4 years ago · Quote · #73


    It means that ALL MOVES ARE LOSING!

    i got in a zugzwang today! shut up, opponent for bragging! i said after the game.

  • 3 years ago · Quote · #74


    That was short. It would have been better if more zugzwang examples were included.

  • 3 years ago · Quote · #75


    Good tacticLaughing

  • 3 years ago · Quote · #76



  • 3 years ago · Quote · #77


    this is really important to know about chess. Recently I was caught in a Zugwang, however it was with 1 king an 1 pawn for both sides.

    I lost the game becuase of how I aproached the end game thanks for the knowledge  

  • 3 years ago · Quote · #78


    ketchuplover wrote:
    I believe it's pronounced tsutsung(or something like that

    No, beleave me, it's pronounced like announced "tsoog-tsvung".

  • 3 years ago · Quote · #79



  • 2 years ago · Quote · #80



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