Putting the Enemy in a Zugzwang Dilemma

When the opponent is forced to make a bad move in chess we make the person do a zugzwang move. Thus, the zugzwang chess strategy is to think up situations where the losing opponent has no other choice but to make a move that will make things worse.

A zugzwang often occurs at the end of a chess game when a mere handful pieces are left to finish the battle. Often this occurs when both sides are left with mere a king and 2 or 3 pawns, or a king and a bishop and knight. The situation is that there's a near deadlock and it's the enemy's turn to move and the enemy has no choice but to give us an advantage.

For instance, at game's near end, when there are only 3 white pawns and 3 black pawns remaining plus the kings (two enemy pawns are stopped by our two pawns). And say, the enemy has no other move but to advance the third pawn that would just be captured by our third pawn, and that without any counter capture in the enemy's favor. In this situation the enemy has no other choice but to sacrifice the pawn and let our pawn move on safely to conversion line. The only option here is for the enemy to go after our pawn with the enemy king. But with our king supporting, this would only make things easy for us to checkmate the enemy king later.

The zugzwang chess strategy also makes some technique possible, especially when the enemy is made to sacrifice a piece by force. When both the enemy king and queen are checked and the opponent has no choice but to run away with the king, we have successfully zugzwanged the enemy queen. Or, when the enemy cannot move a checked queen or rook or bishop without exposing the king to an open check, the enemy will have to ignore the checked piece and move the enemy king to a sanctuary. We have zugzwanged the checked piece.

The only defense against a zugzwang strategy is to always think ahead and avoid getting our position to a zugzwang favoring the enemy later. We can have pieces for blocking nearby ready for action. Or, we can always have the enemy king checked. This effectively destroys many enemy strategies.

Thus, as we try to place a zugzwang chess strategy in our favor we should also caution against having one pulled on us by the enemy.

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