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Friedrich Saemisch vs Aron Nimzowitsch
"The Immortal Zugzwang Game" (game of the day Jan-31-2009)
Copenhagen (1923), Copenhagen DEN, rd 6, Mar-09
Queen's Indian Defense: Classical. Traditional Variation Nimzowitsch Line (E18)  ·  0-1


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Given 82 times; par: 34 [what's this?]

Annotations by Aron Nimzowitsch.      [48 more games annotated by Nimzowitsch]

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Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 8 OF 8 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Nov-07-15  JimNorCal: Isn't this a true ZZ? White has a few pawn moves. When exhausted the remaining moves lose.
Nov-30-15  kereru: While it's certainly a good move, the idea of 25...h6 is actually very simple - Black takes the g5 square away from the Queen and now threatens to win it with 26...R5f3 27.Bxf3 Rxf3.

As Heidenfeld pointed out, White can defend against this threat by giving up a piece with 26.Bc1 Bxb1 27.Rgf1, which would be technically "better" than than making a null move like 26.b3 and allowing 26...R5f3. So no, it's not a "zugzwang".

The game didn't even attract all that much attention at the time, it was mainly a Nimzowitsch PR job. See

Dec-01-15  RookFile: I wonder if 13. Nxd5 with a white advantage was known in those days.
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <RookFile>
13. Nxd5 Nxd5 14. Nxc6 Bxc6 15. Rxc6 Nxf4 16. gxf4 Qxd4 does not look like much White advantage to me.
Premium Chessgames Member
  tamar: <beatgiant> Go one more move, Mr Kramnik! 17 Rxe6!

click for larger view

Komodo gives a .71 which indicates a large edge, but maybe some trouble in conversion.

So 13 Nxd5 would have been worth trying, but 13...Nxd4 14 Nxe7+ Qxe7 15 Qe3 looks to be a safe line for Black. Stockfish 0.18/33 Komodo 8 0.26/24

Dec-05-15  RookFile: Yes, that looks right. Microscopic edge for white. When white played Ne5 he probably played it for some reason other than exchanging it for the knight that was on b8. It stands to reason he should look at alternatives to 13. Nxc6.
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: For those of you that have the knowledge, this game is the main subject of The London Times Listener Crossword number 4377, <Russian Roulette>, by Rasputin (Saturday, December 19th 2015, Review Section).
Jan-28-16  ragtag: They can't move until Joe gets out of the bathroom.....
May-30-16  faysalshovon: sdjhdfff fdgsagtrtrwsersdsdsaghhj dsgh
Jul-20-16  Charly Dono: The immortal of the game is the end of zugzwang , not the previous development. It is the spirit of chess Nimzowitch , put into the same size space , time and pieces (life)
Premium Chessgames Member
  ChessHigherCat: <Karpova: <wellsometimes>

You aren't wrong:
24...Re2! (25.Qb3 Ba4 26.Rc8+ Rf8) is given as a simple win of the Queen on pages 284 of Garry Kasparov's 'On my Great Predecessors Part I', Everyman, 2003>

I just saw that, too, as I was playing through the game but I was afraid to ask because I thought I nobody would answer (as usually happens when there's no error to correct) or else somebody would say: "No, you %##$%, that loses everything because..."

Premium Chessgames Member
  catlover: <offramp> Interesting. Looks like crossword puzzles for VERY serious crossword fans.
Apr-29-17  JimNorCal: Over the months I return to see my comment above, that after exhausting Qside pawn moves white will have to make a losing move. One response is from <kereru> and reads in part "White can defend ... by giving up a piece ... So no, it's not a "zugzwang"."

I've tried to make sense of that but failed. So it's still a zugzwang position, at least in my view.

Apr-30-17  JimNorCal: Personally, I would not equate "giving up a piece to obtain a lost position" with "sac a piece". But that's just me.
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: <JimNorCal: Personally, I would not equate "giving up a piece to obtain a lost position" with "sac a piece". But that's just me.>

What if you are a piece ahead at the time, as in this game?

Apr-30-17  JimNorCal: After donating the piece, White is down 2 pawns. A lost position.

If he did not have to move, White has a material advantage- piece for 2 pawns. Hey, "if he did not have to move" ... there's a name for that condition ... starts with 'z' ...

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <JimNorCal: Over the months I return to see my comment above, that after exhausting Qside pawn moves white will have to make a losing move. One response is from <kereru> and reads in part "White can defend ... by giving up a piece ... So no, it's not a "zugzwang"." I've tried to make sense of that but failed. So it's still a zugzwang position, at least in my view.>

As with many arguments, it comes down to how you define the term at issue. Some people define zugzwang as <you lose because you have to move and for no other reason>. A simple example is: White: pawn on d7, K on e6. Black: King on d8. If Black has to move, he loses. If he doesn't, he draws. Under this definition, the final position in this game isn't zugswang. From the wikipedia article:

<White has a few pawn moves which do not lose material, but eventually he will have to move one of his pieces. If he plays 1.Rc1 or Rd1, then 1...Re2 traps White's queen; 1.Kh2 fails to 1...R5f3, also trapping the queen, since White cannot play 2.Bxf3 because the bishop is pinned to the king; 1.g4 runs into 1...R5f3 2.Bxf3? Rh2 mate. Angos analyzes 1.a3 a5 2.axb4 axb4 3.h4 Kh8 (waiting) 4.b3 Kg8 and White has run out of waiting moves and must lose material. Best in this line is 5.Nc3!? bxc3 6.bxc3, which just leaves Black with a serious positional advantage and an extra pawn.[46] Other moves lose material in more obvious ways.

However, since Black would win even without the zugzwang,[47] it is debatable whether the position is true zugzwang. Even if White could pass his move he would still lose, albeit more slowly, after 1...R5f3 2.Bxf3 Rxf3, trapping the queen and thus winning queen and bishop for two rooks.>

The article suggests that the final position of Podgaets vs M Dvoretsky, 1974

click for larger view

and Steinitz vs Lasker, 1896 after 34....Rg8

click for larger view

are purer examples of middlegame zugzwang than this one.

Whatever. It's still a cool game (though overrated in my opinion). I looked back through the kibitzing and saw that I argued, excessively rudely, with <Once> about it. Sorry, <Once>.

Apr-30-17  JimNorCal: OK, <kp> and <kereru>, the threat to play R5f3 and get Q, B, 2Ps for 2R and Kt is a fair argument. Also the Winter history article is fascinating. So many of the Winter links fail, I hadn't even bothered to click through.
Premium Chessgames Member
  ChessHigherCat: <JimNorCal:> I'm with you. If you define Zugzwang as being forced to make a move that gives you an inferior position or loses a few points, then someday, when the computers have figured out how to win every game with white from move 1, white will start each game with d4 and announce ZUGZWANG!
Premium Chessgames Member
  Big Pawn: Nimzovich was so creative, such as this game shows. What a genius.
Premium Chessgames Member
  belladonne: hello everyboby!! can someone explain me why 9...cxd5 is better than 9...exd5??. Because it seems to me that in the second choice, black structure is more dynamic?
Aug-28-18  Olavi: 9...exd5 10.e4 increases the power of Bg2 significantly, whether Black allows exd5 cxd5 or a weakness on c6, e.g. 10...dxe4 11.Nxe4 Nd5!? and probably 12.Nc3. So 9...cxd5 takes control of e4. White would have been better off with 9.e4 with similar ideas, except after the well known and good gambit 9...dxc4 10.Nxc4 Ba6 11.b3 b5 12.Ne3 b4 13.Ne2 Bxe2 14.Qxe2 Qxd4 15.Bb2. That, in turn, explains why 8...c6 has been replaced by (mostly) 8...Na6.
Premium Chessgames Member
  belladonne: <Olavi> Thanks for your explanations. It will be more obvious for me now.
Aug-29-18  JimNorCal: <CHC>: "someday, when the computers have figured out how to win every game with white from move 1, white will start each game with d4 and announce ZUGZWANG!"

Good observation! Though you have a slight typo, should be "e4" not d4 LOL.

Aug-29-18  RookFile: This game is an example of excellent marketing by Nimzo. Take a look at the position after 12 moves. White has a development lead, dominates the e5 square, and black has a lame bishop on b7. After Nimzo's 12....Nc6 white has a chance to cash in on these advantages with 13. Nxd5! but lets it pass. That's just the sort of move somebody like Alekhine would not have failed to play against him.
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