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

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Given 74 times; par: 34 [what's this?]

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

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Kibitzer's Corner
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Jan-04-13  RookFile: Sounds right to me. It may be that after white's somewhat questionable choice of 9. cxd5 in this game that he should be happy with a draw and do what is necessary to steer the game towards it. He couldn't know at that point that Nimzo would err and give him a chance for advantage with 13. Nxd5.
Mar-06-13  wachter123680: Maybe Qb5 after 25 closes it improper.
Nov-04-13  wellsometimes: Doomed to be a patzer forever, even somehow understanding such wondrous subtleties, I would ask: what makes 24...Re2 so bad or so ugly? After all, the queen will be trapped next move (since 25Qb3 is met by 25...Ba4) and resulting net outcomes seem to favour black. I know I must be wrong.
Nov-06-13  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

Nov-06-13  wellsometimes: Many thanks, Karpova! So I'm not so wrong!Simply your comments would already be much convincing to me,since you are a very seasoned member, whose comments impress me. Knowing that Kasparov also could play that way comforts aditionally. My "guessed move" in Guess the Move was precisely Re2. Coming to understand such an overall Zugzwang was very difficult to me, completely beyond my normal patzer skills. Trapping the queen, in such crowded and hemmed "environment", appeared to be the natural hint. But... there are always those ultramagic moves in the air, I tend to fear. This time,though, no ghosts. Thanks again.
Premium Chessgames Member
  tjipa: The final zugzwang is so beautiful that all other considerations about faster wins etc just pale in comparison. This is one of the games that make one think of chess as an art form, not only a board-game and sport.
Dec-15-13  kereru: Isn't 24...Re2 25.Qb3 Ba4 quicker? But then he wouldn't have been able to brag about the "Immortal Zugzwang" game (which isn't a true Zugzwang by the way).
Mar-11-14  Everett: <Phony Benoni: <Tigranny> No problem; in fact, I rather agree with you. I was just speculating on why this game gets more notice than Nimzowitsch vs Capablanca, 1927.>

This gets more notice IMHO because of the number of pieces on the board, a rarity in a middlegame setting.

Jul-04-14  gars: What about Alekhine vs Nimzowitsch, San Remo, 1930?
Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: "The most powerful weapon in chess is to have the next move." -- David Bronstein

"Yeah, right." -- Friedrich Saemisch

Premium Chessgames Member
  Jonathan Sarfati: <Phony Benoni>, Bronstein's statement could be plausible if modified to the *right* to make the next move.
Premium Chessgames Member
  scutigera: <kereru> It may not be a true zugzwang, but true zugzwangs are quite rare outside problems, so when OTB players use the term to describe positions in which only one player must worsen their position by virtue of having the move, it is surely as forgivable as the special use by problemists of the word "phase".
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: <scutigera: <kereru> It may not be a true zugzwang, but true zugzwangs are quite rare outside problems...>

If chess games were played to checkmate Zugzwang would occur in almost every game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  moronovich: <If chess games were played to checkmate Zugzwang would occur in almost every game.>

Unless we resign,we haveto move.In that sense chess is eternal zugzwang..

Nov-07-15  Mr. V: <moronovich> Eternal Zugzwang, you say? I think I see the title for one of my future plays . . .
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)
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