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Bruce Harper vs Robert D Zuk
"The Tomb Game" (game of the day Jun-15-11)
Halloween Open (1971)  ·  King's Indian Defense: Orthodox Variation. Korchnoi Attack (E97)  ·  0-1
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Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: <dotsamoht> I agree that the final position in this game is not zugzwang, since Black wins easily even if White is permitted to pass. If you removed the queen-side pawns and Black's knight it would be another story.

I do not agree that zugzwang occurs only rarely in actual play. As Soltis has observed, many elementary mates, such as king and rook versus king, are won only because the losing side is compelled to move. Ditto with won king and pawn vs. king endings, queen versus rook, K+B+N v. K, etc. As Nunn has noted in his books on endings, there are large number of mutual zugzwang positions - where <each> side, on move, does worse than it would if allowed to pass the move. Probably the most famous such position is the trebuchet, featuring the rare full-point mutual zugzwang - whichever play is on move loses. (E.g. white pawn on e4, black pawn on e5, white king on d5, black king on f4.)

Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: This game really should have been GOTD on Halloween. It is "The Tomb Game" - a good Halloweenish theme - and it was actually played in the Halloween Open.
Mar-22-12  ColeTrane: this is epic
Premium Chessgames Member
  Once: Sorry to disagree, but I think it is splitting hairs to say that this isn't a zugzwang.

My understanding is that a zugzwang occurs when the compulsion to move forces a player to play a losing move. He would really rather sit on his hands and do nothing.

Roll on two moves from the end of the game and we get this ... 40. axb6 axb6

click for larger view

White only has one legal move - 41. Qh3. This is a move he would rather not play as it puts his queen en prise (and leads to unstoppable mate). If he could pass the move he would keep all his pieces, at least for the time being.

The disagreement seems to stem from the fact that white would also lose even if he could pass the move. In this position, if white did nothing for the remainder of the game, black would simply bring his knight over to the queenside, gobble all the white pawns, promote to queen(s) and mate.

But where does it say that it's zugzwang only works when the it's the <only> way to win?

As we have said many times before, there is no single codified and agreed definition of terms like zugzwang.

Robert Brieger may have one definition in mind, but there are equally many other chess players and writers who hold to a different definition.

For example, the definition in Wikipedia talks about zugzwang leading to the position being "significantly weaker". Interestingly, the wikipedia article (one of yours, FSR?) draws a distinction between the use of the term in game theory as opposed to real games:

"In game theory, it specifically means that it directly changes the outcome of the game from a win to a loss. The term is used less precisely in games such as chess; i.e., the game theory definition is not necessarily used in chess (Berlekamp, Conway & Guy 1982:16), (Elkies 1996:136). For instance, it may be defined loosely as "a player to move cannot do anything without making an important concession" (van Perlo 2006:479). Putting the opponent in zugzwang is a common way to help the superior side win a game. In some cases it is necessary to make the win possible (Müller & Pajeken 2008:173)."

As this is a game and not a composition, I'd call it a zugzwang.

Premium Chessgames Member
  sevenseaman: Notwithstanding any 'fine' definitions of it, to a commoner like me it is very much a Zugzwang.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: <Zugzwang> and <Sacrifice> are Fine Arts. Nobody agrees on the definiton, but everybody knows one when they see it.
Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: <Once> I contributed to the Zugzwang article in Wikipedia, but "Bubba73" has done far more work on it than anyone else. As you say, there is no universally agreed definition. To the purist, the final positions in this game, Saemisch vs Nimzowitsch, 1923 ("The Immortal Zugzwang Game"), and even Kaplan vs Bronstein, 1975 are not zugzwang, since Black would have a forced win in each case even if White were permitted to "pass" whenever he wanted. (In the last game, play might then proceed 27.g4 Bf4! (avoiding 28.g5! and intending ...b5-b4) 28.a4 b6 29."Pass" a6 30."Pass" b5 31.axb5 axb5 32."Pass" b4! 33.cxb4 c3 and wins.) However, in each game it is also true that if Black keeps playing waiting moves White must make his position considerably worse than it already is, thus making the win easier for Black. If you call the final positions in those games "zugzwang," I don't think you have to worry about the Zugzwang Police knocking on your door.
Apr-14-12  King Death: <FSR> "Bubba73" sounds like somebody that you wouldn't want to meet in some circumstances. By the way if the Zugzwang Police come by my place they got a problem, I got a shotgun full of rock salt.
Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: <King Death> Bubba73 (whose real name I know) is actually a fine fellow and not your typical Southerner. His handle refers to a beloved '73 car he once owned. He has degrees in computer science, mathematics, and physics, doesn't believe in God, and is a Keith Olbermann fan. Appearances can be deceiving.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: The Zugzwang Police don't come for you. They wait for you to come to them.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Shams: I once made a handle called (you can look it up) "Zugzwang Police". I thought I might go around issuing "citations" whenever people wrongfully called a position zugzwang. Then I thought better of it and hung up my badge.
Apr-14-12  King Death: <FSR> If he never met a shrimp he didn't like he's all right by me!
Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: <King Death> I had the same reaction when I saw that, years ago now. I love shrimp, including on shrimp pizza. I did once try shrimp and ice cream together (mainly to horrify my daughter) and that wasn't so good.

Incidentally, you obviously have good taste in food:

<King Death: < FSR: Supposedly eggnog isn't sold year-round because people only buy it when it's cold...Weird - I'd totally buy it all year...>

That's a lame excuse if I ever heard one. I'd keep a gallon in the icebox myself. Any time of year. Nectar of the gods.>

Apr-14-12  kia0708: what about herring and marshmallows ?

<I did once try shrimp and ice cream together>

Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: <kia0708: what about herring and marshmallows ?>

Haven't tried that.

<Phony Benoni: The Zugzwang Police don't come for you. They wait for you to come to them.>

Good point.

Apr-14-12  King Death: <FSR> Shrimp and ice cream sounds kind of nasty even though they're both good.

<kia0708> Herring's something I haven't had in awhile but smoked is good stuff, no marshmallows for me though.

Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: <Shams> User: Zugzwang Police "Sorry, there is no such user on record."
Apr-02-13  banjowizard: <FSR> User: ZugzwangPolice
Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: <banjowizard> Thanks.
Premium Chessgames Member
  kevin86: The worst thing in a game like this,that white would break into a "coffin' spell"
Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: Maybe this can't be GOTD every Halloween. But if you've never seen it before, this is the perfect day.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Mating Net: Since today is tax day, this game deserves special mention. I'm sure that White felt the same way I'm feeling today, utterly helpless.
May-23-14  gabriel112000: White is totally squeezed.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Robed.Bishop: You are all wrong - it ended in Zukzwang.
Sep-02-15  consul: I was redirected here by a comment on another game of the day. I think that the preceding comment could be added next time this will be GOTD once again: The tomb game - A Zukzwang. Provided that word-joke wasn't used before.
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