The Age of Zugzwang

  • Armin Hamrah ’23 & Aidan Bhatnagar ’23

Inspired by “The Age of Plastic” by Craig Santos Perez

The pawn encroaches the zugzwang threshold

against my opponent’s queen.

Zugzwang foreshadows inevitable doom.

Light and dark squares are calling, but they are all dark 

because of activity, obstruction, and X-rays.

Zugzwang permits segregated superiority. My knight

remains irrelevant through the zugzwang combination.

Zugzwang disrupts unspoken interactions.

My pawn’s second step forces white symmetry

persisting the zugzwang sequence. Zugzwang is the perfect

tactic because it inevitably wins. My rook

holds the zugzwang over their knight. The Deep Blue,

Komodo, Stockfish, and humans zugzwang

to triumph. The zugzwang future precipitates;

bishops zig-zag in a zugzwang pattern.

Zugzwang locks knights, rooks and pawns in place—

yet how lonely zugzwang must feel

to be isolated, exploited, and endangered

by us: impatient patzers. On the ranks and files,

each piece lowers zugzwang’s probability of

occurrence—how mighty zugzwang must feel

when it finally arrives to the paradise

of the board. Will blitz drive zugzwang

to extinction? Their queen is coerced

into zugzwang’s guillotine, and I hope

she respects zugzwang’s magnificence

enough to search for it

in her own army’s battles.

“The word ‘Zugzwang’ comes from German, and means ‘being forced to make a move’. A player is in Zugzwang when it’s their turn and every possible move makes their position worse.”

Thibault Duplessis, Lichess.org (2010)

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