Zugzwang is among several excellent words that come to us from the game of chess. Others … oh hell, I hadn’t intended to, but I might as well list a few:

  • en passant: taking a pawn even though it has seemingly sped to the square next to its captor by moving forward two squares
  • en prise: a piece being left open for capture
  • family fork: a knight attacking more than two pieces simultaneously
  • finachetto: placing a bishop on the second row (where it commands a lot of the board)
  • gambit: sacrificing a piece (usually in the opening) for later gain
  • luft: creating an escape square for a castled king
  • perpetual check: obtaining a draw by placing the king in a position where he can never escape check
  • zwischenzug: making a delaying move, often to force …

zugzwang, the situation where any move that can be made weakens the player’s position. This is a good word to know, because that’s where GWB has put us in Iraq — in the position where we’re screwed no matter what we do.


Link: The Smirking Chimp on Zugzwang and Iraq policy