Zugzwang

mediumA [German] chess term. Roughly meaning, a situation where any move would put the player (who makes that move) to some serious disadvantage. Since we can’t pass in chess, it usually implies losing the game or conceding a winning one to a draw.

There is no zugzwang in scrabble, not really—since we can always pass if we want to here. Nevertheless, I stumbled upon some close equivalent to it a couple of days ago.

zugzwang__

After thinking for about one-and-a-half minute, my opponent finally came up with B13: OI. Now here’s the situation. With a rack like that (ENOS), it was all clear that Red would finish the game on the next move (presumably either with ONES, SONE, EONS or NOSE). So it was crystal clear that I had to dump my J right away (hopefully with as big a point as possible).

Now my situation. While 5M: HAJ would give Red the TWS (with JONES), playing N10: JANE would give my opponent the DWS along column-14. And a move like N10: TAJ wouldn’t help either, since it would invite O12: ONES. Roughly speaking, I was in zugzwang.

It’s not that hard to see when everything’s been laid down on the table like this. But starting from scratch, putting your opponent into a zugzwang is not that easy. In fact, it never is. Because at the very least, it needs composure and cool precision. Bravo, Red!

*****

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Note: Red’s name is not shown upon the player’s request

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