I'm aware that sometimes in the endgame, one player is able to create a fortress and is fine with just shuffling their pieces to a draw.

However, in the midgame, with nearly all the pieces still on the board, is it ever advisable to NOT attack or just shuffle your pieces around? What I envision is perhaps a highly closed position where you would need to sac multiple pieces just to create an opening. In this situation, is it preferable to draw?

  • 8
    I don't think you are using the term Zugzwang correctly. Reading the tag description it says '..., but the player would be saved if only it were legal to "pass."'. Whereas 'shuffling the pieces' does not fit into this, i.e. there are plenty of non-losing moves
    – user1108
    Commented Aug 13, 2017 at 13:39

3 Answers 3


There is the famous Immortal Zugzwang Game, Saemisch vs. Nimzowitsch, where White ended up in a near-zugzwang situation in the middlegame. In the final position, White, even being a Knight ahead, couldn't move a single piece without severe consequences:

6k1/3q2p1/p2bp2p/3p1r2/1p1Pp3/3bQ1PP/PP1B1rB1/1N2R1RK w - - 0 1

I think you partially answered the question yourself. I can think of 3 scenarios.

  1. In very closed positions like this game of Nakamaura against Rybka neither side may be able to improve the position, forcing players to shuffle pieces around. You might even think of slightly more open position, such as a position with blocked pawn chains and one open file, where all entrance squares for the heavy pieces on that file are covered/defended.
  2. Some opening lines can end in a position where a player is forced to accept draw by threefold repetition or worsen his position.
  3. Also in very symmetric/drawish positions it might be difficult to achieve anything without making concessions.

Another famous example is http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1012683.

[fen ""]
[White "Alekhine"]
[Black "Nimzowitsch"]
[StartPly "50"]
1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e5 c5 5. Bd2 Ne7 6. Nb5 Bd2 7. Qd2 O-O 8. c3 b6 9. f4 Ba6 10. Nf3 Qd7 11. a4 Nbc6 12. b4 cxb4 13. cxb4 Bb7 14. Nd6 f5 15. a5 Nc8 16. Nb7 Qb7 17. a6 Qf7 18. Bb5 N8e7 19. O-O h6 20. Rfc1 Rfc8 21. Rc2 Qe8 22. Rac1 Rab8 23. Qe3 Rc7 24. Rc3 Qd7 25. R1c2 Kf8 26. Qc1 Rbc8 27. Ba4 b5 28. Bb5 Ke8 29. Ba4 Kd8 30. h4

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