I know enough German to know that the term "zwischenzug " means "in-between move." Another translation I've seen is an "interpolative" move. Why make such a move?

An example is when a rook wants to go to the seventh rank. First, it goes to the eighth rank, let's say with check, and when the opponent replies, the rook goes back to the seventh. What might be the advantage of using such a "roundabout" route to get to the seventh rank?

In GO (where I'm higher rated than in chess), it might be called a forcing move. You make a "throwaway" move that forces a particular response, and then you make your main move, and the two together are stronger than making the main move alone. How might this work in chess?

  • An example is when a rook wants to go to the seventh rank. So it first goes to the eighth rank, let's say with check, and when the opponent replies, the rook goes back to the seventh I assume when it goes back to the 7th it will be with a a check also? If so, then this is clearly to gain a tempo. But maybe I did not understand the question on this. But for zugzwang, here is a link. may be seeing these examples will make it easier huffingtonpost.com/lubomir-kavalek/… From above: "In simple terms, you have to move and you don't want to"
    – Nasser
    Feb 20, 2013 at 4:25
  • @Nasser: Yes, that's right. If the rook back to the seventh is also a check, you've gained a tempo; enough reason to make a Zwischenzug.
    – Tom Au
    Feb 20, 2013 at 13:51

4 Answers 4


That's really an enormously broad question. The answer is "because it's a good move, sometimes." :-)

Let's say one player expects the game to go "I take here, then he takes there, I take there, he takes there, I take back the rook... and I end up a pawn up."

What happens is "I take here, he takes there, I take there, he moves the rook with check, I have to move my king, he takes there, I can't take back the rook... and I end up a rook down."

That's the sort of situation where a zwischenzug helps. When what at first looks like a forced sequence of moves can actually have an extra move added to the middle of it that makes the end result better for the side doing it.

Turning this into some actual position with a diagram and such is left as an exercise for the reader.

  • Suppose I want to capture a piece, but if I do so, I'll be check-mated. So I make a move that blocks the checkmate, and forces a response that will leave the piece en pris. Then I can take the piece on the next move. Is that the idea?
    – Tom Au
    Feb 20, 2013 at 13:53

A zwischenzug is often like sand in the opponent's gear: You block a vital row or column, you start a discovered attack, you pin an important piece or you threat a mate. As this mostly happens when the opponent is in the middle of some tactics, it can bring her out of balance (e.g. giving a check which even loses that piece, but at the same time started a discovered attack on the queen).


What might be the advantage of using such a "roundabout" route to get to the seventh rank?

Using a "Zwischenzug" can be very beneficial. It is also easy to accidentally blunder. However, this is the primary method of introducing chaos into the game. Usually the option to change the course of exchange (or the offering of) is chosen when a player realizes that they can gain an advantage by making a move which was unusual. Perhaps by issuing a check through taking a pawn by sacrificing a knight, and then gaining a knight from some discovered attack. The net result is that you won a pawn. These happen very often, and are sometimes either overlooked, or accidentally made available.

You should always be on the lookout for a Zwischenzug. They can wreak havoc on either your opponent, or yourself, and should be monitored closely.

You make a "throwaway" move that forces a particular response.

This is quite a different question. Often these types of moves aren't made until the end game, when moving a pawn can dramatically weak a position - or when moving the king leaves a pawn unguarded. These moves can also be made as waiting moves, where a trap is set, and the player does not want to unravel it so they will play a waiting move, usually along the lines of pushing an outside pawn; perhaps something like a4 or a5. Timing these moves can be very important, but they are more eloquent than the more combative style of Zwischenzug.


A zwischenzug occurs when a player, instead of playing the expected move, first plays another move, posing an immediate threat that the opponent must asnwer, and only then plays the expected move. Usually the expected move is an exchange or a piece retreat, but the in-between move allows doing the exchange or the retreat on more favourable terms.

So this is all about it: doing the expected move right then would put you in a bad situation, whereas the in-between move improves your position. This famous example contains an in-between move : enter image description here

1.Nxd5 White wants to capture this pawn with the Knight

1... Qxd2 Black then captures the Queen on d2 with the following idea: "When White recaptures on d2, I take back on d5 and I am one piece up."

2. Nxe7+ The black Knight was unprotected, thus White capture on e7 with check, forcing the black King to move.

2... Kh8

3. Rxd2 And now this is White who is a piece up !

More about the zwischenzug in my latest blog post: http://chesstrainerapp.blogspot.fr/2014/02/zwischenzug-say-it-again.html

  • Welcome to the site. An upvote for a good answer.
    – Tom Au
    Feb 6, 2014 at 13:22
  • From the link: "With that move, White has to move the King First, and Black will probably capture the a1 Rook on the next move" I don't think that's zwischenzug. Possible continuation are ... Kg7, Qb7+ Bd7, Qxa1 or ... Kg7, Qb7+ Kh1, Qxa1 Kg7, Re8. Qb7 wasn't originally legal, so interposing Qd isn't zwischenzug. Zwischenzug is when you do a move, and then do a move that was legal before the other move, but not as advantageous. Oct 29, 2020 at 2:53
  • In the continuation... Kg7, Qb7+ Kh1, Qxa1 Kg7, Re8, however, Qb7 ends up being zwischenzug, since doing it before Qxa1 means that the capture is also a check, giving Black a tempo move their rook out of danger. Kh1 isn't forced, but all other lines end up with Qxa1 eventually. Oct 29, 2020 at 3:02

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.