I can't see the difference between a waiting move and zugzwang.

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    Very Closely Related: What is zugzwang in chess? Nov 29, 2021 at 14:32
  • Did you mean to say zugwang here, or zwischenzug? Nov 30, 2021 at 2:08
  • Maybe the translation of the german word "Zugzwang" helps to see the difference? In games, it refers to the general rule of being compelled ("gezwungen sein", noun: "Zwang") to make a move ("ziehen" in this context, noun: "Zug") when it is your turn -- skipping is not an option allowed by the rules of the game. From that point of view, you are always in Zugzwang when you play chess and it is your turn. Having said that, the word comes up mostly when moving weakens your position: "Can I skip my turn?"/"Kann ich passen?" -- "No, the rules compel you to make a move"/"Nein, es herrscht Zugzwang!"
    – orithena
    Nov 30, 2021 at 15:03
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    It would have helped if you had written what you think these terms mean.
    – Carsten S
    Nov 30, 2021 at 17:34

3 Answers 3


Zugzwang is when one side would like to "pass" but cannot. With a waiting move, you essentially do "pass". A waiting move could lead to zugzwang if one side has the ability to play them and the other does not, but this is by no means necessary.

An opponent might have their own waiting moves (in which case the game could be drawn by repetition unless one side decides to do something meaningful) or they might have a different evaluation of the position and decide to simply proceed with their plan.

For example, one side might play a waiting move to see which side the opponent castles on, but the opponent may well think that the benefits of castling right then outweigh the drawbacks of giving the first player that information.


A waiting move is a move to wait and see what your opponent will do.

If you are in zugzwang then all moves worsen your position.

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    Zugzwang is not having only bad moves but especially if making a move worsens your position
    – Minot
    Nov 29, 2021 at 12:29
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    "If you are in zugzwang then you have only bad moves" is correct but incomplete; I don't think it deserves a downvote.
    – Cleveland
    Nov 29, 2021 at 14:13
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    @MichaelWest - I understand where you're coming from, but at least in my mind there's a difference. To me, a "bad move" (in the way I think people usually mean that) is a mistake - an error. Whereas, in zugzwang, there's no error - it's just that there aren't any moves available (at all) that aren't harmful to your position. There's no "error" in that case - it's just that there aren't any decent choices available.
    – patbarron
    Nov 29, 2021 at 18:09
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    @patbarron that makes sense to me. Glad I changed the wording :) Nov 29, 2021 at 18:11
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    The new wording is missing the word "only." Or, better yet: "all moves worsen your position." Nov 29, 2021 at 21:01

The former is a move which passes the initiative on to the opponent.

The latter is a position where that initiative is a burden, and all moves are detrimental to the player with the move.

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