The game Saemisch - Nimzowitsch (Copenhagen 1923) has come to be known as the Immortal Zugzwang Game, as a play on Anderssen's swashbuckling Immortal Game. I am interested in finding other examples of what might be called a "grand Zugzwang," where there are still many pieces on the board (rather than a less-cluttered endgame position, where Zugzwang most commonly occurs) but one player is stuck in a situation where the compulsion to move will ultimately ruin his or her position.

It turns out there is already a great wikipedia entry that lists several fantastic examples, including my personal favorite Podgaets - Dvoretsky (Odessa 1974), which includes the one move in chess history I would most like to have played: in the position

[FEN "5r2/p5k1/Pp1p2p1/2pP4/6nq/8/1PP2PQ1/5RKB b - - 0 1"]
[White "Mikhail Podgaets"]
[Black "Mark Dvoretsky"]
[StartFlipped "0"]

Dvoretsky played the spectacular 29. ... Rf3!!, leaving white completely paralyzed in a position where any move (after he runs out of pawn waiting moves) leads to immediate ruin. This brings me to my question:

Can you point me to other "grand Zugzwang" games, ones that are not mentioned on the wikipedia page above?

Since wikipedia can be a moving target, I'll list the games (beyond the two already mentioned above) that are on the wikipedia page as of my writing:

2 Answers 2


The game Alekhine-Nimzowitsch immediately comes to mind; a great example of both a zugzwang in a position full of pieces and the infamous "Alekhine's Gun" (the tripled major pieces on the c-file):

[FEN ""]
[White "Alexander Alekhine"]
[Black "Aron Nimzowitsch"]
[Result "1-0"]

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e5 c5 5. Bd2 Ne7 6. Nb5 Bxd2+
7. Qxd2 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. Nxb7 Qxb7 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. Bxb5 Ke8 29. Ba4 Kd8 30. h4 1-0

Nimzowitsch resigned here, as Alekhine will be able to just sit tight, making waiting moves with his king, say, and once Nimzowitsch runs out of moves with his g- and h-pawns, any piece move will spell disaster:

  • The c6 knight is pinned to the queen.

  • The c7 rook has no squares.

  • The c8 rook and e7 knight can't move because both are needed to defend the c6 knight.

  • Finally, if ...Ke8 or ...Qe8, then the c7 rook is inadequately defended after the move b5 kicks the knight away.

  • 2
    Ah, thanks. I now remember seeing that one before. Fun to see Nimzowitsch on the receiving end of this one.
    – ETD
    Commented Jun 13, 2012 at 23:13

And here's more. An article by Larry Kaufman points to yet another nice example from Fischer, this one played against Daniel Collins in a simul in 1964:

[FEN ""]
[White "Bobby Fischer"]
[Black "Daniel Collins"]
[Result "1-0"]

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 5.Nc5 Qc7 6.Bd3 Bxd3 7.Nxd3 Nd7
8. Bf4 Qb6 9.Nf3 f6 10.O-O O-O-O 11.a4 Re8 12.a5 Qd8 13.Re1 g5 14.Bg3 h5
15. h4 g4 16.Nd2 Nh6 17.Nc4 Nf5 18.a6 b5 19.Na5 Qb6 20.Nc5 Nxg3 21.Re6 Nb8
22. fxg3 Rd8 23.c3 Rd6 24.Qe2 Rxe6 25.Qxe6+ Kc7 26.b4

In the final position given here (which isn't the final position of the full game), note that:

  • The black queen has no safe squares.

  • ... Nxa6 allows Qd7+ and impending doom.

  • ... f5 allows Qe5+, forking the king and rook.

  • A rook move allows Qg8 and the bishop is lost.

  • A bishop move allows Qxe7+.

  • Black wasn't actually in Zugzwang yet, as he could have safely played 26. ... Kd8, but after 27. Nab7+ Kc7 (... Ke8 28. Nd6+ Kd8 29. Qc8#) 28. Kh2 the Zugzwang would be in full effect.

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