Quinte, On. real estate agent: Malcolm Johnston, Trenton Real Estate (Century 21 Lanthorn Real Estate LTD., Trenton, Ontario)

Zugzwang, Chess and Life 101

Lately I haven't been blogging as much as I usually do. I won't blame it on being busier the last few weeks (although I have), because I have found time to be in front of my computer. It's just that every once in a while I get sucked into the world of chess, and I find myself thinking about chess rather than blogging ideas. Like a recurring addiction, it starts dominating my thoughts and I'm helpless to escape for a while.

Despite having read a lot of books about the subject and studied the masters, I'm a surprisingly poor player. I have never done well in competitions and on the internet I lose to players with ratings far below mine a lot more frequently than I beat players with superior ratings. I find this incredibly frustrating. Those of you who play chess understand the frustration. In many ways my personality comes out very clearly in my chess game, as do most people's who play frequently. I fall for differently disguised versions of the same ploys time and time again, and only afterwards when I'm reviewing the game do I realize that I've been had much like I've been had a thousand times before. It's only something I realize in retrospect. Sometimes when I have a small advantage I fail to press that advantage, instead trying to nurse it towards victory by attrition. This stretches out the game and gives my opponent too many chances to capitalize on a blunder that I might make. I lose a lot of games by trying to be overly cautious.

One of the aspects of chess that has always been such a great attraction to me is how it seems to mirror life. Chess terminology is replete with expressions that have been devised for chess, but can apply to all types of situations. There are some great words that have come out of the chess lexicon. One such word is Zugzwang. Loosely translated from German, zugzwang means "compulsion to move". It simply means that any move that a player can make will weaken his position, yet he has to move because it is his turn. All the moves available to that player are "bad" moves, and he will come out of it in a weaker position. Sometimes life throws us curves like that too where we are in a situation where something must be done, but it seems as if every option available will be a step backwards for us.

chess board

chess board

Comment balloon 10 commentsMalcolm Johnston • April 15 2010 05:12PM
Zugzwang, Chess and Life 101
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