Kasparov in Zugzwang

Chess players are amused when the language of their game—checkmate, stalemate, pawn, gambit—shows up in nonchess contexts: “He’s just a pawn to be sacrificed.”  I particularly like the word zugzwang

Normally in chess it is a big advantage to be the player who is on move. But there are those rare chess positions in which whoever must move is at a huge disadvantage, because he has no choice but to give ground (In chess, you have to move a piece when it’s your turn; you can’t opt to stand still).   This kind of standoff has the beautiful guttural name zugzwang.  It is worth striving for such chess positions, even if you’re on the losing side and must give way, just so that you have a reason to utter the double-z word, which can’t even be spelled in Scrabble without resorting to a blank tile.

At BookExpo, the publishing gala in which 30,000 booksellers, editors, and authors crowded the Javits Center, I visited the booth of Bloomsbury, publisher of Garry Kasparov’s forthcoming semi-self-help book How Life Imitates Chess: Making the Right Moves, from the Board to the Boardroom.  There was a huge stack of his book, and next to it, an equally mammoth stack of Zugzwang,

 Click for 300dpi imageMaking the Right Moves, from the Board to the Boardroom

Ronan Bennett’s murder-thriller set in St. Petersburg.  Now if only they had interlaced the stacks, so that the removal of any single book would cause the whole pile to collapse.  That would have been true zugzwang.

3 Responses to “Kasparov in Zugzwang”

  1. Howard Goldowsky Says:

    The cheapos at Bloomsbury were supposed to send me an ARC of Kasparov’s book, but I’ve not gotten it yet. evidently they can give dozens of copies away for free to random people, but lowely ol’ freelance chess writer like me isn’t worth $3 postage. It must be my freelance status — I get no respect!

    Those damn publishers: few months ago, I purchased a copy of the UK edition of How Life Imitates Chess, sacrificing almost (US)$40 to Amazon.co.uk (including shipping). The sacrifice did not pay — Kasparov’s book was not the insightful treatise I’d hoped for. Even Mig’s professional-sounding prose couldn’t raise the book to a lotfier perception. If I have time, later on in the year, I hope to write an in-depth review of How Life Imitates Chess. It won’t be too pretty, but it will be fair.

    Bennett published Zugzwang in serialized form for the British newspaper The Observer, last year. Some people liked it; some did not. The novel is listed in my ches fiction bibliography.

  2. PressPosts / User / ozaru4 / Submitted Says:

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    Submited post on PressPosts.com – “Kasparov in Zugzwang”

  3. shazgood Says:

    Interesting. I thought when I read the title that you’d say Kasparov was in political zugzwang. If he continues protesting he’ll end up being hurt by Putin’s henchmen, and if he stops, well he looks silly, doesn’t he. Either way, he is in zugzwang.

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