Thursday, December 1, 2011


Zugzwang is a term used in chess to refer to a position where every move you have is a bad one.

Once you’re in zugzwang, things like having more pieces than your opponent doesn’t matter anymore. If you can’t use them to attack you may as well not have them at all. Often players who find themselves in zugzwang simply resign.

A growing number of people in America know what it feels like to be in zugzwang. For some of them their whole life has been one long zugzwang, they can’t remember ever having any good options.

Without catching a lucky break, a lifetime of hard work for most people results in just that—a lifetime of hard work.

For others they maybe once thought they had it all—a good job with a pension, a nice house with a payment they could afford, set for life. Then in an instant it all disappeared. House is underwater, ARM is popping on the loan, pension fund bought a bunch of mortgage-backed securities.

All that’s left is utter, hopeless zugzwang.

Sadly this, if nothing else, is what unites us. This dreadful unease. This feeling that every option we have is a bad one. And this resentment we feel from being told that it has to be this way, that there are no other options, because these are the rules of the game.

But like Poe said, “there’s games and then there’s life. They ain’t the same thing.” It doesn’t have to be this way.

In chess, you don’t have to resign in zugzwang. You can always sacrifice. . . .

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