The zwischenzug (German: pronounced [ˈtsvɪʃənˌtsuːk] "intermediate move") is a chess tactic in which a player, instead of playing the expected move (commonly a recapture of the capturer of a piece that the opponent has just captured) first interposes another move, posing an immediate threat that the opponent must answer, then plays the expected move (Hooper & Whyld 1992:460) (Golombek 1977:354). Ideally, the zwischenzug changes the situation to the player's advantage, such as by gaining material or avoiding what would otherwise be a strong continuation for the opponent.
Such a move is also called an intermezzo (Cox 2007:216), intermediate move (Kasparov 2008:208), or in-between move (Burgess 1997:494) (Horowitz & Reinfeld 1954:180–97). When the intermediate move is a check, it is sometimes called an "in-between check" (Horowitz & Reinfeld 1954:183–85), "zwischenschach" (van Perlo 2006:479), or "zwischen-check" (Mednis 1997:270).
As with any fairly common chess tactic, it is impossible to pinpoint when the first zwischenzug was played. Three early examples are Lichtenhein–Morphy, New York 1857; Rosenthal–De Vere, Paris 1867; and Tartakower–José Raúl Capablanca, New York 1924. The first known use of the term zwischenzug, however, did not occur until 1933, when the prolific American chess authors Fred Reinfeld and Irving Chernev used it in their book Chess Strategy and Tactics.
|This article uses algebraic notation to describe chess moves.|
No one knows when the first zwischenzug was played, but it was evident long before the term itself existed. One early example was Lichtenhein–Morphy, New York 1857. In the diagram at right, White has just captured Black's knight on e4 and surely expected the recapture 10...dxe4 11.0-0, when White's king is safe and he has the better pawn structure. Morphy, the strongest player of the day, instead played the zwischenzug 10...Qh4! Now White cannot save the bishop, since a move like 11.Bf3?? is met by 11...Qxf2#. Moreover, 11.0-0 would be met by 11...Qxe4 12.Nc3 Qg6 (not 12... Qh4? 13. Nxd5!), when "Black has the two bishops and a compact position without serious weakness" (Reinfeld & Soltis 1974:53). Instead, White correctly played 11.Qe2 (forcing Black to weaken his pawns) dxe4 12.Be3? (after 12.0-0!, Black has only a slight advantage) Bg4! 13.Qc4? Bxe3!! and Morphy went on to win a brilliancy. (Réti 1976:32–36) (Reinfeld & Soltis 1974:51–54)
Rosenthal–De Vere, Paris 1867, is another 19th-century example of a zwischenzug (Hooper & Whyld 1992:107–8). De Vere (Black) had earlier sacrificed a piece for two pawns. White has just played 16.Bxb4. Instead of recapturing with 16...Qxb4+, De Vere first played the zwischenzug (or zwischenschach) 16...Rc1+! After 17.Kd2 Rxf1 18.Qxf1 Qxb4+ 19.Ke2 Qxf4 20.Qg1 Nxe5, De Vere's zwischenzug had netted him two more pawns, leaving him with the material advantage of four pawns for a knight. White resigned after twelve more moves.
Another prominent example that brought the concept of zwischenzug, albeit not the term itself, to public attention was Tartakower–Capablanca, New York 1924. This was a game won by the reigning World Champion at one of the strongest tournaments of the early 20th century. In the position at right, Tartakower (White) has just played 9. Bxb8, thinking he has caught Capablanca in a trap: if 9...Rxb8, 10.Qa4+ and 11.Qxb4 wins a bishop (Tartakower & du Mont 1975:295). However, Capablanca sprang the zwischenzug 9...Nd5!, protecting his bishop and also threatening 10...Ne3+, forking White's king and queen. After Tartakower's 10.Kf2 Rxb8, Capablanca had regained his piece and went on to win in 20 more moves. Note that after 10.Bf4 (instead of 10.Kf2), Black would not play 10...Nxf4??, which would still allow 11.Qa4+, winning a piece. Instead, after 10.Bf4 Black would play a second zwischenzug, 10...Qf6!, attacking the bishop again, and also renewing the threat of 11...Ne3+ (Alekhine 1961:208 note h) (Reinfeld 1974:230). After a move like 11.Qc1, Black could either take the bishop or consider yet a third zwischenzug with 11...Bd6.
Alekhine, Reinfeld, and Tartakower and du Mont do not call 9...Nd5! a "zwischenzug" in their books (originally published in 1925, 1942, and 1952, respectively). Instead, they refer to it as, respectively, "a bit of finesse", a "sly interpolation", and an "intermediary manoeuvre" (Alekhine 1961:208 note e) (Reinfeld 1974:230) (Tartakower & du Mont 1975:296).
The earliest known use of the term zwischenzug did not occur until after all of these games. According to chess historian Edward Winter, the first known use was in 1933. Fred Reinfeld and Irving Chernev, annotating the game Max Euwe–Gyula Breyer, Vienna 1921, called Breyer's 27th move, 27...Nge3!, "an important Zwischenzug" (Reinfeld & Chernev 1933:48). The game can be played over here.
The diagram shows another example. Black, on move, plays
expecting White to play 2. Qxh4, when Black retains a material advantage. However, White has a zwischenzug:
which is followed by
- 3.Qxh4+ Kg8
- 29. Nd4 Bxd4
- 30. cxd4
White must have expected 30... Qxd4 31. Qxc4 Re1+ and then 32. Kg2 gets him out of trouble, but Black has a zwischenzug:
- 30... Re4!
L. Steiner–Helling, Berlin 1928, provides another example of the zwischenschach (in-between check). Black has just captured White's pawn on f2 with his knight. White responded with 16.Qxf2, expecting the skewer 16...Bg3??, which he would refute with 17.Qxf7+! Rxf7 18.Re8#. Instead, Black first played the zwischenschach 16...Bh2+! Now 17.Kxh2 Qxf2 loses White's queen. The game continued 17.Kf1 Bg3! Not seeing the point, White blithely continued with his plan: 18. Qxf7+?? Rxf7+ Now White realized that he is in check (that was the point of 16...Bh2+!), so his intended 19.Re8# is illegal. The forced 19.Bxf7+ Kxf7 would leave Black with queen for rook, an easily winning material advantage, so White resigned (Horowitz & Reinfeld 1954:178–80) (Golombek 1977:354).
In the game between Zlatozar Kerchev and Emil Stefanov Karastoichev, Black moved
- 1... Ng5
discovering an attack on White's queen. White moved:
- 2. Qxg6
(If White moves the queen to another square, Black's knight captures White's rook on f3, winning the exchange.) Instead of immediately recapturing the queen, Black played
- 2... Nxf3+
and White must get out of check. After
- 3. Bxf3 hxg6
Black had won the exchange (Burgess 2000:47).
In game 5 of the 2013 World Chess Championship match, Carlsen had captured a bishop with 20.cxb6, and Anand maintained material balance by capturing a knight with 20...fxe4, also attacking White's bishop (see diagram). Instead of immediately taking the pawn with 21.Bxe4, which would have given Anand the opportunity to fix his queenside pawn weaknesses with 21...axb6, Carlsen played the zwischenzug 21.b7. After the necessary 21...Rab8 and 22.Bxe4 Rxb7 Anand's a- and c-pawns remained isolated. Black's weaker pawn structure was an important factor to Carlsen's initiative in this first decisive game of the match.
- National Master Dennis Monokroussos observes that "just because authors didn't use the word 'zwischenzug' doesn't mean they didn't use the concept – perhaps they simply used 'in-between move' instead". Fred Reinfeld and the Zwischenzug Archived August 7, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
- Lichtenhein–Morphy, New York 1857
- Lichtenhein–Morphy, First American Chess Congress, 1857
- Encyclopedia of Chess Openings, Volume C, Third Edition, Šahovski Informator, 1997, p. 301 n.72.
- Rosenthal–De Vere, Paris 1867
- Tartakower–Capablanca, New York 1924
- Chessmetrics ranks New York 1924 as the ninth strongest tournament between 1900 and 1930. Strongest Tournaments 1900–1930 Archived May 30, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
- Edward Winter, Earliest Occurrences of Chess Terms. Retrieved on 2009-04-27.
- Mieses–Reshevsky, Margate 1935
- L. Steiner–Helling, Berlin 1928
- Alekhine, Alexander (1961), The Book of the New York International Chess Tournament 1924, Dover, ISBN 978-0-486-20752-0
- Burgess, Graham (1997), The Mammoth Book of Chess (1st ed.), Carroll & Graf, ISBN 0-7867-0431-4
- Burgess, Graham (2000), The Mammoth Book of Chess (2nd ed.), Carroll & Graf, ISBN 978-0-7867-0725-6
- Chernev, Irving (1965), The Most Instructive Games of Chess Ever Played: 62 Masterpieces of Chess Strategy, Dover, ISBN 0-486-27302-4
- Cox, John (2007), Starting Out: Sicilian Sveshnikov, Gloucester Publishers, ISBN 978-1-85744-431-5
- Golombek, Harry (1977), Golombek's Encyclopedia of Chess, Crown Publishing, ISBN 0-517-53146-1
- Hooper, David; Whyld, Kenneth (1992), The Oxford Companion to Chess (second ed.), Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-866164-9
- Horowitz, I.A.; Reinfeld, Fred (1954), Chess Traps, Pitfalls, and Swindles, Simon and Schuster, ISBN 0-671-21041-6
- Mednis, Edmar (1997), How to Beat Bobby Fischer, Dover, ISBN 0-486-29844-2
- Kasparov, Garry (2008), Modern Chess: Part 2, Kasparov vs Karpov 1975–1985, Everyman Chess, ISBN 978-1-85744-433-9
- Reinfeld, Fred (1974), The Immortal Capablanca, Dover, ISBN 0-02-029690-8
- Reinfeld, Fred; Chernev, Irving (1933), Chess Strategy and Tactics
- Reinfeld, Fred; Soltis, Andrew (1974), Morphy Chess Masterpieces, Collier Books, ASIN B0011U1746
- Réti, Richard (1976), Masters of the Chessboard, Dover, ISBN 0-486-23384-7
- Tartakower, Savielly; du Mont; Julius (1975), 500 Master Games of Chess, Dover, ISBN 0-486-23208-5
- van Perlo, Gerardus C. (2006), Van Perlo's Endgame Tactics, New In Chess, ISBN 978-90-5691-168-3