Chess Tactics Simplified: The Zwischenzug!

Zwischenzug – A tongue twister for most Chess players hearing this term for the first time, is a German word which means “in-between” move. The concept was known for a long time but was first coined in the 1920s, and later started becoming a part of the usual Chess jargon along with its cousins – “Intermedia Move”, “Intermezzo” and “in-between move”.
So, what does this mean?

Zwischenzug always reminds me of this Coyote from Looney Tunes’ “Road Runner Show”. There is an obvious expected natural law of physics that’s supposed to work in Cartoon. But just as we are expecting the obvious, something unexpected and creative shows up. Like this Coyote cutting the rope and having the whole cliff fall off. Or when he falls from a cliff and he has enough time to say goodbye before looking down and falling.

 

Similarly, just as we are expecting an obvious forcing sequence in Chess, some unusual creative move shows up in the middle of the variation. Consider the below position.

It looks like the only viable option for black to do is play Rc1 check forcing the exchange and promoting to a queen. After King takes Queen, it looks like pestering the King with checks in the hope of a draw is the only option. But just as we are about to give up hope, a curious-looking move pops up in our brain after Rc1 check – Why not sacrifice the queen on a1? –  Voila! A beautiful finish to the game!
This unusual move in the middle of a hopeless sequence of forcing moves is what is called a Zwischenzug or an Intermediate move.
Here’s another example: Black to play. Will you capture the Bishop on e3?

If you look carefully, you’ll notice that after Rxe3, white has an option to trade the queens. The problem here is that black cannot recapture the Queen because the other Rook on e8 is hanging. How to solve this problem?
If you take some time to think about this variation, you’ll be sure to spot the quiet Intermediate move on the second move of the variation that gives black an extra piece in the end. (answers below)
Zwischenzug or Intermediate move simply means delivering an unexpected move in a series of otherwise forced sequence of moves, changing the outcome of the game.

 

Answers to the above positions in case you haven’t figured out yet:

Position 1:

 

Position 2:


Two of my favorite books that cover the concept of Zwischenzug are Forcing Chess Moves by Charles Hertan and Invisible Chess Moves by Yochanan Afek & Emmanuel Neiman.

Below are a few examples from each of the books. Happy solving!
(Click the image above to open a free sample of the book)
Exercise 1: Clue: h7 can be a potential target. Don’t worry about your a3 Bishop.

Exercise 2: Clue: f7 and c5 are critical points with one attacker and one defender each.

Exercise 3:White to play and win material. Simple answer.


 

(Click the image above to open a free sample of the book)
Exercise 4: Black just played Rg6 hoping for an easy win. White crushes black’s hope and draws the game with a simple intermediate move.

Exercise 5: Qg7 check doesn’t seem to help much. But White managed to find an intermediate game that changed the fate of the game.

Thank you for reading! Has an intermediate move ever happened in your game? Feel free to share the positions from your games. We’ll be happy to check them out and add the creative ones to the end of this blog as an update.
Until next time,
Arun

 

EXERCISE SOLUTIONS:
Puzzle 1:

Puzzle 2:

Puzzle 3:

Puzzle 4:

Puzzle 5:

 

Arun J

Arun J

Content Marketing @ Forward Chess.