What is the origin of zugzwang?
Zugzwang means “compulsion to move” in German, and the first element of the word is cognate to the English word tug “a forceful pull.” Zugzwang is one of several terms that we Anglophones have borrowed to describe moves, people, and actions related to chess. Also from German, we’ve adopted patzer, a casual, amateurish chess player. Meanwhile, Italian gives us fianchetto, a move that involves developing the bishop by moving a pawn out of the way, and French gives us en prise, which describes when a piece is likely to be captured. With a game as universally beloved as chess is, it’s not surprising that terms related to the game have crossed, recrossed, and criss-crossed linguistic divides.