Game theory, strategy

Zugzwang is a situation in board games where you must make a move, and any move you can make will worsen your position. For example, in checkers, you must capture the opponent's piece when you have an opportunity to do so, and a clever opponent can thus lay a trap that you must fall into.

Situations in real life (outside of board games) resemble a zugzwang when anything you do will make the situation worse, and you don't have a choice not to make a choice.

For example, consider you've lied to your employer that you know Excel, to get the job. Now they want you to complete a long Excel task within the week. Either you need to tell them you've lied all along or you need to learn Excel and work day-and-night to complete the task on time - probably still producing sub-standard work; you're in a zugzwang.

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