Glossary of Chess Terms

Active: An aggressive move, line of play, or position. When mentioned in lieu of a player’s style, it denotes a preference for sharp, tactical or vibrant types of play.

Advantage: Having a superiority in position based on a particular imbalance or series of imbalances. See imbalance.

Analysis: The calculation of a series of moves in a given position. This can be done in actual tournament conditions (in which you are not allowed to touch the pieces) or in a calmer scenario in which the pieces can be moved about (such analysis is often written down for future study or reference). The purpose of analysis is to discover the best move or plan; there is no limit to its length.

Annotation: Written comments (prose, chess symbols or actual moves) about a position or game.

Attack: To make a threat or threats against a specific piece or area of the board.

Backward Pawn: A pawn that has fallen behind its comrades, and thus no longer can be supported or guarded by other pawns of its own persuasion.

Bind: To have such a vise-like grip on a position that useful moves are difficult for the opponent to find. One often speaks of a crushing space advantage as a bind.

Bishop Pair: To possess two Bishops versus the opponent’s Bishop and Knight or two Knights. Two Bishops work extremely well together and are usually an advantage in open positions.

Blockade: Conceptualized and popularized by Aron Nimzovich (1886-1935), it refers to the tying down (immobilization) of an enemy pawn by placing a piece (in particular a Knight) directly in front of it.

Blunder: A horrible mistake that hangs material or makes enormous positional or tactical concessions.

Book: Published opening theory. A book player is one who relies on memorization of published analysis rather than on his own creative imagination. Taking someone out of book refers to sidestepping published analysis by playing a new or unorthodox move. This denies him the chance to make use of a good memory and forces him to find good moves on his own.

Break: The gaining of space (and thus more freedom of movement) by the advance of a pawn.

Breakthrough: A means of penetrating the enemy position. This can be done by a pawn break or by a sacrifice involving pieces or pawns.

Brilliancy: A game that contains a very deep strategic concept, a beautiful combination or an original plan.

Calculation: The working out of variations without moving the pieces physically. Though this book has taught you to talk or reason your way through a game, there are many positions that have a purely tactical nature. In such situations the player’s ability to calculate variations accurately takes on great importance.

The way to train your combinative (calculative) vision is to study the games of attacking players like Alekhine, Tal or Kasparov. Follow their opening moves and then cover up the rest of the game score. At this point you should endeavor to figure out all the imbalances, the plans, candidate moves, etc. When this is done, calculate each candidate move as deeply as you can, writing down all this information as you go. All these things must be done without moving the pieces around. When you have done all that’s possible (take as much time as you need, we are looking for accuracy; speed will follow with practice), look at the move played, make it on your board and keep repeating the process until the game is complete.

Keep a notebook with all your analysis. At first you may not do well, but with practice and effort you will notice real improvement in every aspect of your game.

Center: Usually considered to be the e4, d4, e5 and d5 squares, though the territory within the c4, c5, f4 and f5 parameters can also be thought of as central.

Centralize: The central placing of pieces and pawns so they both control the center and extend their influence over other areas of the board. A piece will usually reach maximum maneuverability and power when centrally placed.

Checkmate: See Mate.

Classical: A style of play (sometimes called a school) that is concerned with forming a full pawn center. The strategic concepts that go with it tend to be viewed as ultimate laws and thus are rather dogmatic. A classical opening is an opening based on these views. See Hypermodern.

Closed Game: A position locked by pawns. Such a position tends to lessen the strength of Bishops and other long-range pieces simply because the pawns get in their way. Knights, not being long-range pieces, can jump over other pieces and pawns and thus are very useful in such closed situations. A typical series of opening moves that lead to a closed position is 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 e5 4.Nc3 d6 5.e4, etc.

Combination: A tactical move or series of moves based on the opponent’s weakened King, hanging or undefended pieces or inadequately guarded pieces. Usually involving a sacrifice, it is a calculable series of moves leading to material or positional gains. It is important to note that a combination cannot exist if at least one of the above factors is not present.

Though several players have attempted to create a clear definition throughout the years, the following definition by Silman and Seirawan is the most accurate: A combination is a sacrifice, combined with a forced sequence of moves, that exploits specific peculiarities of the position in the hope of attaining a certain goal.

Compensation: An equivalent advantage in one imbalance that balances the opponent’s advantage in another. For example: material versus development or space versus a superior minor piece or three pawns versus a Bishop.

Connected Passed Pawns: Two or more pawns of the same color on adjacent files. See Passed Pawn.

Control: To dominate or have the sole use of a file, a square or group of squares, an area of the board, etc. Having the initiative would also put one in “control.”

Counterplay: When the defending side starts his own aggressive action, he is said to have or be initiating counterplay. However, there are varying degrees of counterplay – some equalizing the chances, some not being quite adequate and some leading to the capture of the initiative and subsequently an advantage.

Cramp: A disadvantage in space that leads to a lack of mobility.

Critical Position: That point in a position when the evaluation will clearly turn to one side’s advantage or stabilize down to equality. In such a position the scales are delicately balanced and the slightest error can lead to disaster.

Defense: A move or plan designed to meet an enemy’s attack or threats. It is also used in the names of various opening initiated from the Black side. For example: Petroff Defense, Caro-Kann Defense, etc. These Black systems are called defenses since White has the first move and thus Black is considered to be defending. The usual flow from Black’s point of view would be: Defense leading to equalization followed, only then, by the switch over to a counterattack.

This is the classical approach. More modern openings are often designed to create immediate imbalances in an effort to seize the initiative as Black. Strange as it may seem, even these counterattacking openings are usually given the title of defenses: Nimzo-Indian Defense, Sicilian Defense, Grunfeld Defense, King’s Indian Defense, etc.

Development: The process of moving one’s pieces from their starting posts to new positions where their activity and mobility are enhanced. It must be remembered that one’s pieces should be developed to squares where they work with the rest of their army towards a particular goal. If an individual piece is providing a useful service on its original square, then there may be no reason to move it.

Doubled Pawns: Two pawns of the same color lined up on a file as the result of a capture. Such pawns are generally considered to be weak, though quite often their ability to control certain squares makes them very useful.

Dynamic: The word “dynamic” symbolizes the aggressive potential in any given position or move.

Elo Rating: A mathematical system, now used worldwide, devised by Prof. Arpad Elo to rank chess players.

En Passant: A French term that literally means “in passing.” When a pawn advances two squares (something it can only do if it has not yet moved) and passes an enemy pawn on an adjacent file that has advanced to its fifth rank, it may be captured by that enemy pawn as if the advancing pawn had moved only one square. This optional capture may be made only on the first opportunity, else the right in that instance is permanently lost.

En Prise: A French term meaning “in take.” It describes a piece or pawn that is unprotected and exposed to capture. (Pronounced: on-pree).

Equality: A situation in which neither side has an advantage over the opponent.

Exchange: To trade pieces of equal worth. See Point Count. Trading a piece for something of lesser value is called a blunder or a sacrifice.

Exchange, The: A comparison of value between a Rook versus a Bishop or Knight. Thus, if you have won an enemy Rook for your Bishop, then you have won the Exchange.

Fianchetto: An Italian word meaning “on the flank.” Though you will hear many different pronunciations, the correct is fyan-ket-to. When a Bishop is developed on QN2 or KN2 (b2 or g2 for White and b7 or g7 for Black), it is called a fianchettoed Bishop. This term applies only to Bishops.

FIDE: An acronym for Federation Internationale des Echecs, the World Chess Federation.

File: A column of eight squares. An “open file” is a file that is not blocked by either side’s pawns.

Fish: A derogatory term denoting a weak chess player.

Flank: The sides of the board–the kingside and queenside. “Flank Openings” are openings that deal with flank development. Typical starts for such systems are 1.c4, 1.Nf3, 1.b3, 1.g3, etc.

Force: Material – all pieces and pawns are units of force.

Forced: A move or series of moves that must be played if “disaster” is to be avoided. Two examples: 1) You face a forced move when a checked King only has one legal move to get out of check. 2) A Knight (or any other piece) is attacked and has only one safe square to go to. Moving it to that safe square is also considered to be forced, even though other moves could legally be played.

Fork: A tactical maneuver in which a piece or pawn attacks two enemy pieces 
or pawns at the same time.

Gambit: A voluntary sacrifice of a pawn or a piece in the opening with the idea of gaining the initiative, a lead in development or some other compensating factor.

General Principles: Basic rules of play designed to serve as guidelines for less advanced players. As one’s experience grows, one learns that rules are meant to be broken. For example: the old rule of always capture with a pawn towards the center is widely followed, but a good 30% of the time it is correct to capture away from the center. Other rules (such as avoid doubled pawns, castle as early as possible, develop Knights before Bishops, etc.) are also just as suspect. The simple fact is that every situation must be looked at with an open mind–dogma is not something to be nurtured in life or in chess.

Ghosts: Threats that exist only in your own mind. A fear of your opponent or a lack of confidence will often lead to the appearance of ghosts and the cropping up of blunders in your play.

Grandmaster: Conferred by FIDE, it is the highest title (aside from World Champion) that one can achieve. It is awarded to players who meet established performance standards. Other titles (in order of importance) are International Master and FIDE Master. Once earned, these titles cannot be taken away.

Grandmaster Draw: When Grandmasters make a quick, uninteresting draw, it is called a Grandmaster draw. Nowadays a quick draw between any class of players is given the same label.

Hack: A derogatory chess term meaning a state of chess ineptitude.

Hanging: An unprotected piece or pawn exposed to capture is said to be hanging.

Hanging Pawns: Two adjacent friendly pawns on their fourth rank, separated from other friendly pawns, and subject to frontal attack on one or two half-open files. Through often objects of attack, they also possess a certain dynamic potential. Thus the battle rages around the question, “are they strong or weak?”

Hog: See Pig.

Hold: A defensive term meaning to “hang on.” Such and such a move would have held out longer means that the move would have offered tougher resistance, but would most likely have ultimately failed. Such and such a move would hold means that the mentioned move would have allowed a successful defense.

Hole: A square that cannot be defended by pawns. Such a square makes an excellent home for enemy pieces (especially Knights). For example, the opening 1.c4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.e4 is playable, but leaves a hole on d4 that, after 3…g6 and 4…Bg7, can easily be used by a Black piece.

Hutch: A special room set aside for players in a tournament to analyze their games and play skittles. Such a room allows various kinds of activity to go on without disturbing the unfinished games in the tournament. Usually used by the non-masters (called Rabbits), the term hutch becomes easily understandable. See Rabbit and Skittles.

Hypermodern: A school of thought that insists that indirect control of the center is better than direct occupation. In particular Reti and Nimzovich successfully propagated the idea of central control from the flanks. Unfortunately, they took their ideas to extremes–just as the classicists did. Today it is recognized that both schools of thought are correct, and a blending of the two is the only truly balanced method.

Imbalance: Any difference between the White and Black positions. Material advantage, superior pawn structure, superior minor piece, space, development and the initiative are all typical imbalances.

Initiative: When your opponent is defending and you are attacking or putting pressure on him, it is said that you have the initiative.

Innovation: A new move in an established position or opening.

Intuitive: Usually a sign of experience, it enables a player to choose a move or plan by feel or common sense as opposed to detailed analysis.

Isolated Pawn: A pawn with no friendly pawns on either adjacent file. A common opening that allows an isolated pawn is 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 c5 4.exd5 exd5 5.Ngf3 Nc6 6.Bb5 Bd6 7.dxc5 Bxc5 8.0-0 Nge7 9.Nb3 Bd6 10.Nbd4. The negatives of an isolated pawn are its inability to be guarded by a friendly pawn and the fact that the square directly in front of it usually makes a fine home for an enemy piece since no pawns can chase it away.

On the positive side, it offers plenty of space and the use of two half open files (on either side of it), with the result that one’s pieces usually become active. Kingside: The half of the board originally occupied by the King, K-Bishop, K-Knight and K-Rook. The kingside is on the right of the player with the White pieces and on the left of the player with the Black pieces.

Liquidation: A term used to denote a series of exchanges that are initiated to quell an enemy attack or to trade off to a drawn or won endgame.

Luft: Literally meaning “air.” In chess it describes a pawn move in front of one’s King that prevents back rank mate possibilities.

Major Pieces: Also called heavy pieces. The term applies to Queens and Rooks.

Maneuver: A series of quiet moves that aim to favorably reposition one’s pieces.

Master: A player becomes a master when he reaches an Elo rating of 2200, though he will lose this title if his rating drops below that point.

Mate: Short for checkmate. It means that you are threatening to capture the enemy King and nothing your opponent can do will prevent its loss. When this happens, you have won the game.

Material: The pieces and pawns, excluding the King. A material advantage is obtained by winning a piece of greater value than the one you gave up. For example, giving up a pawn to win a Rook means that you have an advantage in material.

Mating Attack: An attack on the King that is expected to lead to a checkmate.

Middlegame: The phase of the game that sits between the opening and the endgame. Grandmaster Tarrasch once said, “Before the endgame, the Gods have placed the middlegame.”

Minor Pieces: The Bishops and the Knights.

Minority Attack: A plan based on the use of two or more pawns (the minority) to act as battering rams against the opponent’s three or more pawns (the majority) in order to create a weakness in the opposing camp.

Here is the most common opening sequence by which a minority attack is reached: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.cxd5 exd5 6.Nf3 0-0 7.e3 c6 8.Bd3 Nbd7 9.Qc2 Re8 10.0-0 Nf8 11.Bxf6 Bxf6 12.b4 Be7 13.b5 Bd6 14.bxc6 bxc6. White has carried out his minority attack and has left Black with a weak pawn on c6 and a weak square on c5. After a further Rfc1, Rab1 and Na4 White will have great pressure against Black’s queenside. This plan is very important to understand, and situations for its use are constantly arising.

Mobility: To have freedom of movement for one’s pieces.

Mysterious Rook Move: A move with a Rook that seems to have no threat or purpose, but which actually discourages the opponent from a certain type of action (see Prophylaxis), or sets up a very deep, well-concealed plan.

Occupation: Occupation of a file or a rank refers to a Rook or Queen placed in such a way as to exert control over the file or rank. Occupation of a square refers to a piece being safely placed on a square and exerting pressure from it.

Open: Often refers to a type of position (see Open Game) or file (see Open File). This term also refers to a type of tournament in which any class of player can participate. Though a player often ends up with opponents who are much higher (or lower) rated than himself, the prizes are usually structured around classes and, for this reason, are attractive to players of every rating. The open tournament is extremely popular in the United States and is beginning to be seen more and more in Europe.

Open File: A column of eight squares that is free of pawns. It is on open files (and ranks) that Rooks come to their maximum potential.

Open Game: A type of position that is characterized by many open liens and few center pawns. A lead in development becomes very important in positions of this type.

Opening: The beginning phase of a game. This usually encompasses the first dozen moves but it can easily go much further. It is often written that the main opening objectives are: 1) develop your pieces in a quick and efficient manner; 2) occupy as much of the center as possible; 3) castle early (King safety).

While I can say that these objectives are basically correct, the real purpose of the opening is to create an imbalance and develop your pieces in such a way that they all work together in making the imbalance a favorable attribute.

Opposite Color Bishops: Usually called Bishops of opposite colors. A situation in which each player has only one Bishop, each being of a different color, and thus the Bishops can never come into contact. This is usually a good attacking imbalance for the middlegame, since one can°t defend what the other attacks. However, Bishops of opposite color are known as being rather drawish in endgames, due to the fact that the defender can place his pawns and King on the opposite color of the enemy Bishop, whereupon they are impervious to harm.

From an attacking point of view, a general rule for Bishops of opposite colors is that they are at their best with other pieces to back them up. On their own, they are often impotent.

Opposition: An endgame term. The opposition is a means by which one King can dominate another.

Outflanking: An endgame maneuver with Kings which makes forward progress on the board while: 1) simultaneously preventing your opponent from taking direct opposition; or 2) temporarily giving up the opposition for a higher goal.

Overextended: When a player tries to gain some advantages by starting a major advance or offensive, and then this offensive fails, he is often left with various weaknesses and nothing to compensate for them. His position is then said to be overextended.

Overprotection: A term coined by Nimzovich. It refers to defending a strong point more times than appears necessary. The idea is that a certain pawn or square may be causing the opponent (in this case, Black) considerable problems. By focusing so much energy on it, the Black player would be unwise to break that point because that would unleash the latent energy of the White pieces.

Passed Pawn: A pawn that has passed by all enemy pawns capable of capturing it.

Passive: An inactive move that does nothing to fight for the initiative. A passive position is a position without counterplay or active possibilities.

Patzer: A derogatory term that denotes a hopelessly weak player.

Pawn Center: Pawns placed in the center. White pawns on f4, e4 and d4, for example, would constitute a large pawn center. A common opening that allows White to build such a center in the hope of attacking it later is 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.f4, etc.

Pawn Chain: Two or more like-colored pawns linked diagonally. The weakest point of a pawn chain is the base because that is the one pawn in the chain that cannot be defended by another pawn.

Pawn Island: a group of connected friendly pawns. In the diagram Black has three pawn islands to “White’s” two. It is usually considered to be advantageous to have fewer pawn islands than the opponent.

Pawn Skeleton: See Pawn Structure.

Pawn Structure: The positioning of the whole pawn mass. Also referred to as the pawn skeleton. This positioning of the pawns is what usually dictates the types of plans available in a given position due to open files, space, pawn weaknesses, etc.

Pig: A slang for Rook. Pigs on the seventh is a common term for rooks doubled on the seventh rank. Also known as Hogs on the seventh.

Plan: A short or long-range goal on which a player bases his moves.

Point Count: A system of figuring out the worth of the pieces by giving each of them a numerical value. King – priceless; Queen – 9 points; Rook – 5 points; Bishop – 3 points; Knight – 3 points; pawn – 1 point. The flaw in the system is that it does not take into account other factors (such as position, tactics, etc.) that often drastically change the relative value of an individual piece.

Poisoned Pawn: Any pawn that, if captured, would lead to serious disadvantage is considered to be poisoned.

Positional: A move, a maneuver or a style of play that is based on an exploitation of small advantages.

Post Mortem: A Latin term borrowed from medicine that literally means, after death. It refers to the sessions that often take place after a tournament game has finished. Both players discuss the game and attempt to find the reason why someone lost – the cause of death. In particular, those with huge or delicate egos love post mortems because they can show that they saw much more than the opponent (if they lost, they can prove, at least in their own mind, that the opponent was lucky to gain the victory). For those of a more open nature, if you had played a stronger opponent than yourself, you can sit back, ask what you did wrong and hope that the mysteries of the universe will unfold.

Premature: A hasty move, maneuver or plan. To take action without sufficient preparation.

Prepared Variation: A deeply researched opening variation that is often strengthened by new moves. It is a common practice to prepare certain liens and new moves for particular opponents, refusing to use it against anyone other than its intended victim.

Problem Child: A reference to a Queen’s Bishop that is trapped behind its pawns. For example, the French Defense (1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5) is an attractive opening. Its one flaw is the Queen’s Bishop, which is blocked by its own pawns and unable to reach an active square.

Prophylactic Move: See Prophylaxis.

Prophylaxis: A strategy explored by Nimzovich. Taken from the Greek word prophylaktikos, meaning to guard or prevent beforehand, prophylaxis (or a prophylactic move) stops the opponent from taking action in a certain area for fear of some type of reprisal. Overprotection is a form of prophylaxis.

Promotion: Also called Queening. When a pawn reaches the final rank it becomes another piece, usually a Queen. However, the pawn can be promoted to anything other than a pawn or a King.

Protected Passed Pawn: A passed pawn that is protected by a friendly pawn. See Passed Pawn.

Queening: See Promotion.

Queenside: That half of the board made up of the four files originally occupied by the Queen, Q-Bishop, Q-Knight and Q-Rook. The queenside stands to White’s left and Black’s right.

Quiet Move: A move that is neither a capture, a check nor a direct attack.

Rabbit: A humorous (slightly insulting) term for a non-master.

Rank: A row of eight squares. The seventh rank in particular is the subject of much activity, especially when a Rook settles there. Control of the seventh rank is considered to be an important advantage.

Rating: See Elo Rating.

Refutation: A move or series of moves that demonstrates a flaw in a game, move, variation, analysis or plan.

Resigns: Realizing the hopeless nature of a position and not wanting to insult the intelligence of the opponent, a player can surrender the game (resign) without having to wait for a checkmate.

Resignation occurs in the vast majority of tournament games, while actual checkmates are quite rare.

Risk: A double-edged sword. A move, plan or opening variation that aims for advantage while carrying the danger of a disadvantage.

Romantic: The romantic era (macho era) of chess was a time when sacrifice and attack was considered to be the only manly way to play. If a sacrifice was offered, it was a disgraceful show of cowardice to refuse; thus, many beautiful sacrificial games were recorded simply because proper defensive techniques were not understood. That was in the 1800’s. Today, a player who is termed romantic is one who has a proclivity for bold attacks and sacrifices, often throwing caution to the winds.

Sacrifice: The voluntary offer of material for the purpose of gaining a more favorable advantage than the material investment. Unlike a combination, a sacrifice is not a cut and dried affair – there is usually an element of uncertainty associated with it. Though a combination always has one or more sacrifices, a sacrifice need not be associated with a combination.

Semi-Open Game: A position with some closed and some open qualities. Typically, 1.e4 e6, 1.e4 c6 and 1.e4 d6 lead to semi-open games. See Open Games and Closed Games.

Sharp: A bold, aggressive move or position. A sharp player is one who enjoys dynamic, explosive situations.

Shot: A strong move that the opponent didn’t expect.

Simplify: An exchange of pieces to reach a won ending, to neutralize an enemy attack or simply to clarify a situation.

Skittles: chess played in an offhand manner, often at a chess club or after a tournament game.

Sound: An analytically correct move or plan. A safe, solid position.

Space: The territory controlled by each player. Thus, whoever controls the most territory has a spatial advantage.

Speculative: An unclear or risky move or plan.

Strategy: The foundation of a player’s moves. The way to achieve a particular plan. See Plan.

Style: The preference for certain types of positions and moves. It is typical to have one player who enjoys open, tactical positions while his opponent may cherish semi-closed structures of a positional nature. Thus, the first part of the battle will be to determine who gets the type of position in which he excels.

Support Point: A square that acts as a home for a piece (usually a Knight). A square can only be considered a support point if it cannot be attacked by an enemy pawn or if the enemy pawn advance (attacking the support point) would severely weaken the enemy position.

Swindle: A trick from an inferior position.

Symmetry: A situation in which both armies are identically placed on their respective sides of the board. For example, 1.c4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.Nf3 Nf6 6.0-0 0-0 7.a3 a6 8.Rb1 Rb8 9.b4 cxb4 10.axb4 b5 11.cxb5 axb5 is a well-known symmetrical position that comes from the English Opening.

Tactics: Traps, threats and schemes based on the calculation of variations (at times rather long-winded). A position with many combinative motifs present is considered tactical.

Tempo: The unit of time represented by one move. For example: 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 gains a tempo, as the Queen must move again if it is to avoid being captured.

Territory: See Space.

Theory: Known and practiced opening, middlegame and endgame variations and positions. Opening theory is also referred to as “the book.”

Threat: A move or plan that, if allowed, would lead to the immediate depreciation of the enemy position.

Time: Can be used in several contexts. One meaning is the amount of thinking time as measured by special clocks (see Time Control) It is also used in reference to the ability to stop a particular action by the opponent, i.e., “Black does not have time to coordinate a successful defense against the coming attack.” Thus time also measures development (an advantage in time being a lead in development) and the rate at which an attack is pursued or defended.

Time Control: The amount of time given to reach a certain number of moves. In international competition, this varies, though one common time control is 40 moves in 2 hours (extra time is given after 40 moves have been played). If a player uses up his 2 hour allocation and he has not yet made 40 moves, he will lose the game by forfeit no matter what the position on the board is like.

Time Pressure: That period of the game when one or both players have used up most of their time and must make many moves with little deliberation. Naturally, this should be avoided since it often leads to mistakes or game-losing blunders. Transitions: The changing of one phase of the game into another – the opening into the middlegame and the middlegame into the endgame.

Transposition: Reaching an identical position by a different sequence of moves. For example, the Dutch Defense (1.d4 f5) can be reached by 1.d4 e6 2.c4 f5 or by 1.c4 f5 2.d4 e6.

Traps: A hidden way to lure an opponent into making an error. A trap should only be laid if it is part of the overall strategic plan. This way, it does not matter if your opponent falls for it or not; you will still be improving your position.

Unclear: An uncertain situation. Some players never use this assessment, insisting that every position is either equal or favorable for one side or the other. It has even been said that “unclear” is a lazy way to avoid figuring out what’s really going on in a position.

Variation: A line of play usually referred to about opening lines; but the term also is used in the other phases of the game. Any alternative to the line actually played is termed a variation.

Weakness: Any pawn or square that is difficult or impossible to defend. Wild: Extremely unclear. A sharp situation or move with unfathomable complications.

Zugzwang: “Compulsion to move.” A German term referring to a situation in which a player would like to do nothing (pass), since any move will damage his game.

Zwischenzug: “In-between move.” A German term for an often unexpected reply thrown into an expected sequence of moves.