Combinatorial Games, Zugzwang and Employee Exit

Chess is timing, so is Life!        

Move with a purpose, Have high aims!

Hold on! Take charge and command.

Do the best and leave the rest to God!

And he will save your position from the critical Zugzwang!

-Niranjan Navalgund

Combinatorial games are two-person games with perfect information and no chance moves, and with a win-or-lose outcome. Such a game is determined by a set of positions, including an initial position, and the player whose turn it is to move. Play moves from one position to another, with the players usually alternating moves, until a terminal position is reached. A terminal position is one from which no moves are possible. Then one of the players is declared the winner and the other the loser. Examples of such games are Chess, Checkers etc.


In combinatorial game there is an interesting term called as Zugzwang. Zugzwang is a German word meaning “obligation to move”. The term is used for a position in which whoever has the move would obtain a worse result than if it were the opponent’s turn to play. A player is said to be “in zugzwang” when any possible move will worsen his position.




In corporate life, when an employee is asked to resign, he is given two options either he resigns on his own or his services are terminated. Any move results in loss to employee as he is in zugawang.

'Would you prefer a quick termination or a slow, painful phaseout?'




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