Solo PVP Theory 1 – Zugzwang and Flow

There's a concept called Flow which is the subject of the fantastic Book linked below. This Flow is being "in the zone" with a "hyper focus" that makes very complex things "flow" with extreme ease.

This is a state I crave when Solo PVPing. Something that I only achieve in maybe 5 or 10% of my fights, but when it hit's Solo PVP becomes something that's indescribable. It's like the joy you feel the first time you ride a bike without help where you feel both competent and thrilled.

One of the things that occurs for me when in this state is something Chess Players call "Zugzwang" which in German translates to Compulsion to Move. Or in EVE terms understanding your opponent so well you can almost force him to do something that will cost him his ship.

This understanding can only come from experience. If you've never flown in a Small Fleet chasing a Solo Pilot, then it will be hard for you to understand how they think.

Fleets have a few common flaws that we can exploit:

  1. Fleet Members are Greedy - You can almost guarantee they will attempt to get on a kill mail, even when doing so means they might miss the kill all together. They won't cover both sides of the gate, they won't hold aggro so they can jump back, and they will all race full speed when in pursuit without covering the rear!
  2. Fleet Commanders are Predictable - FCs are motivated by both Ego and a sense of duty to provide content for their fleet. They are likely to take ever larger risks with the fleet to get a kill when frustrated.
  3. Fleets are Disorganized - A Fleet can never operate as efficiently as a Solo Pilot. Human Communication and all of it's flaws cause fleets to move more slowly and at times make mistakes. The best fleets are fleets where each and every pilot is effectively the FC and they are all playing by the same Play Book. This allows them to react without asking questions, to see holes and fill them without being told, to pick primaries instantly based on priority. This type of Fleet is extraordinary rare and limited to the best of the best small gangs in the game.

If you've been in Fleets or even led some yourself, you can almost hear their Comms while they are chasing you...

"He's warping to 9UY Gate!"

"Get in front of him and bubble"

"He's aligning out"

"Point him!"

and on and on...

This allows you to know that Situation A causes reaction 4, while Situation D causes reaction 9. Once you know what the likely reaction is you can begin to use that against your opponents to cause Zugzwang or Compel them to act in a way that puts them at a disadvantage.

A month or so ago I was in a "Flow State" and was able to create this Zugzwang on a grand scale.  I was flying the Cynabal in Tribute when a large fleet began chasing me. They had more than enough small tackle, including Interdictors, Interceptors, T1 Frigates, and T1 ECM.

They were chasing with me and their entire fleet moving as quickly as possible gate to gate toward the exit of Null Sec when I noticed from my Directional Scanner that they would be ahead of me at the next gate and it would be more than I could fight. So in reaction, before I landed on gate I hit "Ctrl-Space" to stop and then turned around and ran the opposite direction warping back to the gate I came from.

The result of this was to cause their fleet to become disorganized and increase the Time Isolation (Cynabal has great align time + warp speed) I had on their larger ships, while spreading their smaller ships.

As a result I could imagine a fleet member of their fleet yelling "HE TURNED AROUND AND WARPED BACK!" and then FC saying "TURN AROUND! GET A SCRAM!"

By the time small tackle caught back up with me I was almost 2 jumps ahead of the majority of the enemy fleet and they only had a Ares Interceptor in front of me and a T1 Incursus and Sabre landing on the next gate with me. THIS was something I could fight!

So I jumped in and quickly burned off gate with my first MWD Cycle overloaded. The Sabre bubbled and cross jumped the gate to cover my retreat, while the Ares and Incursus gave chase. The Ares came in first and died within seconds of being webbed and overshooting me, but bought the Incursus time to get in close.

Between my Drones, Web, and Medium Neut the Incursus lasted maybe 10-15 seconds, which was long enough for the Sabre and several more ships to jump in but by this time I was over 50km from the gate and aligning out allowing me an easy escape.

A very complex situation but in the moment, it was all done by instinct in a effortless flow.

To show how this relates to a game like chess I made a quick video discussing the subject:

Watch Full Screen

About the author

In 2010 Abbadon21 was the first person to create Narrated Instructional PVP videos for EVE Online. This started a new era of EVE Online and opened up high level "PRO" PVP to everyone. Abbadon21 is also the Founder of, which is EVE Online's oldest and most trusted source for high quality PRO Guides.