I came across the following sentence:

Er stand auf Gewinn, hat die Partie aber leider in Zeitnot verloren.

Google translate gives the following translation:

He was winning but unfortunately lost the game due to time trouble.

I checked Duden for both Gewinn & stehen, but found nothing about "auf Gewinn stehen".

P.S. I am aware of the construction "auf etwas stehen = mögen", but I don't think this has anything to do with the sentence in question

  • 2
    That being said: as a native german speaker the sentence strikes me as kinda odd. Not wrong in any sense, but odd
    – Hobbamok
    Commented Aug 6, 2022 at 15:23
  • As a general rule, please try to add some context to your sentences, as it can help with translation. In this case, for instance, it would help to know which sport/game it is about. I assume chess, since Zeitnot is a technical term there, but explicit is better than implicit. Commented Aug 7, 2022 at 9:43
  • I think even a stock portfolio could "auf Gewinn stehen", if the calculated worth is winning. It is a win not realized yet. But your odds are very positive. You probably would not use it for horse racing, at least you would perhaps rather say your bet ("Wette") steht auf Gewinn than your leading horse steht auf Gewinn, when it is still running.
    – Sebastian
    Commented Aug 7, 2022 at 19:13
  • You could look up Spielstand or Stand 4a in the Duden.
    – Sebastian
    Commented Apr 28 at 21:25
  • There are the expressions: Einen sicheren/leichten/festen/guten/schweren/schlimmen Stand haben. The same meaning was used in Latin status or the English standing.
    – Sebastian
    Commented Apr 28 at 21:47

2 Answers 2


You have that most probably from a chess book.

Auf Gewinn stehen means you have (reached) a position which should be winning. "He was winning" or "he had a winning position" is an adequate translation. The reason why "stehen" (standing) is used in German is because a "position" is called a "Stellung" and this noun is related to "stehen".

"Zeitnot" (time trouble) is a word that (in German) made it from chess into everyday language, similar to "Zugzwang" (which even made it to English) or "Hängepartie" (adjourned game).

In tournament chess one has only a certain amount of time (a common time control for tournament games would be 2 hours for the first 40 moves, 1 hour added for the next 20 moves and 30 minutes added for the rest of the game, blitz is much faster, commonly 5 minuted for the whole game, nowadays often 3min for the game with 2 seconds added for each move made. Time is measured with two connected clocks. At the beginning of the game whites clock begin to tick down, then after he makes a move he presses a lever which stops his clock and sets the one for black in motion - and so on. When the respective time of a player is over the opponent wins, regardless of the position.

Therefore, a player who has only 5 minutes of the respective allotted time left is considered to be in "Zeitnot" (time trouble). It is expected that he will have problems because he is forced to make moves on instinct without having considered them properly.

Some players - even top players - tend to get in time trouble quite regularly: Aleander Grischuk, for instance, is famous for most times having only a few minutes left at move 20 or so and then blitzing the rest of the game. It hasn't prevented him from being one of the best players in the world.

  • How exactly are Stellung and stehen related?
    – Jonathan Herrera
    Commented Aug 7, 2022 at 9:11
  • @JonathanScholbach: the PIE root "*steh2", from which i.e latin "stare" comes has a root-aorist in greek: "έστην". We can follow from this that the PIE root did have a perfektive aspect. In fact it meant "sich wohin stellen" rather than "stehen" (which would be imperfektive). Also see latin "sistere" (from "ste" by reduplication) and "stare", which share a common perfect ("steti") and participle ("status"). You are welcome to ask for more details in a question.
    – bakunin
    Commented Apr 28 at 18:51
  • I don't doubt there is a relation between stehen and stellen, but I find it hard to believe that a common root in PIE which branched off a long time ago (stellen roots in IE *stel-), is still productive. I hesitate to believe that stehen refers to Stellung here. Other examples where the status of a situation is explained by using stehen and where (other than in chess) a Stellung is nowhere to be found add to my hesitation: auf Messers Schneide stehen, Spitz auf Knopf stehen, es steht 0:0. So, I think the relation to Stellung might be a coincidence in chess.
    – Jonathan Herrera
    Commented Apr 28 at 19:05
  • @JonathanScholbach; you asked how "Stellung and stehen [are] related" and my answer was: they both come from the same root. If this root is still productive was not asked and I didn't imply it. A comment is hardly the place for a complete linguistic analysis, so I skimmed over a lot of details. Again, formulate a question and I am more than happy to provide more detail.
    – bakunin
    Commented Apr 28 at 21:12
  • Ich fürchte, wir reden ein bisschen aneinander vorbei. Mir geht es darum, meinen Zweifel an der Aussage The reason why "stehen" (standing) is used in German is because a "position" is called a "Stellung" and this noun is related to "stehen". in deinem Beitrag zu artikulieren.
    – Jonathan Herrera
    Commented Apr 28 at 21:13

Stehen can be used to describe the state or the score of a game. See Duden: stehen, meaning 2b).


Zur Halbzeit steht es 0:0.

which means:

At half time the score is 0:0.

In chess, auf Gewinn stehen means to have a winning position. This means that the player will win the game even against the best defense if he does not make any mistake or runs out of time.

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