A while ago I used the word blackmail in a situation, just to learn that the word didn't fit. I am left wondering whether there is a better choice. I probably have to explain the situation (I'll try to keep it short).

I was playing a board game online. At some point it was sure that I had won the game (and by that I don't mean that I had an edge but that I literally had won). Unfortunately this doesn't mean that the game ends immediately, but it goes on until some criterion is met which ends the game. Under normal circumstances this happens rather quickly but my opponent found a way to artificially prolong the game leaving me with two options:

a) I could accept a draw, even though I already had won.

b) I could continue playing, probably for hours, doing the same repetitive moves over and over just to collect the win eventually. Normally the game is quite casual and doesn't take longer than 15 minutes.

I said that he was "blackmailing" me. However he insisted that I was using the word wrongly, since it is biased to situations where monetary benefit is involved. As you can imagine there was a lot of tension already and the end of the story is not important, but I was left with the question whether there is a better word for this situation.

I discussed this question with some friends (including American, British and Australian native speakers) and all agreed that the word isn't really right, but that there is probably no better one. Extortion was another candidate but this word seems to be too harsh.

Any ideas?

  • I would add that you are searching for answer in your situation, so you should edit your tags. Commented May 28, 2012 at 10:07
  • By chance, was this game checkers or draughts?
    – J.R.
    Commented May 28, 2012 at 11:17
  • In fact it was the game Dominion. If you know the game you will realise that my opponent had to put in a lot of thought to reach the situation he brought us in. Commented May 28, 2012 at 11:39
  • Your friend is correct, this was not blackmail. For blackmail, your friend would be saying: unless you do what I want, I will reveal certain information that you want kept secret.
    – GEdgar
    Commented May 28, 2012 at 13:57
  • 1
    It seems to me that he was just playing the game. At most he "gamed" you.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 18:48

11 Answers 11


compelling - force somebody to do something

coercing - to cause to do through pressure or necessity, by physical, moral or intellectual means

  • To me compelling sounds a bit like irresistible, i.e. positively connotated. Coercing sounds good! Commented May 28, 2012 at 9:54
  • Compelling - you should stop reading Vampire Diaries. Commented May 28, 2012 at 10:03
  • :) life would be so boring Commented May 28, 2012 at 10:07
  • In terms of anything described as a game, you may also use the phrase "to force one's hand" or "to be led to an impasse" something similar. Overall, I favor coercion.
    – user19589
    Commented Jun 19, 2012 at 8:19

I know you already accepted an answer, but I thought of a couple of other words -- stymie (or styme) and stonewall -- that might be a good fit for this situation.

Stymie (as a noun) is defined as:

  • a situation of obstruction
  • An obstacle or obstruction

  • (There's also this sports definition: A situation in golf in which an opponent's ball obstructs the line of play of one's own ball on the putting green.)

As a verb, stymie means to thwart or obstruct. You could say your opponent stymied your inevitable win.

Stonewall (as a verb) is defined as:

  • To engage in delaying tactics; stall
  • hinder or prevent the progress or accomplishment of
  • engage in delaying tactics or refuse to cooperate
  • (There's also this sports definition: To play defensively rather than trying to score in cricket.)

You could say your opponent was stonewalling at the end of the game, or you could call him a stonewaller.

  • Thank you! I am definitely going to remember those words. This is all very interesting. However they refer more to his tactics than to his behaviour. Commented May 28, 2012 at 14:52
  • 2
    @Simon: I think these could be applied to his tactics and to his behavior, which is why I upvoted this answer. Meaning #3 of stonewall is an unusually good fit, as your opponent was being uncooperative by engaging in a delay tactic.
    – J.R.
    Commented May 28, 2012 at 17:38

Blackmail is not limited to monetary gains - any kind of profit in exchange for not fulfilling a threat is okay. Still, I don't think it applies here. It's more like coercion, where you're forced to back away under a threat.

On the other hand, at least in Chess, a situation where an opponent with massive advantage can be forced into a loop of moves that can be repeated indefinitely, and the one on losing position is unable to use the advantage to break the loop is a clear draw, and a frequent goal of players who lost much early on is exactly that, securing their position by disallowing the opponent to fulfill the winning condition.

  • This strategy in chess is totally legitimate since it actually leads to a draw. In my situation it was sure that it would still end eventually given enough time. Commented May 28, 2012 at 10:05
  • In Chess, you can have an endgame that is most definitely won in 40 moves, and depending on the situation the opponent can force you to play another 2 1/2 hours and if your last train home leaves in two hours...
    – gnasher729
    Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 19:14
  • @gnasher729: I believe the rules of chess, at least on tournament levels dictate a draw when no side makes any progress, similarly to a stalemate.
    – SF.
    Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 23:08

It seems easier to think of adjectives that describe his behavior, as opposed to verbs that describe his action.

I would say your opponent was being unsportsmanlike, unreasonable, petty, stubborn, headstrong, and obstinate.

If you must have a verb though, you could try:

He was holding me captive [to the anomaly of the situation].

Wordnik, in elaborating on the differences between prisoner and captive, notes:

The word captive suggests being completely in the power of another, whether confined or not; it has come to be a rhetorical word, suggesting helplessness and resulting unhappiness.


The word duress, which typically is used as a noun meaning "constraint by threat", can also be used as a verb with the meaning "To put under duress; to pressure". Wiktionary's examples, "Someone was duressing her" and "The small nation was duressed into giving up territory" both are relevant to the stressful situation described in the question.


Well I would say that you have found uncooperative, egotistical and cheating opponent. I would say he is tough enemy because he never surrenders. I would say that he hijacked your game. Believe me hijack is the best word you will find from gamer point of view. None of blackmail or extortion is suitable for that case.

  • Hmm. How can he hijack a game he is already playing? This word does not seem to make sense in this situation. Commented May 28, 2012 at 11:00
  • No, I am convinced that hijack does not fit here. Commented May 28, 2012 at 11:04
  • Perhaps hijack is a decent alternative "from a gamer point of view," but you should substantiate this with more than "believe me" if you're going to assert this is the "best word" available from the entire dictionary. (I was curious, so I looked up hijack in the U.D., but couldn't find any reference to gamers.) That said, I do like your suggestion of being uncooperative.
    – J.R.
    Commented May 28, 2012 at 11:16
  • I cant believe that you are all have looked up hijack in the dictionary and bring it to me. Language is something living, dictionaries are years behind the contemporary speaking language. Blackmail or extortion are used when someone has financial interest. I cant believe that people think that prisoner and captive are more compatible with game then hijack. All verbs that include in meaning using of pressure are non sense - giving resistance is equal to using a pressure on winning opponent to ask for a draw, come on this is irrational. Commented May 28, 2012 at 12:55
  • 1
    @speedy: I thought of you this morning. I was listening to a national sports radio talk show, and the host (Dan Patrick) said, "This morning, If you're a Celtics fan, you're saying 'The refs hijacked that game last night!'" {note: that may not have been his exact wording, but he did say "hijack," I thought it interesting that he used "hijack" in that context.}
    – J.R.
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 18:32

I think in this particular scenario, a word from computer games world you might consider: griefing. This is used in online games, as a way to induce anger and frustration in other players, for no other reason than plain malice. Often this involves abusing weaknesses of the game rules, may be completely harmless or irrelevant in terms of victory, often forcing the victim to quit the game by removing any enjoyment.

An example of applying this technique is a deck using multiple Shahrazad cards in Magic: The Gathering: "Players must leave game in progress as it is and use the cards left in the libraries with which to play a subgame of Magic." This can be used recursively leading several games in, especially considering that you start each sub-game with no penalties incurred by damage received in the original game, and since the card doesn't provide any inherent advantage to its user, taking room in the deck that could be used in by more useful cards, leading to a deck inherently weaker, the griefer is very likely to lose the game if they get to conduct it to the end... but since the game, that normally lasts under half a hour, can get extended into several hours, the opponent may just surrender to get out of the annoying deal.


In the OP's situation, I might use the verbs pressure, pressurize or manipulate.


I would say that he was putting you in a double bind, in a no-win situation, in a tight spot/corner, or was simply cornering you.

a double bind: a situation in which you cannot succeed because whatever you decide to do there will be bad results.

no-win situation: a situation in which a favorable outcome is impossible, you will be bound to lose whatever you do.

be in a tight spot/corner: be in a difficult situation.

corner: maneuver into a position from which escape is difficult or impossible.


Cad, n 1. Brit a man who does not behave in a gentlemanly manner towards others (Collins English dictionary).


Perhaps " arm twisting " is what you are looking for.

  • Perhaps it is, but the asker won't know if you don't explain why. Commented Jan 27, 2015 at 9:41

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