This lesson introduces one of the most important tactic building blocks in chess: the pin.
A pin is a move which forces one of the opponent’s pieces to stay put because moving it would either be illegal, or expose a more valuable piece behind it in which it could be captured.
The pin is the same as the skewer tactic, only the pin is attacking the lesser valuable piece in front with a more valuable piece behind it, thus “pinning” the lesser piece to the superior piece.
Only Bishops, Rooks and Queens are able to pin an opposing pieces down. Kings, Knights, and pawns cannot pin other pieces down. Any piece can be pinned down except the king.
A pin that often occurs in openings is the move Bb5 and the diagram above is in fact an example of such an opening.
A pin is very useful in a lot of tactical combinations. Since the pinned piece cannot move out of the line of attack it is rather easy to attack the pinned piece. Furthermore a piece that is unable to move is rather useless as a defender or an attacker.
Types of Pins
An absolute pin is when the pin prevents the piece in front from moving at all. Moving the piece would be an Illegal move. This is the type of pin you see when pinning a piece to a King. Moving the piece is illegal since you can’t put your own King in check.
The relative pin is the more common type of pin. When the pin is pinning a lesser valuable piece in front to a more valuable piece behind, it is a relative pin.
Examples of Pins
The difference between a relative pin and an absolute pin may be very important. The most famous example of a pin that didn’t work can be found in the game De Legal vs Saint Brie as played in 1750 in Paris.
This is a good example because it also shows that you may loose a game by winning the Queen. The Checkmate Pattern that was used in this game is called Legal’s Mate.
There is some discussion about the original Legal-Brie game. Weinstein in his book “Combinations and traps in the opening” mentions this game with Nc6 and after Nxe5 says “…but Legal can be pardoned, he was 80 years old when he played this”
In the position below, there are two pins currently taken place in the position. The Black Knight on c6 is pinned to the King, making it illegal to move the Knight. And the White Knight on f3 is pinned to the Queen, making it very unlikely that White will move the Knight, since Black would be able to capture White’s Queen, however White still has the choice to move the Knight.
Attacking a Pinned Piece
In the previous series of lessons we have introduced the pin. A pin can be used as a direct way to win a piece. This is illustrated in the first diagram. White has pinned the Bishop and Black is only allowed to move his King. White will capture the black Bishop on the next move.
During this series of lessons we will see some possibilities to exploit the weakness of the pinned piece. In most cases it will be more difficult to win the pinned piece, but attacking a pinned piece in order to capture it in the end is probably one of the easiests ways to gain an advantage of the pin. The pinned piece is unable to move, which makes it rather vulnerable.
The first possibility to attack a pinned piece is by moving a pawn forward. Let’s have a look at the next position below.
It’s always a good idea to look for pawn moves to attack the pinned piece. White is able to win the black Bishop by the pawn move f3.
If no appropriate pawn moves can be found we have to look for other pieces to attack the pinned piece, but then we have to take into account the value of the pieces. In addition try to pay attention to the possibilities for the opposite site to defend itself against these attacks. Let’s have a look at the next diagram.
White has pinned the black Bishop. The black Bishop can not immediately be captured, because it is defended by the Knight. White has no pawns that are able to attack the pinned piece, but he may attack the Bishop with his own Knight.
By playing 1.Nd2 White will win the Bishop. After 1.Ng5 Black will play 1…Nc4+, but fortunately for White after 2.Kc3 Black is out of threats and White will win the Bishop after e.g. 2…Na5 3.Nxe4.
Sometimes after adding an attacker your opponent will add a defender. Such a race may be very typical for a real life game. Instead of adding an attacker you may also drive a defender away. An easy example can be found in the next diagram.
After the move 1.b4 Black has to chose between loosing the Knight or loosing the Bishop.
For more information, you can go to the guide on pawn endgames and the square rule.
A Pinned Piece Isn’t a Defender
We have seen that attacking a pinned piece is one of the possibilities to exploit the advantage of having pinned a piece. In this tactic, other pieces were able to attack the opposing pinned piece.
Pinning can also be used in combination with other tactics. A piece can be pinned to prevent it from moving elsewhere to attack you or to defend a piece. This section is about how we will take advantage of the fact that the pinned piece isn’t able to move.
In the position below, the Knight on e7 is pinned, so it won’t be able to defend the Knight on e5.
White is able to win a piece by 1.Bxe5. This diagram is an example of an absolute pin, which makes it rather easy to see that the pinned piece is unable to defend the attacked piece.
In this next position, the pin isn’t absolute, but it doesn’t matter in this case and White is able to play 1.Bxc4. If Black captures the Bishop by 1…Bxc4, which is his best move, he will loose the Rook by 2.Rxf8+.
Note that the pawn on g2 is essential in this example. Without the pawn 1.Bc4 will meet 1…Rg8+, probably followed by something like 2.Kf2 Bxc4
Try to find the pin in the third position. below When you have found the pin, you will also notice that White can capture the Rook on f6 for free.
After 1.Rxf6 Black isn’t allowed to play 1…Qxf6 because it will be followed by 2.Qxc7#.
These target examples are the same as mentioned before in the list of targets in the Queen fork guide.
In this final position, the pawn on h7 has been absolutely pinned by White’s Rook. This means that the pawn isn’t attacking or defending the g6 square.
If you’ve been following what we have posted so far, we have learned many different Chess lessons, but you may have a feeling that you want to learn more about openings and gambits. Please wait with this. Try to focus on strategics and tactics and on some of the endgames, but in order to survive the opening we will learn some rules for the opening in the next lesson.
Other Chess Terms every beginner Chess player should know: