Lesson 9 - Basic Chess Tactics: Exploiting The Power Of The Pin

"The Pin is mightier than the sword"
- Fred Reinfeld

Now that we know what is a pin, let's try to see the maximum of benefits we can get from this tactic. If you start to be more comfortable with it, you can already feel its potential and usefulness. Indeed, the pin can help a player in gaining permanent or temporary advantages over his opponent:

Not bad at all for a single tactic! But now, how can we succeed in getting these advantages in our own games? Let's see together some ways to capitalize on the pin with concrete examples.


The Material Gain

We know that a pinned piece cannot move without revealing an attack on a more important piece. If a player threatens the pinned piece with another piece of less value than the pinned piece, he will then succeed to capture the pinned piece for this other piece and wins the exchange. For example, it is White to move in the following diagram and Black's knight is pinned on the queen by the white rook posted on d1. The g2 bishop can take the knight but Black would then capture the bishop with the c6 pawn, getting back the minor piece. White will still get the upper hand in the exchange since he can win a pawn by capturing on d5 with his rook after Black has taken the bishop, but this variation is not the maximum they can get from this position. In fact, White has plenty of time for attacking the knight with another piece since the knight does not want to move...

Diagram 9.22 - Material gain with the help of a pin


Neutralization Of Enemy Pieces

This type of advantage is usually temporary and is possible when the pin is absolute. Indeed, we can succeed in neutralizing the action of an enemy piece by pinning it on his king. By immobilizing a piece, we can disturb the attacking or defensive schemes of our opponent. In the diagram below, it is White to play and we can see that he does not seem in good shape as he his down an exchange (he has a bishop against a rook) and his queen and bishop are both being attacked. While he can get out of this double attack by moving the queen to f2 or e1 to get both pieces out of danger, White will allow Black to have time to get things more organized by coordonating his pieces and increase the attacking pressure. There is a much better move available for White... with an absolute pin, he could counter Black's initiative. Do you see it? The move is 1. Bc3!

Neutralizing enemy pieces with a pin

Diagram 9.23 - Neutralizing enemy<>pieces with a pin

With this move, White leaves his queen on the black rook's path but the rook cannot feast on its prey: it is pinned on its king. Moreover, if Black does not do something about it, White would win the game with 2. Qxg7# and all of a sudden, the hunter becomes the prey! So Black needs to support the g7 square properly with 1... Qf7 or 1... Qg8.  The pin is really effective since it succeeded in neutralizing the two enemy pieces which were mosr active than white pieces and transformed a position that was favourable to Black into a winning position for White!


Winning Tempi

We will see in the lesson on strategies that the time notion is really important in a chess game. And here, I do not talk about the time running on the clock... but rather about the number of moves a player takes to develop his pieces and organize his play. In chess terms, we identify this concept as a "tempo" ("tempi" in plural form). Usually, a player succeeding in winning tempi over his opponent will have the upper hand in the game if he uses these extra moves to develop his pieces. The pin is an excellent mean to win tempi as we are going to see in the following example.

It is White to move in the below position and we can note that he is putting pressure on the black's central d5 pawn: the knight on b4 and the rook on d3 are currently attacking it. However, the pawn is well guarded as Black has two defenders supporting it: the d8 rook and the c7 knight. It is important for Black to keep these two defenders otherwise he will loose the d5 pawn.White could then benefit from this situation by gaining time over Black by doing a move that would develop one of his piece while forcing Black to do a move that would bring no benefit to his position. Pinning the knight with 1. Bf4 gives the desired effect.

Gaining a tempo with a pin

Diagram 9.24 - Gaining a tempo with a pin

Why White gains a tempo with this move? Well, if Black does not break the pin by moving his king out of the bishop's diagonal, the d5 pawn will have only one defender since the c7 knight is immobilized by an absolute pin. Black is then required to do a move he did not intend to play by moving the king with 1... Kc8. So, White has succeeded in giving his bishop a more active role by placing it on a better square while restricting the options of his opponent.

You might have found this lesson on the pin a bit long... but it was necessary to go in details as this tactic is really important: it will bring a lot of new possibilities to your play. In my opinion, it really worths putting some effort to master the pin and learns all its secrets. That's why I encourage you to go through this lesson again and again until you master its content... you will see that it pays off!

Let's learn another tactic with the next page on the skeweronline chess tutorial.