Lesson 9 - Basic Chess Tactics: The Skewer

"Tactics flow from a superior position."
- Robert James (Bobby) Fischer

The skewer is pretty similar to the pin. For this reason, this lesson will be short and sweet.

The skewer tactic is based on the same principle than the pin: a long range piece attacks an enemy piece with another target behind the attacked piece. But this time, the attacked piece is of higher or equal value than the target. The player undergoing the skewer usually prefers to move the attacked piece and offers the other piece to his opponent since it is of less value. This is the opposite for the pin: the player prefers (or is forced in some situations) to keep the attacked piece on its square.

In order to perceive the difference, let's see an example offering both tactics in the same position. In the diagram below, it is White to move and we can note that he is currently a rook down. However, Black has his own problems since his king is stuck in the center where all the lines are open. Moreover, his g8 rook is not protected and occupies the same file than the king... White can benefit from these conditions to balance the forces on the board by playing 1. Rf3+! with an effective skewer on the black king!

Comparing the skewer and the pin

Diagram 9.25 - Comparing the
skewer and the pin

Here, since the skewer involves the king, Black is forced to move out of check and let White capture the g8 rook. On the queenside, we can note also that White is pinning the c6 knight with his bishop. Contrary to the skewer, Black does not want to move his knight since it will allow the bishop to capture the rook which is of greater value. For the skewer, the piece with the greater value (the king in our example) is forced to move so the piece of less value behind (the g8 rook in our example) will be captured.

Here is an other example of a skewer:

Skewer on the black queen and rook

Diagram 9.26 - Skewer on the
black queen and rook

In the above diagram, it is White to move and the black queen is threatened by the f3 bishop. The queen must move to escape from this attack allowing the bishop to capture the a8 rook. Black could certainly choose a move to support the rook with his queen in order to capture the bishop, but since the rook is valued more than the bishop, the skewer is effective as White gets a rook for his bishop.

The skewer can also involves two pieces of the same value. As we can see in the following position, the white bishop is threatened by the g6 rook. White assesses the position properly and finds a way to get out nicely from this attack by playing 1. Be8! skewering both rooks. Black is ensured to loose a rook for the bishop. In this case, it does not make any difference if the attacked piece is moving or not as the attacked pieces have the same value.

Another skewer example

Diagram 9.27 - Another skewer example

As it is the case for the other tactics we learned, be careful to watch for in-between moves that could be used as defending manoeuvers. It is always wise to analyse all possibilities before playing your move: you will certainly avoid mistakes or better yet, find a much better move!

Let's continue this lesson with the next page on the deflectiononline chess tutorial.