You “pin” an opponents piece when you use a queen, rook, or bishop to attack a valuable piece “through” a less valuable “interposing” piece.  This forces the pinned, interposing piece to remain still: moving it would expose the piece behind it to attack.  Once a piece is pinned, it is often worthwhile to pile more attackers on the helplessly immobile piece.

Here’s an example:

This is a position that emerges from an opening called the Riga variation of the Ruy Lopez.  No need to remember that – we won’t be studying openings in depth here at Patzer Chess.  For the curious, though, it’s worth Googling.

Here moving the rook to e1 (Re1) pins black’s knight at e4.  The knight can’t move, because moving the knight would expose the king to an attack from white’s rook.  This pin, in fact, is called a “royal pin” or an “absolute pin,” because it is actually illegal for black to move in such a way that would expose its king to an attack.

Now black can pile the attacks on black’s knight (say, moving the Queen to d3, or the knight to d3) , which must remain helplessly still until the pin is removed (say, by moving black’s bishop to e7, putting another piece between the knight and king).

Let’s look at some other examples:

In this diagram, white has a royal pin on the knight at e6.  At the same time, black has a “relative” pin (or just a “pin”) on white’s knight at f4.  Moving the knight would expose white’s rook to an attack from black’s bishop.

Pins emerge quite often in chess. A pin can often help you remove an attack threat from one of your pieces by holding the attacking piece immobile. Combined with the other tactics we’ll cover over the next several weeks, pins can be one of the most valuable tactical elements in your repertoire.

When you’re just starting to study chess, it can be difficult to know where to focus your efforts.  Chess study can be broken down into several different fields:

  • Openings
  • Middlegame
  • Endgame
  • Tactics
  • Strategy
  • Positioning

For beginners, the most rapid improvement comes from studying tactics.  In this series of articles, I will explore a new tactic every Tuesday.  By learning these tactics and looking for opportunities to use them in your games, you will see rapid improvement.

The important concept to understand here is that unless you’re playing against an absolute beginner who leaves pieces undefended (hanging), you will need to use your pieces in combination to capture enemy material.  That is, you will need to attack multiple pieces at a time, or attack an enemy piece with multiple pieces of your own, in order to capture material.

We’ll be looking at the following tactics:

  1. Pins – Hold an enemy piece immobile while you pile on the attacks
  2. Skewers – Threaten a valuable piece, and when that piece escapes, strike the piece behind it.
  3. Forks - Attack multiple pieces at once.  Your opponent can’t defend them all.
  4. Discovered Attacks – Move a piece to reveal a deadly attack coming from behind it.
  5. Remove the Defender – Chase off the defender of your target piece, leaving it helpless.

Stay tuned as we explore these tactics over the next few weeks.

Which of these tactics sounds the most useful?  Do you see these patterns emerging in your play, even if you didn’t know the name of them?