Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tactical Warfare: The Pin

A great player once said "Chess is 99% tactics!" While modern masters argue chess is only 90% tactics these days, it's still the most profitable area for amateurs to study.

Target Audience: <1500 online rating

The pin is one of the basic tactical motifs. When you attack a piece, it's pinned if it can't move without exposing a more valuable piece.

In the diagram above, the rook pins the bishop to the king. White will capture it for free on his next move. When the target of a pin is the king, we call it an absolute pin, because it's illegal for the pinned piece to leave the line of fire.

In the second example the bishop pins the rook to the queen. It's legal for the rook to move... but that would be a big blunder! When the target of a pin is not the king we call it a relative pin. Calculating the outcome of a relative pin tends to be harder than calculating the outcome of an absolute pin.

Notice that only the bishop, the rook, and the queen can pin!

How to Spot More Pins
  • Study tactical puzzles and games involving pins.
  • Note which squares a pinned piece isn't defending due to the pin.
  • Note that pinned pieces are immbolized and thus vulnerable to attack.
  • Look for tactics whenever pieces are on the same rank, file, or diagonal.
  • Look for missed pins in your games to identify your blindspots.

Challenge Yourself

These practical tactical positions are lifted directly from my games. Try to find the best move. When you're done, review the answer key below.

Answer Key

#1: Bb5! pins and wins the Black queen.

#2: Black had attempted to shake-off the pin with ...h6, but this runs into trouble. Nxf6+! gxf6 Bxh6 wins a pawn and shatters Black's kingside.

#3: Nxf6+! and Black can't recapture because the g7-pawn is pinned.

#4: Qxb3! and Black can't recapture because the c4-pawn is pinned.

#5: ...e4! wins the pinned knight.

#6: ...Rg8! pins and wins the bishop.

#7: Bxg7? Rg8! loses the bishop. Just about anything else, even Kg2, is better.


If you got most of these, give yourself a pat on the back. But remember... in real games nobody tells you when there's a tactic. So if you want to defeat your opponents with a tactical flourish (and avoid the same fate yourself!) you should study pins from a tactics book until they become second nature to you.


likesforests said...

Some good studying this weekend: I read the pins section of Understanding Chess Tactics, Back to Basics: Tactics, Winning Chess Tactics, and Chessmaster and reviewed my games for examples of pins I missed.

likesforests said...

The color scheme is a big change... but I think clouds and rocks and natural things suite me better than a screen full of blackness.

Hiddenleaf said...

Interesting article, can't wait for more. More as in more tatical motifs and also as in deeper combinations.

I didn't find #2, I guess I was looking for something more spectacular than just a pawn up. I didn't consider destroying the castle, a strategy. This is an important lesson, for an exercise like this probably won't show up on CTS were it's all tactics - for as far as I have seen anyway.

Af first I tought I had 3 mistakes since I had 5... d5 and 6... Rb2, only then I considered that I had the right intention but the board was upside down.

Nice and fresh new look. Although it is said that white on black is easier on the eyes, this one looks much better.

KnightFork said...

Good post! I got all right away except #2. I did see the combination that was the solution, but I was looking for something different I guess.

chesstiger said...

I got all of them correct. Not hard to find the solutions. But then again, i am a bit above the intended audience.

Dmaster said...

Will you be going to the National chess Congress Nov 28-30?

likesforests said...

hiddenleaf - Heh. Something that used to get me into trouble on CTS was remembering to check which way the pawns were moving!

knightfork - It's from a G/15 blitz game about a year ago... I won the game by shattering his kingside, but missed the free pawn.

chesstiger - Yep. You are where the intended audience (and me!) eventually (now!) want to be. :)

dmaster - Nah. I played a 20+5 today and while I did a great job building up pressure I missed a few chances to finish my opponent off. I won, barely. I need to regain feeling tactically "sharp" before I can do well in tourneys.

Rolling Pawns said...

I got all of them. The thing is, I still miss this stuff playing blitz online ( and missed one playing OTB 10 months ago).
I think if you imprint it somehow in your mind, then even under time pressure or under attack ( we know that people crack under pressure ) you should see it and the way to do it is probably to go through such sets, even they seem simple. Also it should help to see more complicated stuff, where it can be a part of combination.

I like your endgame section, it actually inspired me to write a post about B vs. pawns.

likesforests said...

rolling pawns, that's exactly how it is for me. Just a day after writing it I missed a simple pin and win in an online 20+5. I gotta get these skills to become automatic.

tanc(happyhippo) said...

nice puzzles! although i got all of them pretty quickly. the only puzzle that took me longer (about a minute) was #2 because i was thinking about changing the order and checking if i can somehow make the queen move to f8 for a nxc7 fork. :)

cheers and thanks

likesforests said...

thanks, tanc. Next time I'll add one or two trickier positions. I'm still working to develop my very own automatic "pin vision".

It's getting better but it's still not quite there after 3 passes thru Heisman, 2 thru Polgar, 1.5 thru Weteschnik, 1 thru Chessmaster, 1 thru Chess Mentor, and .5 thru ChessCafe Puzzle Book.

Blue Devil Knight said...

The light color scares me.

likesforests said...

Then I'm ready for Halloween. ;)

Polly said...

I like your new look.

That's a great collection of pins from your own games. Hopefully you were the pinner, and not the pinnee. :-)

Banatt said...

sweet, you posted!

Nice beginners article. It's probably a little below your level of teaching, but it's very well written. (Maybe just a little more advanced next time. =D)

By the way, I like the new color scheme. Very Professional.