Endgame Fundamentals: Pins

By Donny Gray

Most beginners love to fork their opponent’s pieces. However, as your opponents become stronger you will soon find out that forks are rare. Most good players see forks coming a mile away.

What is common in most games however is the pin. The pin can be anywhere from annoying to deadly. In chess when a piece cannot move without exposing another piece (usually one more valuable) it is called a pin. Sometimes the pin makes the piece illegal to move, as in the case where the pinned piece is stopping a check upon the King.

A pinned piece is one that cannot move because doing so would expose one of its fellow pieces to attack. A pinned piece is not a good defender because it is tied down. Pinning is a common way to win material. It is a good idea to attack a pinned piece as many times as you can until your enemy runs out of ways to defend it.



In this first example, White can win easily by first pinning the Knight against the King and then winning it. The move of course is 1. Rh4

As you can see, the Knight cannot move as it would leave his King exposed to the Rook.  S ince the Knight cannot be protected no matter where the black King moves, White can take the Knight on the next move.




In this next example, White can win the Rook by pinning it against the King with 1.Bd4.  Now no matter where the Black King moves, White just simply takes the Rook.

But just because you pin a piece does not mean you can sit back and take it easy. Sometimes the pinned piece fights back.

Let’s take a look at the following game.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bc4 d6
4. d3 Bg4
5. OO Nge7?




Black’s mistake here is thinking the Knight on f3 is pinned for good. It is indeed pinning the Knight against the Queen, but there is a shot here that wins a pawn and opens up the King. See if you can find it on your own.

White’s move is:

6. Bf7+!!

It looks like White has lost his mind, but he has a trick up his sleeve.

6……… Kf7
What else?

7. Ng5+

White moves the pinned Knight on f3, gives check to the Black King, and no matter what Black does White will take the Bishop on g4 with his Queen. When the smoke clears, White is a pawn up.

A great example of pins in a grandmaster game is the game Levitsky – Marshall that was played in 1912

1. e4 e6
2. d4 d5
3. Nc3 c5
4. Nf3 Nc6
5. ed ed
6. Be2 Nf6
7. OO Be7
8. Bg5 OO
9. dc Be6
10. Nd4 Bc5

Notice that the Knight on f6 is pinned by the White Bishop on g5.

11. Ne6 fe
12. Bg4 Qd6

Black breaks the pin on f6. Now the Knight on f6 can move without losing the Queen.

13. Bh3 Rae8
14. Qd2 Bb4

Now Black pins the White Knight on c3 to the Queen on d2.

15. Bf6 Rf6
16. Rad1 Qc5
17. Qe2

White breaks the pin on c3 but loses a pawn in doing so.

17…….. Bc3
18. bc Qc3
19. Rd5

White regains the lost pawn by taking advantage of the pinned pawn on e6. True, Black can take the Rook, but if he does so it is a forced mate.

19….. Nd4
20.Qh5 Ref8
21. Re5 Rh6
22. Qg5 Rh3!

If 23. gh Nf3+ wins the Queen

23. Rc5 Qg3!!!




Quite possibly the most famous chess move of all time, Marshall puts his Queen where it can be taken 3 different ways. And White cannot just ignore the Queen because mate is threatened by Qh2! The reason this move works so well is because of pins.

Let’s take a look at White’s possible choices

1. Ignoring the Queen on g3 loses to Qh2 mate.

2. Taking the Rook on h3 would be nice but that would be illegal due to the pawn on g2 is pinned.

3. Taking the Queen with hg loses to Ne2 mate.

4. Taking the Queen with fg loses to Ne2+ 24.Kh1 Rf1 mate.

5. Exchanging Queens is White’s only hope. But this loses a piece.

24. Qg3 Ne2+
25. Kh1 Ng3+
26. Kg1 Ne2+
27. Kh1 Rh6

White however did not choose any of the above and instead picked choice #6. He resigned.

If you are a regular reader of my chess articles, you may be interested in What’s the Matter With Draws?


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