In this post, I will cover what pins are, and how they arise in games, and I will also show you how to distinguish between different types of pins in chess, from deadly ones, which can tear apart the unsuspecting players position, and those that are not too concerning.
What is a pin?
It is a tactical mechanism which prevents a piece from moving, because either the movement of that piece will put you in check or it will lose material.
How can a pin win material?
If a piece of lesser value is able to capture a pinned piece, then you can win material. Normally when one of your pieces is attacked, and it is of greater value than the attacking piece, you can move it away, but this is not possible, because the piece is pinned down. e.g 1: Queen pinned to king:
In the position above, black would like to move the queen on g5 out of the line of fire of white`s rook, however this is not possible, because it is pinned.
e.g. 2: Exploiting the pin with a pawn
In this position above, white wants to move the bishop away, so that the black pawn doesn`t take it. This is however impossible, because you can`t move into check – your king would be taken – this never happens in chess.
e.g. 3: Bishop Pins
Here, black pins the white knight on f3 down, because if it moves anywhere, then the black bishop will take the white queen – such a material advantage would win the game.
How to prevent pins from happening
The tactics based on pins are so common that there are few games that don`t have some point during the game when they occurred, or could have, but were stopped. Before I give you some of my own personal experiences of pins, I want to quickly show you how to prevent pins from happening.
The position above could arise after the following moves: 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 exd5 4. Nc3 c6 5. Nf3 The French defence – exchange variation. The move 5…, Nf6 seems like a good developing move, but it walks into a pin with 6. Bg5. To prevent this, we can play 5…, h6 first, to control the g5 square, and stop the white bishop from coming there.
Practical Pins – From my own games
I hope you can learn something from these examples, if nothing else, this part should help to familiarise you with the common features within a position for pins to occur. The first 3 examples are all from games I played at the 2018 Nottingham congress.
I was black, and my last move was 37…, Rc4 This leaves white in a hopeless position, because black is going to win some serious material. Play continued: 38. a5 Kc8 Getting my king off the open file, from where the white rook could check me. 39. g5 Ne4! There is overwhelming pressure on c4, so something has to give way. 40. Nxe4 Rxc1 a couple of moves later my opponent resigned.
In the position above, the white knight on h3 is pinned, this is not the crucial factor, but restricting the possibilities of your opponent is always good to do. I played here 15…, Nxf2 which won me a pawn after 16. Qxf2 Bxh3 17. Bxh3 Qxh3+ This was enough for the win, as I soon pacmanned the loose e-pawn. However, there was a stronger tactic that I missed. 15…, Rxf3! wins a clean piece, because after 16. Bxf3? Qxh3+ 17. Kg1 Qh2#
In the position above, the pin which causes black potential trouble is the one caused by my queen on a6, completely demobilising the black a7 pawn. If black had greedily gobbled up the h2 pawn: 30…, Rxh2? I can gain an advantage with the tactic 31. Rxb6 Winning an important pawn, which defends the black king. Black cannot capture 31…, Bxb6?? because I would recapture 32. Nxb6+ forking the king and queen, and winning. The game actually continued: 30…, Qd8 31. Na3 Qb8 32. Nb5! forcing black to retreat with …, R2f7 because of my threat of winning the bishop or in the event of R8f7 playing Nxd6 and after …, Bxd6, Rc8 pinning and winning the queen.
From the games that I played at the 2018 Frodsham congress, here are some positions where pins played an important role in the outcome of the game.
After 10…, h6 black attacks my g5 knight, but do I retreat the knight? No I don`t, because I dont have to. Here is how the game continued: 11. O-O-O Nf6 12. dxe5 dxe5 An asset is the open d-file. 13. c5!? Qe7 14. Bc4 Nd5 That knight has been on that g5 square for 4 whole moves, if the pawn ever takes the knight, then I will be happy to gobble up the h8 rook in return. 15. Nge4 Only now do I move the knight…It turns out that taking on d5 was probably slightly stronger.
16…, Re8 has just been played. Black is hoping to win back the piece he lost on e5 by the pin against my king and/or queen on the open e-file. I played 17. Ndf3 to support my e5 knight. They replied …, Be6 temporarily blocking up the dangerous e-file. I was only happy about this. I castled getting my king off of the dangerous file: 18. 0-0 Bd5 19. Qd2 Rxe5 20. Nxe5 Qxe5 so I give up the 2 knights for a rook, which results in me being the exchange up at the end of it. After some positional moves and manoeuvres, I won that game.