Tactial Warfare: The Pin

Tactial Warfare: The Pin

Sep 27, 2008, 12:00 AM 8,431 Reads 33 Comments Tactics

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.

Tactical Warfare: The Pin

Target Audience: <1600 on chess.com

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.

Note: I added two more challenging puzzles below in the comments.

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. :)


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