Checks by pieces pinned to their King

Checks by pieces pinned to their King

Feb 11, 2009, 10:25 AM 12,298 Reads 20 Comments

First, some background and definition. When we refer to ‘Check’, what we are really saying is that a piece is lined up on his opponents King creating the potential on the next move to capture the King. The piece is said to be ‘attacking’ the King. When this occurs, the player with the ‘checked’ King is compelled to remove the potential for capture either by capturing the attacking piece, moving his King to an un-attacked square, or blocking the attack with another piece. This is a zero-tolerance rule; if your King is in check, you must remove the check.


Logically, since you must immediately remove a check, it follows that you can never make a move which results in your own King being checked. This is also a zero-tolerance rule. So far, so good.


Now, consider the special case of a piece which is ‘Pinned’ to his own King. The pinned piece can not move such that it exposes his King to check. Now, this is where the logic breaks down, because the rules  (FIDE 3.1) state that even though a piece may be pinned, it still exerts it’s attacking influence. Let’s examine the effects of this rule a little closer. Any of the opponents pieces could be placed in a position ‘Attacked’ by the pinned piece, and be completely safe from capture, but he could not do the same with his King.


Why is the King not allowed to go where it is completely safe for his pawns and pieces to go? Even more incredible, it’s possible that a ‘Pinned’ piece could deliver a checkmate, as in the case where it is moved into a ‘Pinned’ position to block a check, and at the same time ‘Attack’ his opponents King.


I understand that the answer may be “Because that’s what the rules state”. But shouldn’t the rules be based on logic and consistency? Let’s consider the impact if the rule was changed so that a King could move into a square ‘attacked’ by a King-Pinned piece. The King would occupy the square with impunity, because his opponent must respect the rule of not moving into check. If the piece was ‘Un-pinned’, the result would be ‘Discovered Check’, and he would be immediately obliged to escape, attack, or block.


In my opinion, this would be a more consistent and interesting way to play the game.


I would appreciate any comments or counter-arguments on this topic.



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