Tactics – The Pin

Tactics - The Pin

We are going to be looking at tactical devices you can use to gain an advantage.
Tactics are short term plans which often force the win of material or the creation of another weakness.

Today we are looking at the pin:


Look out! Pins everywhere!

In life, we use pins to hold something in place while we do something else - for example hold some fabric in one position while we sew a button on!

In chess, the pin is a deadly weapon! We literally hold a piece captive - if it moves out of the pin, it would lose something far greater so has to just accept its fate as a sitting duck!

Three things you will learn today

  1. The pin is a tactic where the attacker holds one of the defender's pieces in place due to it covering something more precious behind it - like a king or a queen!
  2. There are "hard pins" and "soft pins".
  3. A pin is a lethal weapon and a good member of your tactical arsenal!

Part 1 of 3 - Understanding a pin

Your Turn! White to play

This is a wonderful example of the power of the pin! The rook is worth more than the bishop, normally. Here the rook would love to get to the 8th rank and either stop white making a queen or maybe even work with the king to win the game.

There's a problem with the rook's plans - after 1. Bb2! the poor tower can't move. The castle would love to move diagonally or not be in the same diagonal line as the king but it is!

What's worse is that the bishop will take the rook for free, as the king is too far away and despite white's slight material deficit, after this move, white is just completely winning! 1. Bb2! Kg7 2. Bxe5+ Kf7 3. a6 and the pawn will queen, leading to a straightforward win!

Types of pins

Only certain pieces are able to hold pieces in one place - these are the long range pieces -

  • The Queen (can do diagonal pins or straight pins):
  • The Rook (can do straight pins)
  • The Bishop (can do diagonal pins)

Summary of part 1

  • A pin holds a defender's piece in place. If that piece moves, something more precious is in the firing line!
  • Pins can be executed by bishops, rooks and queens but not by knights, pawns or kings.
  • Pins only work where the piece being pinned cannot attack along the same channel (e.g. pinning a bishop on diagonal often won't work!)

Part 2 of 3 - Understanding hard and soft pins

Example of a hard pin

A very sneaky example of a soft pin

Tactics can be deceptively hard in chess and this is a tough exception!
After the natural rook capture by white: 1...Bh6!! 2. Rxh8?? it's black who is winning with the knight and bishop finish:

2...Na3+! 3. Ka1 Bg7 4. Nf6 Bxf6 checkmate

The reason this example is a soft pin and trickier is that although the rook is captured, there is a bigger prize at stake! Black is going for the king!!

In the first example of this section, the rook couldn't move, as it would expose the king to check and would be an illegal move.
In the second example, moving the bishop allowed the rook to be taken, which is risky but as there was a clear and better follow up, this made sense.

Summary of part 2

  • Pins can be hard or soft.
  • A hard pin is a horror for the defender who is not even allowed to move the piece out of the way!
  • By contrast, a soft pin gives some scope for the defender and the attacker must be alert to counter-tactics, like we saw with the delicious Bishop and Knight manoeuvre!

Part 3 of 3 - Seeing pins in practice

In chess, most players are wise to pins and don't have too many games where they open themselves up to being pinned out of ignorance, although it's happened to the best of us!

What is more common, and far more beautiful, is when you force a pin on the opponent or create a situation where that is the best outcome - winning material by utilising the tactic.

Try your hand at a few examples below:

See solutions at end of this section.


1. In the first puzzle white can force the issue beautifully with 1. f8=Q+! Qxf8 2. Rh8 and white converts a material advantage.

2. The stunning 1. Qxd8! also converts into a completely won ending - 1...Qxd8 2. Ra8!

3. The spectacular 1. Qxd5! wins on the spot. Best for black is to walk into a bad ending - 1...Qxd5 2. Bb3! Qxb3 3. axb3 and white's pawns win easily.

Summary and Recommended Next Reading

  • Pins hold a defender's piece in place to try to gain an advantage
  • Hard pins are great where the piece cannot move but be wary of setting soft pins, even though they often work!
  • People will not gift you a pinned piece, often. However, you can often create them yourself with some imagination!