Last week, we looked at the pin. We’ve seen, in previous articles, that tactics can easily fall apart if not carefully thought out. This week, we’ll see what happens when a seemingly good, but different type of pin is completely ignored. To refresh your memory, a pin is a tactic that slows down a piece’s ability to participate in the game and may lead to a material gain. There are three pieces involved in a pin: The pinning piece, the piece being pinned, and the more valuable piece behind the pinned piece. Pins occur along the ranks, files, or diagonals. They can only be executed by the long-distance pieces – the Queen, Rooks, or Bishops. Set up a chessboard in the starting position.
Play through the following moves: 1. e4…e5, 2. Nf3…d6, 3. Nc3…Bg4. The Black Bishop on g4 is now pinning the White Knight on f3 to the White Queen on d1. This specific tactic is intended to dissuade the White Knight from engaging in centralized control. After all, if the Knight moves, Black will be able to capture the more valuable White Queen on d1. This would give Black a material advantage. However, material advantages are not always good. One of the biggest fallacies beginners operate under is the idea of a material advantage equaling a winning game!
Countless times, I’ve walked by my beginning students’ boards and had one of the players look up and say, “I’ve got more material than he does, so I’m winning.” While wrong, it’s a natural assumption for a beginner to make since I’ve drilled the relative value scale into their brains. Their reasoning is simple: If they capture your Queen while still having their own Queen, you’re missing your most powerful piece. My students can rattle off relative value totals like a seasoned accountant recalls bookkeeping figures, missing the idea that it’s checkmate that ultimately decides the game. What does this have to do with our game?
On White’s next move, White decides to continue developing his material towards the center with 4. Bc4. He could have broken the pin by playing 4. Be2, allowing the Knight on f3 to move without losing the Queen. White decided to ignore the pin. Why? Because the White Knight on f3 is defended by the queen on d1 and the pawn on g2. The White Knight on f3 is fine where it’s at, so White continues developing. If you have a pinned piece and that piece isn’t needed elsewhere on the board, you don’t have to worry about it. Black plays 4…Nc6. What White should deduce from Black’s last move is that the Black Knight on c6 is probably headed towards d4, where it would join in with Black’s Bishop to gang up on the White Knight.
White now plays 5. Nxe5! Black cannot believe it. What a great stroke of luck! White just gave Black the Queen on d1. Not only that, but White’s Knight on e5 is also under attack by the Black d6 pawn. Black swoops in and plays 5…Bxd1 and then goes on to lose the game in spectacular style. Wait a minute. What did you just say?
Black didn’t look at the most important part of the board when considering move five, or any move for that matter. Black should have looked at his King and the White pieces closest to that King. Black should have asked two questions, the first being, why would White just blunder their Queen? The second question to ask? Is my King safe. Unless you’re playing an absolute beginner, no one is going to give you’re their Queen without a really good reason. That reason generally revolves around a mating attack.
White now plays 6. Bxf7+, followed by Black’s only move 6…Ke7. White finishes Black off with 7. Nd5#. A fast and great example of a minor piece checkmate. Let’s take a look at these last few moves in more detail.
When White played 5. Nxe5, leaving his Queen exposed, Black should have asked a simple, one word question, why? The Queen is generally the most powerful piece, one that most players want to hang on to. Had Black looked at his King and White’s c4 Bishop and e5 Knight, he would have seen the check on f7. It wouldn’t be hard to then see that moving the other White Knight from c3 to d5 would lead to checkmate. Instead, Black was blinded by getting a material advantage and paid for it with a loss. Next week, we’re going to look at how to turn White’s potential mating attack around. Try coming up with some alternative moves for Black on move five. See you then!