Last week, we started examining a tactic called a skewer. Like a pin, the skewer involves three pieces: The piece doing the skewering, the skewered piece, and the piece behind the skewered piece. As with the pin, skewers take place along the ranks, files, or diagonals. Only the long-distance pieces – the Queen, Rooks, and Bishops – can execute a skewer (being the piece that does the skewering). The difference between a pin and skewer? In a pin, the less valuable piece is in front of the more valuable piece. In a skewer, the more valuable piece is in front of the less valuable piece (see previous articles in this series for examples). Is this the only difference?
No. In fact, the value of the piece being skewered creates a different set of tactical circumstances and outcomes for both players. In a pin, a piece of lesser value, such as a knight, is pinned to a piece of greater value, such as the Queen. Because the piece doing the pinning (your opponent’s piece if a pin is executed against you) is along the same rank, file, or diagonal as the pinned piece and the more valuable piece behind it, moving the pinned piece would allow your opponent to capture the more valuable piece. The pin is meant to slow a piece down or keep it from moving.
In a skewer, the more valuable piece is the piece being attacked or skewered, and the less valuable piece is behind it. Like the pin, you want to use a piece of lesser value than the more valuable skewered piece. As with the pin you also want to make sure that the piece doing the skewering is protected if it can be captured by the skewered piece. This brings up an important point: Since the skewered piece is of greater value (King, Queen, and Rooks) than the piece behind it, it’s more apt to be able to simply capture the piece doing the skewering. It’s more apt to be captured because the pieces of greater value that are targets of skewers – Queen, and Rooks – have greater mobility.
In short, you must put more thought into creating skewers regarding piece value and mobility. I was going to provide some examples of skewers this week. However, I am going to wait until next week so we can go over some of the finer points to consider in greater detail. Obviously, the best piece to be skewered is the King because the King has the highest value, and an attack against it must be dealt with immediately. The King also has limited mobility. The piece of less value could be the Queen or Rook and, if you were using a Bishop to do the skewering, you’d trade it for the Queen. That would be a fantastic exchange.
Of course, you’d have to make sure that the skewer can’t be stopped easily. If a Bishop skewered a Queen to a Rook, and the Bishop wasn’t defended, the Queen would simply capture the Bishop and end the skewer. If the Bishop was defended by a friendly pawn or piece, the Queen would move, and you could exchange Bishop for Rook. This is why skewers are more complicated than pins to set up.
With skewers, it’s a little harder to create a successful position for beginners. They have to carefully consider the value of the material involved as well as ensuring that they come out ahead in the exchange. If you’re using a minor piece to skewer a Rook to another minor piece, your skewer would only be successful if the minor piece your piece captures after the skewered piece moves is undefended. If it was defended, you’d be trading pieces of equal value. The goal is to trade a piece of lesser value for a piece or greater value or capture an undefended piece. If the piece of equal value at the end of the skewer wasn’t defended, you’d get a free piece and have a successful skewer.
When to consider skewers is another important factor. While we see pins take place early in the game, skewers tend to take place later during the end game. That’s not to say they can’t take place earlier but it’s easier to set up a skewer when there are fewer pawns and pieces on the board. When we work through skewer examples next week, we’ll look at both successful and unsuccessful skewers. In the end beginners need to concentrate on two things when it comes to creating a successful skewer: The value of the material involved and the defense of both the piece doing the skewering and the piece that will be captured as a result of the skewer. I’ll see you next week!