Last week, we started our examination of the pin, one of the first chess tactics a beginner learns. Today we’ll finish looking at the pin and a few caveats to keep in mind when employing this tactic, or any tactic for that matter. In my previous article, we looked at the fundamentals of the pin. Now we’ll look at a few ideas to keep in mind should you use this or any other tactic. As I mentioned last week, things are not always as they appear to be in chess, and we’ll see this idea in action today. Take a moment to refresh your memory regarding the mechanics of the pin. Now that you’ve reviewed what you learned last week, let’s get to work!
I mentioned last week, that there was a case in which White, whose f3 Knight was pinned by a Black Bishop on g4, decides to ignore the pin and move the Knight. Let’s take a look at that position and see how White fares!
The game starts with 1. e4…e5, followed by 2. Nf3…Nc6. Both players are following the game’s opening principles to the letter! Thus far, there is nothing tricky going on. White plays 3. Nc3, which allows White’s pair of Knights to control all four of the board’s center squares (e4, e5, d4 and d5). Black plays 3…d6, which is a passive move. However, Black’s move does signal that the Bishop on c8 can enter the game along the h3-c8 diagonal. I called Black’s third move passive because it doesn’t immediately control the board’s center. While it allows Black’s c8 Bishop access to the game, which does suggest good opening play, it still isn’t as good as 3…Nf6, which gives Black equal control of the board’s center.
If you’re playing White, and Black just played 3…d6, you would want to look closely at the h3-c8 diagonal and note that your Knight could be pinned to your Queen when it’s Black’s turn again. Many beginners will move their h2 pawn to h3 on move four, in an effort to keep Black’s Bishop off of the g4 square. This is a waste of tempo or time. Certainly, Black will consider a move like 4…Bg4 but White shouldn’t respond immediately to this potential threat. Rather than address the threat of a pin on g4, keep developing your material, specifically the minor pieces.
In our example, White plays 4. Bc4, developing the King-side Bishop to a strong square that attacks one of the four center squares and puts pressure on the weak f7 square. Why is f7 weak? There are two squares that are considered weak during the opening, f2 for White and f7 for Black. The reason these squares are weak is because the only defender of those squares is the King. The King can only defend that square if there is one attacker. If there are two attackers on the weak f2 or f7 square, the White or Black King cannot defend it, which we’ll see shortly. Black now plays 4…Bg4, making good on his threat of a pin. What should White do?
White has three choices. Either push the h2 pawn to h3, move the White Bishop on c4 to e2 or ignore the pin altogether. Wait a minute, why would you ignore a pin? I’ll answer that question momentarily. Let’s first look at White’s other choices. If White were to play 5. h3, Black would have to decide whether to move the Bishop or trade Bishop for Knight. If Black decides to move the Bishop on g4, he’ll most likely move it to h5 and guess what? White’s Knight is still pinned to it’s Queen! If this happened, it would be a huge mistake to then play 6. g4 in an effort to chase the Black Bishop away and end the pin. Doing this would leave a lot holes on the King-side should you decide to castle there. What happens if, after 5. h3, Black plays 5…Bxf3?
You would capture the Black Bishop which would be an even trade. However, it would be advantageous for White, depending on how White captured back! If Black trades his Bishop on g4 for White’s f3 Knight, White can capture back with either the g2 pawn or the White Queen. Capturing back with the g2 pawn would be a mistake because it would leave a hole in your King-side pawn structure. White should capture back with the Queen, which would leave the Queen on f3 aimed at the weak f7 square as well as the White Bishop on c4 also aimed at f7. Remember, Black’s King cannot defend f7 if there are two attackers. If Black wasn’t careful, White would be able to deliver mate on the next move. What about moving the White Bishop from c4 to e2 as a way to stop or block the pin?
You don’t want to move the same piece twice during the opening unless it is absolutely necessary. Since we now know that if Black trades Bishop for Knight, it gives White a potential mating attack, so do we really have to do anything about this pin? In our example, White completely ignores the Bishop and moves the Knight on f3! White plays 5. Nxe5 and Black thinks he’s just won the lottery and plays 5…Bxd1! Why would White give up his most powerful piece? There can only be one answer for that question, to deliver a mating attack.
I have said that you should never capture pawns and pieces unless it helps your game. While winning a Queen early in the game would appear to be a good thing, it’s not. Black is so busy salivating over the opportunity to snap the White Queen off of the board, he’s not looking at his side of the board. When you see a seemingly great opportunity on your opponent’s side of the board, stop and carefully look at your side of the board. You should always look at your side or half of the board before considering making a move because doing so might reveal a weakness that your opponent can quickly exploit. Unfortunately, Black only sees the White Queen and fails to notice the buildup of White pieces around the f7 square. After Black plays 5…Bxd1, it’s all over for Black!
White now plays 6. Bxf7+ which signals the start of an unstoppable mating attack. There is only one square Black’s King can run to and that is e7. After Black plays 6…Ke7, White ends the game with 7. Nd5#! Where did Black go wrong? Again, never capture pawns or pieces unless it helps your game. While capturing White’s Queen on move five gives Black a material advantage, having more material than your opponent doesn’t guarantee that you’ll win the game. It’s all about checkmate. Black’s mistake was becoming fixated on White’s Queen rather than examining the position on the board. Always look at the entire board and note the relationship between every pawn and piece, belonging to both you and your opponent. Always ask the Question, “why would my opponent give me that pawn or piece free of charge? Next week, we’ll look at another tactic you need to have in your tactical toolbox, the fork. See you then!