What is a Pin in Chess? A Beginner-Friendly Guide

Pin in chess

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pin is a common chess tactic where your opponent attacks one of your pieces, and you are unable to move it without exposing a more valuable piece or putting your king in check.

The pinned piece plays a huge role in blocking an attack on a more valuable piece, protecting the key defender of a position or even preventing checkmate.

Chess position illustrating the concept of pin in chess

In the above variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined, White plays Bg5 pinning the Black Knight to the Black Queen.

In this case, the Black knight on f6 is the pinned piece protecting the Black queen on d8 which is a much more valuable piece. If Black moves the knight from f6 to any other square, White would be happy to capture the queen on d8.

It’s important to understand that a pin is quite different from another similar but popular chess tactic called a skewer.

skewer is a chess tactic that involves attacking two pieces in a line. It is similar to a pin, but the difference is that in a skewer, the more valuable piece is the one under direct attack, and the less valuable piece is behind it.

Chess position illustrating the concept of skewer in chess
White To Play and Win

The above position is a good example of a skewer.

White is down on material but can immediately turn the tables by playing Bg4-f3+ attacking the Black king (the more valuable piece). Once the king moves to say b6, White can go ahead to capture the Black Queen on a8 (the less valuable piece).

In a pin, the attacked piece cannot move because it prevents a more significant threat. A skewer works just in reverse. The most valuable piece is upfront, so it must move and allow the capture of the weaker piece behind it.

Types Of Pins

Absolute Pin

An absolute pin is the most potent version of this tactic. It happens when your piece is covering an attack on your king.

Since it’s illegal to make a move that would put your king in check, the pinned piece literally cannot move.

In the Three Knights game setup, after the sequence 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 d6 4. Bb5 White gives an absolute pin with the White bishop on b5 pinning the c6-knight to the Black king on e8.

Screenshot 2023 11 12 at 20.01.41
Absolute Pin at Work

Relative Pin

In a relative pin, the pinned piece is shielding another piece, typically (but not always) a piece of higher value, but not the King. 

Moving such a pinned piece is legal (unlike the absolute pin) but may not be desirable, as the shielded piece would then be vulnerable to capture.

Screenshot 2023 11 12 at 20.11.04
Relative Pin at Work

In the same Three Knights game setup, White can achieve a relative pin by playing Bg5 temporarily pinning the Black knight on f6 to the queen on d8.

Black is absolutely allowed to move the knight if he wishes to, but doing that will result in a huge material disadvantage, and subsequently a loss.

How To Get Out Of a Pin in Chess?

There are three ways to deal with a pin (also known as “unpinning”).

First, you could move the valuable piece out of the way, freeing up the pinned piece. This means that the pinned piece must already be protected by something else, preferably a piece of lower value.

You can also remove the pinning piece, either by capturing it outrightly or by forcing it to move away.

Screenshot 2023 11 12 at 20.19.53

From the position above, Black can immediately counter the relative pin by White by playing h6 forcing the bishop to either capture the f6-knight or move to h4 maintaining the pin. If Bh4, Black can choose to close up that pin by playing pawn to g5 and White has to get back to g3.

You also have the option to block the pin by placing another piece in the line of fire, disconnecting the pinned piece from the valuable target behind it.

Screenshot 2023 11 12 at 20.23.11
Be7 by Black quickly renders the relative pin ineffective

Final Thoughts

We hope this simple guide has been helpful to you.

Always remember to keep an eye out for opportunities to use pins to your advantage. By restricting your opponent’s options, you can gain a significant advantage and even win material.

Also, you should be aware of the risks involved in using pins, as they can sometimes backfire (like falling to cheap tactics) if not executed correctly.

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Chessforsharks Editorial Team


Our team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers and chess experts with combined 28 years of experience.

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