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Pinned Piece Is a Useless Piece! TRUE and FALSE!
Compiled by ChessCoachClark

A simple adage states, "A pinned piece is a useless piece!" Lets look at OTB examples and some compositions to see whether this is a true or false statement.

By virtue of the simple definition of a Pin, especially an Absolute Pin (AP), no capture can be made by a Pinned piece. However, one needs to consider the subtlety of the rules of chess.

For instance, in Castling, the rules forbid castling through check, castling out of check or castling into check. In a similar manner, even a chessman locked down by an AP disallows a King to stand anywhere in the line of fire or to capture a chessman guarded by such a chessman.

Therefore, not only can it be said that the King is a weak defender, the King is actually a weak attacker as well. Another chessman would be fine capturing a chessman being protected by a pinned piece or moving into the line of fire of a pinned piece to attack somewhere, but the King is forbidden to do so.

To see exactly what I mean, look at this example from BEGINNING CHESS, by Bruce Pandolfini, page 135, Exercise #166, Black to move:

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and notice that the next move is checkmate in the Box Mate pattern:

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Here, the White King makes an illegal move if capturing the Black Rook at f1:

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In Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess, p. 116, Diagram G, this problem is given, White to move:

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The solution is as follows:

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Note how White has executed a Back Rank Mate with support from a pinned Rook. No problem! Remember this!

You should also know that the King is not the only chessman limited by a Pin. Only the King can have an Absolute Pin involved, but a Relative Pin (RP) against a Queen is by no means inviolable. The game by Legall and St. Brie in Paris in 1750 is probably the most famous example.

A second example OTB is this position from Mikhail Ivashchenko vs M Lugovskoy, 2004 included below:

click for larger view

Black will play Nxd5, leaving the Black Queen in danger by the g5-Bishop. After the White Bishop captures the Black Queen, Black plays Bb4+ and wins the White Queen. White was ahead by a Pawn before Black ignored the Relative Pin against the Black Queen. Now Black is ahead by two points (a Knight less a Pawn), so White resigns. My younger students find this game interesting also because it was played for the Russian championship by less than ten year olds!

The game included below, V Zakhartsov vs A Ainutdinov, 2013, has two noteworthy cases of Pinned Pieces NOT Being Useless. First, at the play 48. ... Rd6, the Black Rook is safe from capture by the White King because of its protection from the pinned Black Bishop. (The Rook is poised to give X-Ray protection to that same Bishop, soon.)

Second, this same game has a beautiful example at the end (although Black should lose with best play) where BOTH pinned pieces are NOT useless. The Black Rook keeps the d-Pawn safe and the Black Bishop still protects the b-Pawn, even though each is under an Absolute Pin!

Finally, you should see for yourself that the statement quoted in the beginning is just a rule of thumb.

Do NOT take it for granted that a pinned piece cannot support a mating attack/net! Look for the particular circumstances, rather than following an idea blindly.

I repeat, look for the particular circumstances, rather than following an idea blindly!

This point does not just apply to Pins and does not just apply to chess. Believe me.

ChessCoachClark (CCC) originated this game collection and he updates it on occasion. This project is a work in progress, culling games from various sources, including several chess training books and personal research. The games are ordered by date (oldest first), not by importance.

Be well.
Be safe.

Quite famous disregard of an RP on the Queen
De Legal vs Saint Brie, 1750 
(C41) Philidor Defense, 7 moves, 1-0

Look at 37. Nxc4 and onward
Steinitz vs Zukertort, 1886 
(C67) Ruy Lopez, 39 moves, 0-1

Look at De Legal vs Saint Brie and compare it with this game
Pillsbury vs Fernandez, 1900 
(C25) Vienna, 9 moves, 1-0

See 43. ... Rxg2+ where pinned Queen protects Rook for check
L Forgacs vs Alekhine, 1910 
(C78) Ruy Lopez, 44 moves, 1-0

29. Qxf4? Relative Pin but Knight NOT useless-- Poisoned Pawn!
Capablanca vs C Jaffe, 1913 
(C49) Four Knights, 31 moves, 0-1

Black Queen snatches Rook with impunity at end, due to AP
K Opocensky vs Pachman, 1943
(E03) Catalan, Open, 28 moves, 0-1

AP allows Queen to make a Capture Mate!
Koltanowski vs Alonso, 1946 
(A46) Queen's Pawn Game, 29 moves, 1-0

Black Bishop in AP still covers escape square of King for mate!
M Radojcic vs V Tomovic, 1947 
(C41) Philidor Defense, 86 moves, 0-1

Pinned Piece is NOT Useless! Rooks support Back Rank Mate!
L Gutman vs T Taylor, 1984 
(E18) Queen's Indian, Old Main line, 7.Nc3, 28 moves, 1-0

Rook that is pinned after 32. ... Bxf4 aids in the mate!
A Korobov vs Fedorchuk, 2001 
(E47) Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3 O-O 5.Bd3, 35 moves, 1-0

6. ... Nxd5 ignores the Relative Pin (see header above).
Mikhail Ivashchenko vs M Lugovskoy, 2004
(D51) Queen's Gambit Declined, 9 moves, 0-1

39. Rf1 is a (self) Absolute Pin that can't help Queen later!
Kamsky vs Ding Liren, 2011 
(C11) French, 40 moves, 0-1

See 48...Rd6 and TWO Pinned men NOT useless at end, R + B!!
V Zakhartsov vs A Ainutdinov, 2013 
(D97) Grunfeld, Russian, 49 moves, 1-0

Pinned Piece IS Useless this time at end of game.
V Neverov vs M Debarshi, 2017 
(A04) Reti Opening, 29 moves, 1-0

AP against Bishop still supports Rook for the Mayet's Mate!
R Farkas vs Yang Wu, 2017
(B06) Robatsch, 80 moves, 1-0

AP allows Back Rank Mate-- Pinned Piece IS useless, indeed!
S Maroroa vs A Diamant, 2018 
(B30) Sicilian, 39 moves, 0-1

16 games

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