The Fork, Pin, and Skewer – Must Know Chess Attacks!

When it comes to chess attacks are you familiar with the fork, the pin, and the skewer? These are spectacular tactical attacks that are MUST ADDS to your arsenal!

What are Forks, Pins, and Skewers in Chess?

I love imagining the royal game of chess as an actual battlefield where real warriors are under your control, each with their own unique skills, and your success depends on utilizing them to their strengths.

In this article I’ll get into three must-know tactical attacks: the fork, the pins, and the skewer. Each has the potential to completely change the momentum of a game by creating simultaneous threats, immobilizing opposing pieces, or cleverly aligning an opponent’s pieces to your advantage.

What is a Fork in Chess? The Awesome Double Attack!

A fork is essentially a double attack. You move a single piece and simultaneously threaten two or more of your opponent’s pieces. This can lead to winning material or creating other significant advantages and putting your opponent in a definite bind.

This can occur most easily with the knight, since its attacks can occur all around it. But any piece (except for the king) can create a fork. Here are a couple examples of forks in gameplay.

It all starts with observing the relative positions of your opponent’s pieces. Are any of them undefended or on the same line? Maybe they are of high value, like the queen or rook? These are initial cues for possible forks.

In my experience, the best way to get better at utilizing forks is practice. Analyzing master games is a great start, but nothing beats getting your hands dirty with practical exercises.

At the end of this article you’ll find “100 puzzles: Forks, Pins, Discoveries, and Skewers” to practice on!

What is a Pin in Chess? Immobilizing Your Opponent’s Pieces

Think of a pin as placing a straightjacket on an opponent’s piece. The pinned piece is tied down, preventing it from defending important squares or pieces, or from engaging in the game at all.

The Absolute Pin

There are two types of pins you’ll encounter. First, there’s the absolute pin, which is essentially a legal restraint. A piece is absolutely pinned when moving it would expose the king to check, so because of this it cannot move by rule.

This type of pin can be deeply frustrating for your opponent, as it immobilizes an important defender or attacker.

Here, Black’s rook executes an absolute pin on White’s bishop,

Absolute pin in chess

The Relative Pin

The relative pin, on the other hand, might not involve the king but it’s still a powerful tactical tool. While the piece can legally move, doing so would result in a loss of material or a strategic disadvantage. Relative pins often force your opponent to make sacrifices they’d rather not make.

Using the above example, you can see just how brutal the absolute pin on the bishop is, because if not for that absolute pin, White’s bishop had a perfectly placed relative pin on Black’s rook and the queen.

relative pin in chess

But because of Black’s rook, White’s bishop cannot complete its attack by rule because moving would put White’s king in check.

Now, once you’ve successfully pinned an opponent’s piece, don’t just pat yourself on the back. You need to think about how to transform this positional advantage into checkmate or material gain.

Many times, depending on what your opponent does, you can pile up on the pinned piece with other pieces.

The Skewer: Winning Material with Alignment Tactics

The skewer is a unique tactical maneuver that is similar to the pin, but it has a charm all its own. When you execute a skewer, you’re directly attacking a more valuable piece, forcing it to move and uncovering an attack on a less valuable piece behind it.

To understand how a skewer works, imagine aligning two of your opponent’s pieces, one more valuable than the other, along a line. Your goal is to attack the more valuable piece, like a queen or rook, with a long-range piece such as a bishop or a rook. Once the valuable piece moves away, the less valuable piece is yours for the taking.

In the image below, White’s bishop perfectly executes a skewer of Black’s king and rook. Black’s king, now in check, must move out of the way, exposing their rook for capture.

skewer in chess

The difference between a skewer and a pin is all about the order of value. In a pin, the less valuable piece is attacked, and the more valuable piece is trapped behind it. In a skewer, the opposite is true, which is why it’s sometimes referred to as a ‘reverse pin’.

Elevating Your Attack Tactics Using Chess Puzzles

In chess, knowledge of tactics like forks, pins, and skewers definitely add to your arsenal. But to truly elevate your game, consistent practice is needed.

Now that you’re familiar with these tactical attacks, the next step is to burn them into your memory, so they become second nature during play.

One of the best ways to sharpen your tactical vision is through solving chess puzzles. Not only do they reinforce pattern recognition, but they also help you spot tactical opportunities under different scenarios.

You’re going to want to save this link for future practice: 100 puzzles: Forks, Pins, Discoveries, and Skewers.

(You’re welcome).

Final Thoughts

What do you think? Which is your favorite chess attack: the fork, the pin, or the skewer? What’s your favorite piece to attack with to make them happen? Let me know in the comments section below! I’d love to hear your perspective and I always reply!

And now that you know about these attacks, how about learning how to run interference?

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4 thoughts on “The Fork, Pin, and Skewer – Must Know Chess Attacks!”

  1. I am particularly fond of the basic fork with the two pawns. I find it is a little easier to get your opponent to play into this one. 

    I have not been on the serving end of a pin move yet, I am not sure where I go wrong but I end up being the one pinned and usually checkmate is shortly after.

    Do you have any tips on how I can avoid being the one in the snare? I try to keep a keen eye on my openents moves and try to anticipate their next one, but it seems I am letting my secrets out somehow.

    Reply
    • It just takes practice. The more you play, the better you are at seeing those attacks coming. Thanks for the comment!

      Reply
  2. I prefer a fork attack, I like to dishevel the basis of the opponent by making them think in two directions..!
    Seriously didn’t know much about skewers, but now I do. I have a couple of questions though:
    1- How often do skewer tactics players deploy, and how would we counter them? Also, which pieces do you find most effective for each of these tactics and why? Thank you for such an insightful read!”

    Reply
    • If your opponent isn’t careful with their pieces these attacks can present themselves over and over. Once it’s in place the only real way to counter them would be to move one of the threatened pieces to a square putting your opponent in check. This forces them to move their king or block and gives you an opportunity to then get the second threatened piece out of the harm’s way. Thanks for the comment!

      Reply

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