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Tactics 101: Skewers – the Backward Pin

By: Nathaniel_Fernandes | Posted: September 30, 2020 | Updated: 1/14/2021 | Views: 254
This entry is part 4 of 11 in the series Tactics

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Skewers are like backward pins – a valuable piece is forced to move, leaving a piece behind it to be taken
  • Skewers occur infrequently but are extremely powerful
  • Only Bishops, Rooks, and Queens can skewer

Background

From all tactics, the skewer is perhaps one of the deadliest as it almost guarantees you will win material. 

A skewer is basically a backwards pin. Whereas a less valuable piece is pinned to a more valuable piece in a pin, in a skewer the more valuable piece is forced to move, leaving a piece behind it open to capture.

That’s pretty much it – that simple! For more info about skewers check out these excellent chess.com videos: skewers and 5 Skewers You Must Know.

When do Skewers occur?

Middlegame

Most players don’t voluntarily fall into skewers because they are relatively easy to spot. Therefore, you need to use other tactics to force a skewer in the middlegame

For example, you can use a decoy sacrifice to lure a valuable piece onto a square thus setting up a skewer.

You can also use the “deflection” tactic to capitalize on overloaded pieces.

Tip: In a decoy you want a piece to move ONTO a square, but in a deflection you want it to move AWAY from a square.

Endgame

Skewering the King is very common in queen and rook endgames as there are many long open files and the King is usually attackable.

There are many examples of endgame skewers including promotion skewers, Rook skewers, and more!

Pawn Promotion/Queen Skewers:

When a pawn reaches the other side of the board, it can be promoted to a Queen! One famous example of a pawn promotion skewer is featured in Searching for Bobby Fischer.

Here is another example.

Rook Skewers

Watch out for this common trap! If Black tries to march his king towards the White pawn and capture it, BAM it’s skewer time!

Note: The endgame is a draw. All black has to do is 1] keep his rook on the a-file behind the pawn 2] if White’s king ever touches the pawn, then check it on the b-file


To wrap up, skewers are powerful tactics that can win almost on the spot! Pay careful attention to endgame positions, as a skewer may be lurking in the shadows.

Leave any questions and comments in the chat!


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