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I am a beginner amateur player, and I have been thinking about openings. On lots of occasions the opponent pins the white knight on Nc3 or Nf3 (as black) or the black knight on Nc6/Nf6. What is the main motivation for doing that? I am partial to bishops, and it seems even opening theory suggests that it is okay to get rid of one or even two bishops early in the opening at the cost of your opponents pawn structure? It seems very counter-intuitive to me. Can someone give examples of games/tactics where the pinned knight gives a big advantage for the opponent?

  • 'Why pin knights early in the opening?' and 'Why should I trade a bishop for a knight in the opening?' are very different questions. Sometimes a pinned knight is taken by a bishop, but generally it is a good idea to keep the pin if possible. As Brian mentioned, the knight can't move because of the pin, so it isn't contributing much to the game. The trade is usually only beneficial to the side losing the bishop if they get additional compensation, usually in the form of tempo and/or pawn structure. See chess.stackexchange.com/questions/29846 – DongKy Jun 12 at 21:59
  • @DongKy i agree, but the only way to get rid of the pin (especially if you are trying to attack) is to exchange your knight for the bishop (I think). On the other hand, the player pinning the knight risks losing the bishop pair, so I was wondering if it is a risk worth taking. – ramanujan_dirac Jun 13 at 19:31
  • The pinned knight can never capture the pinning bishop directly, and the bishop can usually retreat to safety if attacked (perhaps by an a- or h- pawn). So it isn’t very risky for the bishop. The bishop always has the option to trade for the knight, and depending on the specifics of the position, that can be an advantageous trade. It’s hard to say much more without looking at specific opening lines, but at the end of the day, knights and bishops are worth about the same. If you throw in better pawn structure, tempo, and/or losing the ‘bad bishop’, it’s easy to see how that can tip the scale. – DongKy Jun 15 at 23:06
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One of the key principles of opening play is that control of the center is vitally important. If one of the players has complete control of the center then they can much more easily launch an attack and it is much more difficult for the other player to defend.

A white knight on c3 supports/attacks e4 and d5.
A white knight on f3 supports/attacks e5 and d4.

Those 4 squares define the center of the board. A similar story is true for black knights on f6 (controls e4 and d5) and c6 (controls e4 and d5).

A pinned knight doesn't support or attack any squares. It is pinned. It can't move. It no longer plays any role in the fight for the center although it can come to life again if it is unpinned.

Hence the normal progression in the opening of moving a center pawn 2 squares to control one of the center squares, then move one or more knights out to also control center squares, then move bishops out to either control center squares or to pin opposition knights which has the same effect.

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