The Relative Pin

On Saturday, I had the opportunity to face a challenging opponent that was visiting the area. As he seemed to be on a time crunch, I didn’t want to record the game. In hindsight, this was a blunder, as I could have learned so much.

The match eventually ended in a draw, but I was able to recreate a position that we were in with white to move.  I recall it very specifically, as I thought I had found the best move in the position.  The position, it seemed, was not very pleasant for white.  Black had just placed a bishop on c3:

White to move

It appeared as if I was going to lose a minor piece in this situation. I had considered Rc1 for a long time, but saw that after the bishop takes my knight on f6, I would have to move my queen to safety giving black time to move their hanging knight on c3 to safety and I’d be a minor piece down.

I considered Nh5 also, taking advantage of the pinned pawn. But after black moved to h8 and the pin was released, I wasn’t sure how to proceed without losing that knight.

I finally landed on Qc1, which I was certain was the best move. This would initiate an exchange where I would remain a pawn up in the end game.  Black’s only good response would be to exchange at that moment. Play was as follows: 1 Qc1 Qxc1 2 Rxc1 Bxf6 3 Bxc6 and white was a pawn up in a challenging endgame.

Can you find a better move using the title of this blog post as a hint?

I was amazed later on analyzing this position with an engine to find the move Qe3! This places a relative pin on the bishop on c3, maintains the defense of my a2 pawn while immobilizing the bishop for at least one move. 

Although I am familiar with relative pins, they are usually something I can think about when I’m on the attack and in an offense mindset. My defensive mindset threw out the possibility of using a relative pin and even considering this move.

A move that seems to be just as good would have been Rb3. Can you find black’s best response to that?

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