Smothered Pieces

Smothered pieces or “buried pieces” are chess pieces that are trapped but cannot really be captured. They are simply smothered, buried, and unusable. Whereas pieces often get trapped in enemy territory (and captured there), smothered pieces tend to be smothered in their own home area.

Dominated pieces are a similar concept to smothered pieces, but smothered pieces are trapped usually by pawn chains. Dominated pieces are trapped by other enemy pieces.

Bishops and Knights sometimes get smothered by an advanced enemy pawn chain. Rooks sometimes get smothered by the player’s own King. Rooks also sometimes get smothered in the middle of the board in front of their own pawns. Queens only very rarely get smothered.

If you get lucky, a smothered Knight or Bishop might also cause the Rook near it to be effectively smothered too. Such is the stuff of chess player nightmares.

A smothered piece is a winning advantage. It is like having one piece less, since that piece simply cannot be used. The player with the advantage should simply ensure that the piece stays smothered, while then playing for a win in the rest of the board. A simple win against a smothered piece is to swap all other pieces down to an ending, just as you would if you had an extra piece.

Smothered pieces are not common in beginner chess. In fact, they rarely happen even in advanced chess. But they are a way to win a game that advanced player will occasionally use. Probably the most common smothered piece is a smothered rook where the King has been forced to move away from the center without castling.

Related Chess Tactics

Read more about these related chess tactics and strategies: