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Bobby's Binds
Binds are fairly common in chess.

The best known bind

Many players will recognize the diagrammed position as a common example of a Maroczy bind. It occurs after the opening moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.c4. It is called a bind because the Pawns on c4 and e4 prevent Black from playing the freeing move ...d5.

Many players, when asked to describe a bind, will immediately reply 'see the Maroczy bind!', the only example they remember having seen. In fact, binds are fairly common in chess. We don't see them often in master games because good players prefer to avoid getting into binds and will even sacrifice a Pawn to steer away from them.

To find good examples of binds, we have to look at the notes of master level games. One excellent source for examples is Robert J. (Bobby) Fischer's 'My 60 Memorable Games'. More than a third of the games contain examples of binds, most often in the notes.

The position in the diagram also occurred in Fischer's book. In Fischer - Reshevsky, New York Match 1961 (game no.26 in Fischer's book), Fischer wrote that 4...g6 allows 'White the chance to get a Maroczy bind (with 5.c4). Apparently Reshevsky had booked up on this for the match. Black's idea is to dispense with an early ...d6 and possibly strive for a later ...d5, thereby saving a tempo.'

In Fischer - Najdorf, Santa Monica 1966 (no.54), instead of 4...g6, Black played 4...e6. Here Fischer wrote, '4... Nf6 obliges 5. Nc3 which precludes the Maroczy bind by c2-c4. Ever since ways of combatting the "Bind" have been found, it has become almost an obsession to abstain from 4...Nf6, although the most that can be said for other moves is that some of them may be as good.' We'll return to the Maroczy bind at the end of this tutorial.

Restraining the opponent's pieces

The position in the diagram is from the game Fischer - Benko, US Championship 1963 (no.46). Fischer, who has just played 11.f4-f5, mentioned in the note to that move that White was 'Already threatening to obtain a winning bind with 12.g4 and 13.g5'.

Skipping ahead to 13.g5, White threatens the Knight on f6 and forces it to move. White will continue with 14.f6, forcing the Bishop to h8, where it will remain for the rest of the game as a passive spectator. Black, in effect, will be playing a minor piece down.

If Black plays Rf8-e8, to make an escape square for the Bishop on f8, White will still continue f5-f6. Then the plan will be to play h3-h4-h5, place the major pieces on the h-file, exchange Pawns on g6, and checkmate the Black King in the corner. In this last line, you can work out for yourself what happens if, after g4-g5, the attacked Knight goes to h5 to block the advance of White's h-Pawn.

The plan of advancing a Pawn to f6 is often a threat against a fianchettoed Bishop. Fischer and Benko immediately understood the position resulting from the Pawn push, which is why Fischer called it 'a winning bind'. Benko played 11...gxf5, preferring to weaken the light squares around his King, which Fischer exploited brilliantly a few moves later.

Restraining a backward Pawn

The position in the diagram is from a note to Fischer - Larsen, Portoroz Interzonal 1958 (no.2). Larsen avoided a variation that had been played in Suetin - Korchnoi, USSR Championship preliminaries 1953. Fischer accused Korchnoi of 'bad judgement' for steering into a position that he called a 'crushing bind' for White.

White has just played 17.Rd1-e1, attacking Black's e-Pawn. While it can be defended by Re8, White can triple the major pieces on the e-file to attack it three times. While it can still be defended three times, White will be able to shift the attack to the Queenside or the Kingside, as circumstances dictate.

Black can't play e7-e6 because the e6 square is not covered adequately and because the d-Pawn is not protected after d5xe6. Black's only counterplay is to advance the a-Pawn, eventually attacking the Bishop on b3, which will nevertheless find a safe square on c4 after a preparatory move or two. Then it is difficult to see how Black can create a real attack on the a- and b-files. If pieces are exchanged then Black's advanced Queenside Pawn(s) will become weak and subject to encirclement.

How did Korchnoi continue? It's a mystery, because the game isn't on any of our databases. It's hard to see how any player, even with the defensive skills of a world class player like Korchnoi, could survive Black's position.

Controlling access to an open file and to a diagonal

Although Fischer mentioned the diagrammed position in his notes to Fischer - Euwe, Leipzig Olympiad 1960 (no.20), it was reached in the game Fischer - Ivkov, Buenos Aires 1960.

White has just played 13.Bc1-f4, 'with a bind'. The open b-file will play an important role in the further course of the game. White's last move prevented Black's Rooks from moving to b8, so the file now belongs to White. The White Pawn on c5 prevents Black from playing ...Bd6. Black can cover the diagonal with ...Nc7, but the Knight will be passive on that square. Black's best plan looks like ...f6 and ...e5, but there are some tactical issues to overcome.

The game continued 13...Bf6, when Fischer played 14.Bb5, letting his opponent escape the bind with 14...Nc7 15.Be2 Nxd4 16.Nxd4 e5. The game was drawn after a long struggle.

An advanced Knight that can't be exchanged or driven away

The position in the diagram occurred in a note to the game Byrne - Fischer, US Championship 1963-4 (no.48). Fischer played two of his most famous brilliancies against the Byrne brothers. The first was the 'Game of the Century' against Donald Byrne in 1956; the second was this game against Robert Byrne in 1963.

In the variation given in the note, Black has just played 17...Ra8-c8, 'with a powerful bind'. The Knight on d3 prevents the White Rooks from playing to the c-file, while the Knight on d4 is pinned by the Bishop on g7. If White exchanges the light squared Bishop for the Black Knight, White will have light squared weaknesses on the Kingside. If White plays f2-f3 to undermine the Knight's protection, the Pawn on e3 will become weak. White's predicament is reminiscent of a Kasparov brilliancy from his second World Championship match with Karpov, where a Black Knight on d3 also created serious problems in the White position.

Byrne avoided this variation, but was hit with a powerful sacrifice of the Knight on f2 that opened White's King position to Black's diagonal pieces. Instead of losing positionally to the bind, he lost tactically to a Kingside attack.

A combination to create a bind

Our last examples of a bind in the middle game occurred in the game Fischer - Najdorf, Varna Olympiad 1962 (no.40). In the diagrammed position White has just played 12.Rf1-e1.

Najdorf played 12...e5. Among the several alternatives for Black, Fischer noted that 12...Bxg2 13.Kxg2 dxc4 14.Qf3 Nd7 15.Nf5 Rg8+ 16.Kh1 e5 17.Be3 gives White 'a winning bind despite the two Pawn deficit.' The game continued 13.Qa4+ Nd7, where Fischer gave another variation 13...Qd7 14.Bb5 axb5 15.Qxa8 Bd6 16.Rxe4 dxe4 17.Qxe4, to be 'followed by Nf5 with a powerful bind'.

In both variations flagged by Fischer as binds, the Knight settles on f5 after Black's light squared Bishop has been exchanged. On that square the Knight dominates the Black Kingside and is not easily driven away. Knowing this makes it easier to spot Fischer's continuation 14.Rxe4! dxe4 15.Nf5, which led to Black's resignation less than 10 moves later.

A late middlegame / early endgame bind

Binds can also play a role in the endgame. The diagrammed position is from Fischer - Smyslov, Havana 1965 (no.51). Smyslov has just played 30...Nc6-b8. If you prefer to think of this position as the late middle game rather than the endgame, we won't argue with you. You have to admit that it has certain endgame elements.

Fischer played 31.Ra5, assigned the move a '!', and noted, 'Now White strengthens his bind by forcing 31...c6 which takes away breathing space from Black's pieces.' Black's doubled, isolated e-Pawns prevent a Pawn break in the center, while ...c5 is problematic because it weakens the b-Pawn.

Now Fischer wanted to attack the forward e-Pawn by shifting his Knight from f3 to d3. On that square it would attack the e-Pawn while defending his own b-Pawn. That would let him continue c3-c4, forcing an exchange of Black's b-Pawn for the c-Pawn and allowing the other White Knight to settle on c4, attacking the e-Pawn again.

First he defended d3 with 32.Kg2 Nbd7 33.Kf1, when Smyslov went wrong with 33...Rc8?. Fischer: 'A surprise! I had expected the much stouter defense with 33...Ne8 intending to exchange Rooks with Nc7 and Ra8'. Fischer continued with his original plan and the game was soon over.

An endgame bind can be used to draw

The diagram shows another endgame position, this time from a note to the game Fischer - Petrosian, Bled 1961 (no.31). Black has just played 32.Kc5-d4, 'with an absolute bind on the dark squares'. Note that White has an extra Pawn.

In his notes leading to this position, Fischer recounted an anecdote: 'Right after I made [my 27th] move, Petrosian offered a draw. I was ready to accept, but Tal happened to be standing there at that instant, hovering anxiously, since a drawn result would practically clinch first place for him. So I refused -- not because I thought White has anything in the position, but because I didn't want to give Tal the satisfaction.' Petrosian spurned the move leading to an obvious draw and played another move, assuming that White had nothing better than to play for the diagrammed position. Fischer avoided the line leading to the diagram, played a less obvious move, and went on to win the game.

Why is the position a bind? Black, who is a Pawn down, just moves the Knight back and forth on squares where it is not attacked by the Bishop. All of the Black Pawns except one are on dark squares, where they can't be attacked by the Bishop, and Black can advance the e-Pawn to a dark square if necessary.

The White King can only get into the game via the Kingside. As soon as it moves to the KIngside, the Black King will play Kd4-c3-b2, capturing the Queenside Pawns and winning the game easily. Since Black is not forced to play actively, and White cannot play actively, neither player can make progress. The game will eventually be drawn by triple repetition or the 50 move rule.

The Bled 1961 tournament was one of the greatest tournaments of all time. Even though Fischer won the game against Petrosian in the penultimate round, he drew in the last round. Tal won the event a full point ahead of Fischer.

Restraining a wall of Pawns

The diagrammed position is from a note to Pilnik - Fischer, Mar del Plata 1959 (No.4). The game began 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6, reaching the Najdorf Variation of the Sicilian Defense, in which Fischer was a specialist. The game continued 6.Be2 e5 7.Nb3 Be7 8.O-O, where Fischer noted that '8.Bg5 Nbd7? 9.a4! [reaching the diagram] gives a powerful bind'.

Although Fischer didn't mention it in his notes to the Pilnik game, the diagrammed position was reached in the game Fischer - Olafsson, Reykjavik 1960, a small 5-player round robin tournament with Fischer and four Icelanders. The game against Olafsson continued 9...O-O 10.O-O h6 11.Bh4 b6 12.Bc4 Bb7 13.Qe2 Qc7 14.Rfd1 Rfc8 15.Nd2, when Black continued 15...g5, seeking active play.

Other players have tried following Olafsson's idea. Black has a type of Hedgehog formation -- with Pawns on a6, b6, and d6 -- where the e-Pawn is on e5 instead of e6. This makes the freeing move ...d5 difficult to achieve.

The bind doesn't always

Our final position is from Lombardy - Fischer, US Championship 1960 (no.25). Fischer titled the game 'When the Maroczy didn't bind'. The opening moves were 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.f3.

Of the unorthodox move 5.f3 Fischer wrote, 'A passive, non-developing move which leads to nothing. White wants to gain control of d5, establishing a Maroczy bind with c4, Nc3, etc. But after going to all that trouble he can't prevent ...d5 after all.' The game continued 5...Nc6 6.c4 e6 7.Nc3 Be7 8.Be3 O-O 9.Nc2 d5!?. Here he commented, 'Reckoning that the loss of a Pawn is compensated for by superior development. 9...Re8 is sound but passive.'

Times change and chess changes with the times. Nowadays the move 5.f3 is played frequently by players at grandmaster level. Black often continues 5...e5 instead of Fischer's 5...Nc6, but 5...Nc6 6.c4 is also seen often, when the move 6...Qb6 is more fashionable than Fischer's 6...e6.

Openings are subject to shifts in fashion, but positional principles remain tried and true. The bind will always be a weapon in the arsenal of the astute chess player.

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