The Opening That Didn't Like Bobby Fischer

The Opening That Didn't Like Bobby Fischer

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Chess players are always looking for new openings.

But picking an opening isn’t easy since there are so many to choose. Sometimes the choice is made by using the openings of your favorite chess hero. And other times the opening choice is based on your desire to attack, attack, and attack again. And sometimes you look at an opening, say to yourself, “wow, that’s really cool!” and you and that opening fall in love with each other.

Though you are singing love songs to your opening, perhaps the opening has decided that you’re not compatible. Arguments rise up, boring draws tell you that the honeymoon is over, humiliating defeats are frequent, and eventually you demand a divorce.

This has happened to me many times. Perhaps the worst “divorce” was the Grunfeld Defense. When I saw my first Grunfeld as a low-rated teen, I was amazed. So beautiful, and so powerful. However, I was too weak to fully understand it, so I looked at it from afar. When I was a professional player I remembered that sweet, innocent puppy love and I decided to go all-in — I had to play it!

And, I lost, and lost, and lost. Okay, I also won some. But somehow it just didn’t work for me. The Grunfeld Defense was still beautiful, and it was completely sound, but for reasons I never fully fathomed, I was never comfortable with it.

This isn’t unusual, and what’s a perfect fit for one player is going to be a disaster for another. A great example is Bobby Fischer. Though he was a King’s Indian aficionado, he also had a crush on the Grunfeld.

Ignoring his blitz games, here are Fischer’s tournament Grunfeld games:


Donald Byrne was a strong player, but wasn't quite at the same level as his grandmaster brother. In this game Fischer created a pure work of chess art. In fact, it's one of the most famous games of all time.

White had no chance at all and Fischer made short work of his opponent.

Another enjoyable wipeout.

Fischer does everything possible to create winning chances, but the game was still heading for a draw until a couple of White blunders gave Bobby the full point.

Fischer tried to light some fires, but the game was dull from beginning to end.


Fischer had a 4.5-0.5 score against these players. However, since he was stronger than his opponents, he would probably have done just as well with any other respectable opening.


Once again, Fischer tried to make things happen but it was equal all the way through.

Evans tried to get the initiative by sacrificing a pawn.

Trade, trade, and trade some more = draw.

A masterpiece!

As usual, Fischer tries to start a fight, and as usual, the game ends in a draw.


For those that haven’t looked at Geller’s games, you should! He was a chess powerhouse. In fact, he pretty much owned Fischer in their battles.

Geller via Wikipedia. 

However, in 1970 Fischer was in his prime while Geller’s best days had passed. In this rather boring game, Bobby wore his opponent down. This led to a last-second blunder on move 71, which should have been a draw if White had played the correct (and obvious) move.

Poor Taimanov had lost the first four games in this match (the first in a series of matches which would determine who would challenge Spassky for the world championship), which meant that his confidence was being completely shredded. Nonetheless, this game (the fifth in the match) was a good fight and at the end it was clear that a draw would be the result.

Then the unbelievable 46.Rf6?? happened, Fischer gobbled up White’s rook, and resignation followed. Fischer won the last game too, beating the extremely strong Taimanov 6-0. Incredibly, Fischer’s next match, with Bent Larsen, had the same insane 6-0 result, and the chess world couldn’t believe what it was witnessing.



Fischer had four draws and three wins against this group. His win over Byrne was magnificent. But his other two wins should have been draws, with both Geller and Taimanov making a losing blunder in an easily drawn position. That means that the score should have been six draws and one win.


Fischer walks into Botvinnik’s “deep” preparation, Fischer refutes it, Fischer gets a clear advantage, and...draw.

Fischer’s opening was fine, but Spassky simply outplayed him and won a nice game.

Bobby desperately wanted revenge for that loss in the Piatigorsky Cup. And what could be better than to play the same opening! This time Fischer’s Grunfeld was even a bigger success than his previous battle against Spassky, but Fischer ruined his lovely position by making one error after another, then total collapse, and Boris walked away the victor.

A good fight, and another draw.

After winning his first two matches by the scores of 6-0 and 6-0, nobody knew what would happen when Fischer faced Petrosian in their match. When Bobby won the first game, it seemed that Fischer was no longer human. However, reality (and Fischer’s bad cold) reared its ugly head and Fischer was squashed in the second game.

Three draws followed, the cold vanished, and Bobby swept away the former world champion by winning the last four games in a row!


Fischer had a dismal two draws and three losses!

The defeat against Petrosian was the last time Fischer played the Grunfeld Defense. His love for the Grunfeld had faded away, and Fischer made it official when he took the title from Spassky without playing even one Grunfeld.

When they had their rematch in 1992, Fischer pretty much stuck with the Queen’s Gambit Accepted (1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4) and the King’s Indian (this was true love, and he remained with the KID from the beginning of his career to the end).

As you can see, it’s easy to fall hook, line, and sinker for an opening. And if you do, by all means play it. But if you find that love and success are not always the same, you might want to look for an opening that is more suitable for your skill set.

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