When Chess Legends Play Against Their Own Openings

When Chess Legends Play Against Their Own Openings

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There are many openings in chess that were named after chess players who invented or make them popular.

But what happens when such a chess player is forced to play against his own opening? How does it feel to fight your own brainchild?

It is difficult for me to say since I don't have any opening named after me. However such games somehow remind me of a bitter divorce where people who swore to live "till death do they part" do everything they can to harm each other.  

Or if you prefer the classical literature, it is exactly as Taras Bulba put it: "I gave you life. It is on me to take it away!"


When we study such games we can expect some opening revelations because who knows how to refute an opening better than the inventor himself? Indeed, in their World Championship match the challenger GM Boris Spassky made a mistake playing the system his opponent Tigran Petrosian really liked to play for White. As GM Bronstein correctly noticed: "Boris invited Tigran to play in the yard of the house where the latter grew up!" The result was a pretty and very convincing win by the World Champion:

So, let's take a look at the games where chess players played against their own openings!

Najdorf vs Najdorf

The Najdorf Sicilian is one of the most popular openings in chess. What did GM Najdorf himself consider the best weapon against it?

The 6.f4 line is not as popular today as it was about 30 years ago, yet it is still a very dangerous system vs. the Najdorf variation.

Alekhine vs. Alekhine

In the first game White grabs the initiative from the very first move and Black essentially didn't get out of the opening:

In the next game Alekhine beats his formidable opponent with his signature combination. Can you spot it?

Petrov vs. Petrov

The following two games represent the earliest case of a faulty opening preparation. Black was completely crushed in the next game:

Seven years later Carl Jaenisch (who was one of the strongest players of his time and had a line in the Ruy Lopez named after him) decided to improve Black's play on move 20! Unfortunately for him, the novelty didn't really improve Black's position...

Taimanov vs. Taimanov

The 6.g3 system chosen by GM Taimanov against his own system is one of the most solid systems for White. I played it myself many times.  The combination executed in the game is both beautiful and very efficient!

Nimzowitsch vs. Nimzowitsch

Surprisingly, Aron Nimzowitsch had a horrendous record playing against his own brainchild. We can try to write off the following game because one of the famous Marshall's swindles that decided the game had nothing to do with the opening:

But we have absolutely no excuse for the next game:

The beautiful concept of blockade typical for this opening, followed by a very powerful attack couldn't be executed better even by Nimzowitsch himself!

To me this last game is a chess version of the movie Kramer vs. Kramer. The whole game Aron Nimzowitsch is involved in a deadly fight against his own opening. At the end the opening wins and wiping tears asks its own creator "How do I look?" and the grandmaster answers "you look terrific!"

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