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The first instance of this opening is in an 1855 game by Moheschunder Bannerjee, an Indian player who had transitioned from Indian chess rules, playing black against John Cochrane in Calcutta, in May 1855: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.e3 Bg7 5.Nf3 0-0 6.cxd5 Nxd5 7.Be2 Nxc3 8.bxc3 c5 9.0-0 cxd4 10.cxd4 Nc6 11.Bb2 Bg4 12.Rc1 Rc8 13.Ba3 Qa5 14.Qb3 Rfe8 15.Rc5 Qb6 16.Rb5 Qd8 17.Ng5 Bxe2 18.Nxf7 Na5 and White mates in three (19.Nh6+ double check Kh8 20.Qg8+ Rxg8 21.Nf7#).. Cochrane published a book reporting his games with Moheshchunder and other Indians in 1864.
It gained popularity however, after Ernst Grünfeld introduced it into international play at Vienna 1922, where, in his first game with the defense, he defeated future world champion Alexander Alekhine. Interestingly, Grünfeld usually employed a very classical style. The defence was later adopted by a number of prominent players, includingVasily Smyslov, Viktor Korchnoi and Bobby Fischer. Garry Kasparov often used the defence, including in his World Championship matches against Anatoly Karpov in 1986, 1987 and 1990, and Vladimir Kramnik in 2000. Currently active notable players who employ the opening include Loek Van Wely, Peter Svidler, Peter Leko, Vishwanathan Anand and Luke McShane. Anand employed it twice in the World Chess Championship 2010.
The Game of the Century between Donald Byrne and 13-year old Bobby Fischer on October 17, 1956, featured this opening, although arriving in the Grünfeld via atransposition of moves (using 1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.d4 O-O 5.Bf4 d5).
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