The Evolution of Bobby Fischer's Opening Repertoire

Bobby Fischer's opening repertoire can be divided into three general periods:

Early years: 1955 through 1962
(Games 1 through 409).

Middle years: 1964 through 1969
(Games 410 through 574).

The Road to the World Championship years: 1970 through 1972
(Games 575 through 690).

After each of the first two periods, Bobby took time off, only to return to competition a much stronger player as was evidenced by the modifications to his opening repertoire. A sampling of games is given at the end of most listings. For a complete look, however, be sure to use the main index. [Game numbers are bold and given in brackets]

Early years: 1955-1962
(Games 1-409)

Fischer as White

From the beginning of his career, Fischer has been a devotee of 1.e4

vs. Alekhine's Defense
The only examples of this defense in this period show Bobby playing the solid 5.ed6 variation, avoiding possible surprises against the Four pawn's attack. [295, 401]

vs. the Caro Kann Defense
During this period Fischer played the Two Knights variation almost exclusively. (1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Nf3) He doggedly used this setup, which generally results in a closed center and long maneuvering games. It can be viewed as a young player's method of having one system to always be played against a particular defense. Bobby can be seen playing this variation most effectively against Addison (U.S. Open Cleveland, 1957). In 1960, Bobby switched to the sharper Panov attack (1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.ed5 cd5 4.c4). Few players challenged Fischer in this line due to his decisive victory over Euwe at the Leipzig Olympiad, 1960. In 1961 he tried out the Classical 3.Nc3 against Petrosian at Bled, winning the game without a clear edge in the opening. [65, 85, 142, 186, 197, 202, 203, 211, 217, 219, 221, 226, 250, 253, 286]

vs. the French Defense
When faced with the French Defense, Fischer almost invariably invited the Winawer with 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3. After the further moves 3...Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bc3 6.bc3, we arrive at the theoretically crucial position. [112, 171, 257, 284, 291, 298, 353, 383, 399]

vs. Petroff's Defense
There were but two encounters against the Petroff Defense during this period: vs. Bisguier (U.S. Championship, 1959), and German (Stockholm Interzonal). Bobby played 3.Ne5 vs. Bisguier and 3.d4 vs. German, winning both games. [224, 343]

vs. the Pirc Defense
Fischer nearly always used the direct Austrian Attack (characterized by 4.f4) or the Byrne system (4.Bg5). [72, 116, 228, 326, 358]

Four Knights Game
This opening (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6) occurred only one time during this period. Bobby scraped a draw with this early experiment in the U.S. Junior Championship, 1955, vs. Ames. [4]

King's Indian Attack
Bobby once said of the King's Indian Attack, "This used to be my favorite." Indeed, there are numerous examples throughout his career of his using this opening. The opening is characterized by the White setup 1.Nf3 2.g3 3.Bg2 4.d3 5.O-O and 6.e4. Bobby often played this formation against the Caro Kann, French defense and occasionally even the Sicilian (see main index for game numbers).

Ruy Lopez
The Ruy Lopez has been a potent weapon for Bobby throughout his entire career. Strategic play across the board suited Bobby's talents from the start. During this early period, Fischer was so proficient in the main lines that many of his opponents chose irregular setups when defending the Ruy (see main index for game numbers).

vs. the Sicilian
This early period is marked by a search for attacking formations against all of the main lines of the Sicilian. It was during this period that Bobby finally settled on the 6.Bc4 Sozin-like attacking system for White. Once this system jelled, Bobby was prepared for virtually all Black Open Sicilian variations, and began to introduce theoretical novelties which popularized the system (see main index for game numbers).

Fischer as Black

vs. Queenside openings (1.d4, 1.c4, etc.)

King's Indian Defense
This modern, active defense found a place in Fischer's repertoire when he was but 12 years old at the 1955 U.S. Junior Championship. During this period Bobby played the King's Indian almost exclusively against non-1.e4 openings. The King's Indian is characterized by flexible piece play and pawn formations which allowed Bobby to play for a win and create dynamically unbalanced positions straight from the opening (see main index for game numbers).

Grunfeld Defense
Fischer's Grunfeld defenses from this period are among his most famous games, including the "Game of the Century" vs. D. Byrne, and Botvinnik at the Varna Olympiad. [35, 270, 390, 397, 402, 406]

Queen's Gambit
Fischer occasionally adopted this solid, but basically passive line in order to avoid prepared variations against his usual hypermodern defenses. In these games he demonstrated that he was very capable of playing a solid, classical type of game. [133, 218, 242, 245, 306, 308, 321, 327, 331, 346, 352, 373, 377, 380, 381]

vs. 1.e4
The story of Fischer's adoption of the Sicilian Defense is essentially a study in the Najdorf variation, for this has been virtually the only variation of the Sicilian he has ever played. Against 6.f4 (after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cd4 4.Nd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6), he usually played 6...e5 followed by an early ...b5. Against 6.Be2 he played 6...e5 again with the idea of early Queenside play which is so thematic in the Sicilian. Against 6.g3, 6...e5 was still the prescription. Finally, against the currently popular 6.Bg5 he played an early ...h6 followed by ...g5 (the Goteberg variation), which leads to extremely complicated tactical play (see main index for game numbers).

Middle years: 1963-1969
(Games 410-574)

Fischer as White

vs. Alekhine's Defense
Bobby encountered Alekhine's Defense only once in this period, drawing with Ciocaltea at the Capablanca Memorial, 1965. [437]

vs. the Caro Kann Defense
Fischer continued with the Two Knights variation, but also tried the Panov attack and the Exchange variation. [526, 550, 552, 559, 564]

vs. the French Defense
During this period, Fischer had uneven results against the French defense. He maintained his allegiance to 3.Nc3 inviting the Winawer variation, but many of his opponents chose less critical variations like the MacCutcheon and Burn variations. [414, 445, 464, 497, 504, 542]

vs. the Pirc Defense
During this period Fischer played only the Austrian attack, winning all six games. [420, 433, 453, 456, 556, 562]

Ruy Lopez
Fischer began to face the world's strongest players with the Ruy Lopez, scoring well against all defenses. His opponents continued to avoid the long, closed variations by trying new move orders and the Marshall Attack (see main index for game numbers).

vs. the Two Knights Defense
The only examples of the Two Knights in this period of Fischer's career are his games against Bisguier and Radoicic, both from the 1963 New York State Open. Fischer won both games while reviving an old Steinitz line characterized by 9.Nh3. [422, 423]

vs. the Sicilian Defense
Against the ever-popular Sicilian, Fischer has been challenged by a variety of Black systems. Against the Schevenigen and Najdorf lines he often used his pet 6.Bc4, scoring many brilliant victories. Against the Dragon he invariably played the sharp Yugoslav Attack, which is without doubt the most serious attempt to maintain the initiative (see main index for game numbers).

Fischer as Black

vs. Queenside openings

vs. the English
Against the English Bobby mixed his reliable King's Indian formation with systems employing an early ...c5. [428, 434, 452, 465, 498, 505, 507, 528, 545, 565, 569, 574]

King's Indian Defense
The King's Indian remained Fischer's main weapon against all non 1.e4 openings, and he demonstrates greater knowledge of move orders and often takes over the initiative early in the game (see main index for game numbers).

Grunfeld Defense
Fischer increased the number of Grunfelds he played, adopting this alternative to his normal King's Indian. Bobby maintains that Black obtains excellent play against White's center in the Exchange variation, while other, less sharp lines give Black no problems. [418, 419, 426, 442, 473, 521]

Nimzo-Indian Defense
Fischer occasionally played the Nimzo-Indian, especially when facing a King's Indian specialist. One of his favorite setups involved the "extended" fianchetto of the Queen Bishop to a6. [455, 457, 461, 463, 476]

Queen's Gambit
Although Fischer was famous now for his play of the hypermodern defenses, he also played two Queen's gambits as Black, winning both games. [417,573]

vs. 1.e4
During this period Fischer continued to play the Najdorf variation of the Sicilian Defense almost exclusively. Against the most popular 6.Bg5 variation he played both the solid ...Be7 and the ultra-sharp ...Qb6 poisoned pawn variation. [439, 514, 520, 543, 551, 557, 567]

On the Road to the World Championship: 1970-1972
(Games 575 - 690)

Fischer as White

vs. the Caro Kann Defense
During this period Bobby all but abandoned the Two Knights variation and went back to his early favorite, the King's Indian Attack with 2.d3. Also of interest is his adoption of the ancient line 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.ed5 cd5 4.Bd3 vs. Persian [575] in the USSR vs. the rest of World match. Fischer's 11.a4! was an important improvement in this opening. [575, 577, 582, 617, 624, 626]

vs. the French Defense
Bobby stayed with 3.Nc3, still inviting the Winawer. He successfully experimented with 4.a3 vs. Uhlmann at Zagreb, 1970, but lost against Kovacevic with this move later in the same tournament. [584, 586, 599, 616, 655, 663, 669]

vs. Petroff's Defense
Fischer essayed the classical 3.Ne5 twice in this period, beating Gheorghiu and drawing with Petrosian. [598, 665]

vs. the Pirc Defense
Bobby continued with the Austrian Attack, but adds a new twist with an early h3, g4 Kingside expansion, defeating Udovic with this plan. [590, 686]

vs. the Sicilian Defense
Fischer stayed with the Yugoslav Attack vs. the Dragon and the Sozin against other main systems, but several times against the popular Taimanov move order (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cd4 4.Nd4 e6) he chose the solid 5.Nb5. [592, 650, 654, 661]

Ruy Lopez
Bobby continued to score well against all defenses to the Ruy Lopez, and broadened his arsenal with the Exchange variation, 4.Bc6 (see main index for game numbers).

Fischer as White not playing 1.e4
Fischer broadened his repertoire during this period, playing an occasional English, (1.c4), Nimzowitsch/Larsen Attack (1.b3), and Queen's Gambit, usually by transposition from the English. [596, 629, 636, 646, 648, 675, 677, 681, 683]

Fischer as Black

vs. 1.e4

Alekhine's Defense
Fischer adopted Alekhine's Defense six times during this period (3 wins, 3 draws) usually fianchettoing his King Bishop in order to strike at White's center. [593, 639, 641, 645, 682, 688]

Sicilian Defense
Throughout Fischer's mature period he remained faithful to his beloved Najdorf variation, expanding on known theory with regularity. Against the closed Sicilian he introduced the theoretical idea ...Bg4 followed by the capture of White's Nf3, thus eliminating one of White's strongest attacking pieces (see main index for game numbers).

vs. the Queen pawn openings

vs. the English
Bobby continued with the flexible King's Indian Defense and occasionally tried the symmetrical variation (...c5) while still fianchettoing the King Bishop. [576, 600, 606, 611, 627, 631, 633]

Benoni
Fischer added to his King's Indian repertoire the Modem Benoni (2 ...c5),playing very aggressively and scoring well against his unsuspecting opponents.[635, 643, 647, 672]

Grunfeld Defense
Fischer saved this defense for top-level encounters. The Grunfeld's tendency to lead to a build up of increasingly greater tension, with Black firing a direct volley at White's center, creates the preconditions for decisive chess which so admirably suits Fischer's uncompromising style. [578, 608, 621, 637, 653, 662]

King's Indian Defense
Always Fischer's first string against the 1.d4 systems, he innovated in this period with the double fianchetto, as well as 5...c5 against the Samisch attack (see main index for game numbers).

Nimzo-Indian Defense
Bobby played this opening successfully on the road to the World Championship as well as in his match with Spassky. [610, 625, 670]

vs. the Queen's Gambit
Fischer showed flexibility when playing against King's Indian specialists and adds the Semi-Tarrasch to his ever-widening repertoire. [602, 678]

Games referred in this page will be added soon -- they are not indexed in the PGN file found on the main page or are not included period. They will be in a separate PGN file, hopefully more complete than the existing database! :-)


facts  ~  books  ~  articles  ~  results  ~  ECO index  ~  endgames  ~  opponents  ~  repertoire
gallery  ~  openings  ~  notable 100 games  ~  glossary  ~  flash movie  ~  links  ~  feedback  ~  updates