Bobby Fischer’s 5 Favorite Chess Openings

bobby fischers

Bobby Fischer chose chess openings that gave him the best chance to play for a win, with either color.

He believed there was no need to settle for mere equality in the opening. Even if you were playing with the black pieces.

This led him to choose openings of a dynamic, counter-attacking nature where both sides have chances to win.

Bobby Fischer’s opening moves were played with a clarity of purpose – to win. Even when he was playing black.

Follow in the footsteps of Bobby Fischer and you will find yourself playing an opening repertoire that leads to exciting, dynamic chess positions.

Read on to learn about 5 of Bobby Fischer’s best chess openings.

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

Bobby Fischer Chess Openings with White

Ruy Lopez Exchange Variation

Despite its reputation for being a drawish opening, Fischer turned the Ruy Lopez Exchange variation into a dangerous weapon!

The position arises after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Bxc6 dxc6 5.O-O.

ruy lopez exchange variation starting position
Ruy Lopez Exchange Variation starting position

Like the King’s Indian Attack, white has a very clear-cut idea in mind. This strategy is a simple yet highly effective one.

White intends to exchange as many pieces as he can and enter a winning endgame

bobby fischer 1972
Bobby Fischer 1972

The winning factor in this endgame is that white can create a passed pawn on the kingside. Black’s queenside majority is firmly blocked by white’s pawns. 

One critical point to keep in mind when playing the white position is why black can’t create a passed pawn. Black can’t create one because of the symmetrical pawns on the queenside.

This is important because white will sometimes allow black to play …Bg4 and …Bxf3. White can still create a passed pawn thanks to the asymmetrical pawn structure on the kingside.

Sacrificing the d-Pawn

Another option for white is to sacrifice the d-pawn and play Qxf3 instead of gxf3. Because white has already castled after …Qxd4 white plays Rd1 and prevents black from castling queenside.

This keeps the black king stuck in the center longer and allows white to develop with tempo by attacking the queen.

The position might appear simple on the surface, but don’t underestimate how challenging these challenges are for black.

Despite his almost perfect record against the move, many of Fischer’s opponents played …f6. The idea is to develop the queenside pieces rapidly and castle queenside. 

all that matters on the chessboard is good moves a quote of Bobby Fischer

If white can stop black from castling queenside with Rd1 then it will take black some time to untangle and develop on the kingside.

Set aside the computer assessment for a moment. Ask yourself, “How would I feel knowing every exchange brings me closer to a lost endgame?”

In this game, Fischer chose to trade one advantage for another. Showing there’s more than one way to win with the Ruy Lopez Exchange Variation.

Robert James Fischer – Lajos Portisch, Havana Cuba, 1966, 1-0

King’s Indian Attack

Bobby Fischer enjoyed playing the King’s Indian Defense. Therefore, it is hardly surprising he played the King’s Indian Attack.

The King’s Indian Attack is a universal system you can use against numerous black defenses.

Here is GM Damian Lemos demonstrating how effective it is against the French Defense.

One of its main advantages is it cuts down the opening theory you must learn.

When you play the King’s Indian Attack, there is little black can do to interfere with your first several moves. 

In light of this, you can reach a position you are comfortable in, a chess position where you know the typical plans and the best squares to place your pieces on. 

If you choose to play the King’s Indian Attack, consider adopting the King’s Indian Defense as well.

White will usually place his pawns on e4 and d3. The e4 pawn often advances to e5.

The knights get developed to d2 and f3, and the bishop on g2.

Here is a typical position in the King’s Indian Attack.

Typical development in the king's indian attack
Typical development for white in the King’s Indian Attack

Although it is a universal system, the King’s Indian Attack is particularly effective against asymmetrical chess openings like the French Defense, Sicilian Defense, and Caro-Kann Defense.

In the King’s Indian Attack, the pawn advance e5 means white does best to focus his attack on the kingside. Unless white can see a way to gain a clear advantage, it is best to avoid exchanging queens.

Queen exchanges will make black’s defensive task much simpler.

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Take a look at this model game by Fischer against the French Defense.

Robert James Fischer – Lhamsuren Myagmarsuren, Sousse Tunisia, 1967, 1-0

In this free video, GM Damian Lemos talks about general ideas in the King’s Indian Attack.

Bobby Fischer Openings with Black

Sicilian Najdorf

The Sicilian Najdorf was not only a favorite of Bobby Fischer’s but was played by the legendary Garry Kasparov too. 

It is hardly surprising this opening is popular if two of the greatest chess players of all time used it.

This chess opening begins with the moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6

sicilian najdorf was a favorite bobby fischer opening with the black pieces.
Sicilian Najdorf starting position

What appeals to many players is that white cannot force the play into quiet positions where a draw is almost certain. White can do this against the Caro-Kann Defense, for example.

The move 5…a6 is a good waiting move that allows black more time before making a commitment in the center. Chasing the knight from d4 with 5…e5 doesn’t work because of 6.Bb5 check.

This check is particularly annoying since black doesn’t have a good way of blocking it. 6…Bd7 allows white to exchange bishops and post a knight on f5.

Blocking the check with the knight (6…Nbd7) allows white to play 7.Nf5.

In the Sicilian Defense, black will usually need to play …a6 at some point. Black’s light-squared bishop can prove very powerful on b7, and …a6 also supports …b5, which gains space on the queenside.

Since this move prevents the annoying Bb5 check, keeps a knight from harassing the queen on c7, and aids black’s queenside expansion, it makes sense to play it early.

Holding back on …e5 is wise because white is not obligated to develop the bishop on e2. White can play aggressively with Bc4 when Black can play the solid …e6.

The move …e6 is also a good choice against Bg5.

In the following game, Fischer obtained a winning advantage with the black pieces as early as move 14!

Herbert Goldhamer – Robert James Fischer, Washington, 1956, 0-1

King’s Indian Defense

Bobby Fischer once credited the turning point of his career to the realization that Black should play for a win instead of just aiming for equality. 

There can be little doubt this explains his fondness for the King’s Indian Defense.

If you are happy with mere equality, then a safer option is undoubtedly the Queen’s Gambit Declined.

When you play any of the Bobby Fischer openings be prepared for dynamic positions with lots of piece play.

the turning point in my career came with the realization that black should play to win instead of just steering for equality a Bobby Fischer quote

The King’s Indian Defense starts with the moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6

starting position king's indian defense
Starting Position King’s Indian Defense

Since Black allows white to establish a classic center in the King’s Indian Defense, it is undeniable that Black is taking a risk. 

However, the King’s Indian Defense has proven to be a sound system for Black since the 1940s. The two most well-known champions of this defense were David Bronstein and Isaac Boleslavsky. 

Interestingly there is a connection between the Sicilian Najdorf and the King’s Indian Defense, in the form of Argentinian grandmaster Miguel Najdorf. 

Along with Gligoric, he played an important role in developing the King’s Indian Defense.

The King’s Indian Defense is very flexible and can be used against many different openings. In this game Fischer yet again got a decisive advantage by move 14!

Julio Saadi – Robert James Fischer, Mar del Plata Argentina, 1960, 0-1

Strategies for Black in the King’s Indian Defense

In general black plans to attack the kingside while white will seek to expand on the queenside. This isn’t always the case.

Very sharp play arises in the Samisch Variation when the players castle on opposite sides. White makes his intentions abundantly clear with the move 5.f3.

When playing a counter-attacking opening like the King’s Indian Defense, it is crucial to know both your attacking and defensive resources

Becoming familiar with standard positions within the opening will allow you to find the right strategies and help you defend against white’s most dangerous tactics.

The good news is the King’s Indian Defense hasn’t been refuted. This means all the resources black needs are there for you to uncover.

The Grunfeld Defense Chess Opening

This is another defense that requires courageous play.

Like the other Bobby Fischer chess openings, the Grunfeld Defense is a dynamic defense against 1.d4.

The starting moves of this counter-attacking defense are 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5

grunfeld defense
Grunfeld Defense

The opening is named after the Austrian chess master Ernst Grunfeld. He introduced it to the chess world back in the 1920s.  

Despite the openness to a new way of approaching chess, it took a while before the Grunfeld Defense became regularly employed.

Once again, it was Mikhail Botvinnik who championed the opening. His Soviet contemporary and world champion challenger, Vasily Smyslov, also began playing the Grunfeld Defense.

When the two of them used it in their world championship games, the Grunfeld finally found acceptance as a sound opening.

The formation of the strong Hungarian and Czechoslovak schools at the end of the 1960s contributed a lot to the further development of the Grunfeld Defense.

In such a sharp opening as the Grunfeld Defense, there is no getting around learning opening theory. The fluid structures lend themselves to tactics and piece play. 

Of course, it is still important to take time to learn the strategic ideas of the Grunfeld Defense along with the tactics.

This exciting opening requires you to invest time and effort into learning both the theory and tactics. In return, you get to enjoy many exciting chess games and have lots of fun!

Here is a game by Bobby Fischer to show you how devastating the Grunfeld Defense can be.

Arinbjorn Gudmundsson – Robert James Fischer, Reykjavik, 1960, 0-1

Final Thoughts on Bobby Fischer’s Openings

The chess openings that Bobby Fischer chose as black require you to know a fair amount of opening theory. This will always be true of sharp, dynamic openings.

Fortunately and maybe even surprisingly, this is balanced by Fischer’s choices with the white pieces. 

Following in Fischer’s footsteps by playing the King’s Indian Attack and Ruy Lopez Exchange Variation will reduce your opening theory considerably. 

The Bobby Fischer opening repertoire was not a very extensive one. Follow his example and play a select few openings extremely well.

These five favorite openings of Bobby Fischer are within reach of the average club player. 

They will serve you well as your progress and play stronger chess players. This means investing time in learning opening theory now will save time in the long-run.

Act now and get 50% off instantly! Learn how to play The King’s Indian Attack with clear instruction into the main strategies and plans for white from Grandmaster Damian Lemos! Everything you need to know to play one of Bobby Fischer’s favorite chess openings with white for only $29.95!

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