Bobby Fischer's openings in the 1972 World Chess Championship are said to have taken Spassky completely by surprise:

Fischer played always e4 as his opening move, in football terms he had a very limited playbook, he always played the same opening moves, and (in 1972 WCC) he defied the Russians (and the world) to beat him. From the age of 12 - 29, he played exactly the same opening moves.

In the 1972 World Chess Championship, how many new openings did Fischer use against Spassky, and across how many games did he use them?

  • The source you quote doesn't seems very knowledgeable. Although Fischer's repertoire might have been conservative, "From the age of 12 - 29, he played exactly the same opening moves." is plain wrong (and absurd). With White he evolved e.g. from exchange Ruy Lopez to closed Ruy Lopez, while also using the totally different King's Indian attack. With Black against 1.d4, he used Grunfeld, King's Indian and Nimzo-Indian openings.
    – Evargalo
    Commented Oct 20, 2020 at 14:37
  • @Evargalo robinson spent time with Fischer during his prep for the WCC, so he should know, but perhaps he over simplified somewhat. How does Fischer’s repertoire compare to other gm’s would be interesting to know
    – stevec
    Commented Oct 20, 2020 at 14:43

1 Answer 1


Fischer kept changing the openings quite a bit:

  • Game 3 (black) he played a Benoni (slight surprise).
  • Game 6 (white) he played c4 for the third time in a serious game (transposed to -QGD).
  • Game 8 (white) he played c4 again and it was a proper English
  • Game 9 (black) Queens Gambit Declined - Semi Tarrasch (slight surprise)
  • Game 10 (white) he played c4 again (transposed to QGD Orthodox)
  • Game 13 (black) he played Alekhine's defense.
  • Game 14 (white) he played c4 (QGD)
  • Game 17 (black) he played the Pirc Defense for the first time in his career
  • Game 19 (black) he played Alekhine's defense again
  • Game 21 (black) he played a line of the Sicilian (Taimanov) that was new to him.

You can check the list of opening here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Chess_Championship_1972

And here are the list of Fischer's most played openings: https://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessplayer?pid=19233

  • Awesome answer. Do you know how many times he played each opening in his pst games? The podcast says he pulled off sport’s greatest ever long con, meaning he fooled Spassky into a false sense that he’d play 1. e4 every game. Had he played those other openings much before?
    – stevec
    Commented Oct 19, 2020 at 22:47
  • he didn't play much after he won the match in 1972. He disappeared from chess until 1992 when he played another match with Spassky. My recollection was that the openings on that match were more typical of Fischer repertoire but looking at wikipedia seems like he also experimented in that match (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fischer%E2%80%93Spassky_(1992_match)) with the Dragon, Rossolimo, Catalan.
    – krolth
    Commented Oct 20, 2020 at 2:09

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