Tigran Petrosian

The game is presented here in compact algebraic notation. If you do not know this notation scheme, then you should visit the chess notation link from the Beginner's Chess Page.

A Brief Biography

Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian was born in T'bilisi, capital of the former Soviet republic of Georgia, on June 17, 1929, and died in Moscow on August 13, 1984. He earned his Grandmaster title by finishing in 5th place in the 1953 Zurich Candidates tournament (the same one won by Vasily Smyslov). Petrosian finally won the right to challenge Mikhail Botvinnik for the 1963 World Championship match, and won by a score of 12-1/2 to 9-1/2. This time there was no provision in the rules for a return match, so Botvinnik retired from world championship competition, leaving Petrosian to hold the title unmolested for a full 3-year cycle.

Petrosian has an undeserved reputation amongst chessplayers for being a relatively weak World Champion. Yet Petrosian remains the only player to pass through both the interzonal tournament and the candidates competition, without the loss of even one single game (neither Fischer nor Kasparov did that; Fischer lost to Larsen in the Interzonal, and lost a game to Petrosian in their candidates match; Kasparov lost a game to Belyavsky, and one to Korchnoi, in their candidates matches). Petrosian also became the first player since Alekhine to win a match in defence of the World Champion's title, by beating Boris Spassky in 1966 by the score 12-1/2 to 11-1/2. The previous win by a champion defending is title was Alexander Alekhine's victory over Effim Bogoljubov in 1934!

Petrosian finally lost his title when Boris Spassky came after it again in 1969. This time Spassky won by a score of 12-1/2 to 10-1/2. Although Petrosian never played another World Title match, he was a regular in the candidates competition until shortly before his death. Famous for his nichevo attack, Petrosian was an exceptionally difficult man to beat; he probably lost fewer games during his prime than any of the world champions since Capablanca (an assertion which I have not attempted to verify as yet), and won by the most inscrutable of means.

My Game with Petrosian

Petrosian came to the Monterey Park Chess Club on April 15, 1978 for a simultaneous exhibition. He played about 20 or 25 games. He was in a jovial mood, very talkative, and only too happy to autograph anything pushed in front of him. I saw a number of people offer him blank score sheets, which he dutifully autographed; he autographed everything in English, whereas both Smyslov and Gaprindashvili had autographed their score sheets in cyrillic script. The game is quite interesting, and played in an unexpected style.

White - Tigran Petrosian
Black - Tim Thompson
Simultaneous Exhibition, April 15, 1978
At the Monterey Park Chess Club

1.d4,Nf6; 2.c4,g6; 3.Nc3,Bg7; 4.e4,d6; 5.f3
Petrosian plays the Samisch Variation against the King's Indian Defence.
5... O-O; 6.Be3,e5; 7.Nge2,Nc6; 8.Qd2
My intention was to provoke the standard 8.d5,Ne7 but Petrosian chooses not to commit is center pawns, and instead puts together a rapid kingside attack. Petrosian's signature style is a very slow, positional approach. His agressiveness here surprised me. But in his youth Petrosian was a very tactical player, so none of this is really out of character for him.
8... Ne8; 9.h4,f5; 10.ef5,gf5; 11.d5,Ne7; 12.h5,f4
This move is intended to cut off the combined force of the White Q and B, and clear the f5 square for my own knights. It does have the drawback of surrenduring the e4 square to the White knights. But Petrosian's advancing h-pawn is very dangerous, and I have to grab my own share of space on the kingside.
13.Bf2,Nf5; 14.Ne4,f6; 15.Nec3,Qe8
The threat against the h-pawn is a bluff; Petrosian would be only too happy to let me take it and open the h-file to my own king. Since f7 is not much of a square for my queen, it may have been a better idea to play to e7 now, followed by Bd7 and my rooks are connected.
Intended to block the White h-pawn from further advance, and to transfer my own knight to g5 via h7.
17.O-O-O,Nh7; 18.Kb1,Qe7; 19.c5
Petrosian is making no progress on the kingside, so he transfers play to the queenside.
19... Bd7; 20.Rc1,a6; 21.Bc4,Kh8
The Black king moves away for safety as soon as a White bishop appears on the open diagonal. This is a good way of avoiding unpleasant surprises in the future.
So the Black queen can guard the 2nd rank, and the bishop can cover the weak white squares on the kingside.
23.cd6,cd6; 24.Ne2,Nf6
The knight on h7 needs to get back into the game, and challenging the knight on e4 seems like a reasonable thing to do. Both side will now transfer play to the queenside. My position becomes compact, but not cramped. Petrosian expands to gain space on the queenside, but does not break through.
25.Qa5,Rf7; 26.Qb6,Bb5; 27.N2c3,Bd3+; 28.Bc2,Bc2+; 29.Rc2,Qc7; 30.Nf6,Bf6; 31.Qc7,Rc7; 32.Ne4,Rc2; 33.Kc2,Kg7; 34.Kd3,Rc8; 35.a4,Bd8; 36.b4,Kf7; 37.a5,ke7; 38.Rb1,Kd7; 39.Rh1,Ke7; 40.Bh4+,Kd7; 41.Bf2,Ke7; draw
Here Petrosian offered a draw, and of course I accepted.

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