Tigran Petrosian

Petrosian finally ended Botvinnik's long reign at the top of world chess in 1963, and Botvinnik didn't seek a re-match.

Petrosian's mature style was often hard to like -- slow and safety-first -- but easy to admire -- very effective and often subtle.

He was known for a 'boa-constrictor' approach, taking control of a game slowly, and waiting for small mistakes. You wouldn't have thought that could work against top grandmasters, but it did.

[Event "style: Petrosian as constricto"]
[Site "style: Petrosian as constrict"]
[Date "1963.??.??"]
[Round "5"]
[White "Petrosian, Tigran"]
[Black "BotvinniK, Mikhail"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D94"]
[WhiteElo "2870"]
[PlyCount "95"]

1. c4 g6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 d5 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. e3 O-O 6. Be2 dxc4 7. Bxc4 c5 8. d5
e6 9. dxe6 Qxd1+ 10. Kxd1 Bxe6 11. Bxe6 fxe6 {[#]  Petrosian said before the
match that if Botvinnik played this variation he would lose. Black has only
one weakness, which shouldn't lose by itself, but the challenger was right.} 12. Ke2 Nc6 13. Rd1 Rad8 14.
Rxd8 Rxd8 15. Ng5 Re8 16. Nge4 Nxe4 17. Nxe4 b6 18. Rb1 Nb4 19. Bd2 Nd5 (19...
Nxa2 20. Ra1 Nb4 21. Rxa7 Bxb2 22. Bxb4 cxb4 23. Rb7) 20. a4 Rc8 21. b3 Bf8 22.
Rc1 Be7 23. b4 c4 24. b5 Kf7 25. Bc3 Ba3 26. Rc2 Nxc3+ 27. Rxc3 Bb4 28. Rc2 Ke7
29. Nd2 c3 30. Ne4 Ba5 31. Kd3 Rd8+ 32. Kc4 Rd1 33. Nxc3 Rh1 34. Ne4 Rxh2 35.
Kd4 Kd7 36. g3 Bb4 37. Ke5 {[#]  White is perfectly coordinated - for attack
and defence. Black has gathered some crumbs of counterplay but cannot pull his
pieces together.} Rh5+ 38. Kf6 Be7+ 39. Kg7 e5 40. Rc6 Rh1 41. Kf7 Ra1 42. Re6 Bd8
43. Rd6+ Kc8 44. Ke8 Bc7 45. Rc6 Rd1 (45... Rxa4 46. Nc3) 46. Ng5 Rd8+ 47. Kf7
Rd7+ 48. Kg8 {Black cannot regroup on the ninth rank so resigns.} 1-0


It's hard for the rest of us to play like that!

Three things you might learn from Petrosian:

  • 1. the willingness to run with the King
  • 2. tempting the opponent to take on more than they can manage -- a sort of chess judo, where their own movement is used to trip them up
  • 3. using control of the light or dark squares, when the opponent has only one Bishop.

1. the willingness to run with the King

[Event "king: active even with Qs on"]
[Site "king: active even with Qs on"]
[Date "1962.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Duckstein, A."]
[Black "Petrosian, Tigran"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B30"]
[PlyCount "80"]

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5 5. Ng3 Bg6 6. Nf3 Nd7 7. Bd3 e6 8.
O-O Qc7 9. c4 O-O-O 10. Bxg6 hxg6 11. Qa4 Kb8 12. b4 Nh6 13. Qb3 Nf5 14. a4 e5
15. dxe5 Nxe5 16. Nxe5 Qxe5 17. Bb2 Qc7 18. c5 a5 19. Rad1 Rxd1 20. Rxd1 Rh4
21. bxa5 Bxc5 22. a6 b6 23. Re1 Ka7 24. Be5 Qd7 25. Ne4 Bd4 26. g3 Bxe5 27.
gxh4 Nd4 28. Qd1 Qd5 29. Re3 Nf5 30. Re1 Nd4 31. Qd3 f5 32. Ng5 c5 33. Re3 c4
34. Qd1 {[#]} Kxa6 35. Ra3 Bf6 36. h3 f4 37. Qg4 Ka5 38. Nf3 Kb4 39. Nxd4 Kxa3
40. Nc2+ Kxa4 {0-1} 0-1


2. tempting the opponent to take on more than they can manage -- a sort of chess judo, where their own movement is used to trip them up

[Event "Top 10 games:"]
[Site "Wch26-Moscow"]
[Date "1966.??.??"]
[Round "10"]
[White "Petrosian, Tigran"]
[Black "Spassky, Boris"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "E66"]
[PlyCount "59"]

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. g3 g6 3. c4 Bg7 4. Bg2 O-O 5. O-O Nc6 6. Nc3 d6 7. d4 a6 8. d5
Na5 9. Nd2 c5 10. Qc2 e5 (10... Rb8 $5) 11. b3 $2 (11. a3 b6 12. b4 Nb7 13. Rb1
{<spc.adv.> <<}) 11... Ng4 12. e4 (12. Bb2 f5 13. Rae1 $5) 12... f5 13. exf5
gxf5 14. Nd1 $5 (14. Bb2 $1 Bd7 15. Rae1 b5 16. Nd1 $14) 14... b5 15. f3 $2 (
15. Bb2 Rb8 16. f3 Nf6 17. Bc3 Bh6 18. Re1) 15... e4 $1 16. Bb2 exf3 17. Bxf3
Bxb2 18. Qxb2 Ne5 19. Be2 f4 $1 (19... Ra7 $5) 20. gxf4 (20. Rxf4 Rxf4 21. gxf4
Ng6 22. Ne4 Nxf4 23. Ndf2 Ra7) 20... Bh3 $2 {[#] Petrosian is a master of
chess judo: inviting his opponent forward until he topples. Here he launches
an attack without having a piece further forward than the second rank!} (20...
Rxf4 21. Ne3 Qg5+ 22. Kh1 Rxf1+ 23. Ndxf1 Ra7 $13) 21. Ne3 $1 {!} Bxf1 (21...
Rxf4 $2 22. Rxf4 Qg5+ 23. Rg4 $1 (23. Kh1 Qxf4 24. Rg1+ $17) 23... Nxg4 24.
Nxg4 Bxg4 25. Bxg4 Qxg4+ 26. Kh1 Qd4 $7 27. Rg1+ Kh8 28. Qxd4+ cxd4 29. Rg4 $16
{_|_}) 22. Rxf1 Ng6 {<=} (22... Nd7 23. Bg4 Qf6) 23. Bg4 Nxf4 $2 (23... Rxf4 $2
24. Be6+ Kf8 25. Rxf4+ Nxf4 26. Qh8+ $18) (23... Qf6 $7 24. Be6+ Kh8 25. Qxf6+
Rxf6 26. f5 Ne5 27. Ne4 $1 $16) 24. Rxf4 $1 Rxf4 25. Be6+ Rf7 26. Ne4 Qh4 (
26... Raa7 27. Nf5 Qf8 28. Qf6 $18) 27. Nxd6 Qg5+ (27... Qe1+ 28. Kg2 Qxe3 29.
Bxf7+ Kf8 30. Qh8+ Ke7 31. Nf5+ Kxf7 32. Qg7+ {and 33.Nxe3 +-}) 28. Kh1 Raa7 {
[#] In just eight moves Petrosian has tripped and leg-locked his opponent. The
finish is attractive, and worth noting.} (28... Qxe3 29. Bxf7+ Kf8 30. Qh8+ Ke7
31. Nf5+ Kxf7 32. Qg7+ {and 33.Nxe3}) 29. Bxf7+ Rxf7 30. Qh8+ $1 1-0


3. using control of the light or dark squares, when the opponent has only one Bishop.

[Event "weak squares: colour complex"]
[Site "weak squares: colour complex"]
[Date "1969.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Petrosian, Tigran"]
[Black "Mecking, Henrique"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B07"]
[PlyCount "81"]

1. d4 g6 2. e4 Bg7 3. Nf3 d6 4. c3 Nf6 5. Nbd2 {(Geller's quiet system, aimig
at a small plus)} O-O {[#]} 6. Be2 c5 (6... Nc6 {planning ...e5 is given as
best by Nunn}) 7. dxc5 dxc5 8. O-O Nc6 (8... b6) 9. Qc2 b6 10. Nc4 Bb7 {[#]}
11. a4 {(you can see the outlines of a light-square strategy for White)} Qc7
12. Re1 {(typical Petrosian - getting ready to defend a point not yet attacked)
} Na5 13. Bf1 (13. Nxa5 Bxe4) 13... Nxc4 14. Bxc4 Ng4 {(anxious for active
play. Black can occupy the d-file but there are not yet any entry points)} 15.
a5 {+= Nunn, but Petrosian wins without fuss. Where did Black go wrong?} Bc6 {
[#]} (15... bxa5 {does not really win a Pawn, as the Black Queen's-side Pawns
are weak}) 16. Qe2 Ne5 17. Nxe5 Bxe5 18. g3 Bg7 19. Bf4 e5 20. Bc1 {(Typical
Petrosian. Having tempted ...e5, the Bishop returns to base. The other effect
of this move is that it might make Black do something hasty later.)} Kh8 {[#]}
21. Bd5 {(exchanging the defender of the light squares)} Bxd5 22. exd5 f5 23.
c4 Rae8 24. Rd1 {(White can draw up a battle plan: (1) fix the Black Pawns, (2)
tie Black's pieces to their defence, (3) penetrate on the White squares.)} f4
25. axb6 axb6 {[#]} 26. Qe4 Qd7 27. Re1 Qf7 28. Re2 g5 29. g4 Qd7 30. f3 Ra8 {
[#]  Phase (1) complete: the Black Pawns are fixed on dark squares.} 31. Rxa8
Rxa8 32. Bd2 Re8 33. Bc3 Qd6 {(Phase (2) is complete: the Black pieces are
tied to defence.)} 34. Re1 h6 35. Ra1 Rf8 {[#]  (Now begins the final phase:
invasion on the light squares.)} 36. Ra7 Re8 37. Qf5 b5 {(activity at last?)}
38. Rd7 Qf8 39. Qxf8+ Rxf8 40. cxb5 Rb8 {[#]} 41. Rxg7 1-0


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