Tigran Petrossian

Tigran Petrossian

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Tigran Petrossian
Tigran Petrossian en 1975

Tigran Petrossian, en 1975.

Naissance 17 juin 1929
Tbilissi, RSS de Géorgie
Décès 13 août 1984 (à 55 ans)
Moscou
Nationalité Drapeau Soviétique
Profession(s) Joueur d’ échecs
Distinctions Champion du monde d’échecs

Tigran Vartanovitch Petrossian est un joueur d’ échecs soviétique né le 17 juin 1929 à Tbilissi, RSS de Géorgie (URSS) de parents arméniens et mort le 13 août 1984 à Moscou. Il obtint le titre de grand maître international en 1952 et fut le champion du monde d’échecs de 1963 à 1969. Il a remporté quatre fois le titre de champion d’URSS (en 1959, février 1961, octobre 1969 et 1975). Il est connu pour son faible nombre de défaites (il termina six fois invaincu du championnat d’URSS). Petrossian aura fait partie des dix meilleurs joueurs du monde, de 1953 à 1980.

Sommaire

Biographie

Le père de Petrossian était concierge d’un foyer de l’Armée rouge et le petit Tigran avait parfois l’occasion d’assister aux parties d’échecs que disputaient les officiers qui y résidaient. Ce ne fut qu’à l’âge de 12 ans qu’il en apprit les règles. Son premier livre d’apprentissage fut Mon système d’Aaron Nimzovitch, le théoricien de la prophylaxie, qui eut une profonde influence sur son jeu.

En 1944, ses parents décédèrent tous deux et, à 15 ans, Tigran dut accepter différents petits travaux pour nourrir ses frères et sœurs. Il ne se détourna pourtant pas des échecs, et participa dès 1945 au championnat d’URSS junior.

À partir de 1949, il s’installa à Moscou. C’est là qu’il mourut d’un cancer de l’estomac, en 1984, à l’âge de 55 ans.

Carrière

Championnats de Géorgie, d’Arménie et de Moscou

En 1945 et 1946, Petrossian gagna le championnat d’URSS junior. Il remporta ensuite les titres de champion de Géorgie en 1945 et d’Arménie en 1946 et 1947-1948, ex æquo avec Genrikh Kasparian. Il remporta le championnat de Moscou en 1951, 1956 et 1969.

En 1952, à 23 ans, Petrossian devint le plus jeune grand maître international.

Championnats d’URSS (1945-1961 et 1969-1983)

En 1945, Petrossian participa à sa première demi-finale du championnat d’URSS, et lors de sa troisième participation, en 1949, il se qualifia pour la finale du XVIIe championnat de 1949, où il occupa une modeste 16e place. En 1950, il termina 12e ex æquo, puis l’année suivante, en 1951, il s’en adjugea la 2e-3e place, se qualifiant pour le tournoi interzonal de 1952. Par la suite, il conquit le titre à quatre reprises :

  • 1959 – Tbilissi (+8 =11)
  • février 1961 – Moscou (+9 -1 =9), cette finale était un tournoi zonal, qualificatif pour le championnat du monde.

De 1962 à 1968, Petrossian se consacra à la défense de son titre de champion du monde et fut absent des championnats d’URSS. Il ne revint qu’après la perte du titre contre Spassky en 1969.

  • 1969 – Moscou (+6 =16), après un match de départage contre Lev Polougaïevski (+2 =3) disputé en 1970,
  • 1975 – Erevan (+6 -1 =8)

Petrossian a terminé quatre fois deuxième : en 1951, 1958, 1960 et 1973. Il termina six fois invaincu de la finale : en 1954, 1955, 1958, 1959, 1969 et 1973.

Tournois interzonaux, tournois des candidats et championnats du monde

1951-1959

En 1962, Paul Keres terminait 2e du tournoi des candidats remporté par Petrossian. Co-vainqueur avec Petrossian des tournois de Los Angeles 1963 et Buenos Aires 1964, il remporta les tournois de Zurich 1961 et Bamberg 1968 en devançant Petrossian.

La 2e-3e place de Petrossian au championnat d’URSS de 1951 le qualifia pour le cycle 1952-1954. Au tournoi interzonal qui se tint en 1952 à Stockholm, il obtint la 2e-3e place (+7 =13) et le droit de participer au tournoi des candidats suivant. Il entamait avec ce premier succès une carrière exceptionnelle au plus haut niveau qui devait durer trente ans. À Zurich en 1953, il fut devancé par des joueurs plus âgés et bien plus expérimentés que lui. Il termina à une honorable 5e place (+6 -4 =18).

En 1955, il finit 3e-6e du championnat d’URSS et se qualifia pour le cycle 1955-1957. En 1955, il se classa 4e du tournoi interzonal de Göteborg (+5 =15) et se qualifia pour le tournoi des candidats de 1956. En 1956, à Amsterdam, il subit ses deux seules défaites contre des joueurs qui se situaient derrière lui au classement. Avec +3 -2 =13, il occupa la 3e-7e place.

En 1958, il termina 2e du championnat d’URSS et se qualifia pour le cycle 1958-1960. À Portorož en 1958, sa 3e-4e place (+6 -1 =13) l’emmena vers le tournoi des candidats de 1959. Le tournoi des candidats de 1959 disputé en Yougoslavie ( Bled, Zagreb, Belgrade) se joua sur quatre tours, chaque joueur disputant quatre parties contre chacun des autres participants. Petrossian se classa 3e, avec 15½ points sur 28, après avoir gagné contre Paul Keres (+1 =3), Bobby Fischer (+2 =2) et Pal Benko (+2 =2), annulé contre Mikhail Tal (=4) et Svetozar Gligoric (+1 -1 =2) et perdu contre Vassili Smyslov (-1 =3) et Fridrik Olafsson (+1 -2 =1).

1961-1962 : vainqueur du tournoi des candidats

En 1961, Petrossian remporta le championnat d’URSS et se qualifia pour le cycle 1961-1963. En 1962, à l’interzonal Stockholm, il finit 2e-3e (+8 =14), et put aller à Curaçao défendre ses chances de rencontrer le champion du monde Mikhail Botvinnik. Il ne laissa pas passer sa chance en 1962 : au tournoi de Curaçao qui se déroulait sur quatre tours, en mini-matchs de quatre parties contre chaque joueur, il finit premier avec 17½ points sur 27 après avoir dominé Bobby Fischer (+1 =3), Viktor Kortchnoï (+2 =2), Pal Benko (+1 =3), Mikhaïl Tal (+2 =1) et Miroslav Filip (+2 =2) et annulé contre Paul Keres (=4) et Efim Geller (=4). Cette première place lui donnait le droit de rencontrer enfin Mikhaïl Botvinnik qui, malgré deux brèves interruptions en 1957 et 1960, dominait le championnat du monde des échecs depuis quinze ans. Le tournoi de Curaçao fut le dernier de ce type : à cause du soupçon de collusion entre Petrossian, Keres et Geller (ils annulèrent les douze parties disputées entre eux) qui fut émis par Fischer après le tournoi, cette formule de tournoi quadruple ronde fut à partir de 1965 remplacée par des matchs à élimination directe entre les candidats.

Championnats du monde (1963, 1966 et 1969)

Petrossian à Oberhausen, en 1961.

En 1963, après sa victoire au tournoi des candidats de Curaçao, Petrossian fut confronté à Mikhail Botvinnik, à Moscou. Après un début de match équilibré, puisque les deux joueurs étaient toujours à égalité après quatorze parties (+2 -2 =10), la perte de la quinzième entraîna le découragement de Botvinnik devant le jeu patient et défensif de Petrossian. Il ne put plus remporter une seule victoire et dut s’incliner à la suite de la vingt-deuxième partie. Petrossian devenait le neuvième champion du monde (+5 -2 =15).

Championnat du monde d’échecs 1963.

La Fédération internationale des échecs ayant abrogé le droit du champion du monde déchu à un match-revanche l’année suivante, Petrossian conserva son titre jusqu’à ce qu’un nouveau candidat se présentât contre lui.

Championnat du monde d’échecs 1966 et Championnat du monde d’échecs 1969.

En 1966 à Moscou, Boris Spassky, qui était sorti vainqueur du cycle des candidats, vint lui contester le titre. Le match fut équilibré et ce ne fut qu’à l’issue de la vingt-quatrième et dernière partie que l’on sut qui l’avait emporté. Petrossian conserva son titre (+4 -3 =17).

Pour Spassky, la revanche se présenta en 1969, toujours à Moscou. A nouveau candidat, il vint à bout de la résistance du champion du monde après la vingt-troisième partie du match et Petrossian dut remettre sa couronne (+4 -6 =13).

1971-1982 : après la perte du championnat du monde

Timbre poste arménien de 2005

Après la perte de son titre de champion du monde en 1969, Petrossian dut participer à la nouvelle organisation du cycle des candidats. Qualifié d’office pour les matchs des candidats par son statut de champion du monde sortant, il n’eut pas à disputer le tournoi de Palma de Majorque en 1970. En 1971, en quart de finale des candidats, il élimina tout d’abord Robert Hübner (+1 =6). Ce match devait aller jusqu’à la dixième partie, mais après sa première défaite Hübner abandonna. La raison qu’il invoqua fut que la salle de jeu était très bruyante, ce qui gênait sa réflexion. Petrossian souffrait de surdité et n’était pour sa part nullement dérangé par le bruit ambiant. Puis il rencontra Viktor Kortchnoï (+1 =9) en demi-finale, avant de tomber en finale face à Bobby Fischer (+1 -5 =3).

De même, sa position de finaliste des matchs des candidats du cycle 1969 – 1972 le dispensa de jouer dans l’un des deux tournois interzonaux, Leningrad ou Petropolis, de 1973. En 1974, le quart de finale des candidats l’opposa à Lajos Portisch qu’il élimina (+3 -2 =8). En demi-finale, il rencontra Viktor Kortchnoï dans un match émaillé d’incidents entre les deux joueurs. Le match se jouait en quatre parties gagnantes, mais Petrossian abandonna après sa troisième défaite (+1 -3 =1).

Lors du cycle suivant (1976-1978), il dut disputer le tournoi interzonal de Bienne en 1976. Il y termina à nouveau 2e-4e (+6 -1 =12) et se qualifia cette fois encore pour les matchs des candidats après un tournoi de départage triangulaire contre Portisch (+1 =3) et Tal (=4). En 1977, il fut éliminé dès les quarts de finale par Viktor Kortchnoï (+1 -2 =9).

Lors du cycle 1979-1980, il dut à nouveau disputer un tournoi interzonal. À Rio de Janeiro en 1979, il termina 1er-3e (+6 =11) ce qui lui assura l’accès à la phase finale de la course au titre de champion du monde. En 1980, le scénario de 1977 se répéta et, en quarts de finale, il fut à nouveau dominé par son vieil ennemi Viktor Kortchnoï (-2 =7).

Lors du cycle 1982-1984, il dut encore disputer un tournoi interzonal. En 1982, pour sa dernière apparition et pour la première fois depuis 1952, il ne réussit pas à se qualifier pour les matchs des candidats. Sa 4e-5e place (+3 -1 =9) du tournoi interzonal de Las Palmas le laissa à la porte des matchs des candidats (seuls les deux premiers étaient qualifiés).

Victoires dans les tournois internationaux (1960 – 1980)

S’ils lui permirent d’apparaître souvent dans le haut des classements des tournois, son jeu calme et défensif et le grand nombre de parties nulles qu’il concédait empêchèrent toutefois Petrossian d’en prendre les premières places.

Néanmoins, il faut noter les victoires suivantes :

  • 1960 :
    • Beverwijk, ex-æquo avec Bent Larsen,
    • Copenhague (seul vainqueur)
  • 1963 : Los Angeles (coupe Piatigorsky), ex-æquo avec Paul Keres
  • 1964 : Buenos Aires, ex-æquo avec Paul Keres,
  • 1972 : San Antonio, ex aequo avec Lajos Portisch et Anatoli Karpov : 10,5 / 15 (+6 =9),
  • 1973 :
    • Las Palmas, ex-æquo avec Leonid Stein,
    • Amsterdam (tournoi IBM), ex-æquo avec Planinc
  • 1976 : open de Lone Pine ( Californie) : Petrossian marqua 5½ sur 7 dans le premier système suisse qu’il disputa dans sa carrière,
  • 1979 : Tallinn (mémorial Kéres) : 12 / 16 (+8 =8),
  • 1980 :
    • Bar,
    • Las Palmas, ex-æquo avec Geller et Miles.

Palmarès

1945 – 1951 : champion de Géorgie, d’Arménie et de Moscou

Petrossian termina dixième du championnat de Géorgie en 1944. En 1946, il finit dixième du tournoi de candidats maîtres de Leningrad avec 6,5 / 15 (+3 –5 =7). Il participa pour la première fois à une demi-finale du championnat d’URSS en novembre 1946 à Tbilissi et il finit avant dernier (16e-17e) : 6 / 17 (+2 –7 =8). En 1948, lors de sa première finale, il termina seizième (+4 –8 =7). L’année suivante (en 1949), il finit treizième (+5 –6 =6).

1952 – 1959 : champion d’URSS et candidat au championnat du monde

En 1952, Petrossian participa à ses premiers tournois internationaux à l’étranger. Avant 1960, Petrossian termina quatre fois invaincu du championnat d’URSS : en 1954, 1955, 1958 et 1959.

1960 – 1968 : champion du monde

Jusqu’en 1969, les championnats du monde avaient lieu à Moscou. En 1967, Petrossian termina 9e-12e : 8,5 points sur 17 (+3 –3 =11), du tournoi anniversaire du club central de Moscou remporté par Stein devant Gipslis, Bobotsov, Smyslov et Tal.

Olympiades

Malgré ses bons résultats au plus haut niveau dès 1952, Petrossian ne fut sélectionné en équipe d’URSS, pour laquelle il joua à dix reprises, qu’à partir de 1958. Avec elle, il remporta neuf fois la médaille d’or par équipes et une fois la médaille d’argent, en 1978. Sur les 129 parties qu’il joua dans cette compétition, il n’en perdit qu’une seule et en annula 50.

  • 1958 – Munich : 2e remplaçant (+8 =5) – Médaille d’or
  • 1960 – Leipzig : 2e remplaçant (+11 =2) – Médaille d’or
  • 1962 – Varna : 2e échiquier (+8 =4) – Médaille d’or
  • 1964 – Tel Aviv : 1er échiquier (+6 =7)
  • 1966 – La Havane : 1er échiquier (+10 =3) – Médaille d’or
  • 1968 – Lugano : 1er échiquier (+9 =3) – Médaille d’or
  • 1970 – Siegen : 2e échiquier (+6 =8)
  • 1972 – Skopje : 1er échiquier (+6 -1 =9)
  • 1974 – Nice : 4e échiquier (+11 =3) – Médaille d’or

En 1976, l’URSS boycotta l’olympiade d’échecs de 1976 à Haïfa.

  • 1978 – Buenos Aires : 2e échiquier (+3 =6)

Championnats d’Europe par équipes

Petrossian (à droite) à Oberhausen en 1961

Petrossian représenta l’URSS à huit éditions de cette compétition depuis son origine en 1957 à l’édition de 1983, un an avant son décès. Il n’y perdit jamais une partie (+15 =37). A chaque fois, l’URSS remporta la médaille d’or.

  • 1957 – Vienne : 6e échiquier (+3 =2) – Médaille d’or
  • 1961 – Oberhausen : 4e échiquier (+4 =4) – Médaille d’or
  • 1965 – Hambourg : 1er échiquier (+2 =8) – Médaille d’or
  • 1970 – Kapfenberg : 1er échiquier (+1 =5)
  • 1973 – Bath : 2e échiquier (+2 =5) – Médaille d’or
  • 1977 – Moscou : 2e échiquier (+1 =5)
  • 1980 – Skara : 3e échiquier (=5)
  • 1983 – Plovdiv : 3e échiquier (+2 =3)

Match URSS contre le Reste du monde

En 1970 à Belgrade, Petrossian joua au deuxième échiquier de l’URSS et fut opposé à Bobby Fischer. Il perdit leur match individuel (-2 =2).

Activités de rédacteur dans des revues

Petrossian fut rédacteur de la revue mensuelle Chakhmatnaïa Moskva de 1963 à 1966.

De 1968 à 1977, il occupa le poste de rédacteur en chef de l’hebdomadaire 64. Il en fut démis après sa défaite contre le dissident Viktor Kortchnoï, au cours des matchs des candidats.

Le style

Petrossian était un joueur réputé pour son talent défensif et son jeu positionnel : « Je suis profondément convaincu que les échecs, bien qu’ils restent un jeu, n’ont rien à voir avec le hasard. C’est mon credo. J’apprécie uniquement les parties dans lesquelles j’ai joué conformément aux exigences de la position. Je ne crois qu’à la logique et à la correction du jeu. ».

À propos de son jeu très défensif et sans risques, Lev Polougaïevski disait : « Dans les meilleures années de Petrossian, il était plus facile de remporter le Championnat d’URSS que de gagner une partie contre lui ».

Petrossian était connu pour son art de la prophylaxie, il envisageait des possibilités d’attaque pour son adversaire avant même qu’il n’ait l’idée de le faire.

Exemples de parties

Victoire contre Kasparov à Tilburg en 1981. Un bel exemple de l’opiniâtreté de sa défense est sa partie contre Garry Kasparov de Tilburg, en 1981, où avec les Noirs, il subit une très forte attaque, résiste, retourne la situation en sa faveur, et gagne :

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Cf3 Cf6 4.e3 Fg4 5.Fxc4 e6 6.h3 Fh5 7.Cc3 a6 8.g4 Fg6 9.Ce5 Cbd7 10.Cxg6 hxg6 11.Ff1 c6 12.Fg2 Dc7 13.0-0 Fe7 14.f4 Cb6 15.g5 Cfd7 16.Dg4 0-0-0 17.Tb1 Rb8 18.b4 Cd5 19.Ca4 f5 20.Dg3 Cxb4 21.Fd2 Cd5 22.Tfc1 Ra7 23.De1 Fa3 24.Tc2 Dd6 25.Tb3 De7 26.De2 Tb8 27.Dd3 Fd6 28.Cb2 Thc8 29.Cc4 Fc7 30.a4 b5 31.axb5 cxb5 32.Ta2 Rb7 33.Fb4 De8 34.Fd6 Ta8 35.Db1 Rc6 36.Tba3 bxc4 37.Txa6+ Txa6 38.Txa6+ Fb6 39.Fc5 Dd8 40.Da1 Cxc5 41.dxc5 Rxc5 42.Ta4 0-1

Boris Spassky – Tigran Petrossian, Moscou 1966

Chess zhor 26.png
Chess zver 26.png
a8 b8 c8 d8 e8 f8 g8 h8
a7 b7 c7 d7 e7 f7 g7 h7
a6 b6 c6 d6 e6 f6 g6 h6
a5 b5 c5 d5 e5 f5 g5 h5
a4 b4 c4 d4 e4 f4 g4 h4
a3 b3 c3 d3 e3 f3 g3 h3
a2 b2 c2 d2 e2 f2 g2 h2
a1 b1 c1 d1 e1 f1 g1 h1
Chess zver 26.png
Chess zhor 26.png
Spassky – Petrossian, après 29.Td4?

La partie eut lieu lors du championnat du monde en 1966.

1.d4 Cf6 2.Cf3 e6 3.Fg5 d5 4.Cbd2 Fe7 5.e3 Cbd7 6.Fd3 c5 7. c3 b6 8.0-0 Fb7 9.Ce5 Cxe5 10.dxe5 Cd7 11.Ff4 Dc7 12.Cf3 h6 13.Fg3 g5 14.b4 h5 15.h4 gxh4 16.Ff4 0-0-0 17.a4 c4 18.Fe2 a6 19.Rh1 Tdg8 20.Tg1 Tg4 21.Dd2 Thg8 22.a5 b5 23.Tad1 Ff8 24.Ch2 Cxe5 25.Cxg4 hxg4 26.e4 Fd6 27.De3 Cd7 28.Fxd6 Dxd6 29.Td4

29… e5 30.Td2 f5 31.exd5 f4 32.De4 Cf6 33.Df5+ Rb8 34.f3 Fc8 35.Db1 g3 36.Te1 h3 37.Ff1 Th8 38.gxh3 Fxh3 39.Rg1 Fxf1 40.Rxf1 e4 41.Dd1 Cg4 42.fxg4 f3 43.Tg2 fxg2 0-1

Une miniature. Il faut se méfier de l’eau qui dort. Une miniature de Petrossian était chose rare, mais à la moindre inattention, le Tigre sortait ses griffes.

Tigran Petrossian – Hans Ree, Wijk aan Zee, 1971

1.c4 e5 2.Cc3 Cf6 3.Cf3 Cc6 4.g3 Fb4 5.Cd5 Cxd5 6.cxd5 e4 7.dxc6 exf3 8.Db3 1-0 (si le Fb4 se retire, cxb7 gagne une pièce)

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Tigran Petrosian

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This article is about the chess player and world champion. For the footballer, see Tigran Petrosyan (footballer). For the chess grandmaster born in 1984, see Tigran L. Petrosian.
Tigran Petrosian
Tigran Petrosian.jpg
Full name Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian
Country Soviet Union

Flag of Armenian SSR.svg Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic

Born June 17, 1929
Tbilisi, Georgia, Transcaucasian SFSR, USSR
Died August 13, 1984 (aged 55)
Moscow, Russian SFSR, USSR
Title Grandmaster
World Champion 1963–1969
Peak rating 2645 (July 1972)
This article uses algebraic notation to describe chess moves.

Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian ( Armenian: ?????? ?????????, Russian: ?????? ?????????? ????????) (June 17, 1929 – August 13, 1984) was an Armenian World Chess Champion from 1963 to 1969. He was nicknamed « Iron Tigran » due to his playing style because of his almost impenetrable defence, which emphasised safety above all else. [1] [2] He was a Candidate for the World Championship on eight occasions (1953, 1956, 1959, 1962, 1971, 1974, 1977 and 1980). He won the world championship in 1963 (against Botvinnik), successfully defended it in 1966 (against Spassky), and lost it in 1969 (to Spassky). Thus he was the defending World Champion or a World Championship candidate in ten consecutive three-year cycles. He won the Soviet Championship four times (1959, 1961, 1969, and 1975). He was arguably the hardest player to beat in the history of chess. [3]

Contents

Early years (1929–1949)

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Tigran Petrosian was born to Armenian parents [4] on 17 June 1929 in Tiflis, Georgia, which was then a member of the former Soviet Union. As a young boy, Petrosian was an excellent student and enjoyed studying, as did his brother Hmayak and sister Vartoosh. He learned to play chess at the age of 8, [5] though his illiterate father Vartan encouraged him to continue studying, as he thought chess was unlikely to bring his son any financial success. [6] Petrosian was orphaned during World War II and was forced to sweep streets to earn a living. [4] It was about this time that his hearing began to deteriorate, a problem that afflicted him throughout his life. In a 1969 interview with Time Magazine, he recalled:

I started sweeping streets in the middle of the winter and it was horrible. Of course there were no machines then, so we had to do everything by hand. Some of the older men helped me out. I was a weak boy. And I was ashamed of being a street sweeper—that’s natural, I suppose. It wasn’t so bad in the early morning when the streets were empty, but when it got light and the crowds came out I really hated it. I got sick and missed a year in school. We had a babushka, a sister of my father, and she really saved me. She gave me bread to eat when I was sick and hungry. That’s when this trouble with my hearing started. I don’t remember how it all happened. Things aren’t very clear from that time. [7]

He used his rations to buy Chess Praxis by Danish grandmaster Aron Nimzowitsch, a book which Petrosian would later claim to have had the greatest influence on him as a chess player. [6] He also purchased The Art of Sacrifice in Chess by Rudolf Spielmann. The other player to have had an early effect on Petrosian’s chess was José Raúl Capablanca. [6]

At 12 years old, he began training at the Tiflis Palace of Pioneers [5] [8] under the auspices of Archil Ebralidze. Ebralidze was a supporter of Nimzowitsch and Capablanca, and his scientific approach to chess discouraged wild tactics and dubious combinations. As such, Petrosian developed a repertoire of solid positional openings, such as the Caro-Kann Defence. [6] After training at the Palace of Pioneers for just one year, he defeated visiting Soviet grandmaster Salo Flohr at a simultaneous exhibition. [5] [8]

By 1946, Petrosian had earned the title of Candidate Master. In that year alone, he drew against Grandmaster Paul Keres at the Georgian Chess Championship, then moved to Yerevan where he won the Armenian Chess Championship and the USSR Junior Chess Championship. Petrosian earned the title of Master during the 1947 USSR Chess Championship, though he failed to qualify for the finals. [8] He set about to improve his game by studying Nimzowitsch’s My System and by moving to Moscow to seek greater competition. [5]

Grandmaster in Moscow (1949–1962)

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Petrosian at the 1961 European Chess Team Championship. Seated, facing right, is Mikhail Tal, then world champion.

After moving to Moscow in 1949, Petrosian’s career as a chess player advanced rapidly and his results in Soviet events steadily improved. He placed second in the 1951 Soviet Championship, thereby earning the title of international master. It was in this tournament that Petrosian faced world champion Botvinnik for the first time. Playing White, after obtaining a slightly inferior position from the opening, he defended through two adjournments and eleven total hours of play to obtain a draw. [9] Petrosian’s result in this event qualified him for the Interzonal the following year in Stockholm. He earned the title of Grandmaster by coming in second in the Stockholm tournament, and qualified for the 1953 Candidates Tournament. [10]

Petrosian placed fifth in the 1953 Candidates Tournament, a result which marked the beginning of a somewhat stagnant period in his career. He seemed content drawing against weaker players and maintaining his title of Grandmaster rather than improving his chess or making an attempt at becoming World Champion. This attitude was illustrated by his result in the 1955 USSR Championship: out of 19 games played, Petrosian was undefeated, but won only four games and drew the rest, with each of the draws lasting twenty moves or less. Although his consistent playing insured decent tournament results, it was looked down upon by the public and by Soviet chess authorities. [10] Near the end of the event, journalist Vasily Panov wrote the following comment about the tournament contenders: « Real chances of victory, besides Botvinnik and Smyslov, up to round 15, are held by Geller, Spassky and Taimanov. I deliberately exclude Petrosian from the group, since from the very first rounds the latter has made it clear that he is playing for an easier, but also honourable conquest—a place in the interzonal quartet. » [11]

This period of complacency ended with the 1957 USSR Championship, where out of 21 games played, Petrosian won seven, lost four, and drew the remaining 10. Although this result was only good enough for seventh place in a field of 22 competitors, his more ambitious approach to tournament play was met with great appreciation from the Soviet chess community. He went on to win his first USSR Championship in 1959, and later that year in the Candidates Tournament he defeated Paul Keres with a display of his often-overlooked tactical abilities. Petrosian was awarded the title of Master of Sport of the USSR in 1960, and won a second Soviet title in 1961. [12] His excellent playing continued through 1962 when he qualified for the Candidates Tournament for what would be his first World Championship match. [10]

1963 World Championship

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Main article: World Chess Championship 1963

After playing in the 1962 Interzonal in Stockholm, Petrosian qualified for the Candidates Tournament in Curaçao along with Pal Benko, Miroslav Filip, Bobby Fischer, Yefim Geller, Paul Keres, Viktor Korchnoi, and Mikhail Tal. Petrosian, representing the Soviet Union, won the tournament with a final score of 17½ points, followed by fellow Soviets Geller and Keres each with 17 points and the American Fischer with 14. [13] Fischer later accused the Soviet players of arranging draws and having « ganged up » on him to prevent him from winning the tournament. [14] As evidence for this claim, he noted that all 12 games played between Petrosian, Geller, and Keres were draws. Statisticians pointed out that when playing against each other, these Soviet competitors averaged 19 moves per game, as opposed to 39.5 moves when playing against other competitors. Although responses to Fischer’s allegations were mixed, FIDE later adjusted the rules and format try to prevent future collusion in the Candidates matches. [13]

Having won the Candidates Tournament, Petrosian earned the right to challenge Mikhail Botvinnik for the title of World Chess Champion in a 24-game match. In addition to practicing his chess, Petrosian also prepared for the match by skiing for several hours each day. He believed that in such a long match, physical fitness could become a factor in the later games. This advantage was increased by Botvinnik being much older than Petrosian. [13] Whereas a multitude of draws in tournament play could prevent a player from taking first place, draws did not affect the outcome of a one-on-one match. In this regard, Petrosian’s cautious playing style was well-suited for match play, as he could simply wait for his opponent to make mistakes and then capitalize on them. [15] Petrosian won the match against Botvinnik with a final score of 5 to 2 with 15 draws, securing the title of World Chess Champion. [16]

Reigning World Champion (1963–1969)

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Upon becoming World Champion, Petrosian campaigned for the publication of a chess newspaper for the entire Soviet Union rather than just Moscow. This newspaper became known as 64. [17] Petrosian studied for a degree of Master of Philosophical Science at Yerevan State University; his thesis, dated 1968, was titled « Chess Logic, Some Problems of the Logic of Chess Thought ». [12]

Three years after Petrosian had earned the title of World Chess Champion, he was challenged by Boris Spassky. Petrosian successfully defended his title beating Spassky, a feat that had not been accomplished since Alexander Alekhine defeated Efim Bogoljubov in the 1934 World Chess Championship. [18]

Later career (1969–1984)

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Petrosian in 1975

Along with a number of other Soviet Chess champions, he signed a petition condemning the actions of the defector Viktor Korchnoi in 1976. It was the continuation of a bitter feud between the two, dating back at least to their 1974 Candidates semi-final match which Petrosian withdrew from after five games while trailing 3.5-1.5 (+3-1=1). His match with Korchnoi in 1977 saw the two former colleagues refuse to shake hands or speak to each other. They even demanded separate eating and toilet facilities. Petrosian went on to lose the match and was subsequently fired as editor of Russia’s largest chess magazine, 64. His detractors condemned his reluctance to attack and some put it down to a lack of courage. At this point however, Botvinnik spoke out on his behalf, stating that he only attacked when he felt secure and his greatest strength was in defence. [19]

Some of his late successes included victories at Lone Pine 1976 and in the 1979 Paul Keres Memorial tournament in Tallinn (12/16 without a loss, ahead of Tal, Bronstein and others), shared first place (with Portisch and Hübner) in the Rio de Janeiro Interzonal the same year, and second place in Tilburg in 1981, half a point behind the winner Beliavsky. It was here that he played his last famous victory, a miraculous escape against the young Garry Kasparov. [20] Petrosian died of stomach cancer in 1984 in Moscow. Petrosian is buried in Vagankovo Cemetery and in 1987, World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov unveiled a memorial in the cemetery at Petrosian’s grave which depicts the laurel wreath of world champion and an image contained within a crown of the sun shining above the twin peaks of Mount Ararat – the national symbol of Petrosian’s native Armenia. On July 7, 2006, a monument honoring Petrosian was opened in the Davidashen district of Yerevan, in the street named after Petrosian. [21]

Olympiads and Team Championships

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Petrosian was not selected for the Soviet Olympiad side until 1958; he had already been a Candidate twice by that time. But he then made ten straight Soviet Olympiad teams from 1958 to 1978, won nine team gold medals, one team silver medal, and six individual gold medals.
His overall performance in Olympiad play is impressive: +78 =50 -1 (only one game lost, to Robert Hübner, out of 129 played), for 79.8 per cent, the third all-time best performance after Mikhail Tal and Anatoly Karpov. [22] His Olympiad results are the following.

  • Munich 1958, 2nd reserve, 10.5/13 (+8 =5 -0), board and team gold medals;
  • Leipzig 1960, 2nd reserve, 12/13 (+11 =2 -0), board and team gold medals;
  • Varna 1962, board 2, 10/12 (+8 =4 -0), board and team gold medals;
  • Tel Aviv 1964, board 1, 9.5/13 (+6 =7 -0), team gold medal;
  • Havana 1966, board 1, 11.5/13 (+10 =3 -0), board and team gold medals;
  • Lugano 1968, board 1, 10.5/12 (+9 =3 -0), board and team gold medals;
  • Siegen 1970, board 2, 10/14 (+6 =8 -0), team gold medal;
  • Skopje 1972, board 1, 10.5/16 (+6 =9 -1), team gold medal;
  • Nice 1974, board 4, 12.5/14 (+11 =3 -0), board and team gold medals;
  • Buenos Aires 1978, board 2, 6/9 (+3 =6 -0), team silver medal.

Petrosian also made the Soviet side for every European Team Championship held while he was alive, a total of eight selections, from 1957 to 1983. He won eight team gold medals, and four board gold medals. His totals in Euroteams play, according to olimpbase.org, are (+15 =37 -0), for 64.4 per cent. [22] His Euroteams results follow.

  • Vienna 1957, board 6, 4/5 (+3 =2 -0), board and team gold medals;
  • Oberhausen 1961, board 4, 6/8 (+4 =4 -0), board and team gold medals;
  • Hamburg 1965, board 1, 6/10 (+2 =8 -0), board and team gold medals;
  • Kapfenberg 1970, board 1, 3.5/6 (+1 =5 -0), team gold medal;
  • Bath, Somerset 1973, board 2, 4.5/7 (+2 =5 -0), board and team gold medals;
  • Moscow 1977, board 2, 3.5/6 (+1 =5 -0), team gold medal;
  • Skara 1980, board 3, 2.5/5 (+0 =5 -0), team gold medal;
  • Plovdiv 1983, board 3 3.5/5 (+2 =3 -0), team gold medal.

Playing style

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To commemorate the 75th anniversary of his birth, the Republic of Armenia issued this 220 dram stamp on February 25, 2005.

Petrosian was a conservative, cautious, and highly defensive chess player who was strongly influenced by Nimzowitsch’s idea of prophylaxis. He made more effort to prevent his opponent’s offensive capabilities than he did to make use of his own. He very rarely went on the offensive unless he felt his position was completely secure. [4] He usually won by playing consistently until his aggressive opponent made a mistake, securing the win by capitalizing upon this mistake without revealing any weaknesses of his own. This style of play often lead to draws, especially against other players who preferred to counterattack. Nonetheless, his patience and mastery of defense made him extremely difficult to beat. He was undefeated at the 1952 and 1955 Interzonals, and in 1962 he did not lose a single tournament game. Petrosian’s consistent ability to avoid defeat earned him the nickname « Iron Tigran ». [23]

Petrosian preferred to play closed openings that did not commit his pieces to any particular plan. As black, Petrosian enjoyed playing the Sicilian Defense, Najdorf Variation [24] and the French Defense. As white, he often played the English opening. [25] Petrosian would often move the same piece multiple times in a few moves, confusing his opponents in the opening and threatening draws by threefold repetition in the endgame. In a game against Mark Taimanov during the 1955 USSR Chess Championship, Petrosian moved the same rook 6 times in a 24-move game, with 4 of those moves occurring on consecutive turns. [26] [27] He had a strong affinity for knights rather than bishops, a characteristic that is attributed to the influence of Aron Nimzowitsch. [28]

A number of illustrative metaphors have been used to describe Petrosian’s style of play. Harold C. Schonberg said that « playing him was like trying to put handcuffs on an eel. There was nothing to grip. » [23] He has been described as a centipede lurking in the dark, [23] a tiger looking for the opportunity to pounce, a python who slowly squeezes his victims to death, [4] and as a crocodile who waits for hours to make a decisive strike. [29] Boris Spassky, who would succeed Petrosian as World Chess Champion, described his style of play as such: « Petrosian reminds me of a hedgehog. Just when you think you have caught him, he puts out his quills. » [4]

Petrosian’s style of play, although highly successful for avoiding defeats, was criticized as being dull. Chess enthusiasts saw his « ultraconservative » style as an unwelcome contrast to the popular image of Soviet chess as « daring » and  » [30] Fellow Soviet chess grandmaster Mikhail Tal described Petrosian as « cowardly ». His 1971 Candidates Tournament match with Viktor Korchnoi featured so many monotonous draws that the Russian press began to complain. However, Svetozar Gligoric described Petrosian as being « very impressive in his incomparable ability to foresee danger on the board and to avoid any risk of defeat. » [23] Petrosian responded to his criticisms by saying « They say my games should be more ‘interesting’. I could be more ‘interesting’—and also lose. » [4] Petrosian was, in the words of future World Champion Vladimir Kramnik, « the first defender with a capital D ». [31]

The positional exchange sacrifice

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Reshevsky vs. Petrosian

Solid white.svg a b c d e f g h Solid white.svg
8 a8 black king b8 black king c8 black king d8 black rook e8 black queen f8 black king g8 black king h8 black king 8
7 a7 black king b7 black king c7 black king d7 black king e7 black rook f7 black pawn g7 black pawn h7 black pawn 7
6 a6 black king b6 black king c6 black knight d6 black king e6 black king f6 black king g6 black bishop h6 black king 6
5 a5 black pawn b5 black pawn c5 black king d5 black king e5 white pawn f5 black king g5 black king h5 black king 5
4 a4 black king b4 black king c4 black pawn d4 white pawn e4 black king f4 white queen g4 white bishop h4 black king 4
3 a3 white pawn b3 black king c3 white pawn d3 black king e3 white rook f3 black king g3 black king h3 black king 3
2 a2 black king b2 white bishop c2 black king d2 black king e2 black king f2 black king g2 white pawn h2 white pawn 2
1 a1 black king b1 black king c1 black king d1 black king e1 white rook f1 black king g1 white king h1 black king 1
Solid white.svg a b c d e f g h Solid white.svg
Position after 25.Rfe1

Petrosian was known for his use of the  » positional exchange sacrifice », where one side sacrifices a rook for the opponent’s bishop or knight. Kasparov discussed Petrosian’s use of this motif:

Petrosian introduced the exchange sacrifice for the sake of ‘quality of position’, where the time factor, which is so important in the play of Alekhine and Tal, plays hardly any role. Even today, very few players can operate confidently at the board with such abstract concepts. Before Petrosian no one had studied this. By sacrificing the exchange ‘just like that’, for certain long term advantages, in positions with disrupted material balance, he discovered latent resources that few were capable of seeing and properly evaluating. [32]

One of Petrosian’s most famous examples of the positional exchange sacrifice is from his game against Samuel Reshevsky in Zurich 1953. [33] Reshevsky, playing white, appears to have an advantage due to his strong pawn center, which may become mobile after Bf3 and d4-d5. Petrosian realized he was in a difficult position because of the passive placement of his pieces, relegated to defensive roles. He further understood that White might also advance on the kingside with h2-h4-h5, provoking weaknesses that would make it more difficult to defend later on. Faced with these threats, Petrosian devised a plan to maneuver his knight to the square d5, where it would be prominently placed in the center, and blockade the advance of White’s pawns.

25… Re6!

With the rook vacated from e7, the black knight is free to move to d5, where it will be attacking the pawn on c3, and help support an eventual advance of his queenside pawn majority with … b5-b4.

26. a4 Ne7
27. Bxe6 fxe6
28. Qf1 Nd5
29. Rf3 Bd3
30. Rxd3 cxd3

The game was eventually drawn on move 41. [34]

Contributions to opening theory

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Solid white.svg a b c d e f g h Solid white.svg
8 a8 black rook b8 black knight c8 black bishop d8 black queen e8 black king f8 black rook g8 black king h8 black king 8
7 a7 black pawn b7 black pawn c7 black pawn d7 black king e7 black king f7 black pawn g7 black bishop h7 black pawn 7
6 a6 black king b6 black king c6 black king d6 black pawn e6 black king f6 black knight g6 black pawn h6 black king 6
5 a5 black king b5 black king c5 black king d5 white pawn e5 black pawn f5 black king g5 black king h5 black king 5
4 a4 black king b4 black king c4 white pawn d4 black king e4 white pawn f4 black king g4 black king h4 black king 4
3 a3 black king b3 black king c3 white knight d3 black king e3 black king f3 white knight g3 black king h3 black king 3
2 a2 white pawn b2 white pawn c2 black king d2 black king e2 white bishop f2 white pawn g2 white pawn h2 white pawn 2
1 a1 white rook b1 black king c1 white bishop d1 white queen e1 white king f1 black king g1 black king h1 white rook 1
Solid white.svg a b c d e f g h Solid white.svg
King’s Indian Defence, Petrosian System

Petrosian was an expert against the King’s Indian Defence, and he often played what is now known as the Petrosian System: 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Be2 e5 7. d5. [35] [36] This variation closes the center early on in the game. One of the tactical ideas for White is to play Bg5, pinning Black’s knight to his queen. Black can respond by either moving his queen or by playing …h6, though the latter move weakens Black’s kingside pawn structure. [37] Two of Black’s responses to the Petrosian variation were developed by grandmasters Paul Keres and Leonid Stein. The Keres Variation arises after 7. … Nbd7 8. Bg5 h6 9. Bh4 g5 10. Bg3 Nh5 11. h4, and the Stein Variations begins an immediate queenside offensive with 7. … a5. [38]

The Queen’s Indian Defence also has a variation developed by Petrosian: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.a3, [39] with the idea of preventing … Bb4+. This system received much attention in 1980 when it was used by the young Garry Kasparov to defeat several grandmasters. Today the Petrosian Variation is still considered the most pressing variation, with the greatest score in Master games. [40] A common response for black is 4. … c6, with the idea of eventually pushing forward with … d5. [41]

Other Petrosian variations can be found in the Grünfeld Defence after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bg5, [42] and the French Defence after 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 Qd7. [43] Some authorities refer to a variation of the Caro-Kann defense with his name, along with former world champion Vassily Smyslov: the Petrosian–Smyslov variation, 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Nd7. [44]

Deafness

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Petrosian was partially deaf [45] and wore a hearing aid during his matches, which sometimes led to strange situations. On one occasion he offered a draw to Svetozar Gligoric, which Gligoric initially refused in surprise, but then changed his mind in a few seconds and re-offered the draw. However, Petrosian did not even respond, instead went ahead and won the game. As it later turned out, he switched off his hearing aid, and did not hear when Gligoric re-offered the draw. [46] In 1971, he played a candidates match against Robert Hübner in a noisy area in Seville, which did not disturb him, but frustrated Hübner so much that he finally withdrew from the game. [47]

Quotations

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  • In those years, it was easier to win the Soviet Championship than a game against « Iron Tigran ».— Lev Polugaevsky [48]
  • It is to Petrosian’s advantage that his opponents never know when he is suddenly going to play like Mikhail Tal. – Boris Spassky
  • He [Petrosian] has an incredible tactical view, and a wonderful sense of the danger… No matter how much you think deep… He will « smell » any kind of danger 20 moves before! – Robert Fischer
  • Chess is a game by its form, an art by its content and a science by the difficulty of gaining mastery in it. Chess can convey as much happiness as a good book or work of music can. However, it is necessary to learn to play well and only afterwards will one experience real delight. – Tigran Petrosian
  • I’m absolutely convinced that in chess – although it remains a game – there is nothing accidental. And this is my credo. I like only those chess games, in which I have played in accordance with the position requirements… I believe only in logical and right game. – Tigran Petrosian

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