Kindred’s Special: Part II, 9th World Champion, Tigran Petrosian

After the moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4, the Sicilian Defense has a rich and long history with just as many variations from this, just one of a number of standard positions that are possible this early in the opening.

The 1961 Zurich tournament where TP finished 2nd behind Keres saw him playing some very interesting games. I choose this one because his opponent, Swiss master Bhend, was a well known aggressive player who gained recognition for his lst round win against Tal in the 1959 tournament.

          Bhend   (White)              vs     Tigran Petrosian  (Black)

                                 Sicilian Defense

4….Nf6  5.Nc3  e6

This initiates the Paulsen variation viewed for many years with suspicion but still remains a favorite against opponents who the defender believes dislikes the type of setups or expects to win with little difficulty. It suits the player who likes compact positions now termed Hedghog which spring forth like a coiled spring releasing violence and wreaking havoc at the slightest miscue on White’s part.

The history of this defense goes back to the latter 1800s when a German master, Louis Paulsen, doing pioneer work and giving it life. Even here, the opening took name change because of two Knight moves, Nbd7 which is the Paulsen variation and Nc6 which became the Scheveningen variation.

Bsetween WWI and WWII these defensive deployments were frequently adopted by Alekhine, Bogoljubov and many Soviet masters. Boleslavsky experimented with 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Be2 e5. White soon often replaced 6.Be2 with 6.Bg5 which had been extensively analyzed and recommended by Richter and Rauser and bears their names with this variation. Black has faced various problems as huge effort in opening analysis supported by large numbers of games increased the depth of opening theory to many moves. Around 1949-50 the Najdorf (3…a6) began to gain popularity and remains so today. The Russian player, Mark Taimanov came up with his own idea: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6. And the great GM Paul Keres came up with a sharp line after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4  cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e6 stirring up immediate Kingside action with a bayonet like thrust 6.g4 which has won many brilliant battles for White players.

6.Be2  a6 7.0-0  Qc7  8. a4

This was one of the original ideas for White to address the opening needs and Boleslavsky enriched the play by substituting 8.f4 Nc6 9.Be3 followed by 10.Qe1 planning to transfer the Q to the King-wing.

8…Nc6  9.Kh1

Already White is in for it if he plays instead, say: 9.f4 Nxd4 10.Qxd4 d5 with active play since Bc5 is a threat and the center is compromised.

9…Be7 10.f4  0-0 11.Nb3  b6  12.Bf3  Bb7  13.Qd2

Why not simply 13.Qe2? The text is not necessarily bad if White plays later an idea of transferring it to f2 but this moves is not natural at all in my opinion. Perhaps Bhend was trying to be cute or disguise his intentions but it will cost him.

13…Rab8  14.g4  d5

Classic chess at its best! A wing demonstration is met with a counter strike in the center.

15. exd5

Not good is 15.e5 due to Ne4 16.Nxe4 dxe4 17.Bxe4 Nxe5 18.Bxb7 Qxb7+. The decision by White to play on both sides of the board proves insufficient and Black begans to reap the benefits of shillyshally play that lacks a real plan.  Note that had White played Qe2 instead of Qd2, the position would have been slightly different.

 

15…Nb4 16.dxe6 Bxf3+ 17.Rxf3  Qb7  18.Kg2  Nxg4  19.Qe2

This wasted tempo has cost White dearly.

19…f5!

The e-pawn now becomes a block to any White invasion and Black is ready to lauch a Rook transfer to the King-wing via f6.

20.Nd1

White finds himself in a gooey mess as he cannot extract his feet from the fire. If 20.h3 Rf6 21.hxg4  fxg4 wins the Exchange.

20…Rf6 21.c3  Rg6  22.cxb4  Ne5++ 23.Kf2  Bh4+ 24. Rg3  Ng4+ 25.Kg1 Bxg3  26.hxg3  Qd5!

Centralization of the Queen! A topic often referred to by Nimzowitch who Petrosian absorbed from his teachings.

27. Ra3  Rh6  28.Nf2  Nxf2 and with this White Resigns. 0-1. He either suffers mate or loses his Queen.

Lessons to learn from this game:

1. Petrosian’s style was an undercurrent of dynamic, imbalance and a willingness to forego the ‘norm’ so-to-speak yet he exercised great fortitude in understanding the deep nature of positions he encountered. This game certainly shows a maturing of his play and confidence he possessed in turning the slightest inaccuracy into unleashing a force that could not be denied.

2. This game illustrates his systematic approach to faith in himself, willing to dig down and find just the right level of firepower to win.

3. It is very important to understand the relationship with square count, tempo moves, and how just a slight miscue can cause the coiled spring I mentioned earlier to explode. Certainly it is one of the key ingredients that aspiring players toward mastership of the game visually sees in their favorite stars. It is always a joy to witness such skill and artistic achievement on the 64-squares.

Postscript: There are many more beautiful battles as Tigran Petrosian displays his growing maturity at the board. Stay tuned. There will be more!

 

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