World Chess Champion Tigran Petrosyan would be 80

17/06/2009 12:01

World Chess Champion Tigran Petrosyan would be 80


Tigran Petrosian (June 17, 1929 – August 13, 1984) was World Chess Champion from 1963 to 1969. Were he still alive, the 9th World Chess Champion would be 80 years old today.

He was nicknamed "Iron Tigran" due to his playing style because of his almost impenetrable defence, which emphasised safety above all else.[1] 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 Champion 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, according to Wikipedia.

A significant step for Petrosian was moving to Moscow in 1949, where he began to play and win many tournaments. Moscow, along with Leningrad and Kiev, was one of the three major Soviet chess cities. He won the 1951 tournament in Moscow, and began to show steady progress. By 1952 Petrosian became a Soviet and international Grandmaster in chess. Prior to taking up chess full time though, Petrosian was a caretaker and a road sweeper. In 1952, he married Rona Yakovlevna Avinezar, a translator who was active in chess circles.

His results in the triennial Candidates Tournament, held to determine the challenger to the world champion, showed a steady improvement: fifth at Zürich in 1953, equal third at Amsterdam in 1956, third in Yugoslavia in 1959.
In the 1963 World Championship cycle, he won the Candidates tournament at Curaçao in 1962, then in 1963 he defeated Mikhail Botvinnik 12.5–9.5 to become World Chess Champion. His patient, defensive style frustrated Botvinnik, who only needed to make one risky move for Petrosian to punish him. Petrosian is the only player to go through the Interzonal and the Candidates process undefeated on the way to the world championship match.
Petrosian shared first place with Paul Keres at the Piatigorsky Cup, Los Angeles 1963, his first tournament after winning the championship.

Petrosian defended his title in 1966 by defeating Boris Spassky 12.5–11.5. He was the first World Champion to win a title match while champion since Alekhine beat Bogoljubov in 1934. In 1968, he was granted a PhD from Yerevan State University for his thesis, "Chess Logic". In 1969 Spassky got his revenge, winning by 12.5–10.5 and taking the title.

He was the only player to win a game against Bobby Fischer during the latter's 1971 Candidates matches, finally bringing an end to Fischer's amazing streak of twenty consecutive wins (seven to finish the 1970 Palma de Mallorca Interzonal, six against Taimanov, six against Larsen, and the first game in their match). Nevertheless Petrosian lost the match.

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.

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 Huebner) 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. Petrosian died of stomach cancer in 1984 in Moscow. Petrosian is buried in Vagankovo Cemetery and in 1987 13th 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.

"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 Petrosyan said.
 


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