Tigran Petrosian Vartanovich
(June 17, 1929 Tbilisi - 13 August 1984, Moscow)

Tigran Petrosian (Armenian Տիգրան Վարդանի Պետրոսյան, June 17, 1929, Tbilisi – August 13, 1984, Moscow), the Soviet chess player, the 9th World Chess Champion from 1963 through 1969, international chess master (1952), honoured master of sports of the USSR (1960), the four-time champion of the USSR (1959, 1961, 1969, 1975), the three-time champion of Moscow. Doctor of Philosophy, chess theorist and journalist, editor of the Chess Moscow monthly magazine (1963-1966), founder and chief editor of the “64” monthly magazine (1968-1977), the nine-time winner of the World Chess Olympics as a member of Team USSR. Nicknamed Iron Tigran for his unsurpassed skills in defense.

Tbilisi, WWII.

Yerevan, 1945. Petorsian (sitting, 2nd from the right) among the participants of the Armenian Chess Championship. G. Fridstein is sitting at the table in the centre.

Within one year, in 1952, Petrosian became the International Chess Master, the Grand Master of the USSR, and the International Grand Master!

The Candidates Tournament in Zurich in 1953. Left to right: Tigran Petrosian, Alexander Kotov, Paul Keres, Yuri Averbakh, and Efim Geller.

Zurich 1953. Petrosian (3rd from the left) among the soviet participants of the Candidates Tournament.

The USSR Championship in Tbilisi in 1959 brought Tigran Petrosian the first of his four gold medals in the USSR Championships! Lev Polugaevsky, Boris Spassky, Semen Furman, and David Bronstein are next to him wearing the legendary Svan hats.

The early 1960s. Tigran Petrosian with the outstanding chess coach Isaac Boleslavsky, who had been assisting him during three World Championship matches (1963, 1966 and 1969).

Interzonal tournament in Stockholm in 1962. Tigran Petrosian with Bobby Fischer and Efim Geller.

Victory at the Candidates Tournament in Curaçao in 1962 allowed Petrosian to challenge the reigning champion. He won his mini-match against Fischer with a score of 2.5 to 1.5.

Moscow, 1963. The World Championship Match against Mikhail Botvinnik was a serious test for the young contender.

Moscow, 1963. Tigran Petrosian as the 9th World Chess Champion!

Yerevan, 1963. The unforgettable welcome for the new King of Chess in Yerevan.

Moscow, 1963. The joint analysis session with Salo Flohr at the Central Chess Club.

Moscow, mid-1960s. The champion playing at the Central Chess School. Alexander Kotov, Yakov Rokhlin and Mikhail Tal are sitting.

The profundity of Petrosian’s style stems from his clarity of thought and unique understanding of every nuance of the game.

Petrosian meets his opponent at the World Championship match at the Central Chess School.

Such familiar profiles! The first match against Boris Spassky (Moscow, 1966) when Petrosian was able to defend his title.

Moscow, the late 1960s. Petrosian is at the peak of his career with Yakov Neishtadt and Mikhail Tal.

With his friend who later became a formidable opponent, Victor Korchnoy.

Petrosian had been leading the Spartak team for many years. A game with Mikhail Botvinnik.

Moscow, 1969. FIDE President Max Euwe opens the second match for the World Champion title against Boris Spassky, after which Petrosian was to become the ex-champion.

Yes, it is true, I like defending more than attacking, but who says defense is less dangerous and risky than offence? (Petrosian).

Belgrade, 1970. There had been a long chess era between the 5th (Euwe) and the 9th (Petrosian) World Champion - the era of Botvinnik!

“Match of the century” in Belgrade, 1970. Before the start of the first game with Bobby Fischer.

“Match of the century” in Belgrade. Unlike Curaçao, here Petrosian lost the mini-match with a score of 1 to 3.

Buenos-Aires, 1971. The final Candidates Match with Fischer ended with a crushing defeat for the Iron Tigran, the worst in his entire career (2.5 to 6.5)…

Victor Korchnoy and Yuri Averbakh at Petrosian’s country house during the preparation for the match with Fischer.

A happy duo: Tigran Petrosian and his wife Rona.

With his furry pet.

He had never become the World Champion in table tennis, but according to his colleagues, he played this game on a master’s level too.

Photography was another hobby of Petrosian. Shooting a movie.

The two Kings: Tigran Petrosian and Boris Spassky.

Petrosian has Casablanca’s technique and Schlechter’s intuition (Tal).

Moscow, 1979. Tigran Petrosian is 50!

The 9th World Champion was also a great commentator and journalist, who authored a lot of very interesting articles on chess problems.

Petrosian is a nine-time Olympic Champion, who has played the first board four times!

Looking for a perfect shot. Young Garry Kasparov at the board.

Chess Super Tournament in Bugojno, 1982. Games against Kasparov were always exciting.

One of the last photographs of Tigran Petrosian. Mikhail Tal is on the right.

The friends and the fans of Tigran Petrosian at his grave at the Armenian cemetery…

Biography

The 9th World Chess Champion Tigran Petrosian was nicknamed “the Iron Tigran” and “the Chess Lefty”. He got the first nickname for his unsurpassed skills in defense, while he was called “Lefty” for his unusual way of playing, which had been taking aback his most sophisticated opponents for decades.

He was hardly the darling of fortune: his mother died when he was a child, and his father, who worked as a cleaner at the officers’ community centre in Tbilisi, died soon as well. In the 1940s, Tigran took up chess, learning how to play the game from his mentor Archil Ebralidze at the community centre of the pioneer organisation in Tbilisi. Ebralidze was a big fan of Jose Capablanca, and Petrosian also became a life-long admirer of the great Cuban master, whom Tigran always sought to emulate.

When World War II ended in 1945, the 16-year old Petrosian put his name on the map by winning the junior chess championship of the USSR (and repeating his success for a second time the following year). 5 years later, Tigran Petrosian, who had by then moved to Moscow, split the second and the third prize with Efim Geller in the male Chess Championship of the USSR. In 1953, he took part in the Candidates Tournament in Zurich where he finished 5th.

A few more years went by, and Petrosian went for the World Chess Champion title in earnest. Twice (in 1959 and 1961) he won the USSR Chess Championship, demonstrating deep knowledge of setup, excelling at end-game, and putting up a skillful defense (every time he lost it was treated as a sensation). Eventually, his hour struck in 1962 at the Candidates Tournament on the island of Curaçao. Petrosian finished first without losing a single game out of 27(!), and earned the right to challenge the reigning champion Mikhail Botvinnik.

Mikhail Botvinnik was the patriarch of the Soviet chess school at the time, yet the 33-year old Tigran Petrosian won the match in 1963 with a score of 12.5 to 9.5, which made him the new World Chess champion. Moreover, for the next six years, just like his favorite master Casablanca, Petrosian had been remaining the reigning champion. In 1966, he defended the title against Boris Spassky with a score of 12.5 to 11.5. Three years later, he got dethroned by the same Spasskywith a score of 10.5 to 12.5.

For many years to come, however, Tigran Petrosian was regarded as one of the most formidable chess players on the planet: he won the USSR Champion title twice in 1969 and 1975, won the major international tournaments and the candidate matches. In 1979, at the age of 50(!), he won the Interzonal tournament (together with Portisch and Huebner).

Petrosian holds a multitude of impressive records. He completed six USSR Championships without a single loss. As a member of Team USSR at the 10 World Chess Olympics (between 1958 and 1978), he achieved an unprecedented result of 79 victories, 50 draws and just one loss. At his peak Tigran Petrosian was truly unbeatable. What he valued the most in chess was logic. “I’m convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that there are no accidents in chess, and this is the principle I live by. I really like only those games where I followed the logic of the setup... I believe only in the logical, straightforward chess game,” the 9th World Chess Champion wrote.

He wrote a lot of articles, was chief editor of the “64” Magazine, started his own chess school and proved to be a gifted teacher. Tigran Petrosian died in Moscow in August 1984 at the age of just 55.

World Champions
about Tigran Petrosian

Anatoly Karpov

"Petrosian was just as good at combinations as Tal, but he often preferred to keep his talent in check and concentrate on building a strong position. "

Bobby Fischer

"Petrosian is great at seeing and tackling a threat 20 moves before it materializes! I was stunned by his uncanny ability to keep improving a position that was already very strong. He is definitely a very subtle player. "

Boris Spassky

"Petrosian was a chess player with a very fine-tuned intuition. In fact, good intuition is possibly the most important skill for a professional."

Mikhail Tal

"Petrosian is without doubt a phenomenal chess player. He played in such an interesting and profound manner, that sometimes what he anticipated as his opponents’ next moves in fact never even crossed their minds. He could smell danger a mile away."

Mikhail Botvinnik

"Petorsian has an uncanny talent to arrange his pieces on the board so deliberately that any attempt to attack them becomes a huge challenge. It is a very nuanced and rare style that is extremely hard to adjust to. I personally failed to do so and lost the World Championship match to him in 1963."

Max Euwe

"Petrosian is not a tiger that rushes and overwhelms his prey; he is more like a python that slowly chokes his prey, or like a crocodile that can wait for hours for the right moment to deliver a crushing blow."

Kasparov

"Petrosian was brilliant at creating positions full of harmony and life, with a colossal potential behind a bland façade and seeming lack of dynamism, where even the smallest changes were immediately noticed and dealt with, often in a series of strategic moves that left the opponent completely at a loss. The profundity of Petrosian’s style stems from his clarity of thought and his rare gift for understanding not just the overall situation on the board, but also of every nuance of tactics and strategy of the game."

Vladimir Kramnik

"Petrosian was the Defender in chess. He was the first grand master to demonstrate that almost any position could be defended. He showed that chess is a game with lots and lots of resources. Petrosian’s style was very sophisticated and hard to understand. There was something very mysterious about him…"