Person of day - 17 JUNE 2023
Tigran Petrosian was called “The Iron Tigran” and the “Chess Lefthander”. His first name stemmed from his unbeatable ability to defend and his second from his unusual playing style, which outwitted his strongest opponents over several decades.
He was not blessed by Fate- he lost his Mother at an early age and his Father died soon after, while working as a street cleaner at Tbilisi’s Officers’ Club. In the 1940s, he began to play chess at Tbilisi’s Pioneers’ Palace, where he was trained by Archil Ebralidze- a follower of Capablanca. The great Cuban became Tigran’s hero too, and Tigran began to emulate him.
World War II came to an end and in 1946, the 16-year-old Tigran made a name for himself when he won the USSR junior championship, before winning it again a year later. Five years later, Petrosian, who had moved to Moscow, became a prize-winner at the Soviet championship, where he split 2nd-3rd places with Geller. By 1953, he was playing in the candidates tournament in Zurich, where he came fifth.
A few years later, Petrosian began to challenge for the chess Olympus in earnest. He won two Soviet championships, in 1959 and 1961, demonstrating a deep understanding of positions, a wonderful endgame technique and an impregnable defensive style each time, which ensured that a sensation erupted whenever he was defeated. His time came in 1962, at the candidates tournament in Curacao. Petrosian came first, going undefeated for 27 matches and winning the right to play the match against the world champion Mikhail Botvinnik.
This match took place in 1963 and a new world champion emerged at the end. The 33-year-old Tigran Petrosian defeated the Patriarch of Soviet chess 12,5:9,5. Petrosian would be the world champion for six years, just like his hero Capablanca. In 1966, he defended his title when he defeated Boris Spassky 12,5:11,5. Three years later, he gave up his crown to the same Spassky, who beat him 12,5:10,5.
Petrosian remained one of the world’s strongest chess players for many years: he won two Soviet championships (in 1969 and 1975) and large international tournaments as well as candidates matches. In 1979, at the age of 50, he won the inter-zonal tournament with Portisch and Huebner.
Petrosian holds many impressive records. He went undefeated for six Soviet championships. In 10 Olympiads from 1958-1978, he had an amazing record with the Soviet team: 79 victories, 50 draws and just one defeat. At his peak, Tigran Petrosian was truly invincible. He valued logic above all else in chess. “Iamconvincedthatnothingisaccidentalinchess. And that is my credo. I only like games where I play to fulfil the requirements of the position…I only believe in a logical, rational style”, wrote the 9th world champion.
He wrote many articles and was the chief editor of 64. He opened his own school and became a wonderful coach. Tigran Petrosian died in August 1984 in Moscow, at the mere age of 55.