Tigran Petrosian (1929-1984) was the ninth world chess champion. He won the title by defeating Mikhail Botvinnik in 1963 and lost it to Boris Spassky in 1969. During his reign he became a national hero in Armenia. The late champion would have turned 75 next Thursday.
Petrosian was a very solid champion, hard to beat. Influenced by Nimzovich's "My System," he loved to extinguish any small spark on the board that could have ignited danger. He played excellent positional chess and did not mind to circle with his pieces for a long time to create weaknesses. Once he opened a slight crack in an enemy position, he could deliver a devastating blow. He defended difficult positions with an excellent tactical vision. I knew him as a peaceful player. We played to a draw in all our games.
Honoring the Champion
A Scheveningen system match between a team named after Petrosian and the Rest of the World is underway in Moscow to commemorate the late champion's birthday.
On the Petrosian team are six players with an Armenian connection or with ties to the late champion. Garry Kasparov's mother, Klara, is of Armenian origin. Boris Gelfand is Petrosian's most successful pupil, and Peter Leko married Sofia Petrosian, a daughter of grandmaster Arshak Petrosian. The team also includes three members of the Armenian national team: Rafael Vaganian, Smbat Lputian and Vladimir Akopian.
The World team is lead by Indian superstar Vishy Anand and includes four-time Russian champion Peter Svidler, top English grandmaster Michael Adams, the Dutchman Loek Van Wely, Francisco Vallejo Pons of Spain and Etienne Bacrot of France.
On Saturday, at the midway point of the match, the World team was in the lead by the score 11-7.
In the following game, Adams quickly crushed Akopian in the Rubinstein variation of the French defense. The English grandmaster does not move his pawns too often, but puts his opponents under pressure by getting his pieces to act most efficiently. He finds the best squares for his purpose. It is simple and beautiful to watch. Akopian made a small inaccuracy on the ninth move and Adams did not let him out of his grip.
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.Nf3 Ngf6 6.Nxf6+ Nxf6 7.c3 c5 8.Ne5!? (An aggressive leap, threatening 9.Bb5+. The position could also be reached from the Sicilian defense.) 8...a6 (White's opening plan became popular after the game Kasparov-Ponomariov, Linares 2002, where black played carelessly 8...Nd7?! and after 9.Bb5! Bd6 10.Qg4 Kf8 the pawn sacrifice 11.0-0! Nxe5 12.dxe5 Bxe5 13.Bg5 Bf6 14.Rad1 Qc7 15.Qh4 Bxg5 16.Qxg5 left white in command. Black had a hard time to find a good life for his bishop.) 9.Bg5 (Threatening to gain a bishop pair with 10.Qa4+.) 9...Be7?! (Loses time, but after 9...cxd4 10.Qa4+! Bd7 11.Qxd4 Qc7 12.Nxd7 Nxd7 13.0-0-0 white has a clear advantage. The best seems to be 9...Qd5!? to counter 10.Qa4+? with 10...b5 and the black queen protects the rook on a8. It was played by Efim Geller against Karl Robatsch in Havana in 1963, but might have escaped attention of experts because after 10.Be3 cxd4 11.Qxd4 a draw was agreed.)
10.dxc5! (Adams is not wasting time to get a significant lead in development.) 10...Qxd1+ 11.Rxd1 Bxc5 12.Be2 (Aiming to place the bishop on f3 with a strong pressure along the long diagonal, tying up black forces.) 12...h6 13.Bh4 g5 14.Bg3 Ne4 15.Bf3 Nxg3 16.hxg3 (Black's last few moves could not shake off white's pressure.) 16...Ke7? (Black is completely outplayed: White's active light pieces and the rooks on open files are choking Akopian's position and he allows a little combination.)
17.Bxb7!? (Winning a pawn, but more precise was to insert first 17.b4! and only after 17...Ba7 to play 18.Bxb7! It is obvious that after 17.b4! Bd6? 18.Rxd6! Kxd6 19.Nxf7+ wins; and on 17...g4 18.Be4! Bb6 19.Bxb7! Bxb7 20.Rd7+ Kf6 21.Rh5!, white threatens 22.Rxf7 mate.) 17...Bxb7 18.Rd7+ Kf6 19.f4! (Because of the threat 20.Rxf7 mate, white wins the bishop on b7 with advantage.) 19...gxf4 20.gxf4 Kf5?! (Having not much to lose, Akopian brings his monarch into the battle.) 21.Rxf7+ Ke4 22.Rxb7 Rag8 (The knight dominates the black king with unpleasant forks, e.g. 22...Kxf4 23.Nd3+ wins the bishop.)
23.Rc7! (A beautiful touch! White is able to coordinate his forces by hitting the enemy bishop. The rook will drive the black king back.) 23...Be3 (After 23...Rc8 24.Rxc8 Rxc8 25.Rxh6 white has too many pawns.) 24.Rc4+ Kd5 25.Rh5! (The knight triumphs after 25...Rxg2? 26.Ng4+! Kxc4 27.Nxe3+ and 28.Nxg2 wins.) Black resigned.
Bulgarian International grandmaster Antoaneta Stefanova is the new FIDE women's world champion. She defeated Ekaterina Kovalevskaya of Russia 21/2-1/2 in the final match, played this month in Elista, Kalmykia. Solution to today's problem by L. Kubbel (White: Ke1,Qc7,Ra1,Re2,P:a2,e6,f4; Black: Kh1,Ra4,Re7,Bb1,P:d7,f6): 1.Qc2! Rxe6 2.Qh7+! Bxh7 3.0-0-0 mate; or 1...Rxa2 2.Qe4+! Bxe4 3.0-0-0 mate; or 1...Kg1 2.Qg6+! Bxg6 3.0-0-0 mate; 1...Bxc2 2.Kd2+ Bd1 3.Rxd1 mate.