ETCETERA / Chess: Nine years ago, Tigran Petrosian died while still a formidable grandmaster. William Hartston remembers a great world champion.

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
White: Tigran Petrosian

Black: Gyula Sax

Played in the final round of Tallinn 1979, this game rounded off a marvellous tournament performance. Tigran Petrosian, playing with lazy efficiency, won with White and drew with Black. When he once accidentally won with Black, he promptly conceded a draw with White (against Mikhail Tal) the following day.

When the last round began, Petrosian shared the lead with Tal, half a point ahead of Vaganyan.

1. Nf3 g6 2. e4 Bg7 3. d4 d6 4. Nc3 Nf6 5. Be2 0-0 6. 0-0 Bg4 7. Be3 Nc6 8. Qd2 e5 9. dxe5 dxe5 10. Rad1 Qc8 11. Qc1 Rd8 12. Rxd8+ Qxd8

Petrosian's choice of opening was perfect. His problem was that he had not decided whether he should play for a win. He did not mind sharing first with Tal, but to have to share with Vaganyan too would be annoying. So he wanted to keep his options open until he saw whether Vaganyan was going to win. Only Petrosian could wait so long before deciding whether to work.

13. Rd1 Qf8 14. h3 Bxf3 15. Bxf3 a6 16. Nb1] (see diagram)

White has a plan to maintain an edge. First he must play c3 to keep the black knight out of d4. Then he would like to exchange queens and advance pawns to b4 and a5. Finally, the bishop comes to c4 and knight to c5, to put the Q-side pawns under great pressure.

16 . . . Rd8 17. Rxd8 Qxd8 18. c3 Qd3 19. Nd2 Bf8 20. Qb1 Qb5

Knowing that Petrosian could happily grind away for ever after a queen exchange, Sax keeps the pieces on.

21. Qc2 Nd8 22. Qb3 Qd3 23. Qc4 Qd6 24. Qe2 Qc6 25. Qd3 Nc6 26. a3

Patiently, White prepares b4 followed by Nc4, Bd1 and Bb3.

26 . . . Qe7 27. b4 Nd8 28. Nc4 Nd7 29. Bg4]

Petrosian has seen that Vaganyan is going to win. With his last three moves, all heading forwards, his play has moved up a couple of gears.

29 . . . Ne6 30. Na5]

Everything fits together beautifully. With Black's knights in a tangle, the time is ripe to attack b7.

30 . . . b5 31. Nc6 Qe8 32. c4]

White's game is won. After bxc4 33. Qxc4 Black's a-pawn dies.

32 . . . Nf6 33. cxb5 axb5 34. Qxb5 Nxe4

Black has maintained material equality, but his game is completely gone. As usual, Petrosian now played to deny his opponent any chances.

35. Qc4 Nd6 36. Qd5 h5 37. Bxe6 fxe6 38. Qc5 Nf5 39. Qc2 Bg7 40. b5 Nd4 41. Qc4 Qd7 42. a4 Nf5 43. Qe2 resigns.

Black has no defence against the advance of the a-pawn to victory.

(Graphic omitted)