Is this Petrosian's Greatest Game?    


I was trying to come up with a topic for my  WCA April Lesson.  I had racked my brains ... I did not want to just re-hash old material, I wanted to do something fresh, new and different. 

In the process, I went through about a dozen different subjects, mentally laying them out in my head. During this time I also {lightly} annotated about 50 games. But it seemed - at least for a week or two - that I had hit a block or something. No fountain of new ideas would appear. 

In the end, I had already admitted defeat, and was preparing to cleverly re-appraise some older material. I was laying in my bed, groveling in misery and self-pity, when I suddenly had a white-hot flash of inspiration. 

Since I now had the general idea {theme} for the lesson - it needed a vehicle. I went looking for a game of superb strategy. I wanted to find one of the greatest examples of "over-the-board" planning that I had ever studied, seen or come across. And without doubt, this was THE game!!! I hope you enjoy my efforts.  


Search Google ... for Petrosian's best chess game. 


     Click  HERE  to read a brief biography of this great player.   (I have packed this page with lots of links, so check it out!!!) 

     Click  HERE  to see an explanation of the symbols that I use when annotating a game.   

     Click  HERE  to replay this game on another server.   (Not my site!! Please don't write me about its content.)   


  GM Tigran V. Petrosian (2695) - GM Wolfgang Unzicker (2594)  
  [D61]  
  Nation versus Nation Match / FRG-URS  
  Hamburg GER; (7) / 27,07,1960.  

 [A.J. Goldsby I] 

  The CB medal for this great contest.  (gcg_pet-unz_medal.gif, 02 KB)


Petrosian won only one game (with the White pieces) from the German GM, and this was it. But it is a real masterpiece, and maybe even the finest game that Petrosian ever played ... in his entire career.  

(I am not going to simply copy it here, however, Irving Chernev's introduction to this game has to be read to be believed! 
 Wanna see it? Buy the book!)  

  *************************************  

{The ratings here come from the website of the respected chess statistician, Jeff Sonas.}  
  (Actually, the ratings come from the "old" site; in March of 2005, Sonas released a big re-do his entire site.   
    For the "new" site, J. Sonas has actually come out with monthly lists ... I spot-checked just a few of these, 
    and apparently they are completely accurate.
{The old site only had yearly lists ... in many instances.}  
    For the  June, 1960 
list,  Sonas gives a new {updated} rating for Tigran Petrosian of  2764,  and he   
    gives a rating for Wolfgang Unzicker of 
2676.)  

 1.d4 Nf6;  
Black chooses a hyper-modern move, but as we will see, we can quickly transpose to a Classical set-up.  

 2.Nf3,  
White chooses the most solid second move available to him. 
(It controls e5 and also hits d4, it strongly develops a piece, and it also prepares castling.)  

     [ 2.c4, is the choice of most masters here. ]  

 

 2...e6;  
A good "wait-and-see" move. Black hits d5, releases his KB and paves the way for a quick castling. Meanwhile, the second player has not (yet) tipped his hand as to what his definite pawn structure might look like.  

     [ Also good is:  2...d5!? looking to gain equality by copying the opponent's moves. {symmetry} ]   

 

 3.Bg5,  
Today we call this the Torre Attack, however Petrosian was the first really strong GM to use this opening on any real, consistent basis. However, here Petrosian uses this opening to simply steer his opponent back into the main lines.  

     [  3.e3 d54.Bd3 {Diagram?} 
        is the "Colle Opening." 
        (See my WCA February, 2005 lesson ... for more details.)  

   **************************************************   

        3.c4 {Diagram?}   is the standard approach here.  

        After the further moves:  
        3...d54.Bg5 Nbd75.Nc3 c66.e3 Be7 
        7.Rc1 0-08.Bd3,  "+/="   we reach a standard ...  
        "Queen's Gambit Declined."  

        [ See MCO-14, page # 391; all columns and applicable notes.  
         {Their coverage of the "Orthodox Variation" is extensive, and   
          runs for many, many pages.} ]  ]   

 

 3...d5;  (high ground)   
Black decides to grab his fair share of the center. (The 'book' move here is 3...c5; but apparently Unzicker was more comfortable playing the Black side of a QGD, rather than the Black side of the lines of the Torre Attack - I guess you would call that a matter of taste.)  


     [ Black can also try:  3...c5!?4.e3 Be7 {Diagram?}  
       Probably the best move, Black can also play 4...Qb6; in this position.  

      ** ** ** ** ** **    ** ** ** ** ** ** **    ** ** ** ** ** ** **    ** ** ** ** ** ** **    

           ( A tough contest - played in one of the most important of all competitions - would have   
              been the following encounter:   

              4...Qb6('!?')   5.Qc1 Nc66.c3 Ne47.Bh4 d58.Nbd2 f59.Nxe4!?   
              This exchange seems to give a slight edge to Black.  

                   ( 9.Qc2 Bd6;  "~"   Unclear ... maybe equal. )   

              9...fxe410.Nd2 cxd411.exd4 Bd612.Be2 0-013.0-0 Bf414.Bg3 e5  
              Interesting, but maybe not the most accurate.   

                   ( Probably an improvement (for Black) would have been:     
                     (>/=) 14...Bxg3;  15.hxg3 e5!;  {Diagram?}     
                     All the programs that I tested this position on, clearly     
                     indicate that Black is better here. ("/+") )     

              15.dxe5 Bxg316.hxg3 Nxe517.Nb3 Bg418.Qd1 Bxe219.Qxe2   
              19...Qg620.Nd4 Rae8{Diagram?}   
              This is OK, also the immediate move of 20...Ng4; was worth serious thought here.   

              21.Qb5!?{Diagram?}   
              An interesting attempt to complicate the game by Petrosian.  

                   ( Or 21.Nc2 Nd3;  "/+"  looks excellent for Black. )   

              21...Ng4 22.f3 Ne323.g4 a624.Qxb7 exf3{Diagram?}   
              Hmmm, maybe playing the Rook to the b8-square was a little better.  

                   ( Another possible line is:   
                     >/=  24...Rb8!;  25.Qc6 Rf6;  26.Qc5 Rxb2;  27.Rf2 Rxf2;  28.Kxf2 Nxg4+;     
                     This could be better than the game, and seems to give Black a winning attack. )    

              25.Rxf3 Rxf326.gxf3 Qd627.Ne2 Nc4!?{Diagram?}   
              Playing the Knight to c2 looked like a win for Black.  

              ( >/=  27...Nc2;  28.Rd1 Rxe2;  29.Qxd5+ Qxd5;  30.Rxd5 Ne3;  31.Rd3 Kf7, "-/+" (Fritz 8.0) )     

              28.Re1 Qc5+?{Diagram?}     
              Black misses a knock-out blow. (29...Ne5! looks to be a clear win for Black.) The final phase   
              of this game is VERY uneven ... it has all the earmarks of a wild time scramble.  

                   ( >/=  28...Ne5!;  29.Rf1 Nd3;  "-/+" )   

              29.Kg2 Ne3+30.Kh3 Nc231.Rd1 Rxe232.Rxd5 Qf833.Rf5 Qd8??;     
              A true blunder ... missing a mate, the move of  33...Qe7;  looked fine for Black.   

                   ( >/=  33...Qe7[];  34.Qxa6 h6;  "~"  {D?}  is unclear. )    

              34.Qf7+Black Resigns1-0.   

              GM Tigran Petrosian (2621) - GM Fredrik Olafsson (2506);   
              / FIDE Interzonal (izt) Tournament / Stockholm, Sweden; / (R#1), 1962.  
              (Not a pretty win, but it does show  Petrosian  using this line to defeat another    
              GM - less than 2 years later,  Tigran Petrosian  became World Champion.)   

              This  game  greatly affected the fates of both players.  Olafsson  had been playing   
              well in other events ... and seemed to be on a roll. He never really recovered from   
              this devastating and emotional loss.  

              Meanwhile, Petrosian seemed to gain confidence with every game.   
              If Black had won this game ... who's to say how chess history would have been affected? 

                                                                                    *******   

              Editior's note:  I think the ratings for the above game came from the ChessBase website
              (You can download games in several different formats. They usually have a rating assigned 
                for each of the players in any given contest. However, I do not know the source for this.) 
              Sonas gives a rating of  2788  (# 1.)  for Petrosian as of this date. For Fredrik Olafsson,   
              Sonas gives a rating of  2659  ...  which makes him the # 23 player in the world at that time. )   

     ** ** ** ** ** ** **    ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **    ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **    ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **         

       Back to our opening analysis.   

       5.Nbd2{Diagram?}   
       Perhaps the most consistent move, but c3 was good here.   

  *** *** *** ***   *** *** *** *** ***   *** *** *** *** ***   *** *** *** ***   

            (  Another way to go would be:  5.c3 b6;  6.Bd3 cxd4;  7.exd4 Ba6;   
                8.Bxa6 Nxa6;  9.Nbd2, "+/="  0-0;  ("~")   {Diagram?}  
                MCO gives this as equal, I prefer unclear or a slight edge for White.   

                [ See MCO-14, page # 499, column No. #05 and all applicable notes. ]   

                This is based on the GM contest: 
                Gata Kamsky - Robert Hubner;  / Dortmund, GER; 1992.   

                (This game was quickly drawn, I really don't think that either player was interested    
                  in a real fight that day. GM J. Hodgson has won several nice games with this line ...   
                  so maybe things are not as simple as MCO would have you believe.) )  

  *** *** *** ***   *** *** *** *** ***   *** *** *** *** ***   *** *** *** ***   

       5...d56.c3 Nbd77.Bd3 b68.0-0 Bb7;  ("+/=")  {Diagram?}   
       White has a small, but solid edge.  

       GM J. Piket - GM J. Timman; / Hoogovens (Merrillville); 1997.    
       (This game was drawn in under 30 moves.) ]   


 4.c4!?,  
Playing the Pawn to e3 would have been simpler, but Petrosian was avoiding a well-known method for Black to equalize.  
(See the variation that begins with 4.e3, given just below.)  

     [ After the simple continuation:   4.e3 h6!?5.Bh4!? c5!{D?}    
       Black has good play, and usually can equalize ("=") quickly from here.  

       See the GM contest:  
       Alex Moiseenko - Pedrag NikolicEuCup G5 / Pula, (1) / 1999.   
       (Black equalized ... and went on to win a long game. {74 moves.}) ]   

 

 4...c6;     
Now we have transposed back to a regular ...
"Queen's Gambit Declined." (With a Slav or Semi-Slav pawn formation.)  


     [  4...Be7 was also possible.  {Which should transpose back to book.}  

   **********************************************************   
   **********************************************************   

       A rarely used line would be:  
       4...Bb4+!?5.Nc3 dxc4!?;  "~"  {Diagram?}  
       which Irving Chernev (correctly) calls:  "The Vienna Variation."  

       [ See MCO-14, page # 422;  columns  # 73-75,  and all applicable notes. ]  

     *** *** *** *** ***    *** *** *** *** ***    *** *** *** *** ***     *** *** *** *** ***    

            ( Irving Chernev provides the following game but does not give us the source:   
              5...dxc46.e4 c57.Bxc4 cxd48.Nxd4 Qa59.Bxf6!?{Diagram?}   
              This is certainly playable, although it LOOKS extremely risky, especially at a quick,   
               first glance!   

        ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **     

                   ( After the safer moves:    
                      9.Bd2!? Qc5;  10.Bb5+ Bd7;  11.Nb3 Qe7;     
                      12.Bd3 Nc6;  13.0-0, "+/="  13...0-0;  "~"  {D?}     
                      White might be just a little bit better in this position -    
                      but Black certainly has no reason to be really unhappy.    

                      GM Vladimir Kramnik - GM Joel Lautier;    
                      The Melody Amber Tournament / (7th blindfold, round # 10)    
                      Monaco, 1998. {1-0, 46 moves.} )     

        ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **     

              9...Bxc3+10.bxc3 Qxc3+11.Kf1 Qxc4+12.Kg1{Diagram?}  
              White almost looks to be playing some form of "give-away" chess, there    
              was no choice ... as the move of  12.Ne2, "/+"  clearly favors Black.   

              12...0-0!?{D?}   Not much choice here.   

                   ( Definitely not: </= 12...gxf6?; 13.Rc1, ''  and Black has huge problems. )    

              13.Qg4! g614.Qf4!! Nd715.e5! Nxf616.exf6 Kh8{Diagram?}   
              This is forced, White was threatening to play Qh6.   

                   ( </= 16...Qc3?; ('??')  17.Rc1! Qb2;  18.Qh6,  ("+/-")  and White wins. )   

              17.Rc1! Qd5?{Diagram?}   
              For reasons that will soon become evident, Black had to play his Queen to the    
              b4-square in this position.   

                   ( >/= 17...Qb4; ('!')  18.Qh6 Rg8;  19.Nf3 Qb2!; "~"  /w good play. )    

              18.Qh6! Rg819.Nf3! Qh520.Ng5 Qxh6!?21.Nxf7#{D?}    
              An amusing and most amazing little trap.   

              A. Kotov - Judowitsch; / URS (U.S.S.R.) / 1939.  ]     


 5.Qc2!?,   {See the diagram given, just below here.}    
An early Queen move, White is doing a bit of shadow-boxing himself. (See the note after Black's second move.) 
This move is not bad, it protects c4, clears the way for the QR to come to d1, and also avoids a possible pin after 5.Nc3, Bb4. (Unzicker was fond of that line.) Meanwhile, Petrosian will develop, but he will try to keep all of his options open ... for as long as he possibly can. (Most of the time, the average player does not realize how sophisticated a simple-looking series of moves can really be. Hopefully, if I have done my job, you should have a better understanding of some of the nuances of a single move order - and how a move order can be used to avoid your opponent's favorite lines.)  

"Both players handle the opening subtly, ..." - GM Andrew Soltis. He goes on to talk about all the opening lines that were played or avoided. (Torre Attack, The Vienna Variation of the QGD, The Cambridge Springs Defense, The main lines of the Botvinnik Variation, etc.)  

 

  *********************************  

gcg_pet-unz_h60-pos1.gif, 10 KB

  *********************************  

 

This would be a good place to stop and assess the position and also have a diagram to help us do exactly that.  

     [ The continuation of:   5.e3 Nbd76.Nc3 Be77.Rc1 0-08.Bd3,  ("+/=")  {Diag?}   
        is a transposition is the main hallways of the  QGD(See the note here after move 3.) ]   

 

 5...Be7;   
Now both sides continue to develop ... and in a fairly normal manner for this particular opening.  

     [ Another possibility for Black would be the continuation:   
        5...Nbd76.e3 Qa5+!? {Diagram?}     
        One book strongly recommends this move as the equalizing play.  

             ( Maybe the simple continuation:    
               (>/=)  6...Be7;  7.Nbd2 0-0;  8.cxd5 exd5;  9.Bd3,  ("+/=")  9...a5!?;     
               would have been a fairly substantial improvement for Black. )     

        7.Nbd2 Ne4!?8.Bf4 Be79.cxd5 exd510.Bd3 Ndf611.0-0 Bf5   
        12.Nb3 Qd813.Ne5 Bg614.f3!,  "+/="   {Diagram?}   
        White had a significant edge ... and went on to win the game in less than 35 moves.   

        GM J. Lautier - GM D. Barua; / (FIDE) World Championship Tournament  
        (knock-out event); /  Moscow, Russia, 2001. ]   

 

 6.e3 0-0;  7.Nc3 h6!?;    
A crucial moment in the game.  
Black immediately ... ... ... "asks the question" of White's Bishop on g5. The real question is whether or not Black should have delayed this whole procedure until a later time.  

     [ Black could also play:  (>/=)  7...Nbd78.Rc1 a69.a3 Re810.Bd3,  ("+/=")   
       White has a solid plus - and went on to win the game in 51 moves.  

        GM Rafael Vaganian (2575) - GM David Bronstein (2630);   
        ICT / Kirovakan (Round #11), USSR / 1978.   
        (White won a good game, 1-0 in 51 total moves.)  ]    

 

 8.Bf4!,     
Bearing down on e5, making a Pawn break on that square - anytime soon - nearly impossible.  

('!' - GM Andrew Soltis)  

 

     [   8.Bh4, ('!?')  was also possible. (White has a small advantage, "+/=".)   

         GM Igor Khenkin (2585) - GM Roman Slobodjan (2550)  
         ICT / 20th Arco Open (Round  # 04) / 1998.    
         (White won a nice game in 54 total moves.)   

  ***********************************************************   

         A solid reference work provides the following continuation for White:   
         8.Bxf6!? Bxf69.Rd1 g6!?10.Bd3 dxc411.Bxc4 Nd7!?  
         12.h4!?,  ("+/=")   12...Bg7!?;  "~"  {Diagram?}   
          The end of the column.   

         White has a small edge, although MCO evaluates this particular  
          position as being unclear.  

         This is based on the following super-GM contest:   
         Vladimir Kramnik - Nigel Short;  (Ratings = W-2730; B-2645)   
         ICT / Super-Master (Invitational) / Dortmund, Germany; (R5) / 1995.   
         {White won an exceedingly brilliant game in 25 moves ... it is beyond    
            my ken to analyze that game here.}   

         [ See MCO-14, page # 401;  column # 29, and esp. note # (x.). ]  ]   

 

 8...Nbd7;   
Black definitely should continue with his development in this position.  

     [ Black should not play:   
       </=  8...Nh5!?; ('?!')   9.Be5 f6?;  ('??')  {Diagram?}   
       A bad move ... that was actually recommended by a well-known    
       chess writer in his regular, weekly newspaper column!   

       10.Bxb8! Rxb811.g4,  ("+/-")  {Diagram?}   
       White is winning a piece. ]    

 

 9.cxd5!,   
Petrosian had a very dry style, but he was correct here - in order to gain a long lasting advantage, 
White must:  A.) Fix the pawn structure;  B.) Avoid losing any tempi.  
(White has also played Rd1 in this position, but it is not clear that it leads to a clear or solid edge  
  for White.)   

     [ White can also try:   
        9.Rd1 Qa510.Nd2 Nh511.Be5 Nxe512.dxe5 g613.h4,  ("~")  {Diagram?}   
        GM Anthony Miles (2580) - GM Jesus Nogueiras (2555);    
        / GMA-qual f Moscow (3), 05,1990.  
          (This was an "up-and-down" game that was eventually drawn in 58 moves.) ]    

 

 9...cxd5!?;  (Maybe dubious?)  {See the diagram given below.}       
Believe it or not, this is a (THE?) 'book' move for Black in this particular position.  

In most sources that I could find this game, this move is rarely questioned - one opening book gives this move without any comment at all. However, two other recaptures were playable here, and taking with the other Pawn was probably better than what transpired in the game.  

 

  *********************************  

 gcg_pet-unz_h60-pos2.gif, 10 KB

  *********************************  

 

White now has a solid advantage  ...  and begins to build on this in an impressive fashion.  

     [ Another way to go might be:  
        (>/=)  9...Nxd5!?  {Diagram?}    
        Interesting, ('!?') and certainly fully playable.  

        10.Bg3{Diagram?}    
         The alternative was to exchange on the d5-square.   

              (  Or White could play instead:  
                 10.Nxd5 exd5;  11.a3 Nf6;  12.h3 Ne4;  13.Bd3 Qa5+;     
                 14.Nd2 Nxd2;  15.Qxd2 Qxd2+;  16.Kxd2,  ("+/=")  {Diag?}     
                  Black has nothing to fear here, with a reasonable defense ...      
                  I can't imagine Black losing this position. )    

       10...Qa511.Rc1, "+/="  11...Re8;  "~"  {Diagram?}   
        Black can play his Bishop to f6, and play the freeing advance,   
        ...e7-e5;  with a very good game.  

   ************************************************************   

       Seemingly the most accurate  would have been:   
       >/=   9...exd5!10.Be2 Nh5!;  ("=")  {Diagram?}   
       when Black has full equality. ]    

 

 10.Bd3 a6!?;   {See the diagram given below.}  
Some authors have said that this move was forced - to prevent Nb5.   

 

  *********************************  

 gcg_pet-unz_h60-pos3.gif, 09 KB

  *********************************  

 

Either here, or on his next move, Black should have seriously considered the move, 10...Nh5! (This does NOT mean that this move will completely bail Black out of all his difficulties, not by a long shot! But its a place to start any real search for improvements.)  

 

 11.0-0 b5!?;  (Maybe dubious?)  {See the diagram given below.}   
Normally a Q-side advance like this would give Black good play, but here Petrosian exploits the downside of this move with great force and artistry.  

 

  *********************************  

 gcg_pet-unz_h60-pos4.gif, 09 KB

  *********************************  

 

Some of the authors and pundits have branded this move ... as "the losing move" in this 'partie.' 

However, close analysis, {see the detailed variation given below}; has shown me that Black already has an extremely difficult game here. Therefore, if Black really wants to improve his play in this contest, you have to look back much earlier than move eleven!  ('?' - GM Andrew Soltis. This is not an indictment of Soltis, often he is just repeating what has already been written about a move in various chess magazines and newspaper columns.)  

  *** *** *** *** *** ***   

Let me share a theory I have about annotating chess games. Often times, when a player loses a game, it is a very normal reaction to go looking for ... "the smoking gun." The writers find the one move that they believe to be bad, slap a label on it ... and BINGO! All the problems have been resolved.  

But chess is vastly more complicated than that. Often times, a player might play a second (or third) best move ... for a whole long series of moves. This often has a devastating and very severe, "CUMULATIVE EFFECT." In other words, one move - by itself - is really not all that bad. The computer program will not even indicate any type of variations in the evaluations of the position. But if you add all of these slightly "less-than-best" moves together, it can add up to one side getting the worst of things.  

Another aspect of chess annotation that compounds this problem is that there is not a set yardstick for this part of chess. What one author, say an extremely critical writer like GM R. Huebner, (who is still one of the world's best analysts); might give a move a whole question mark, or even TWO question marks. Yet another author might give the same play only the dubious ('?!') appellation.  

In the end, it will probably be the computer that resolves this issue. A move that causes a slight dip in the evaluation of the position could be considered dubious. A move that causes a drop in the 'scoring' of a position that is greater than say 0.75, could be considered worthy of a whole question mark. Exclams will still be a matter of taste, however. What I consider to be a very fine or a deeply hidden move, someone else, sitting at home and analyzing with the aid of a computer, might consider to be just a routine move.  

  In this game, Black played a whole series of moves that could be justly considered as: "less than best."    
(From move seven to eleven.) If I were to condemn any one move and attach any kind of mark to it, it would have to be Black's ninth move. This is curious, as theory has been - at least up until 2005 - very silent on the real merits, (or the lack thereof); of this particular play.  

 

     [ Black could have tried:  11...Nh5!?12.Be5! f6!?{Diagram?}   
       One GM stopped here ... and stated that Black has  ...  "complete equality." 
       (ha-ha-ha!)    

       13.Bc7!! Qxc7;    Black may not refuse this gift.  

             ( </= 13...Qe8??;  14.Bg6, "+/-" )   

       14.Nxd5! Qxc2{Diagram?}    
       Several programs indicate that this move is probably forced.   

             ( </= 14...Qd8?;  15.Nc7! Rb8!?;  16.Nxe6 Qb6;    
               17.Bc4! f5;  18.Nf4+ Kh8;  19.Nxh5,  ("+/-")  {D?}    
               White is two Pawns ahead, and all the programs that     
               I tested this position indicate that White is simply     
               winning in this position. )    

       15.Nxe7+ Kf716.Bxc2 Kxe717.Bg6 b618.Bxh5 Bb719.Nd2, ''  
       White is a solid Pawn ahead ... with no weaknesses that Black can play for.   
       (This is basically a won game for White, especially with some good technique.)  

  ***************************************************************************  

       Black could also try:  
       (</=)  11...Nb8!?(- Irving Chernev)    
       It is NOT entirely clear if this really represents a valid improvement over the actual game!   
       (In my own opinion, Black is just trading one bad game for another inferior, and nearly  
        lifeless position.)  

       12.Qe2! Nc613.Ne5 Bd714.Rac1, "+/="  (Maybe "")  {Diagram?}   
       and White has a VERY large and significant advantage here. ]   

 

 

 12.a4!,   
Several of my students found this play rather surprising with the White Queen still sitting on the c-file. Nonetheless, this is the correct procedure - the first player must open lines and exploit Black's lagging Q-side development, before the second player has a chance to catch up.   

     [ The continuation of:  </= 12.h3 Bb713.Rac1 Rc8{Diagram?}   
        is not as convincing as the method that White chose in the actual game. ]   

 

 12...b4;   
This is virtually forced, otherwise Black will lose a Pawn.  

 

 13.Na2!,  (Maybe - '!!')   {See the diagram given below.}     
('!' - GM Andrew Soltis)  

The reason for playing this Knight to this particular square is NOT immediately apparent - even the computer prefers to play the Knight to e2 instead.  

 

  *********************************  

 gcg_pet-unz_h60-pos5.gif, 09 KB

  *********************************  

 

"Much superior to Ne2," says the revered and respected ... Irving Chernev.  

     [  13.Ne2 Bb714.Rac1,  ("+/=")  was also good for White. ]   

 

 13...Ne8;  14.Nc1 a5;  15.Nb3 Ba6;    
As a result of the choice that Unzicker made on his ninth move, this Bishop is a rather sorry piece. Rather than maintain a soldier with limited movement, Black decides to simply exchange it for his opponent's good Bishop.  

 16.Bxa6 Rxa6;  17.Qd3 Ra7;  18.Rfc1!,   {See the diagram given below.}    
Now the reasons for White's 13th move become more apparent. The piece (N) on b3 will perpetually harass the Black a-Pawn, continuously threaten to grab the outpost on c5, and aids White in his ability to dominate the only open file.  

 

  *********************************  

 gcg_pet-unz_h60-pos6.gif, 09 KB

  *********************************  

 

Black's position is something of a mess, he must immediately begin untangling the knots ... or face the consequences.  

     [ Or  18.Ne5 Nxe519.Bxe5;  "~"   Unclear. ]   

 

 18...Nd6;    
Black's position looks rather congested, but not at all without play ... 
perhaps Unzicker has chances for some Q-side piece activity.  

     [ </= 18...Bd6?!19.Ne5!, ''  ]   

 

 19.Bxd6!,  (Maybe - '!!')    
This looks like a mistake, exchanging off a Bishop with plenty of open lines for a Knight with very limited range. However, Petrosian's decision is guided by a very deep understanding of the position and also his knowledge of the endgame. (In positions with fixed Pawn structures, as in this game, it is often best to have a Knight! Especially in the endgame!!!)  

(now) "Black does not get to occupy either c4 or e4." - GM A. Soltis   

     [  19.Rc2!?,  "+/="  was also possible here. ]    

 

 19...Bxd6;  20.Rc6! Nb8; {Box?}  21.Rc2 Nd7;  22.Rac1 Nb6;  {See the diagram given below.}     
Black is permanently hobbled by his weak a-Pawn, and will never be able to challenge White's dominance of the c-file, (see the variation given after 22...Rc7). Therefore Black is limited to fighting a limited guerilla war and seeking counterplay by attacking White's foot-soldier on a4.  

 

  *********************************  

 gcg_pet-unz_h60-pos7.gif, 09 KB

  *********************************  

 

This is a good place for a diagram. 
(Take a few minutes and ponder this position. Try to weigh up all of the reasons why White is better here.)  

     [ Black gets in trouble after:   
       </=  22...Rc7;  ('?')  {Diagram?}  
       This move is a mistake, or at least highly inadvisable.   

       23.Qb5 Rxc224.Rxc2 Bc725.Qb7 Bb826.Nxa5   
       26...Qxa527.Qxd7, "+/="  (Really  '')   {Diagram?}  
       White has won a Pawn and should win the game,    
       especially with best play from this position. ]     

 

Soltis gives Whites next move an exclam ... his explanation of the move is valid so I must concur.   
 23.Qb5! Nc4;  24.Nfd2,  (Maybe - '!')     
Petrosian naturally exchanges off his opponent's one really good piece.  

     [ Not   </=  24.Kf1, ('?!')   24...Qa8!{Diagram?}    
        and suddenly White is in trouble, as Black threatens ...Rb8. ]    

 

 24...Nxd2;  25.Rxd2 Qa8;  26.Rdc2 Rd8;   
Black's Bishop looks to be fine, the truth is quite the opposite of this. 
(In an endgame, the weakness on a5 will probably doom Black. This is why Black does NOT try to exchange Rooks in this game!)  

Irving Chernev confirms my observations by providing the following comment:   
"Passive resistance, but energetic measures might be dangerous."  

     [ Or if  26...Rb8;  then  27.Qd3,  "+/="   

  ****************************************   

       Bad for Black is the continuation:   
       </=  26...Qb7?!; ('?')  27.Qxb7 Rxb728.Rc6 Rd829.Ra6, ''   
       White has picked off a Pawn and is probably winning here. ("+/-")   
       {Analysis by the author, Irving Chernev.} ]   

 

 27.Rc6 g6;    
Black is forced to play a waiting game ... it is up to Petrosian to demonstrate how he will manage to win from this position.  
(Black's last move gave his King some air, and avoided a possible back-rank mate in the future. Several sources criticize Black's last move, suggesting 27...h6; in its place. To me, it does not really matter - Black has no effective antidote to what Petrosian cooks up.)  

 

 28.g3 Kg7 
Very few people know that Unzicker offered a draw around this move - and that the normally mild Petrosian turned him down.  

 

 29.Kf1!!,  {Truly spectacular!}  (It is time ... for a King march?)   {A diagram - just below.}       
 
('!!' - GM Andrew Soltis)  

This quiet King move is actually a prelude to a monster attack.  
(Petrosian has hatched a nearly unbelievable idea ... he will march his King all the way to the Q-side. Once his King is safely tucked away he will advance all of his Pawns in that sector to fatally expose the Black King. Meanwhile, Black will be unable to try and pare down the material, because the endgame is virtually lost for him.)  

The really cool part of Petrosian's plan is that he saw he had no weak spots or further points of entry into Black's position. But having fettered Unzicker through his complete and total domination of the Queenside, the crafty Petrosian uses this lull most impressively ... to shepherd his own King to safety and then open lines on the right-hand side of the board.  

I can further comment (and compliment) on this game by saying that this contest is extraordinary and I cannot readily think of many parallels in chess. In fact, I can't think of any game that shows such a grandiose display of superior strategy, and where such a complete dominance on one wing is so quickly converted into a winning advantage in the opposite sector.  

The authors of the magazine "64" (in an article) praised this move as ... ... ...   
"One of the most remarkable and ingenious plans ever conceived."  

 

  *********************************  

 gcg_pet-unz_h60-pos8.gif, 09 KB

  The position just after the move, 29.Kf1!!  

  *********************************  

 

This is the current position in the game.  

     [ Also good was:  29.h4, ("+/=")  with an advantage to White. ]  

 

During the next series of moves here, Petrosian continues to execute his idea(s), while poor Unzicker has been reduced to moving his King back and forth.   
 29...Kg8;  30.h4 h5;  31.R1c2 Kh7;  32.Ke1 Kg8;  33.Kd1 Kh7;  34.Kc1 Kg8;  35.Kb1,    
 
{See the diagram given below.}   
The first phase of Petrosian's plan is complete - his King is safely tucked away.  

 

  *********************************  

 gcg_pet-unz_h60-pos9.gif, 09 KB

  *********************************  

 

Take a look at the position now, see how much things have changed since the last time that we looked at the position.  

     [ 35.f4, ("+/=") ]  

 

 35...Kh7;  36.Qe2 Qb7;  37.Rc1!,   
Beginning a pleasing "switch-back" theme, White's pieces must now be available for service on the K-side as well!   

     [  37.g4!? is also good for White. ]   

 

Irving Chernev gives White's 38th move an exclam ... he gives a very good line of reasoning ... and an excellent variation as well. 
(I concur, it gives Black a big opportunity to go wrong.)   
 37...Kg7;  38.Qb5! Qa8[];     
Black cannot exchange Queens, as much as he would like to.  

Few people have pointed out, that - on the whole - GM W. Unzicker played VERY good defense in this game! A lesser mortal would have fallen into one of the many snares that Petrosian was constantly setting in this super-human contest.  

     [ Black cannot play:  </=  38...Qxb5?39.axb5 a440.b6 Rad741.Na5, (!)      
       
This wins ... and I think it is easily the most accurate. But White did have one 
         alternative here. 

             (  The computer likes:  
                 (</=)  41.Nc5!? Bxc5;  42.dxc5,  ''  {Diagram?}     
                  and Shredder 9.0 evaluates this position as winning     
                  ("+/-")  for White. However, it is hard to see how    
                  White can get his pair of passed Pawns rolling. )      

       41...Ra842.Rxd6!! Rxd643.b7 Rb8!?;  {Diagram?}     
       This looks like a natural move (for Black).  

             ( The computers give  the almost insane-looking continuation  of:    
                (</=)  43...Rh8; ('?!')  44.b3! Rd7;  44.bxa4, Rb8;    
                 45.Kb2, Kf6;  47.Kb3,  ("+/-")  {Diagram?}      
                 and now the computer,  (Fritz 8.0);  evaluates this position   
                 as completely winning for White. )     

       44.Rc8 Rd845.Rxd8! Rxd846.Nc6,  ("+/-")  
       when White has an easy win.  {Analysis by - Irving Chernev.}  
       (This variation was double-checked and modified on April 15th, 2005.)  ]    

 

 39.f4 Kh7;  40.Qe2! Qb7;  (Handshake?)    
Black plays to {hopefully} repeat the position, and get a draw. 

     [ One of my {former} on-line students suggested ...f7-f5; in this position, so as 
        to prevent White from playing the g2-g4 idea that occurs in the game. 

        </=  40...f5?!41.Rb6! Kg7!?42.Qb5 Kg843.Rcc6 Bc7    
        44.Ra6 Rxa645.Rxa6 Qc846.Nc5, ''   (Maybe "+/-")  {Dg?}     
        Black's position is ready to fall apart here, several programs    
        evaluate this position as simply winning for White. ]   

 

  41.g4!,   {See the diagram given below.}     
After a bit of jockeying for position - perhaps in order to reach the time control on move forty - White begins phase two of his plan ... and begins opening lines to the hapless Black King. (Whom unlike his counterpart, has no safe haven to flee to!)  

 

  *********************************  

 gcg_pet-unz_h60-pos10.gif, 09 KB

  *********************************  

 

Now it can be readily seen that White's own King is safe, and the first party can begin to tear open some lines in an effort to try and get at the opponent's King.  

     [ 41.Ka2, ("+/=") ]   

 

 41...hxg4;  42.Qxg4 Qe7;  43.h5 Qf6;  44.Ka2!,  ('!' - GM Andrew Soltis)       
Unzicker's one hope is that Petrosian will miss the idea of ...Qf5+; forcing an exchange of Queens. (No such luck!)  

     [ Or  44.Rb6 Qf5+ 45.Qxf5 gxf5;  "~"   (Unclear?) ]  

 

 44...Kg7;  45.hxg6 Qxg6;  46.Qh4! Be7;  {See the diagram given below.}     
(Black's last move was probably forced.) White's advantage is big ... and thanks to superior strategy ... it just keeps getting bigger. Meanwhile, Black has no real source of counterplay, he can only sit there and await the killing blow.  

 

  *********************************  

 gcg_pet-unz_h60-pos11.gif, 08 KB

  *********************************  

 

With Black's King sitting in an open file, it is {now} obvious to even the most casual observer that Unzicker has some real problems in this position.  

     [ But not:  </=  46...Rh8; ('?')  as then  47.Qf2,  ("+/-")  {Diag?}   
       and Black cannot deal with two decisive threats ... his Bishop on   
       d6 is hanging and White also threatens Rg1, pinning (and winning)   
       the Black Queen. ]    

 

White's next move looks like a retreat ... but actually threatens to pin (and win) the Black Queen by playing "Rook-to-g1" here.  
 47.Qf2 Kf8[];  48.Nd2!,    
After sitting on b3 ... seemingly for the whole game ... the Knight on b3, who was bored out of his gourd, decides that he likes the look of this little party ... and decides to come on over and get in on the action. (The e5-square is now tailor-made for a Knight, anyway.)  

The reason that this move gets an exclam is that I have shown this game many times over the years. Few, if any, of my students find this cunning Knight maneuver. (There are many interesting ways for Black to lose.)  

"The Knight seems headed for K5, but then Petrosian changes his mind ...  - or is he toying with Unzicker?"   
  --- The one and only, Irving Chernev.  

     [ Also good for White was:   48.Qh2!?,  (Maybe "+/-")  ]  

 

 48...Rb7;  49.Nb3 Ra7;   
The Rook is forced back.  

 

Now Black seems to be holding, his position, so how does White break through?   
 50.Qh2!,  (Maybe - '!!')    
This seemingly innocent Queen move is actually decisive, now there is nothing to be done about White's many threats.  

     [ Also good was:  50.R1c2, "+/"  ]   

 

 50...Bf6!?,   {See the diagram given below.}      
Something like this is probably forced - instead playing the Queen to f6 will probably just transpose to the note that begins with the move, 50...Raa8.  

 

  *********************************  

 gcg_pet-unz_h60-pos12.gif, 08 KB

  *********************************  

 

Now White is ready to begin some fireworks ... just in case Black has gotten bored with all this maneuvering.  

 

     [  After the following continuation:  (>/=)  50...Raa851.f5{Diagram?}  
        The long-awaited breakthrough.  

              ( 51.Rg1, ("+/") )    

        51...Qf6{Diagram?}   This is forced.  

                            *******  

              ( </=  51...Qxf5??; 52.Qh8#.   

          *** *** *** *** ***      *** *** *** *** ***      

                </=  51...exf5??;  52.Rxg6, "+/-"   

          *** *** *** *** ***      *** *** *** *** ***      

                51...Qg4!?;  52.fxe6 Qh4;  53.Qxh4 Bxh4;    
                54.Rc7 Be7;  55.Rf1, ("+/-") - Fritz 8.0 )   

                            *******  

        52.fxe6 fxe653.Qh3 Bd654.Rf1, ("+/-")  {Diagram?}    
        (and) Black has lost his Queen.  

   **********************************************************************    

        Of course it is bad for Black to play the following variant:   
        </=  50...Bd6?51.Rxd6 Rxd652.f5 exf553.Qh8+ Ke754.Rc8,   ("+/-")  
         ... and Black is lost. {Chernev}  

   **********************************************************************    

        Maybe the best defense was to play the Queen to the f6-square. 
        However, this would NOT have saved Black ... as the following   
        analysis will clearly demonstrate:    
        (>/=)  50...Qf6; ('!')  51.Rc8! Ra852.Rxa8! Rxa853.Rh1 Bd8 
        54.Qc2! Be755.Qc7 Kg7!?56.Qb7! Re8!?{Diagram?}   
        There are not a lot of great squares for Black's Rook to go to here.  

              ( </= 56...Rh8?!; 57.Rxh8 Kxh8; 58.Nxa5 Bd6; 59.Nc6, "+/-" )     

        57.Nxa5 Bf858.Rg1+! Kh759.Nc6 b3+!?60.Kxb3! Qf5 
        61.Ka2 Bh6!?{Diagram?}    
        This is almost forced - Black is running out of moves.   

              ( After the moves:  </=  61...Bd6?!;  62.Qd7 Ra8;  63.a5 Bf8;   
                 64.Qb7 Re8;  65.a6,  ("+/-")  {Diagram?} Black is clearly lost. )   

        62.Ne5 Qf663.Ng4!! Qg664.Rh1!,  ("+/-")  {Diagram?}   
        White wins at least a piece. ]    

 

 *** *** *** *** *** ***    *** *** *** *** *** ***    *** *** *** *** *** ***    *** *** *** *** *** ***   

After all the {above} analysis, we return to the actual game.  
 51.Rc8!,    
('!' - GM Andrew Soltis)  
The final assault begins.  

Chernev points out that White intends the following continuation:  
52.RxR/d8+, BxR/d8;  53.Rc8 Ke7;  54.RxB/d8!, KxR/d8;  55.f5!, QxP/f5;  56.Qb8+,  "+/-"   
 ... "and White wins the Rook." (It is always ESSENTIAL to try and figure out what your opponent's   
PRIMARY (tactical) THREAT is!!)  

     [ White could also play:  
         51.Qh3!?{Diagram?}  
         which gives White a very large edge. ("+/") ]    

 

 51...Rad7;  ('!?')  (Double-hmmm)     
It no longer matters, Unzicker was a good enough player to know when he was beaten.   
(Playing the Rook to the a8-square was just slightly better, but would not have averted the loss from this position.)  

     [  (>/=)   51...Ra852.R8c7 Bg753.Nc5 Qh654.Qg3 Re8  
         55.Nd7+ Kg856.Ne5 Rf857.Rg1 Ra6;  {Diagram?}      
         Black is completely tied up in this position.  

         58.Rc2 Ra759.Rh2 Qf6;  {Diagram?}   
         Black actually had to play his Queen to the g6-square to avoid    
         the mate, however, I am sure that Unzicker would have preferred  
         resignation to play that move!  

         60.Qh3,  ("+/-")  {Diagram?}  
         and Black cannot avoid a mate in more than three more moves.    

  *************************************************************   

        Another gross line for Black is:    
        </=  51...Rxc8?52.Rxc8+ Ke753.f5! Qxf554.Qh6! Kd7;    
        55.Qf8 Rc756.Rb8 Qc257.Qe8+ Kd658.Nxa5 Bh4!?   
        59.Rb6+,  ("+/-")  {Diagram?}    
        and Black would surely resign.   

        (This time, improving on Chernev, but thanks only to the modern   
          marvel of the PC and also a strong chess program .................   
          like Fritz 8.0.)   

  *************************************************************   

        Also bad for Black would be:   
        </=  51...Rb7?52.f5! exf5!?  {Diagram?}      
        This leads to the prettiest finish.  

             ( >/= 52...Qxf5;  53.Qd6+ Ke8;  54.Rxd8+! Bxd8;  55.Rh1 Qf6;   
               56.Qc6+ Rd7;  ('?')  {Diagram?}    
               The box indicates that this move is an error and that Kf8 was    
               forced. However, I doubt many human players would continue   
               from a position where they were a Rook down!   

               (Play now continues in our analysis line.)    
               57.Nc5 Qe7!?;  58.Rh8+ Qf8;  59.Qxd7#. )   

        53.Qd6+! Ke854.Qc6+ Rbd755.Nc5,  ("+/-")  {Diagram?}    
        White wins easily, as the move of  55...Be7?;  is met by  56.Qxd7+!    
         (Or if 55...Ke7;  then simply  56.NxR/d7.)  ]    

 

 52.Nc5!,   ('!' ... ... ... maybe - '!!')    
The great Tigran Petrosian has timed everything perfectly ...
Black cannot even grab the Rook that seems to hang on the c8-square.  

     [  52.f5!?{Diagram?}  probably would also win the game for White. ]    

 

 52...b3+,    
This is known in the business as ... "a spite check."  

     [ Even worse for Black would have been the following variation:    
       </=  52...Rxc8; ('?')  53.Nxd7+ Ke854.Rxc8+ Kxd7  
       55.f5 Qxf5; ('?')  {Diagram?}  This is the same as resignation.   

            ( Or if  55...Kxc8;  then just simply  56.fxg6,  ("+/-")     
               and Black should quit here. )   

       56.Qc7#.  (OUCH!!!)  ]    

 

 53.Kxb3 Rd6;  54.f5!!,  (BOOM!!!)   {See the diagram given below.}   
Petrosian plays this crushing move only when the tension in the position has reached an absolute crescendo.  

"At last! This has been hanging over Unzicker's head just as The Sword of Dionysus hung over that of Damocles."
 - The incomparable Irving Chernev   

 

  *********************************  

 gcg_pet-unz_h60-pos13.gif, 08 KB

  *********************************  

 

The problems that face Black are his Queen is hanging ... and, thanks to the pinning action of the White Rook on c8, Petrosian also threatens QxR/d6+.  

     [ After the continuation of:  
        54.Rc7, ('!?')  {Diagram?}  which should also carry the day,  ("+/-");  for White ...   
        but it is not nearly as effective as the move that Petrosian actually played in this game. ]   

 

 54...Rb6+;  55.Ka2,  ("+/-")   Black Resigns, 1-0.    
(Black's Queen is threatened - so Black must capture the pawn on f5; and thus is unable to defend all of White's other threats in this position.)  

 

     [ After the further moves:  55.Ka2 exf556.Nd7+ Kg757.Nxb6,  "+/-" {D?}   
        White wins a whole Rook. ]   

 

  *********************************  

 gcg_pet-unz_h60-pos14.gif, 08 KB

  The final position in this superb contest.  

  *********************************  

 

In terms of pure STRATEGY - one of the most brilliant displays ever played on a chess board;  
the wily Tigran Petrosian had every angle covered!!!  

 

<< A MASTERLY performance by (the great) Tigran Petrosian. >>  
      - Irving Chernev. (my emphasis)   

***********************************************************************************  
***********************************************************************************  

  BIBLIOGRAPHY:    

I have seen this game in more books than I care to count, I have nearly every good book on  Petrosian   
that has ever been printed in the English language. I also have all the main, modern reference books, like   
MCO, NCO, BCO, ECO, SCO, etc. I also used all my books on the Queen's Gambit Declined that I   
own, (somewhere around 30); during my work on this great GM contest.  

 

However, one book stands out above all others, at least as far as I am concerned here. 
That would be:   
# 1.)  << THE GOLDEN DOZEN >>  "The Twelve Greatest Chess Players  ...  Of All Time,"   
by  Irving Chernev.  Copyright (c) 1976, by the author. 
Published by: Oxford University Press, (NY, USA) and also Oxford.  

His notes are far better than mine. (During the critical phases of the game, there is a comment after 
nearly every move!!!) I have given you just a taste here, in the hopes that you will buy this most excellent  
book! (You may want to carefully search the Internet, or any stores that sell used books in your area.)  

   *** *** *** *** ***      *** *** *** *** ***      *** *** *** *** ***      *** *** *** *** ***     

# 2.)  GM Andy Soltis  wrote a wonderful book by the name of:   
< The 100 Best. >  ("The 100 Best Chess Games of The 20th Century, Ranked.")   
It was published in the year, 2000; by McFarland & Company Inc. Jefferson, North Carolina / USA.  
ISBN: # 0-7864-0926-6, Hard-cover.  

In this book, he ranks this as game number # 76, overall. He showers this contest with praise and  
exclamation marks. Additionally, he gave this game very high marks for originality. (18/20)  

***********************************************************************************  
***********************************************************************************  

 

   Copyright  (c)  A.J. Goldsby,  2005.   All rights reserved.   

 

    1 - 0    


   [My bio of this player.]    [Petrosian's games]    [A good example of Petrosian's tactical skill.]   


This game was analyzed and prepared with the program,  ChessBase 8.0.  (I also used several programs to check spelling of the text.)   

The diagrams were specifically prepared with the very useful program,  Chess Captor 2.25. 

The original HTML document was created with "Liquid Metal," and finished and refined with  Microsoft  "Front Page."   
 (I also used a program to verify the HTML code ... and check it for any possible errors.) 


   Return  to my  Directions Page, or  return  to my page for the  "Games List."    

   Go (or return)  to the main (home) page of my big  Geo-Cities  web-site(Was here.) 

   Go (or return)  to my  GC page  on the  best chess players  of all time.  

   Go (or return)  to my  GC page  on some of the  best chess games  that were ever played.  

   Check out  some more annotated games. (Page 1 of my  "Annotated Games"  on my GC website.)   

   Take a look at  some of the annotated games ... on the main page of my "Down-Loads"  website 

   Visit  my big  "Angel-Fire"  website, and take a look at a few of the  annotated games  that are there.  

  *************************************************************************  

I wish I could say I had annotated this game before. (Well, I actually have ... but I never wrote an article or did a web page on this game before.)  

This does not mean I had never seen this game before, quite the contrary ... 
I had studied it close to (or over) thirty years ago! A friend had a 'Chess Digest' pamphlet on Petrosian. He lent it to me and I studied it. To be honest, I did not understand many of the games ... I was more-or-less an amateur. The games of this great player did not really fire my imagination - simply because I did not grasp the depth, height or breadth of the accomplishments of this particular player. 

However today, I dig Petrosian ... mainly because I can now understand the greatness if his games just a little more. (I hope - now - that you do too!!)  

 *******  

And other than move 48, ALL the exclams in this game come from some other source, (Soltis, Chernev, Clarke, Khalifman, Vasilev, and several others - I have about six books on Petrosian as well.). In the majority of the cases, I have indicated from whom the primary rationale for the exclamation point was derived from.  

{'!' - The author who awarded the exclam to this move.}  

  *******  

     Final  posting on:  Saturday; April 02nd, 2005.   (Contact me ... about this analysis.)   

     This (web) page was actually created in (mid)  March, 2005.   This page was last updated on 05/30/13   


  Copyright (c) A.J. Goldsby I 

  Copyright () A.J. Goldsby, and A.J.'s Enterprises, Inc.  

  Copyright () A.J. Goldsby, 2013.  All rights reserved.  


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