Tigran Petrosian - The Steel Tiger

30/07/2023 - Actualizado: 31/07/2023

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Often chess as art can reflect the life of a person, as seen in the style and chess career of Tigran Petrosian, who was nicknamed the Steel Tiger for his fierce defense, as well as one of the most respected chess players of his time.

tigran petrosian

The life of this chess player was difficult from the beginning, as when he had to take his father's job and become the father figure of his brothers; however, this story shows that when we propose something in life, most likely it will end up materializing if we work with strength and conviction.

Tigran Petrosian early years

Tigran Petrosian was born in the city of Tbilisi in Georgia on June 17, 1929, although his parents were of Armenian origin, which is why he is considered an idol in this nation.

His father, Vartan Petrosian, was a key man in the formation of the chess player, since in spite of not knowing how to read or write, he instilled in his children the love for reading and knowledge, which would serve him as a support, both in the world of chess and in his personal life.

Vartan worked in Tbilisi in a retired military building as a janitor, there Tigran would watch the elderly play cards and chess; although the boy Petrosian, he had a deep respect for chess, although he was not allowed to play with the adults.

At the age of 13, Tigran Petrosian lost his parents during the Second World War. In order not to end up on the street with his brothers, he decided to take his father's job, having to sweep the streets with snow from the surrounding area, a job that made little Tigran sick and soon lost his hearing.

In these years he was able to really introduce himself in the world of chess at the cost of sacrifices and hard work, he was able to buy Nimzowitsch's book "The Practice of my System", with which he learned about the game; studying in depth, the book "Fundamentals of Chess", by the legend José Raúl Capablanca.

At the age of 17 he won the U.S.S.R. Youth Tournament, leaving the city where he was born at the age of 20 for the city of Moscow, where the Soviet chess elite was settled.

Tigran Petrosian great victories before the world championship

In Moscow Petrosian not only advanced in his chess career, but managed to get a degree in Philosophy, a degree that allowed him to become a writer and editor of articles, and even the editor-in-chief of the magazine 64, which dealt with chess on Russian soil.

By 1951 he would win the Moscow Tournament and reach the semifinals of the Soviet Tournament, which gave him the opportunity to travel to the Stockholm Tournament the following year, where he would jump into the international limelight.

From 1953 to 1962 saw the rise of Tigran Petrosian in the Candidates Tournaments, starting at number 5 in 1953, finishing third in 1956 and 1959, and winning the Candidates Tournament in Curaçao in 1962.

Tigran Petrosian on the road to the world championship

In 1959 he was crowned in the U.S.S.R. Tournament, thanks to this victory where the global chess elite was settled, Petrosian had the privilege of playing again in the 1962 Candidates Tournament, from which the opponent of the Patriarch Mikhail Botvinnik would emerge.

tigran petrosian things

Petrosian would defeat his opponents in that tournament, overcoming such magnanimous figures of the time as Keres and Geller, however, upon seeing that he would face Botvinnik in a match for the world championship, Petrosian doubted his abilities.

Petrosian ninth world chess champion in 1963

That insecurity that Bobby Fischer had noted when he pointed out that despite being the most difficult player to beat, insecurity was the only weak point that the Steel Tiger had; a fact that could be seen in the first game against Botvinnik, in which Petrosian played nervously and lost miserably.

Gradually Tigran Petrosian returned to being faithful to his style, achieved two outstanding draws in the Match and defeated the Patriarch in the fifth game, which gave him the necessary strength to continue playing in good form, managing to be crowned with a score of 12 ½ to 9 ½.

Match Tigran Petrosian vs Mikhail Botvinnik all games

Criticism of his style and defense against Spassky

Tigran Petrosian was well regarded by all the chess elite who respected him, from the young Fischer to the Soviet players who saw in his defense an impenetrable wall.

However, many considered his game not very showy, since his positioning and defensive style resulted in a large number of draws, in a period of chess history when players used to leave everything for victory.

In 1966 the young promise of Soviet chess Boris Spassky, faced Petrosian in the Match for the World Cup, who would end up defending the title with a 12 ½ to 11 ½.

Loss of the crown and decline of his career

The tight game between a rising Spassky and the experienced Petrosian, led to a rematch between the two in 1969, where Spassky managed to beat the Steel Tiger, in a tight but convincing 12 ½ to 10 ½.

From then on, Petrosian would continue to be a respected and very strong elite player, but he would never again play a World Crown Match.

In 1971 he reached the final only to lose to Bobby Fischer, who would immortalize that match of the century against Spassky, and then in 1974, he would lose again in that tournament, this time in the semifinal against Korchnoi.

After this defeat, he would fall again in his hands in the 1977 and 1980 tournaments, which would cause his dismissal from the Russian chess magazine 64; although he would win important tournaments from 1972 to 1980, such as the Amsterdam tournament in 1976, or the Las Palmas tournament in 1980.

Tigran Petrosian's life came to an end in 1984 in the city of Moscow, passing away due to health problems.

View all Tigran Petrosian games

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