WCC Overview
Botvinnik vs Petrosian 1963

 Tal Botvinnik 1961
 Botvinnik and Petrosian, 1963
Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian was born in T'bilisi, capital of the former Soviet republic of Georgia, on June 17, 1929. He earned his Grandmaster title by finishing in 5th place in the 1953 Zurich Candidates tournament (the same one won by Vasily Smyslov). Petrosian finally won the right to challenge Mikhail Botvinnik for the 1963 World Championship match, and won by a score of 12½ to 9½. This time there was no provision in the rules for a return match, so Botvinnik retired from world championship competition, leaving Petrosian to hold the title unmolested for a full 3-year cycle.[1]

Botvinnik on the match:

It was really hard to play Tigran. The thing is that he had a somewhat different understanding of positional play. He went deeper into it than usual, and myself, a universal player, did not completely understand Tigran's way and depth of judgement, although I was judging all positions well.[2]
The match was conducted in Moscow from March 23 to May 20, 1963. After 22 games, Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian became the 9th World Chess Champion.

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FINAL SCORE:  Petrosian 12½;  Botvinnik 9½
Reference: game collection WCC Index [Botvinnik-Petrosian 1963]

NOTABLE GAMES   [what is this?]
    · Game #5     Petrosian vs Botvinnik, 1963     1-0
    · Game #18     Botvinnik vs Petrosian, 1963     0-1
    · Game #7     Petrosian vs Botvinnik, 1963     1-0

1. Kings of Chess: 21 Player Salute by Larry Parr

 page 1 of 1; 22 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves Year Event/LocaleOpening
1. Petrosian vs Botvinnik 0-140 1963 Petrosian-Botvinnik World Championship MatchE34 Nimzo-Indian, Classical, Noa Variation
2. Botvinnik vs Petrosian ½-½35 1963 Petrosian-Botvinnik World Championship MatchD27 Queen's Gambit Accepted, Classical
3. Petrosian vs Botvinnik ½-½86 1963 Petrosian-Botvinnik World Championship MatchE17 Queen's Indian
4. Botvinnik vs Petrosian ½-½24 1963 Petrosian-Botvinnik World Championship MatchA35 English, Symmetrical
5. Petrosian vs Botvinnik 1-048 1963 Petrosian-Botvinnik World Championship MatchD94 Grunfeld
6. Botvinnik vs Petrosian ½-½27 1963 Petrosian-Botvinnik World Championship MatchD27 Queen's Gambit Accepted, Classical
7. Petrosian vs Botvinnik 1-052 1963 Petrosian-Botvinnik World Championship MatchA10 English
8. Botvinnik vs Petrosian ½-½55 1963 Petrosian-Botvinnik World Championship MatchD27 Queen's Gambit Accepted, Classical
9. Petrosian vs Botvinnik ½-½55 1963 Petrosian-Botvinnik World Championship MatchE08 Catalan, Closed
10. Botvinnik vs Petrosian ½-½43 1963 Petrosian-Botvinnik World Championship MatchD27 Queen's Gambit Accepted, Classical
11. Petrosian vs Botvinnik ½-½41 1963 Petrosian-Botvinnik World Championship MatchD32 Queen's Gambit Declined, Tarrasch
12. Botvinnik vs Petrosian ½-½53 1963 Petrosian-Botvinnik World Championship MatchD31 Queen's Gambit Declined
13. Petrosian vs Botvinnik ½-½54 1963 Petrosian-Botvinnik World Championship MatchE17 Queen's Indian
14. Botvinnik vs Petrosian 1-057 1963 Petrosian-Botvinnik World Championship MatchD31 Queen's Gambit Declined
15. Petrosian vs Botvinnik 1-058 1963 Petrosian-Botvinnik World Championship MatchD81 Grunfeld, Russian Variation
16. Botvinnik vs Petrosian ½-½54 1963 Petrosian-Botvinnik World Championship MatchD27 Queen's Gambit Accepted, Classical
17. Petrosian vs Botvinnik ½-½39 1963 Petrosian-Botvinnik World Championship MatchE14 Queen's Indian
18. Botvinnik vs Petrosian 0-161 1963 Petrosian-Botvinnik World Championship MatchD31 Queen's Gambit Declined
19. Petrosian vs Botvinnik 1-066 1963 Petrosian-Botvinnik World Championship MatchE19 Queen's Indian, Old Main line, 9.Qxc3
20. Botvinnik vs Petrosian ½-½21 1963 Petrosian-Botvinnik World Championship MatchD27 Queen's Gambit Accepted, Classical
21. Petrosian vs Botvinnik ½-½10 1963 Petrosian-Botvinnik World Championship MatchA15 English
22. Botvinnik vs Petrosian ½-½10 1963 Petrosian-Botvinnik World Championship MatchD23 Queen's Gambit Accepted
 page 1 of 1; 22 games  PGN Download 
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Kibitzer's Corner
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Aug-13-09  birthtimes: "The depth of Tigran’s approach to chess is the direct consequence of his clear mind and his rare insight into general aspects of chess, into subtleties of chess tactics and strategy. Petrosian performed a special kind of art in creating harmonious positions that were full of life, where apparent absence of superficial dynamism was compensated by enormous inner energy. Every subtle change in the position was always taken into consideration in the context of a complex strategy that was not obvious to his opponents." – Garry Kasparov
Aug-13-09  birthtimes: "He [Petrosian] has an incredible tactical view, and a wonderful sense of the danger... No matter how much you think deep... He will "smell" any kind of danger 20 moves before!" - Robert Fischer
Aug-13-09  euripides: In general, I think defensive players calculate if anything more than attacking players. Attack depends on nerve, intuitition and combinational imagination - it's often the defender who has to grind out variations the whole time. My impression is that Petrosian had very good combinational vision and intuition and could calculate fast and well when he needed to, though he also said that when in form his first instinct about a move was usually right.

Botvinnik, on the other hand, used to complain about his own lack of combinational vision and there is at least one game in the 1960s against Larsen where he missed a string of forced wins. So I'm not sure that simply sharpening the play would have worked.

When Spassky beat Petrosian in 1969, he said that he and Bondarevsky had worked out that Petrosian wasn't a very 'classical' player, perhaps meaning that he tended to underestimate the value of a strong pawn centre - as in the fifth game of that match.

I agree with <AdrianP> that Petrosian had grasped or analysed some particular positional themes rather deeply - e.g. the use of the e4 square in the 5th game, where Petrosian had assessed the position before the match.

Botvinnik liked positions (e.g. IQP positions) where dynamic potential outweighs structural weaknesses, whereas Petrosian was very good at sucking the opponent's dynamic potential out and then working on the weaknesses. Botvinnik might have been thinking of this difference.

But the two good games he took off Petrosian in the 1960s - one in this match, and another in 1964 - are subtle positional games. I think the difference in stamina may have been a big factor in 1963.

Aug-13-09  birthtimes: "Petrosian was not only a deep thinker when it came to strategy, he was a gifted tactician – a fact well-known by Grandmasters who played him in blitz, but one which gets lost whenever the general chess-playing public constructs a “Strategist or Tactician?” dichotomy and tries to place him in one category or another. Petrosian was both by skill, if the former by temperament."

"Although to many this seems strange, in general I consider that in chess everything rests on tactics. If one thinks of strategy as a block of marble, then tactics are the chisel with which a master operates, in creating works of chess art." – Tigran Petrosian

From Chessville Reviews-Petrosian vs the Elite

Apr-09-11  bronkenstein: Quite interesthing read , birthtimes :)

Karpov @ his prime was world's best blitz player aswell , prooving again that his 'positional' style consisted of constant tactical awareness of opponnent's possibilities , which he then prevented sometimes even before they came to enemy's mind , therefore creating his famous 'boa constrictor ' style , deprived of sharpness and tactics @ first sight.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Ulhumbrus: Bronstein said that Petrosian had a "rare imagination" which enabled him to thwart the most veiled schemes of his opponents.

Fischer said in the early 1960s that Petrosian would have been the strongeat player in the world if he would have played more boldly.

A return match between Petrosian and Botvinnik in 1964 or between Spassky and Petrosian in 1970 might have been very interesting.

May-04-11  Everett: <regarding Tal> Tal is Tal WITH his health problems, most of which he didn't help with drinking and smoking. Those defending some of Tal's ups and downs because of this portray Tal as a victim of some outside force. That's BS. He was responsible for his chess style, and his life-style.

A related example is Mickey Mantle. Tremendous player, but heavy drinker, injury-prone, etc. What would be gained and/or lost if he didn't drink and ate well? Would he be able to be as loose and relaxed, a key to his success?

Ultimately there is no point in separating these things.

Regardless, looking at 20-year-peaks, Tal sits comfortably at 11 (though likely 12 since Anand has likely bumped a bunch down the line). So he was great for a good-long time.

May-04-11  Everett: Botvinnik was not a "universal" player, as he only <excelled> in tactically rich positions that he studied directly out of the opening (Botvinnik Variation). He was a positionally-oriented "systems" guy who enjoyed his set-ups and continually went for them. I'm not saying he wasn't great, but I feel he did not have the versatility of Spassky, nor even that of Smyslov.

And his gaming of the system to stay champion for so long pushes him down the "best of" list.

May-04-11  Everett: <Ulhumbrus> I think Petro in '64 and Spassky in '70 would win comfortably, BUT knowing there was a rematch clause in the first place would no doubt influence the original results!
Premium Chessgames Member
  jessicafischerqueen: Here is live film footage of this Match:

Aug-26-11  Capcom: Has anyone read the New in Chess book on this match?
Aug-26-11  M.D. Wilson: A dry match for some, but one full of rich positional chess for others.
Aug-26-11  kamalakanta: Thanks,Jessica, for the video link!

Regarding Petrosian, Spassky regarded him mainly as a tactician!

Aug-26-11  Petrosianic: I don't know about "mainly" a tactician, but he was a tactician, yes. There are something like 9 piece sacrifices in the 1966 match. What he wasn't is speculative, unlike someone like Tal, who would sacrifice for an unclear position, or even one in which he might be at a technical disadvantage, but one which the opponent couldn't demonstrate in the limited time available.

As for Tal and his lifestyle, part of it was probably due to the fact that he had health problems early on (kidney operations in his early 20's), and probably knew that he wouldn't live too long no matter how much care he took of himself. Mantle wasn't in the same boat, was he?

Aug-26-11  Psihadal: I think it was Spassky who said:
<"It is to Petrosian's advantage that his opponents never know when he is suddenly going to play like Mikhail Tal.">
Aug-26-11  Petrosianic: He might have been thinking about games like this.

Petrosian vs Estrin, 1968

But still, the big difference between this and Tal is that the attack isn't speculative. Complex maybe, but not up in the air.

Aug-26-11  kamalakanta: He sure made Korchnoi look bad in this game!

Petrosian vs Korchnoi, 1946

No wonder Petrosian is credited with saying something like" "If someone wants to play the Dutch against you, let them."

Premium Chessgames Member
  Marmot PFL: This looks like 2 different matches, the first 14 games which were even, and the last 8 where the older champion tires (as Boleslavsky told Petrosian would happen, and to keep on playing in drawn positions).
Jul-17-12  Petrosianic: There's a psychological turning point in a long match, when a player fights uphill for a long time. If he finally succeeds in equalizing the score, it's difficult to re-adjust his frame of mind and start playing equal again. The same sort of thing happened in 1966, 1978, where the exact same thing happened: as soon as the score was equalized, the equalizer lost the very next game.
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: < Knight13: But Petrosian was a very positional player and wasn't as good in tactics as others at his level.....petrosian leans more to positional....>

His predilection was certainly to play positional setups, but (as with all GMs, not to mention the elite), Petrosian was more than capable of playing tactical chess. Check out this gem against another strong GM: Petrosian vs Korchnoi, 1962. We should also note that, particularly in his early career, Iron Tigran played a fair number of Sicilian Najdorfs. You want to play Black in one of those without some command of tactical play, get ready to take an early train home.

Jul-17-12  Petrosianic: He was extremely tactical. What he wasn't was speculative. But at the end of a long game, when both players are tired, draws sometimes get blown.

Here are a couple of other examples that this game always reminds me of:

Portisch vs Petrosian, 1974

Korchnoi vs Karpov, 1974

Jan-27-13  dumbgai: In his book "From London to Elista", Bareev notes the similarities between this match and the 2004 Kramnik-Leko match. In both matches the challenger lost the first game, won two games in the middle of the match (games 5 and 7 for Petrosian, 5 and 8 for Leko), and lost the 14th game. Had the 1963 match been 14 games, Botvinnik would have retained his title like Kramnik did.
Premium Chessgames Member
  thegoodanarchist: The dichotomy of Mikhail Botvinnik! When challenging for the world championship he was unstoppable. He won the tournament in 1948, and both matches in which he was the challenger, for a record of 3-0-0.

However, defending the title was another matter. He drew twice and lost 3 times for a record of 0-3-2. Obviously the thrill of the chase stirred up something in this man that he could not muster when the title was in his possession.

Dec-28-13  schweigzwang: <As for Tal and his lifestyle, part of it was probably due to the fact that he had health problems early on (kidney operations in his early 20's), and probably knew that he wouldn't live too long no matter how much care he took of himself. <Mantle wasn't in the same boat, was he?>>

It is generally agreed that he was, in fact. For example, from the Mickey Mantle Wikipeidia page: 'Well before he finally sought treatment for alcoholism, Mantle admitted his hard living had hurt both his playing and his family. His rationale was that the men in his family had all died young, so he expected to die young as well. His father died of Hodgkin's disease at age 40 in 1952, and his grandfather also died young of the same disease. "I'm not gonna be cheated," he would say. Mantle did not know at the time that most of the men in his family had inhaled lead and zinc dust in the mines, which contribute to Hodgkins' and other cancers.'

Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: Here is a list of the moves of this very tough match: 40, 35, 86, 24, 48, 27, 52, 55, 55, 43, 41, 53, 54, 57, 58, 54, 39, 61, 66, 21, 10, 10. Apart from the last three games every game was a big struggle.
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