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MATCH STANDINGS
Fischer - Petrosian Candidates Final Match

Robert James Fischer6.5/9(+5 -1 =3)[view games]
Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian2.5/9(+1 -5 =3)[view games]

Chessgames.com Chess Event Description
Fischer - Petrosian Candidates Final (1971)

The Fischer - Larsen Candidates Semifinal (1971) and Petrosian - Korchnoi Candidates Semifinal (1971) was followed by a match between Fischer and past World Champion Petrosian, scheduled in Buenos Aires from September 30 - October 26, 1971. The winner would be the challenger for the World Champion title, in a match against Boris Spassky. The crosstable below gives a round-by-round summary:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Pts Fischer 1 0 = = = 1 1 1 1 6.5 Petrosian 0 1 = = = 0 0 0 0 2.5

For the first game, Petrosian prepared 11...d5, an interesting improvement to three other tries: 11...♕b6 (W Schmidt vs Matulovic, 1964 0-1 - but the move doesn't appear in the database again before this match commenced), 11...♘e7 (Karpov vs Taimanov, 1971 1-0), and 11...♘d4 (the two prior games were Fischer vs Najdorf, 1966 1-0 and Fischer vs Taimanov, 1971 1-0). The feat in the first game by Fischer secured his streak at 20 consecutive wins - an exceptional performance for 20th century chess!

With his first white in the match, Petrosian placed a halt to the streak in the second game. They followed the opening moves of Petrosian vs Korchnoi, 1961 (1.d4 ♘f6 2.c4 g6 3.♘c3 d5 4.♗f4 ♗g7 5.e3), but Fischer declined the gambit 5...0-0 (Grunfeld, Grunfeld Gambit (D83)) by instead choosing 5...c5. Petrosian won, before securing three draws in games 3-5. The opening in the fourth game was a repeat of Spassky vs Petrosian, 1969 (by transposition).

Petrosian tested the Sicilian once more in the 6th game, but in the adjournment he struggled to hold. With Lothar Schmid overlooking, his lack of defensive resources in the French and Russian games nearing the wane of the match decided the winner. During the week before Hallowe'en, Fischer returned with a 4 game winning streak in games 6-9 to win another match. Fischer agreed to tour Argentina to give simuls after this match was finished.

Fischer advanced to the Fischer - Spassky World Championship Match (1972). The next event that Petrosian took part in was Moscow (1971).

Based on Game Collection: 1971 Fischer - Petrosian Finals Match by User: TheFocus.

 page 1 of 1; 9 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves Year Event/LocaleOpening
1. Fischer vs Petrosian 1-040 1971 Fischer - Petrosian Candidates FinalB44 Sicilian
2. Petrosian vs Fischer 1-032 1971 Fischer - Petrosian Candidates FinalD82 Grunfeld, 4.Bf4
3. Fischer vs Petrosian ½-½34 1971 Fischer - Petrosian Candidates FinalC11 French
4. Petrosian vs Fischer ½-½20 1971 Fischer - Petrosian Candidates FinalA30 English, Symmetrical
5. Fischer vs Petrosian ½-½38 1971 Fischer - Petrosian Candidates FinalC42 Petrov Defense
6. Petrosian vs Fischer 0-166 1971 Fischer - Petrosian Candidates FinalA04 Reti Opening
7. Fischer vs Petrosian 1-034 1971 Fischer - Petrosian Candidates FinalB42 Sicilian, Kan
8. Petrosian vs Fischer 0-140 1971 Fischer - Petrosian Candidates FinalD32 Queen's Gambit Declined, Tarrasch
9. Fischer vs Petrosian 1-046 1971 Fischer - Petrosian Candidates FinalC10 French
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  
 

Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 2 OF 2 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Apr-17-13
Premium Chessgames Member
  Eyal: Petrosian himself came up with a rather bizarre explanation for the way he played in game 4 (this is again according to "Russians versus Fischer"): <Many people didnít understand why in the fourth game, with the White pieces, I quickly made a draw. Itís quite simple. After Fischerís statements that Korchnoi and I had made ridiculously short draws in our [candidates semi-final] match, I wanted to confront him with something of a psychological problem, to prove to him that if I wanted to make a draw with White, I could always achieve this, and without great difficulty.>

Averbakh also reported that Petrosian told him after that game "I wanted to check whether I can make a draw with White against Fischer, if I want to!" and added: <This decision looked like an obvious psychological mistake. It gave Fischer a respite, allowing him to recover completely. And I suspected that the first three games had cost Petrosian so much energy, that subconsciously he himself was aiming for a respite, and he himself was trying to avoid a tense struggle. This was a bad sign.>

And Fischer said: <At the start I did not feel too well. But when in the 4th game, where he had White, right from the opening Petrosian avoided any "aggression", I realized that I would win the match.>

Apr-17-13  Olavi: Petrosian may also have simply been justifying himself after the fact. He must have been very disappointed to only score 1,5 points out of those first three games, so a break was in order. In the fifth game Fischer was again in trouble.
Apr-17-13
Premium Chessgames Member
  tamar: I think Petrosian felt a responsibility to prove that he could play Fischer normally, and not succumb to the mystique, as it was assumed Taimanov and Larsen had done.

After the fact, it looks like a big mistake. But what 42 year old would not look for an occasional short draw? I look for Anand to do the same for at least one game with White against Magnus.

Apr-18-13  Petrosianic: <Petrosian himself came up with a rather bizarre explanation for the way he played in game 4 (this is again according to "Russians versus Fischer"):>

Yes, this is a bizarre explanation. Anybody who knows Petrosian's games knows that he sometimes took short draws with White to give himself a breather. (Check Game 5 in his match with Korchnoi and Game 6 vs. Huebner. The exact same thing happened there.) Games 1-3 were very draining. He sometimes put too much stock in his ability to hold with Black. I agree, he should have tried to make more with that White.

Apr-18-13  Petrosianic: <I agree with this point, yet in this match, Petrosian didn't play risky and unsound (as opposed to poorly) until the last game.>

It's not nearly as obvious as Kramnik playing the Pirc Defense, but here, I'll give you an example.

Petrosian vs Fischer, 1971

In this game, in a must-win situation, Petrosian played 8. bxc3 to sharpen the play.

But in this game

Petrosian vs Korchnoi, 1971

not in a must-win situation, Petrosian played 8. Qxc3 in the same position, to keep it more balanced.

Petrosian didn't seem that well prepped. He never repeated a line as Black, playing two different variations of the Sicilian, a French, a Petroff, and a Nimzovich Defense-like structure. It's similar to Fischer's own play in the second half of Fischer-Spassky, in which he also varied his lines every game to avoid novelties. I have no idea why they didn't have more ready. Petrosian's one big innovation in the match (...d5 in Game 1) didn't come from the analysis team. It came from an amateur player in a letter that was addressed to "The Winner of the Petrosian-Korchnoi match). Some Candidate Master had found an improvement on Fischer-Taimanov, Game 2, and mailed it in.

Petrosian repeated a lot of old prep rather than building new prep for this match. Game 7 of the match repeats the prep from this game:

Spassky vs Petrosian, 1969

Game 8 reused the line from Petrosian-Korchnoi, Game 5, of course.

The decisive Game 6 re-used the line from this game:

Petrosian vs Korchnoi, 1971

And Game 4 re-used the line from this game:

Spassky vs Petrosian, 1969

The dearth of original prep probably made him easier to play against. He was re-using stuff he'd used for very big games very recently. I'm not sure why. For Botvinnik, he'd heavily prepared the Queen's Gambit Accepted as a match weapon, even though it wasn't something he normally played. There was nothing like that here.

Apr-18-13
Premium Chessgames Member
  RookFile: It's not hard to imagine Petrosian winning game 1 and game 2 of this match. Think of what happens then. However, the way Fischer saved gave 1 is legendary, and justifiably so.
Apr-18-13  Olavi: The way Fischer saved game 3 is even more legendary...
Apr-18-13  Everett: <Petrosianic> I appreciate your research and making connections to Petrosian's previous play. Thank you.

And after all that, isn't it amazing that Petrosian had nearly winning advantages in four of the first five games? I mean, Fischer was rarely worse for a moment during his matches vs Larsen and Taimanov, yet Petrosian put him under intense pressure.

Though prep is of course important, it seems Fischer's ability to hold worse positions far exceeded Petrosian's ability to do so. Or, rather, when having the advantage, Fischer had a superior killer instinct.

Apr-18-13
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <He never repeated a line as Black, playing two different variations of the Sicilian, a French, a Petroff, and a Nimzovich Defense-like structure.>

I think he was intimidated. Going back a long way, Anderssen's openings against Morphy, especially after the losses in games 3 and 4, show the same pattern.

Anderssen-Morphy (1858)

<Petrosian repeated a lot of old prep rather than building new prep for this match. >

Very interesting.

Apr-18-13  Everett: <The decisive Game 6 re-used the line from this game:

Petrosian vs Korchnoi, 1971>

This is not correct, in that Korchnoi had committed to ..c6 before Petrosian played b3, meaning the former couldn't get the great play that Fischer got in game 6.

Truth is, Petrosian may have thought that he could play that way no matter, and that move order didn't make a difference. And who knows... maybe he was overconfident at this point.

Apr-18-13  Everett: <And Fischer said: <At the start I did not feel too well. But when in the 4th game, where he had White, right from the opening Petrosian avoided any "aggression", I realized that I would win the match.>>

Funny that he said this, because he was then outplayed and almost lost with White in Game 5. Wonder if he was thinking something different after that experience.

Apr-18-13
Premium Chessgames Member
  Eyal: Regarding the first half of this match, here's something Gligoric wrote in his book on the Fischer-Spassky match (in the introduction to game 5, before mentioning that Fischer suddenly put a huge amount of demands to the Icelandic federation - which was a sign that he was finally feeling at ease):

<As is well known, when Fischer met Petrosian for the candidates finals at Buenos Aires, Fischer won the first game but lost the second. This was followed by three draws. Fischer, it was learnt, was suffering from a cold and was taking drugs for it. He was unnaturally quite the first week. Then he started to complain about everything - his hotel room, the food, the playing conditions. His admirers who had been worried cheered up; this meant that Bobby was back on form.>

And here's Averbakh's assesement of Petrosian's state after the first 5 games: <Thus, after five games the scores were level. It would appear that Petrosian could have been satisfied with this result. But we, who were alongside him, were concerned about something else: despite an enormous playing advantage he had been unable to gain even a minimal lead. In addition I noticed in Petrosian's behavior the same signs that were observed towards the finish of his second match with Spassky. He became easily excitable and extremely irritable. The impression was that Tigran was finding it hard to endure the increasing tension.> ("Russians versus Fischer")

Apr-18-13
Premium Chessgames Member
  Eyal: <He was unnaturally quite the first week.> Should be "quiet", of course...
Apr-25-13
Premium Chessgames Member
  Gypsy: <Petrosian didn't seem that well prepped. He never repeated a line as Black ...>

Soviet grandmaster was well prepared for the match. But, from the sixth game on, he inexplicably avoided theoretical lines. Yet, according to his second A. Suetin, there was plenty of prepared theory up in Petrosian's sleeve.

V. Hort, "For the Chess Throne", Olympia, 1973.

Apr-25-13  Petrosianic: It didn't look that way. In Fischer-Petrosian as in Fischer-Spassky, the refusal to repeat lines looks like you're afraid of your opponent finding an improvement if you play the same line twice. The difference is that in the one match, Petrosian was afraid of Fischer's novelties, and in the other, Fischer was afraid of Spassky's novelties. That's why you saw Fischer playing things like the Pirc, that he'd never gone near in his life. The question is why didn't Petrosian have the same theoretical clout behind him that Spassky did. As incredible as it seems, it's possible that even at that late date they were still overconfident.
Jul-14-13  Xenomorphy: What a drubbing, Petrosian has always been one of my favorites...I can hardly believe its him getting handled like this. Fischer was really in his prime here.
Jul-14-13
Premium Chessgames Member
  RookFile: Fischer in his prime, Petrosian past his. Petrosian had a great career and successfully defended his title in 1966, which hadn't happenned in some time.
Jul-15-13
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: In the picture you can see a big blue rosette pinned to the seat of his trousers saying "PRIME".
Jul-28-13  pericles of athens: Wow - playing 9 games against Petrosian and only losing once!
Mar-04-15
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <pericles of athens: Wow - playing 9 games against Petrosian and only losing once!>

Losing once to Petrosian in nine games is not such a big deal.

Game Collection: WCC Index (Petrosian-Korchnoi 1971)

Beating Petrosian five times in nine games, now that's something.

Jun-03-15
Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: <I haven't had any congratulations from Spassky yet. I think I'll send him a telegram. Congratulations on winning the right to meet me for the championship> (after defeating Petrosian in the '71 Candidates Final) - Bobby Fischer.
Dec-06-15
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: I am sure Petrosian was very demoralized after game 7. He had been playing well and still found himself 2-down. Also, he may have believed that he had <lost the crowd>. I am pretty sure most of the audience in Buenos Aires were Fischer fans. He tried to win games 8 and 9 but Fischer was far too strong in 1971. And Fischer, unlike almost every other GM in those days, was not prepared to draw his way to a match win. The result was a 4-in-a-row sequence for Tigran.

Tigran made some excuses in the Russian press but he was a realist and I think he knew that he had been fairly beaten. But he had to say something to explain such a big loss.

Dec-06-15  thegoodanarchist: < Eyal: <He was unnaturally quite the first week.> Should be "quiet", of course...>

OK, good, because weeks should be gender neutral, even if they are the first one.

Also, with the correction we are no longer left to wonder if the first week was first among equal weeks, or really the clear strongest of all weeks.

Dec-06-15
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <Everett....isn't it amazing that Petrosian had nearly winning advantages in four of the first five games?>

In his match with Spassky, Fischer also displayed great tenacity during that phase which followed the swan song of the Najdorf Poisoned Pawn in the eleventh game, particularly in games 14-20, where Spassky undoubtedly held the initiative much of the time, but could not pull off a single win, which might have brought him back into the fight.

<....I mean, Fischer was rarely worse for a moment during his matches vs Larsen and Taimanov, yet Petrosian put him under intense pressure.>

Indeed; Fischer's one time of difficulty was the fifth game vs Taimanov, where he was worse throughout and had the draw in sight when Taimanov hung a rook.

Dec-06-15  Howard: True, the only game against Taimanov where Fischer had problems was Game 5--no argument there.

But with Larsen, Fischer probably stood worse during Game 2---Larsen certainly could have achieved a significant advantage had he played his cards right in that game.

For the record, I've always wished that Larsen had at least been able to notch a couple points in his match against Fischer, for two reasons:

1) Larsen was a great player and a true fighter at the board.

2) If Larsen had been able to put up a fight against Fisher before going down, that would have made Taimanov all the more embarrassed about his 0-6 shutout. And he truly deserved to be embarrassed considering the way he "earned" his spot in the Candidates. 'Nuff said !

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