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Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian vs Mikhail Tal
USSR Championship (1976), Moscow URS, rd 1, Nov-27
English Opening: Anglo-Indian Defense. King's Knight Variation (A15)  ·  0-1
ANALYSIS [x]

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Kibitzer's Corner
Aug-12-06  whatthefat: I thought there must surely be some mistake when I went to analyze this game. Petrosian sacrifices a knight for an unsound attack, and Tal defends with great ingenuity to win the game! The series of accurate defensive moves: 21...Qf8!, 22...Nb8!, 23...Na6!, 24...Nxd5!, 25...Rxc3! is particularly stunning.

On closer inspection however, Petrosian may have missed a more promising sacrifice! While 20.Nxe6?! led to a lively game, Petrosian could have given Tal more trouble with 19.Nxf7!? Kxf7 20.Rxe6 Qd7


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The position is unclear, but white has better chances than in the game. A critical line from the above position runs 21.d5!? Nxd5! 22.cxd5 Bxb2! 23.dxc6 Rxc6! with approximate equality.

The only real question regarding Tal's defence, is why he didn't simply play 26...Bxa6 and be up a piece. It would seem that the position after 27.Nc6 irked him:


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If black tries 27...Rxc6, white's rooks become very active. An illustrative line runs 28.Rxc6 Bb7 29.Rc7 Bxd5 30.Ree7


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when black must play 30...Bf6! 31.Red7! Rxd7 32.Rxd7 Bf7 33.Rxa7 and black is not out of the woods; white still has slim drawing chances.

However, supposing black just plays 27...Ra8, does white really have compensation for the piece? The objective answer would appear to be no, but the d-pawn, the active rooks, and the ever looming check on e7, will certainly cause some difficulties. To answer another way, if Tal were given the white pieces, I'm sure he wouldn't mind too much!

Instead, with 26...Bxd5, white's activity is cut, and his position will soon fall apart. Unfortunately for Petrosian, he fell for the tactic 27.Re7? Bf7! dropping a piece immediately. Nonetheless, a fascinating game, with each player borrowing from the other's style.

Jan-04-08  talisman: Tigran! you wild and crazy guy! thought i had the colors reversed or something.Tal's only win with black vs Petrosian.
Jun-10-08
Premium Chessgames Member
  Richard Taylor: Great game - shows Petrosian could mix it!
Jun-10-08  Vollmer: Interesting , Petrosian is +2 as White vs Tal in this database . Tal is +1 with White in this database . A good collection of games was played between these 2 with most of them draws .
Oct-13-09  hedgeh0g: <The only real question regarding Tal's defence, is why he didn't simply play 26...Bxa6 and be up a piece. It would seem that the position after 27.Nc6 irked him>

I think 27.Qa4 is a tricky response.

Jan-08-10  ounos: 26. ...Bxa6 27. Qa4 Rxa3, seems clear enough, hmm.
Jan-01-13
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: < talisman: ....thought i had the colors reversed or something....>

You and <whatthefat> aren't the only ones, in this curious game with reversed roles, per the stereotype of these titans' play.

Nov-15-15
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <Vollmer> Indeed, with most of the drawn games being 25 moves or less.

Another game which comes to mind between two strong players with the perceived tactician and strategist switching roles was Keene vs Miles, 1975.

Nov-15-15  Howard: Yes, Petrosian and Tal played a lot of quick draws back in their day...

...including the three-way playoff with Portisch, which also took place the same year as this game !

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