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Petrosian - Portisch Candidates Quarterfinal Match

Tigran V Petrosian7/13(+3 -2 =8)[games]
Lajos Portisch6/13(+2 -3 =8)[games] Chess Event Description
Petrosian - Portisch Candidates Quarterfinal (1974)

Petrosian qualified for this match by reaching the Fischer - Petrosian Candidates Final (1971). Portisch qualified from the Petropolis Interzonal (1973) and the Portoroz Interzonal Playoff (1973). The other quarterfinals were the Spassky - Byrne Candidates Quarterfinal (1974), Korchnoi - Mecking Candidates Quarterfinal (1974) and Karpov - Polugaevsky Candidates Quarterfinal (1974). Victory would go to the player who first won three games, or the one with most points after 16 games. If 8-8, the winner would be picked by lottery. (1) The matches were held in order to select a challenger for Robert James Fischer, the world champion.

A poll taken among 60 chess journalists told that the perceived difference in playing strength was minimal. A total of 52% of the respondents predicted Petrosian would win. (2) Prior to the match, Petrosian had lost four games to Portisch and won none. Both had a positional style, and enjoyed a superb command of the arsenal of endgame techniques and the art of analysis. (2) As for preparation, Petrosian had played in the USSR Championship (1973), and four games against Svetozar Gligoric (+1 =2 -1) in USSR - Yugoslavia (Tbilisi 28/11-4/12 1973). He arrived in Mallorca with Yuri Averbakh and Igor Arkadievich Zaitsev as his seconds. (3, 4). Portisch had played in Madrid (1973) (26/11-16/12). He was seconded by Istvan Csom, the Hungarian champion. The playing venue was the newly constructed (and opened in 1969) Auditorium (5) in Palma, the capital city of the island of Mallorca (Majorca), Spain. The arbiter was IA Armin Heintze (president of the DDR Chess Federation 1964-1978), with Antonio Angel Medina Garcia as assistant. (2, 3) The match director was Jorge Puig Laborda. The prize fund was 250,000 pesetas - 60% to the winner and 40% to the loser. (6)

The players:

The first four games were drawn. Petrosian made precise use of an opening advantage in Game 5 and produced his first ever win over Portisch. In Game 6, Petrosian successfully defended a French Rubinstein Variation. Game 7 was a 13-move grandmaster draw. In Game 8, Petrosian once again defended well. (2) Mikhail M Yudovich Sr. remarked that the rest of the match was orchestrated in an entirely different key. In many ways it presented a psychological drama. (2) Portisch was unhappy with the match situation, and in Game 9, in apparent betrayal of his chess identity, he unleashed an attack with the black pieces. (2) Petrosian struck back with a crushing counter-attack: 2-0. In Game 10, Portisch produced one of his finest attacking wins. Petrosian played very cautiously in Game 11, which he had postponed for two days due to 'illness'. (7) In Game 12, Portisch attacked again and Petrosian probably could have held the endgame, but he did not: 2-2! And now they would play until the first win — or accept the fate of the lottery (after Game 16). The fans of Petrosian were shocked, but failed to consider that two consecutive wins in such a charged situation, could be equally disconcerting for the player who had already enjoyed his stroke of good luck. (2) In Game 13, this position occurred:

click for larger view

Portisch now perhaps hoped for something like 22.Rc2 Qe4, but Petrosian sacrificed a pawn instead by 22.gxf4 Nxf4+ 23.Kg3 Nxd3 24.Rc3, and won the endgame.

Palma de Mallorca, Spain, 18 January - 17 February 1974

Elo* 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 1 GM Petrosian 2640 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 0 ½ 0 1 7 2 GM Portisch 2650 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 1 ½ 1 0 6

Petrosian advanced to the Korchnoi - Petrosian Candidates Semifinal (1974).


1) Harry Golombek in The Times, 15 January 1974, p. 5; Tidskrift för Schack, February 1974, p. 33.
2) Candidates' Matches 1974, by Mikhail Botvinnik, Aleksandar Matanovic, Bozidar Kazic and Mikhail M Yudovich Sr. (Belgrade 1974).
3) Roman Toran Albero in La Vanguardia, 18 January 1974, p. 36 (Averbakh, Csom).
4) Stuart C Conquest at Chessvibes ( (Zaitsev).
6) Jaque, No. 27 (March 1974), p. 15 (which also confirms seconds and arbiters).
7) Het Vrije Volk, 11 February 1974, p. 14.

*FIDE Rating List July 1973.

Original collections: Game Collection: WCC Index (Petrosian-Portisch 1974) by User: Hesam7, and Game Collection: Petrosian - Portisch Candidates Quarterfinal '74 by User: Tabanus. Game dates (Jan 18, 20, 22, 25, 27, 29, Feb 1, 3, 5, 8, 12, 15, 17) are from Dutch newspapers at, verified by AP reports in American newspapers at Thanks to User: OhioChessFan and User: Chessical for improving the English.

 page 1 of 1; 13 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Petrosian vs Portisch  ½-½181974Petrosian - Portisch Candidates QuarterfinalE17 Queen's Indian
2. Portisch vs Petrosian ½-½401974Petrosian - Portisch Candidates QuarterfinalB39 Sicilian, Accelerated Fianchetto, Breyer Variation
3. Petrosian vs Portisch ½-½221974Petrosian - Portisch Candidates QuarterfinalE20 Nimzo-Indian
4. Portisch vs Petrosian ½-½321974Petrosian - Portisch Candidates QuarterfinalD10 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav
5. Petrosian vs Portisch 1-0351974Petrosian - Portisch Candidates QuarterfinalA30 English, Symmetrical
6. Portisch vs Petrosian  ½-½351974Petrosian - Portisch Candidates QuarterfinalC10 French
7. Petrosian vs Portisch ½-½131974Petrosian - Portisch Candidates QuarterfinalD59 Queen's Gambit Declined, Tartakower
8. Portisch vs Petrosian ½-½291974Petrosian - Portisch Candidates QuarterfinalB39 Sicilian, Accelerated Fianchetto, Breyer Variation
9. Petrosian vs Portisch 1-0271974Petrosian - Portisch Candidates QuarterfinalA15 English
10. Portisch vs Petrosian 1-0331974Petrosian - Portisch Candidates QuarterfinalD63 Queen's Gambit Declined, Orthodox Defense
11. Petrosian vs Portisch ½-½191974Petrosian - Portisch Candidates QuarterfinalA13 English
12. Portisch vs Petrosian 1-0661974Petrosian - Portisch Candidates QuarterfinalD10 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav
13. Petrosian vs Portisch 1-0401974Petrosian - Portisch Candidates QuarterfinalD30 Queen's Gambit Declined
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  tamar: It is such a pleasure to see these historical pages popping up on chessgames. Very nice job!
Mar-13-15  Howard: The first player to win three games took the match. This was the rule for all four of the quarterfinal matches in 1974, not just this one.
Mar-13-15  Howard: Incidentally, Petrosian had NEVER beaten Portisch before, until this match took place. His record against the Hungarian going into this match was four losses and roughly ten draws.

Finally, he was able to beat Portisch---and in a very important match, at that.

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: After this event, the players formed a business partnership and opened a chain of clothing stores called <Petro-Porti>.
Jan-24-17  zanzibar: <MissS>'s pun is simply petrosisch!
Jan-24-17  zanzibar: From the intro above:

<The first four games were drawn, although Portisch was in a rather aggressive mood.>

How can one say this when the match opened with a 18-move draw and G3 was only 22-moves?

Both players were cautiously feeling each other out would be my naive conclusion.

Having only carefully played over G1, I can completely attest that

<Petrosian was forced onto the defensive in these hard-fought games [i.e. G1-4] but managed to stamp out the flames. (2) >

is categorically false. If anything, Portisch was doing the defending (come on, it's a QID, not really a "go for the throat" quick opening for Black is it?).

I've previously been too trusting of the accuracy of the <CG> intro's - now that I've learned my lesson, that ain't the case no more, or so rumor has it.

Yeah, I can hear it now, ref 2 made the claim. Don't make it true, and I'd like to see the original material.

Jan-24-17  zanzibar: OK, just played over G3. White cedes the opening initiative to Black with the move 4.Bd2 (see Byrnes comment quoted by <helios727>

Petrosian vs Portisch, 1974 (kibitz #1))

and Black puts more of his pieces on White's side of the board. But it's not exactly a hard-fought game, and Petrosian is never on the ropes. And Portisch isn't really playing aggressively to accept (or offer!) the draw at move 22.

Jan-24-17  zanzibar: I agree with the intro that G7 is a GM draw. But what makes it more of a GM draw that the 18-move G1?

Basically, both soon after a major minor xchg.

One thing the intro doesn't mention that I think is worth noting, is that the short draws (say with N_moves < 25) were all played when Petrosian had White:

G1 (18), G3 (22), G7 (13), G11 (19)

or 4/7 of his games as White were "give aways".

And yet, Black never won a game during this entire match.

Jan-24-17  zanzibar: Here is what Korchnoi had to say about the encounter:

<[...] Petrosian, who in an excrutiating [sic] struggle had beaten Portisch, an opponent whom he had always found difficult. On this occasion he had apparently exerted himself to the limit, which is in principle foreign to him.>

Premium Chessgames Member
  Tabanus: <ref 2 made the claim. Don't make it true>

Right, it's obviously wrong. You don't trust me, I don't trust Kazic any more. I deleted the sentence.

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