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Mikhail Tal vs Tigran V Petrosian
USSR Championship (1957), Moscow URS, rd 13, Feb-08
French Defense: Winawer. Poisoned Pawn Variation General (C18)  ·  1-0

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Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 2 OF 2 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Dec-04-14  Petrosianic: <sahmattr>: <Petrosian is boring.> <sixfeetunder>: <Petrosian is boring.> <Why?> <jamesmaskell>: <I hate people who just say stuff like that. Petrosian was fantastic. Im a reasonably defensive person (I eventually end up on the defensive) so he is an attractive player for me.>

What sahmatter means by boring is "hard to understand". There are some great players that not only play great chess but <clear> chess. Fischer and Capablanca were great, but in a way that even beginning players can understand their moves and learn from them. Petrosian is different. His games feature a lot of complex maneuvering, long range plans, and moves that defend against future threats that don't yet exist. While a 1400 player can learn from a good Capablanca, you really have to be rated over 2000 to really appreciate Petrosian. I remember when I was about 1400, trying to play over petrosian's first victory over Spassky (in 1960). The game was unnanotated, and I didn't have a clue about what was going on or why for most of the game. Couldn't make heads or tails of it, it was just totally over my head. Not knowing what's going on does make a game more boring, so I interpreted sahmatter's comoment to be a tacit admission that he's just not a very good player.

Dec-05-14
Premium Chessgames Member
  maxi: Everyone was in awe of the new star, the combinatorial Magician from Riga. Even Petrosian. Especially Petrosian. Take the position after 17.Qg7. The White Pawn in h5 is a killer. It's passed, and supported by the White Rooks and the Bishop in d3. Petrosian could have coolly taken it with 17...Rxh5 with advantage. Instead he makes a series of passive moves that give Tal an advantage. As was unavoidable the White h Pawn eventually causes Black's demise.
Dec-05-14  Petrosianic: <Everyone was in awe of the new star, the combinatorial Magician from Riga. Even Petrosian.>

Actually, he wasn't. He recognized Tal's personal talent, of course, but considered his style to be "incorrect". (And he wasn't the only one. Smyslov, Botvinnik and other positional players felt the same way.) It's the public that was in "awe" of Tal. His colleagues were too busy trying to think of ways to take his head off to have time for hero worship.

Dec-05-14
Premium Chessgames Member
  maxi: There are several moves in this game that are so weak it is hard to believe that Petrosian is playing the Black pieces. So, <Petrosianic>, what is your explanation?
Dec-05-14  Petrosianic: Which moves do you mean? There are a couple of weak moves here, but none that seem to defy explanation. Game Collections (which contain only a player's best games), give a lopsided view of the ups and downs that even top GM's have.

For example, take this game:

Keres vs Fischer, 1959

This is a really AWFUL game for Keres. I winced the first time I saw it and I was only rated about 1400 at the time. I've never stopped wincing at it, really. It's so ugly. But I don't think Keres was in awe of Fischer at the time, a) because Fischer was still a largely unproven kid, and b) Keres had beaten Fischer only a week or so earlier. This is just one of those really bad games (much worse than this Tal-Petrosian game) that top GM's sometimes have.

Dec-05-14  Petrosianic: The move that really finishes Keres off is 24. Bb5??, of course, but the whole game was ugly, the way he just goes pawn hunting, ignores development, lets his King get stuck in the center, et cetera. Bb5 doesn't come out of the blue, the whole game seems to be building up to it. Blech!
Dec-05-14
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Petrosianic: Which moves do you mean? There are a couple of weak moves here, but none that seem to defy explanation. Game Collections (which contain only a player's best games), give a lopsided view of the ups and downs that even top GM's have.>

Amen. Horrible games by great players would be an interesting collection. Some nominees:

H Caro vs Lasker, 1890

Capablanca vs Verlinsky, 1925

Keres vs Alekhine, 1937

Botvinnik vs Kotov, 1946

Tal vs L Shamkovich, 1971

Petrosian vs Fischer, 1971

Dec-05-14  RookFile: Bb5 from the Keres - Fischer game is awful, of course. Anybody can make a blunder. That's the only real problem I have with this game. The earlier part was an experiment by Keres - he knew that Fischer like to be ahead in material, and wanted to see how he's play a pawn down, but with comp. If he had just played Bf3 and and made a draw we wouldn't even be talking about this game.
Dec-05-14  Petrosianic: <keypusher>: <Amen. Horrible games by great players would be an interesting collection.>

One thing I should add is that Keres played this horrifically ugly game right in the middle of what chessmetrics calls the greatest tournament of his life.

I think The Book of Chess Lists has some nominees for the worst games of the best players. I'd have to check the book to remember what they all were, but I do remember this one:

H Caro vs Lasker, 1890

Dec-05-14  Petrosianic: You want to see Petrosian's worst game, I'd nominate this one. It was a severe case of stagefright in his first game in his first Soviet Championship. It's a terrible sight to behold. Wear sunglasses for this.

Kotov vs Petrosian, 1949

Dec-05-14  Petrosianic: <keypusher> <Capablanca vs Verlinsky, 1925>

That one's pretty bad, but here are a couple that feature incomprehensible blunders. I don't know if that makes them worse overall, but see what you think:

Capablanca vs Tarrasch, 1914

Saemisch vs Capablanca, 1929

Dec-05-14  MarkFinan: I don't think this is too bad. Black messes up the endgame but you don't really see games like this at the top level anymore.
Dec-05-14
Premium Chessgames Member
  maxi: Game Kotov vs Petrosian, 1949 is very interesting. The master of defense does not defend. I guess we are all human, after all.
Dec-05-14  Petrosianic: <but I do remember this one:>

Sorry, I didn't look at your list closely enough. You'd already mentioned that one.

Dec-09-14  drunknite: another crucial move seems to be black's 38th. where he needs to get the b and d pawns into position in order to create a passed a-pawn. It will take a few moves for black, but it will also take 4 moves for white K to capture the f4 pawn.

if you look at white's 34th move; it does not take the K any closer to the f4 pawn. He is still 4 moves away, so 34 Kd4 is more of waiting move. so black would be better I think with 34...Kh8 so he is closer to the h pawn so he can take it if whites B goes after the e6 pawn. I think 34..Bh4 is also another interesting plan.

Feb-01-16  jerseybob: <Petrosianic:....For example, take this game: Keres vs Fischer, 1959 This is a really AWFUL game for Keres. ...But I don't think Keres was in awe of Fischer at the time, a) because Fischer was still a largely unproven kid, and b) Keres had beaten Fischer only a week or so earlier.> Let's put things in their proper order. You wouldn't know it from the way the Fischer-Keres games are listed here, but the first meeting between these two was at Zurich '59, before the Candidates. Fischer won that game and tied Keres for 3rd & 4th. Keres was fully aware from that point on just how good Fischer was.
Jul-11-18  Inocencio: Tal is not only a master of attack, he is an accomplished end game guru as well!
Jul-11-18  morfishine: <Inocencio: Tal is not only a master of attack, he is an accomplished end game guru as well!> Tal was a disciplined and committed worker on all phases
Mar-10-21  Whitehat1963: Tal seems incapable of winning in quiet ways as Petrosian so often does. For that reason, I love his games.
Mar-10-21
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <Whitehat1963: Tal seems incapable of winning in quiet ways as Petrosian so often does....>

There were exceptions to that rule: see Smyslov vs Tal, 1964 for a game the winner considered one of his best.

Mar-10-21  Whitehat1963: <Perfidious>, great exception! How about a Petrosian game with loud pyrotechnics?
Mar-10-21  Z truth 000000011: Try this game:

Petrosian vs Kopelevic, 1942

White to move after 21...Nf6-e1


click for larger view

Mar-10-21
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: Must say this youthful effort by Petrosian was unfamiliar.

There was a top player who once wrote that it was to Petrosian's advantage that his opponents never knew he would begin to play like Tal.

Mar-10-21  Z legend 000000001: Here's another from a few years later:

Petrosian vs Chukaev, 1951

White to move after 18...Nc6-d8


click for larger view

(Yes, 19.hxg6 is very strong, but White has even better, as Petrosian played)

I guess the lesson of the two games is not to move your knight back to the back rank against Petrosian!

Mar-10-21  Whitehat1963: Another excellent game! Not quite pyrotechnics like we often see from Tal, but more fireworks than we’re used to getting from Petrosian.
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