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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.

click on a game number to replay game 12345678910111213141516171819202122

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. Tigran Petrosian from Tim Thompson's Chess Page
    2 Kings of Chess: 21 Player Salute by Larry Parr

 page 1 of 1; 22 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Petrosian vs Botvinnik 0-1401963Botvinnik - Petrosian World Championship MatchE34 Nimzo-Indian, Classical, Noa Variation
2. Botvinnik vs Petrosian ½-½351963Botvinnik - Petrosian World Championship MatchD27 Queen's Gambit Accepted, Classical
3. Petrosian vs Botvinnik ½-½861963Botvinnik - Petrosian World Championship MatchE17 Queen's Indian
4. Botvinnik vs Petrosian ½-½241963Botvinnik - Petrosian World Championship MatchA35 English, Symmetrical
5. Petrosian vs Botvinnik 1-0481963Botvinnik - Petrosian World Championship MatchD94 Grunfeld
6. Botvinnik vs Petrosian ½-½271963Botvinnik - Petrosian World Championship MatchD27 Queen's Gambit Accepted, Classical
7. Petrosian vs Botvinnik 1-0521963Botvinnik - Petrosian World Championship MatchA21 English
8. Botvinnik vs Petrosian ½-½551963Botvinnik - Petrosian World Championship MatchD27 Queen's Gambit Accepted, Classical
9. Petrosian vs Botvinnik ½-½551963Botvinnik - Petrosian World Championship MatchE08 Catalan, Closed
10. Botvinnik vs Petrosian ½-½431963Botvinnik - Petrosian World Championship MatchD27 Queen's Gambit Accepted, Classical
11. Petrosian vs Botvinnik ½-½411963Botvinnik - Petrosian World Championship MatchD32 Queen's Gambit Declined, Tarrasch
12. Botvinnik vs Petrosian ½-½531963Botvinnik - Petrosian World Championship MatchD31 Queen's Gambit Declined
13. Petrosian vs Botvinnik ½-½541963Botvinnik - Petrosian World Championship MatchE17 Queen's Indian
14. Botvinnik vs Petrosian 1-0571963Botvinnik - Petrosian World Championship MatchD31 Queen's Gambit Declined
15. Petrosian vs Botvinnik 1-0581963Botvinnik - Petrosian World Championship MatchD81 Grunfeld, Russian Variation
16. Botvinnik vs Petrosian ½-½541963Botvinnik - Petrosian World Championship MatchD27 Queen's Gambit Accepted, Classical
17. Petrosian vs Botvinnik ½-½391963Botvinnik - Petrosian World Championship MatchE14 Queen's Indian
18. Botvinnik vs Petrosian 0-1611963Botvinnik - Petrosian World Championship MatchD31 Queen's Gambit Declined
19. Petrosian vs Botvinnik 1-0661963Botvinnik - Petrosian World Championship MatchE19 Queen's Indian, Old Main line, 9.Qxc3
20. Botvinnik vs Petrosian ½-½211963Botvinnik - Petrosian World Championship MatchD27 Queen's Gambit Accepted, Classical
21. Petrosian vs Botvinnik ½-½101963Botvinnik - Petrosian World Championship MatchA15 English
22. Botvinnik vs Petrosian ½-½101963Botvinnik - Petrosian 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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Premium Chessgames Member
  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."

Jul-17-12  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.'

Dec-31-13  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.
Jun-12-14  offramp: Vasily Panov asked a good question. Why in the entire match did Botvinnik not try 1.e4 even once?
Jun-13-14  RookFile: Because Petrosian would have played a super solid line of the Caro-Kann Defense. Botvinnik did not think he had as many chances there.
Jul-02-14  1d410: Botvinnik may have just been too old. A younger Botvinnik would have buried the narrow minded petrosian in unfamiliar positions that work as well or better than those played here that Botvinnik prepared for at home.
Jul-02-14  RookFile: Stamina may have been an issue. It was anybody's match until Petrosian put two wins up on the board in games 18 and 19. On the other hand, Petrosian was the sort of narrow minded guy who successfully defended his world chammpionship title, something that hadn't happened in a long time.
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <offramp: Vasily Panov asked a good question. Why in the entire match did Botvinnik not try 1.e4 even once?>

Doesn't seem like a good question to me. Botvinnik didn't play 1.e4 in any of his over 80 games with white in world championship matches. He played it once in the 1948 Match-Tournament -- after he had clinched the title.

Botvinnik vs Reshevsky, 1948

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Offramp> By the way, in a Venice bookshop I saw a lovely copy of <Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry> with Brady's portrait of Pike.
Jul-03-14  offramp: M & D is a great book; but I already have two stunning copies and my wife is watching me!
Jul-03-14  1d410: <RookFile> Yes,time goes on, we are seeing now that even older guys like Kramnik and Anand don't last forever.
May-03-15  offramp: When Botvinnik discovered who his challenger was to be, in 1962, he probably set to work analysing TVP's games from 1958 to 1963, looking for weaknesses.

He may have got a bit disheartened. How was he going to beat Petrosian 4 or 5 times in 24 games, assuming Petrosian won a similar amount? A very sobering prospect.

May-22-15  TheFocus: <It is necessary to play in tournaments where the opponents are just a little stronger than oneself, else it is possible to collapse and suffer psychological trauma> - Mikhail Botvinnik (Botvinnik-Petrosian,page 134).
May-22-15  TheFocus: <If in the Maroczy Bind, Black manages to play ...a6 and ...b5, then he is not worse> - Mikhail Botvinnik (Botvinnik-Petrosian, page 134).
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <offramp> Incidentally, following up on my earlier post, according to his notebook Botvinnik planned to switch to 1.e4 against Tal in 1960 if he got a two-point lead. Needless to say, that never happened...not sure why 1.e4 was not on the menu in 1961.

Interestingly, in a press conference immediately after he regained the title against Tal, Botvinnik said a couple of times that he might not defend his title, <since by 1963 I will already be quite elderly>. See Igor Botvinnik's compilation on the return match at 123.

Jul-02-15  Petrosianic: That's why the Keres-Geller playoff match happened so quickly. They desperately needed to know who finished 2nd at Curacao just in case someone was needed to take Botvinnik's place in 1963.

Someone asked Petrosian once if Botvinnik had ever seriously considered not playing in 1963. His answer was something like "Maybe yes, in the same kind of way someone considers a bad move before rejecting it."

Feb-17-16  offramp: Petrosian's three matches for the world championship are fascinating for many reasons. One of the things that I'm interested in is the various methods used by Botvinnik and Spassky to unsettle their Uluru-like opponent.

What might also have been interesting is if FIDE had made one of these matches "first to 6 wins".

Feb-26-18  tgyuid: meanwhile; the beatles
May-18-22  Ulhumbrus: A quote above from 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.>

One question that Botvinnik's remark above suggests is this: Did Botvinnik realise that Petrosian was using Nimzowitsch's methods against him, or had Botvinnik not read Nimzowitsch's books?

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