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Fischer - Petrosian Candidates Final Match

Robert James Fischer6.5/9(+5 -1 =3)[games]
Tigran V Petrosian2.5/9(+1 -5 =3)[games] 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 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). Fischer declined the Grunfeld, Grunfeld Gambit (D83) 5...0-0 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 sixth game, but in the adjournment he struggled to hold. With Lothar Schmid overlooking, his lack of defensive resources in the games nearing the wane of the match decided the winner. During the week before Halloween, Fischer returned with a 4 game winning streak in games 6-9. 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 an original game collection by User: TheFocus.

 page 1 of 1; 9 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Fischer vs Petrosian 1-0401971Fischer - Petrosian Candidates FinalB44 Sicilian
2. Petrosian vs Fischer 1-0321971Fischer - Petrosian Candidates FinalD82 Grunfeld, 4.Bf4
3. Fischer vs Petrosian ½-½341971Fischer - Petrosian Candidates FinalC11 French
4. Petrosian vs Fischer ½-½201971Fischer - Petrosian Candidates FinalA30 English, Symmetrical
5. Fischer vs Petrosian ½-½381971Fischer - Petrosian Candidates FinalC42 Petrov Defense
6. Petrosian vs Fischer 0-1661971Fischer - Petrosian Candidates FinalA04 Reti Opening
7. Fischer vs Petrosian 1-0341971Fischer - Petrosian Candidates FinalB42 Sicilian, Kan
8. Petrosian vs Fischer 0-1401971Fischer - Petrosian Candidates FinalD32 Queen's Gambit Declined, Tarrasch
9. Fischer vs Petrosian 1-0461971Fischer - 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 3 OF 3 ·  Later Kibitzing>
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.

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 !

Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: <Eyal: ,,,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.>>

I am certain that "4th" is a mistake for "6th".

Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: Sorry - it is me that is mistaken. He did mean the 4th game.
Apr-02-17  morfishine: <offramp> 4th or 6th, no matter, El Tigre got his arse handed to him, in truly shocking fashion


Jun-01-17  ewan14: I thought that Petrosian's better positions in games three and five arose because of his opening play
Jun-01-17  Petrosianic: <Everett>: <And after all that, isn't it amazing that Petrosian had nearly winning advantages in four of the first five games?>

I'm not convinced Black really had that in Game 5. A better game, yes, and Fischer had to play carefully, but I don't think Black was near a win.

Jun-01-17  Howard: For the record, the late Colin Crouch states in his excellent book How to Defend in Chess, that Petrosian missed a chance to gain a significant--albeit not winning--advantage in Game 5. Don't recall exactly where or how, though.

In Game 3, Petrosian almost certainly missed a win according to at least a few sources.

Jun-01-17  Petrosianic: Well, Petrosian had a noticeable advantage even in the moves that were played. But it's hard to see a win because Black loses his Queenside and is left with the 3 K-side pawns and two double D pawns. He had enough play to wipe out Fischer's queenside too, but how are you supposed to win with just that? It's hard to imagine.
Nov-15-18  thegoodanarchist: The article fails to give the scheduled length of this match.

Since they played on after Bobby got to 5.5 points, and ended the match at 6.5, we can deduce that it was scheduled for 12 games, not 10.

Nov-15-18  ZonszeinP: The Final candidates matches of 1965, 1968 and 1971 were scheduled to 12 games
Sep-02-19  thegoodanarchist: Imagine this!

You are reigning world champion. You lose the championship, but OK, it was to an up-and-coming brilliant player.

Then 2 years later, just 2 short years removed from being champ, you are on the brink of achieving a rematch, to get YOUR title back!

You are Tigran Petrosian.

One step away, and.... You get your a$$ handed to you, by another up-and-comer, and an American, no less.

Not only do you lose, you get freakin' slaughtered! Demolished! Flat-out Embarrassed.

Karpov never lost like this to Kasparov.

Heck, even the "Massacre in Milan", where Karpov destroyed Korchnoi, was not this lopsided.

That just goes to show how EXTREMELY DOMINANT was RJF in his time.

Sep-02-19  RookFile: Petrosian was certainly a tough customer. He had very respectable scores against Karpov and Kasparov themselves even though he was in the twilight of his career.
Nov-24-19  WorstPlayerEver: Daniel King analyses the match:

Aug-28-20  fisayo123: No one ever beat Petrosian this badly in his life in any sort of match.
Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <fisayo123> Petrosian surprisingly (to many) held his own for the first 5 games, including ending Fischer's 20-game winning streak, then totally collapsed in the last 4 games. At any rate, he did a lot better against Fischer than either Taimanov and Larsen!

Does anyone have any idea why Petrosian collapsed? Petrosian was 42 and Fischer 28 when the match was played, so maybe that age difference was a factor. There is a book by Fine on the match and maybe it suggests some of the possible reasons for Petrosian's collapse (after all, he was a psychologist) but $ 50 for a 32 page book is way too much, unless it's an autographed copy by both match participants, and I doubt that it is.

Petrosian did not have an easy time getting to this finals match against Fischer, winning +1, = 6, -0 against Huebner and +1, =9, -0 against Korchnoi, so his performance in the first 5 games of the match probably exceeded his expectations. But Fischer was clearly on fire and unstoppable in 1970 – 1972 so it probably wouldn't have mattered how well Petrosian played. Too bad Fischer self-destructed 3 years later.

More information about the match in this article and this one Although the title of the second article is a tease, ChessBase does not even attempt answer the question.

Aug-28-20  SChesshevsky: <AylerKupp...Does anyone have any idea why Petrosian collapsed?...>

The age difference probably didn't help. And Petrosian did mention other things. Like he wasn't keen on the weather there at that time. Also, there were some strange occurrences when the lights went out during games.

But another more major thing might've been a combination of Soviet angst and Fischer's play.

The Soviets were pretty well freaked out by Fischer by this match. Always a worry, he had an incredible 1970 and then busting up Taimanov and Larsen. So they probably had good reason.

Petrosian was probably just as worried. I've always thought that Fischer finally figured out how to best play Petrosian sometime prior to 1966 Piatigorsky. Think he found that by avoiding complications and playing solid moves, gaining small advantages, Petrosian wouldn't be able to outplay him. In fact, think the 1966 games showed Fischer that he would most likely outplay Petrosian this way. Believe those games indicated to Petrosian this possibility as well. Then 1970 USSR-World match seemed to verify.

Now in this match, Fischer seemed to go for or was caught out in complications in games 1&2. Maybe over confident. But probably lucky to break even and stabilize play.

Then game 6 Fischer goes back to avoiding complications - small advantages formula and wins a nice game. Game 7, Fischer refutes a weak Petrosian opening efficiently facing little counter play. And looks like Petrosian is just about totally outplayed positionally in game 8.

Maybe more than Petrosian collapsing. Could be that both Soviets and Petrosian felt they were serious underdogs coming in. Probably correctly. Fischer overplayed at start. Petrosian didn't capitalize. Then Fischer just proved he was the better player.

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: <There is a book by Fine on the match and maybe it suggests some of the possible reasons for Petrosian's collapse>

Petrosian had <daddy issues>; Bobby said to him, <I'm your Daddy!>

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <AylerKupp>

I think that there are two matches that help illuminate the course of this one: Morphy-Anderssen in 1858 and, to a lesser extent, the Petrosian-Korchnoi match earlier in 1971.

In both Morphy-Anderssen and Fischer-Petrosian, the winner started slowly, apparently because he was legitimately ill. (Of course illness has been invoked as an excuse many times, but it’s not <never> valid. Also, AFAIK neither Morphy nor Fischer themselves invoked illness as an excuse for their relatively poor starts.)

In both the Morphy-Anderssen and Fischer-Petrosian matches, I think the winner was clearly stronger over the board — but he also dominated his opponent psychologically. Petrosian so feared Fischer’s opening prowess that he played a different opening in every single game. Anderssen, after losing on both sides of the Ruy Lopez early in the match, did the same. He even began his last three games with White with 1.a3.

In the Korchnoi match earlier in 1971, Petrosian played eight draws to start the match before deliberately employing an ultra-passive opening in Game 9. Korchnoi overplayed his hand and was beaten. Petrosian vs Korchnoi, 1971 Clearly Petrosian was trying to do the same to Fischer in Game 6. Petrosian vs Fischer, 1971. But note the game number. Petrosian was trying to get Fischer to overextend earlier in the match — perhaps because he was feeling greater strain than Fischer! In any case, picking up on <SChess>’s point, Fischer played super-solidly and (unlike Korchnoi) didn’t overextend himself in the slightest. Instead it was Petrosian who made committal moves like 19.cb and 24.a4. Next game, same story. Fischer vs Petrosian, 1971. Petrosian committed himself to a difficult defense with 7....d5 and then offered a dubious exchange sacrifice with 12....Qd7. And again Fischer responded super-solidly with 13.Re1, turning down the exchange but forcing Petrosian into a horrible ending.

<fisayo123> I think Petrosian was beaten about as badly by Korchnoi in Odessa 1974. Five games, +1-3=1, and then Petrosian quit.

Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: Thanks guys, many good and plausible reasons for Petrosian's collapse. No doubt (well, maybe some, after all Petrosian was an ex world champion and was more experienced than Fischer) that Petrosian believed that at this point in time Fischer was the superior player given his recent results at the 1970 Palma de Mallorca Interzonal and his 6-0 wipeouts of Taimanov and Larsen in 1971. Possibly reinforced by him being rated 100 points and 120 points below Fischer in the January and July rating lists. Although, ratings being relatively new at that time and Petrosian's possibly poor understanding of them, this might not have had any effect.

So I don't know if Petrosian would have been encouraged to be even in the match after 5 games or disappointed in himself after apparently having an advantage in games 3-5 and not able to convert his positions into a win. If the latter then I suspect that this would have reinforced his perception that Fischer was the better player at that point in time and considered the final match result to be a foregone conclusion. Surely not a good mental state when trying to play your best.

Aug-29-20  Everett: <Although, ratings being relatively new at that time and Petrosian's possibly poor understanding of them, this might not have had any effect.>

I’m quite certain Petrosian was more concerned about his understanding of chess and match experience - a whole bunch - more than his “understanding of ratings.’

Aug-29-20  Everett: Re psychological factors, I do think it helped Carlsen tremendously to have worked with and been on Vishy Anand’s team for his previous WC match.

Kramnik benefited greatly from being on Kasparov’s team previous to their 2000 WC match.

Kasparov obviously benefitted from the unlimited/canceled match vs Karpov back in 84-85.

It just helps to get some face to face time with your opponent before the big match comes along.

Part of Fischer’s mystique is intact because he never played consistently enough for anyone to get a feel and read on his play. If he hadn’t quit, others would have eventually been able to settle down their nerves and offer more stiff competition.

Dec-14-21  Allanur: I have narrations of Petrosian about this event. How can we have them added into the intro? They are very interesting like negotiations about the venue and electricity being cut off during a game, making the board hardly visible - Petrosian left the table as the referee stopped the clock but Fischer did not leave the board and kept on thinking. Upon this, Petrosian told the referee to ask Fischer to leave the board as it is not ethical for Fischer to think while his clock is not running. The referee did what Petrosian asked but Fischer replied "press the clock. I do not care. I am gonna think."

Also, there are account of Frank Brady and others.

One more thing I read about this match (but will have to find the source) is that Petrosian was asked by journalists if they will be able to see the entire match (12 games) to which Petrosian responded "I may win the match earlier."

Premium Chessgames Member

<Allanur> you can just post the additional information here in this forum, as you have started to do already.

Nothing can be added to the event introduction, however, unless you can source your information with proper academic citations.

So for example, if you want to add something from <Brady>, you need to supply the publishing information from the book and the page number(s) the information comes from.

Once you post your properly source information in the kibbutzing, one of the editors may wish to add your new information to the event introduction.

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