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Tigran V Petrosian vs Viktor Korchnoi
Korchnoi - Petrosian Candidates Quarterfinal (1977), Il Ciocco ITA, rd 6, Mar-16
Queen's Gambit Declined: Semi-Tarrasch Defense. Exchange Variation (D41)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Feb-22-06  notyetagm: 32 ♕f3! is one of those masterful positional moves that makes winning easy. Black plays 32 ... g7-g6 to defend the threatened h5-pawn but this creates two glaring positional weaknesses.

First, 32 ... g7-g6 creates a terrible hole on f6. Petrosian occupies this <weak square> just two moves later with 34 ♖f6.

Secondly, 32 ... g7-g6 <opens the a1-h8> diagonal to the Black h8-king. Since White has very active pieces, he is likely going to be able to use this newly opened line.

Petrosian masterfully uses both of these weaknesses to play the winning tactical shot 36 ♖f6xg6!, exploiting the <lateral pin across the 7th rank>. Black's best reply to the threatened 37 ♕xh5# is 36 ... fxg6 but then he is mated by 37 ♕c3+, the White d7-rook and c3-queen converging on the g7-mating focal point on the newly opened 7th rank.

Aug-26-07  patzerboy: White's game almost plays itself up through move 21. It's interesting that after playing for simplifications and open lines, Black was totally unable to stop d5. Perhaps he thought the advanced pawn would be vulnerable after blocking it at d5 with the knight at d6, but 18.Nc6 was a shot he must have underestimated. Maybe he overlooked the discovered attack on the Queen (20.Qf4) which enabled White to regain the piece. Possibly he had counted on getting Queens off the board with 21.Qxd6 Qxd6, etc. Whatever it was, he did not get the position he wanted.
Aug-26-07  euripides: Is this from their candidates' match ? If so, I don't think it was in Ilford.

Perhaps there's some psychology here. Petrosian had lost as Black in this line in one of the decisive games of the 1969 world championship match:

Spassky vs Petrosian, 1969

Aug-26-07  euripides: By a slight transposition, Korchnoi had played this line a year after the 1969 match and had produced the Ne7-d6 idea, establishing a blocakding knight on d6 and drawing easily:

Uhlmann vs Korchnoi, 1970

Unlike Uhlmann, Petrosian leaves the bishop on c4 and uses the nice tactic 20.Qf4 to win the piece back and destroy the blockading knight, after which he is always better.

Aug-26-07  euripides: I seem to remember Korchnoi ironically observing that Petrosian 'forgot to resign' or something similar in

Korchnoi vs Petrosian, 1974

So the checkmate in this game may have been particularly sweet for Petrosia.

Premium Chessgames Member
  stoy: Yes, Korchnoi mated Petrosian in game 47 of this collection, first game of their 1974 Candidates Math.
Premium Chessgames Member
  An Englishman: Good Morning: Sigh--why is chess so much easier for the great players than it ever was for me?
Aug-26-07  RookFile: Well, they had more talent than us, of course. But don't feel too bad, remember that they spent all their lives playing this game, and had access to training that we did not.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Domdaniel: Somebody seems to have mixed up 'Il Ciocco' and 'Ilford'. Easily done - these Italian names all sound alike.

That Titian knew how to paint an Essex girl, though.


May-14-12  LoveThatJoker: The authors of "Petrosian vs The Elite" say the following of 14...Ne7 in this game,

"This is inferior to 14...Na5, but Korchnoi had recommended the N journey to d6 via e7 and f5 for Najdorf in the notes to their game from Wijk aan Zee 1971, and would have had no reason to doubt his own suggestion. There is, however, a serious flaw in the scheme that Petrosian's pre-match analysis soon reveals, after which the Armenian magician creates and exemplar of technique similar in precision to Tarrasch's rook and pawn crushing of Thorold at the Manchester tournament of 1890."

Tarrasch vs E Thorold, 1890


PS. For an example of 14...Na5 see Polugaevsky vs Tal, 1969 as mentioned in both "Petrosian vs the Elite" and "My Great Predecessors Part 3".

Sep-29-13  Howard: The late Edmar Mednis covered this match in Chess Life and Review (as it was called back then), and as I recall the opening of this game was the same for roughly the first 12 moves as in one of the earlier games---of which that one ended in a quick draw.

Petrosian obviously came to this game with the pre-prepared sharp improvement 15.d5 ! Shortly later, when his knight landed on c6 (which Mednis gave two exclamation marks to), Korchnoi was clearly caught with his pants down.

Regarding the following technical phase, in which all Korchnoi could really do was sit tight and try to meet each threat as it came, Mednis made the observation that when it came to this type of boa constrictor type of strategy, no one in the world at that time (1977) was better at it than Petrosian. He added that Karpov and Fischer were merely Petrosian's equals.

Sep-29-13  RookFile: I find that when I play these Tarrasch and queen's gambit accepted defenses against the computer - the thing is always playing d5 and blowing me right off the board.
Oct-08-13  Howard: Just looked this game up last night in Chess Life and Review's July 1977 (approximate month) issue so let me
correct an earlier posting.

The actual improvement wasn't 15.d5, as that move had been played before, but rather....17.Ne5 !

More specifically, the game had followed Uhlmann-Korchnoi 1970 (as an earlier post mentions) for the first 16 moves. Then Petrosian sprung his prepared improvement 17. Ne5 ! and then followed it up with 18.Nc6 !!

From that point, Korchnoi was in a very difficult position though probably still tenable. But against Petrosian's impeccable--as usually was the case--technique, he didn't stand much of a chance.

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <Dom: That Titian knew how to paint an Essex girl, though.>

I like girls with titian-coloured hair.

Submitted a correction slip for the locale.

Apr-11-15  Howard: This was probably the best game of the match--is that was any consolation to Petrosian.
Jun-30-15  RookFile: This was the 3rd time in the match that Korchnoi trotted out this defense. He got his draw in the first two, but this time Petrosian was ready for it.
Jun-30-15  Howard: True ! In fact, in his notes to this game, Mednis mentioned that Korchnoi was probably wondering what Petrosian might have prepared for this defense the third time around.

Mednis then added, "The price for this information ? One point."

Well put !

May-16-19  carpovius: <F47: What can white do after 36...fxg6?> after 36...fxg6 is mate in 3 :-)
May-16-19  Granny O Doul: Korchnoi opined that the standard of play in this match was about 2350 level. I'm sure he exaggerated, but it was nonetheless encouraging to see that he did differentiate between 2350 and 2000 or 1800 or 1600.
Feb-07-20  Howard: Yet another typical example of what computers can uncover. CL&R (back from 1977) gives one the impression that after 18.Nc6, White had pretty much a won game.

But Stockfish here indicates, not by a long shot !

Mar-24-21  Gaito:

click for larger view


I wonder why Petrosian didn't play here 17.d6! right away. It does look very strong, taking advantage of the fact that Black's rooks are not taking part in the game the game yet. Petrosian's 17.Ne5?! looks like a wasted tempo, as it gave Black an opportunity to blockade the d-pawn. If there are some grandmasters among the kibitzers, maybe they could give a reasonable answer.

Mar-24-21  Gaito:

click for larger view


Looks like this position was the critical moment of the game.

Black played 18...Bxc6?, getting into an unfavorable tactical skirmish.

He probably ought to have played 18...Qf6!, mantaining the blockade of the d5-pawn.

A likely continuation: 18...Qf6! 19.Bb3 Rfe8 20.Rxe8+ Nxe8 21.h3 (21.Re1 would deserve some attention too) h6 (profilaxis, but 21...Qd6 or 21...Nd6 might as well be played) 22.Re1 Nd6 (diagram)

click for larger view

The position seems to be equal. Black is OK.

Mar-24-21  Gaito: As a matter of fact, the move 18...Bxc6?? deserved not one question mark, but two question marks, as it was the losing mistake without a doubt. With a strategically won position for White after 18...Bxc6?? 19.dxc6 (+−) Nxc4 20.Qf4, the rest of the game was a piece of cake for Petrosian.
Mar-24-21  Gaito: In chapter 26 of his textbook "Chess Fundamentals" Capablanca dealt with the topic "the sudden attack on a different side of the board when your opponent's pieces are busy on one side of the board". He illustrated that topic with a couple of examples of his own games, where his opponent's pieces were busy on the queenside, tied with defensive tasks, and then all of a sudden he opened a second front on the other wing. Petrosian admitted that when he was 13 years old he studied Capablanca's textbook and said that he had learned a lot from that book (that was recorded in an interview given by Petrosian in 1963). I suspect that Capablanca would have liked to include this game in his textbook as an additional example of the theme "a sudden attack on a different part of the board".
Mar-24-21  dhotts: <Gaito> Agreed, 18...Bxc6 ?? I wonder why this game has garnered such attention, as it appears pretty boring where the power of a "passed pawn" is Black's quick and immediate death without much effort from White required.
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