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Tigran V Petrosian
Number of games in database: 1,972
Years covered: 1942 to 1983
Highest rating achieved in database: 2660

Overall record: +714 -159 =1079 (64.2%)*
   * Overall winning percentage = (wins+draws/2) / total games in the database. 20 exhibition games, blitz/rapid, odds games, etc. are excluded from this statistic.

With the White pieces:
 King's Indian (122) 
    E92 E81 E80 E60 E91
 English (95) 
    A15 A10 A13 A16 A14
 Queen's Indian (80) 
    E12 E14 E19 E17 E15
 Nimzo Indian (78) 
    E41 E40 E55 E46 E54
 Queen's Gambit Declined (67) 
    D37 D30 D35 D31 D38
 Queen's Pawn Game (58) 
    A46 A40 D02 E10 D05
With the Black pieces:
 French Defense (142) 
    C07 C16 C11 C18 C15
 Sicilian (133) 
    B40 B52 B94 B84 B81
 King's Indian (80) 
    E67 E63 E81 E60 E95
 Caro-Kann (79) 
    B18 B17 B11 B14 B12
 Nimzo Indian (59) 
    E54 E32 E56 E58 E46
 French Tarrasch (54) 
    C07 C05 C03 C09
Repertoire Explorer

NOTABLE GAMES: [what is this?]
   Petrosian vs Spassky, 1966 1-0
   Petrosian vs Pachman, 1961 1-0
   Spassky vs Petrosian, 1966 0-1
   Petrosian vs Botvinnik, 1963 1-0
   Petrosian vs Fischer, 1971 1-0
   Fischer vs Petrosian, 1959 1/2-1/2
   Kasparov vs Petrosian, 1981 0-1
   Petrosian vs Smyslov, 1961 1-0
   Reshevsky vs Petrosian, 1953 1/2-1/2
   Keres vs Petrosian, 1959 0-1

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: [what is this?]
   Botvinnik - Petrosian World Championship Match (1963)
   Petrosian - Spassky World Championship Match (1966)
   Petrosian - Spassky World Championship Match (1969)

NOTABLE TOURNAMENTS: [what is this?]
   URS-ch sf (1956)
   USSR Championship (1959)
   USSR Championship 1961a (1961)
   Curacao Candidates (1962)
   Keres Memorial (1979)
   USSR Championship (1951)
   USSR Championship (1969)
   Venice (1967)
   USSR Championship (1960)
   Bled-Zagreb-Belgrade Candidates (1959)
   Bled (1961)
   Zagreb (1965)
   Stockholm Interzonal (1962)
   Palma de Mallorca (1968)
   USSR Championship (1957)

GAME COLLECTIONS: [what is this?]
   Match Petrosian! by docjan
   Match Petrosian! by amadeus
   Petrosian Games Only by fredthebear
   Python Strategy (Petrosian) by Qindarka
   Tigran Petrosian's Best Games by KingG
   Biggest Heritor of Nimzo by Gottschalk
   Veliki majstori saha 27 PETROSJAN (Marovic) by Chessdreamer
   Tigran, Tigran, burning bright by sleepyirv
   Power Chess - Petrosian by Anatoly21
   Road to the Championship - Tigran Petrosian by suenteus po 147
   Exchange sacs - 1 by Baby Hawk
   Exchange sacs - 1 by obrit
   Petrosian v. the Elite by rbaglini

Search Sacrifice Explorer for Tigran V Petrosian
Search Google for Tigran V Petrosian

(born Jun-17-1929, died Aug-13-1984, 55 years old) Georgia (federation/nationality Armenia)
[what is this?]

Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian was the World Champion from 1963 until 1969. He was born in Tiflis (modern day Tbilisi) in Georgia to Armenian parents, but eventually relocated to Armenia in 1946 before moving to Moscow in 1949.

Petrosian was an avid student of Aron Nimzowitsch 's theories. His play was renowned for its virtually impenetrable defence and patient manoeuvring, a technique that earned him the nickname “Iron Tigran”. Despite this, his capacity for dealing with tactical complications when the need arose prompted Boris Spassky to comment that: ”It is to Petrosian's advantage that his opponents never know when he is suddenly going to play like Mikhail Tal ”, and Robert James Fischer to observe that "He has an incredible tactical view, and a wonderful sense of the danger... No matter how much you think deep... He will 'smell' any kind of danger 20 moves before!" Petrosian’s pioneering use of the positional exchange sacrifice underscored both his positional and tactical grasp of the game. Moreover, he has two major opening systems named after him: the Petrosian Variation of the King's Indian Defence (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 O-O 6.Be2 e5 7.d5) and the Petrosian System in the Queen's Indian Defence (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.a3).

National Championships: Petrosian's first major win was the championship of Georgia in 1945 when he was 16. He won the 5th USSR Junior Championship in 1946 with a score of 14/15, won or came equal first in the championships of Armenia held in 1946, 1948, 1974, 1976 and 1980, won the Moscow championship in 1951; and shared first place with Vladimir Simagin and David Bronstein in the 1956 and 1968 Moscow Championships respectively. He gained his International Master title in the 1951 Soviet Championships, and went on to win the Soviet championship outright three times in 1959, 1961, and 1975, sharing the title with Lev Polugaevsky in 1969.

World championships: Petrosian won his Grandmaster title when he came equal second in the 1952 Interzonal tournament in Stockholm, which also qualified him for the 1953 Candidates tournament in Zurich. An eight time Candidate for the World Championship in 1953, 1956, 1959, 1962, 1971, 1974, 1977 and 1980, he won the Curacao Candidates Tournament of 1962 without losing a single game. The following year, he won the Petrosian - Botvinnik World Championship Match (1963) to become the 9th official World Chess Champion. He retained his title by winning the Petrosian - Spassky World Championship Match (1966), the first time since the Alekhine - Bogoljubov World Championship Rematch (1934) that the World Champion had succeeded in winning a title match. This feat was not repeated until Anatoly Karpov ’s success at the Karpov - Korchnoi World Championship Match (1978). He also advanced to the Fischer - Petrosian Candidates Final (1971) semifinals, but lost, thereby losing the opportunity to qualify to the 1972 championship.

Team Play: Petrosian played in ten consecutive Soviet Olympiad teams from 1958 to 1978, winning nine team gold medals, one team silver medal, and six individual gold medals. His overall performance in Olympiad play was +78 =50 −1, the only loss being to Robert Huebner. He also played for the Soviet team in every European Team Championship from 1957 to 1983, winning eight team gold medals, and four board gold medals.

Classical Tournaments: Soon after becoming champion, he shared first place with Paul Keres in the first Piatagorsky Cup in Los Angeles in 1963. He won the tournaments at Biel and Lone Pine in 1976, the Keres Memorial in 1979, and took second place in Tilburg in 1981, half a point behind the winner Alexander Beliavsky. He was ranked among the top 20 players in the world until he died in 1984.

"Chess is a game by its form, an art by its content and a science by the difficulty of gaining mastery in it. Chess can convey as much happiness as a good book or work of music can. However, it is necessary to learn to play well and only afterwards will one experience real delight." - Tigran Petrosian

References: (1) (Petrosian often required a hearing aid during his tournaments), (2) Wikipedia article: Tigran Petrosian

 page 1 of 80; games 1-25 of 1,983  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Petrosian vs Kopelevic 1-0241942TbilisiC97 Ruy Lopez, Closed, Chigorin
2. Petrosian vs Flohr 1-0451942SimulA52 Budapest Gambit
3. Petrosian vs A A Smorodsky ½-½401944GEO-chA28 English
4. Petrosian vs Nersesov 1-0161944GEO-chC42 Petrov Defense
5. Petrosian vs N Sorokin 1-0231944TbilisiD33 Queen's Gambit Declined, Tarrasch
6. Petrosian vs V Mikenas 0-1411944TbilisiB05 Alekhine's Defense, Modern
7. Bakhtadze vs Petrosian 0-1271944GEO-chA28 English
8. Petrosian vs Dzaparidze 1-0141945TbilisiC36 King's Gambit Accepted, Abbazia Defense
9. Petrosian vs V Korolkov 1-0181945LeningradE10 Queen's Pawn Game
10. Petrosian vs Y Rudakov 1-0321945LeningradD10 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav
11. Petrosian vs Kelendzheridze 1-0191945Training TournamentC17 French, Winawer, Advance
12. Petrosian vs Grigoriev 1-0131945TbilisiB29 Sicilian, Nimzovich-Rubinstein
13. Grigoriev vs Petrosian 0-1261945TbilisiB00 Uncommon King's Pawn Opening
14. Petrosian vs A Ebralidze 1-0481945Tbilisi ChampionshipA28 English
15. Petrosian vs Chachua 1-0361945Training TournamentD05 Queen's Pawn Game
16. Petrosian vs A Reshko 1-0391945LeningradC07 French, Tarrasch
17. A Blagidze vs Petrosian ½-½401945Final I Category TournamentE40 Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3
18. Aganalian vs Petrosian 0-1341945TbilisiA54 Old Indian, Ukrainian Variation, 4.Nf3
19. Lolua vs Petrosian ½-½361945TbilisiC34 King's Gambit Accepted
20. Petrosian vs N Sorokin 1-0391945TbilisiD14 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav, Exchange Variation
21. Seceda vs Petrosian 0-1571945TbilisiA49 King's Indian, Fianchetto without c4
22. Petrosian vs Mirtsaev 1-0411945Final I Category TournamentE00 Queen's Pawn Game
23. Petrosian vs M Shishov ½-½511945Tbilisi-chE06 Catalan, Closed, 5.Nf3
24. Petrosian vs A Arutiunov 1-0411945GEO-chD51 Queen's Gambit Declined
25. Petrosian vs Zeinalli 1-0201945LeningradA33 English, Symmetrical
 page 1 of 80; games 1-25 of 1,983  PGN Download
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2) | Petrosian wins | Petrosian loses  

Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 90 OF 90 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Premium Chessgames Member
  Williebob: One theme I noticed while checking out these loss percentages: The more games played, the tougher it is for even the very best to keep their loss percentage at 10 percent or lower. Ding Liren, like Carlsen, has had at least one well-publicized streak of unbeaten competition, and currently sits at about 9 percent losses (versus Magnus' 15 percent,) but it is notable that Liren has played fewer than half as many standard games as the WC (714 versus 1818).

By that qualification, I'd say Karpov is as impressive as Kasparov for their respective runs, for example.

Of course, being unbeatable is only really impressive if you also manage to win against the best sometimes, too! So, it's a difficult stat to use for comparative purposes. I was surprised that Fischer lost a higher percentage than most of the Soviet stars, but his wins are what made him the Champ of course.
Premium Chessgames Member
  0ZeR0: <kingscrusher> <I am not sure if this is a strange view point but I feel we are now in a great position to enjoy Tigran Petrosian's wins without having to suffer his draws!. Unlike players within his time, who may have been bored by his draws, we have the luxury of skipping them if required. Although many of them also are going to be very interesting with blockade sacrifices, etc. The wins seem to be rather Nimzovichian based - wins based from a position of huge strength (Iron or perhaps Steel!) - and so in many ways seem to have minimal controversy to them. It is no wonder Karpov said his style was like Petrosian but playing for a win instead of a draw.

So there is a chain here:

Nimzovich (put yourself beyond defeat before going onto the attack)

| V


| V


as far as I can tell :)

Maybe I have this wrong - please do correct me if needed. But it does seem according to Wiki he was able to get Chess Praxis by Nimzovich and indicates his influence by that book.>

As a big fan of Petrosian (and Karpov), I’d say your assessment of Nimzovich’s influence on him is spot on. With regard to the seeming abundance of draws by Petrosian I remember seeing a quote by him in response to an interviewer who explained that some in the chess community are bored with his style. He replied with something like, <Well I could be more exciting… and lose>. Based on this response it seems to me that he strongly believed in his way of playing and felt it was the correct pragmatic decision which ultimately helped him succeed. Of the chess lineage mentioned Nimzo was undoubtedly the weakest player of the three (relatively) as he was never seriously in contention of being the best player in the world in his time, while Petrosian and Karpov were obviously both world champions. But it’s his ideas and writings, more so than his chess ability, which were subsequently influential to players like Petrosian and have remained so throughout history.

Premium Chessgames Member
  RookFile: Capablanca lost only 34 serious games, according to Edward Winter.

I don't know where chessgames is getting 49 from, evidently some casual games are tossed in the list despite the best of intentions.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Williebob: <RookFile>, the discrepancy appears to be related to the Wikipedia article's mention of, "as an adult." Chessgames is counting Capablanca's serious junior games in that total.
Premium Chessgames Member
  kingscrusher: <0ZeR0> Karpov said in an interview in Gibraltar that he was in the style of Petrosian but playing for a win!

I wonder if the original Art of war "Put yourself beyond defeat before going onto the attack" had 3 different interpretations in Chess terms :

(1) Put yourself beyond defeat (Petrosian) - near invincibility - lots of draws, but not so many wins.

(2) Put yourself beyond defeat before going onto the attack (Normal positional player with winning ambitions the normal route)

(3) Put yourself beyond defeat until opponent is convinced you are playing for a draw, but then carry on until you win (Karpov positional play!)

Premium Chessgames Member
  0ZeR0: <kingscrusher>

I can't help but wonder if Karpov is being a little cheeky with his comment. I don't necessarily think Petrosian would agree that he doesn't play for a win. I quite like your idea of using The Art of War as a template for different chess styles.

Premium Chessgames Member
  RookFile: Thanks WillieBob. I'm sure Kasparov lost games when he was a kid too. It means nothing and shouldn't be included in the total.
Sep-29-21  savagerules: The world never had the chance to see a Petrosian-Ulf Andersson match. An epic match that would have had 95% draws and all under 20 moves. I can picture Ulf sitting with both legs folded on the chair with a mug of coffee in his hand and Tigran fiddling with his hearing aid and kicking the table legs to try to annoy the placid Ulf.
Sep-29-21  sudoplatov: Lacking Petrosian-Ulf Andersson, there's always, Tarrasch-Schlecter.

Tarrasch - Schlechter (1911)

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: < sudoplatov: Lacking Petrosian-Ulf Andersson, there's always, Tarrasch-Schlecter. Tarrasch - Schlechter (1911)>

Now just a cotton-pickin' minute!

-Almost 40% of the games in that match were decisive -- we'll think we're lucky if that happens in the WC match this fall.

-Two of the decisive games were over 100 moves. As in Schlechter-Lasker, most of the games were battles.

-You'd think that Schlechter, having drawn a match with Lasker, would be able to overcome Tarrasch. But Schlechter had a curious tendency to play exactly to the level of his opponent in matches.

Carl Schlechter (kibitz #169)

Premium Chessgames Member
  Williebob: <RookFile: Thanks WillieBob. I'm sure Kasparov lost games when he was a kid too. It means nothing and shouldn't be included in the total.>

I disagree that those games mean nothing - we're talking about 12 year olds who can whup most grown masters without breaking a sweat. Of course we would not usually expect to find their best career games at that age. However, the level of preparedness and seriousness from the youngster, combined with the level of publicity from the chess world whenever a prodigy is apparent (the pressure must be enormous), is enough for me to consider this a proper beginning to their serious competitive records.

I also suspect that the world-beating Juniors remain quite proud of their records regardless of the quality of the games themselves, and that the numbers align just fine with adult success.

One thing for certain is that the intellectual growth needed for chess mastery doesn't wait until after puberty.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Joshka: <The Rocket> hey thanks for those numbers! I'm surprised that Spassky was in the Top 5! Would never have put him that high up. Fischer at 11 is hard to believe and Carlsen at 15 is also hard to conceive. thanks again
Premium Chessgames Member
  Williebob: <Joshka>, you're welcome! :)

Actually, I kinda messed up the math, but then maybe not... I got slightly lower percentages than <Rocket>'s because I did not factor draws into the loss percentage. Didn't even think of it. D'oh?

CG gives a half-win for every draw when calculating a player's winning percentage. This makes sense, as far as giving credit for games played and not lost (at the very least, a fighting draw ought to be worth something, right?). But <Rocket> was making a point about the legends of "unbeatable" players, with Petrosian rightly mentioned. Interested in this, I quickly got my numbers thinking only of losses against the total. If I had counted draws as .5 loss, then of course everybody's loss percentages above will be increased a bit, but I expect the ranking to be about the same.

However, while admitting that I blundered my way to it, I think it may be more accurate to give draws 100% credit for not losing, if "hardest to beat" is to be approached this way. Eh?

A loss percentage of 15% doesn't stop Carlsen from remaining number one for the last decade, so that must be a pretty good number!

As for <RookFile>'s comment about leaving junior games out, I can see his point to a degree, but if you're already beating 'regular' GMs as a teenager, people are going to keep score.
Premium Chessgames Member
  alexmagnus: <Carlsen at 15 is also hard to conceive> Given that the database includes literally <all> classical games Carlsen has ever played (from his very childhood on), it is a bit unfair to him. Especially early players have only the games they played after having gained sufficient fame.
Premium Chessgames Member
  RookFile: Anand lost some ridiculous games when he was young too. I think all people care about is the period of time where somebody is without question a chess professional.
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <Williebob>
<the discrepancy appears to be related to the Wikipedia article's mention of, "as an adult."> Even if we include Capablanca's serious games played before adulthood, I'm not able to make the math work. Can you please show your calculation?
Premium Chessgames Member
  Williebob: <beatgiant>, I used CG's numbers for standard games, found near the top of each player's page. For Capablanca, CG shows his career record (for 'standard' games) to be

380 wins, 49 losses, 267 draws, for
696 total games
49 / 696 = 0.0704022988505747
which means Capa lost 7% of games played, number 2 just behind Kasparov based on the CG career totals. This is super simple, ignoring length of career, differences in the total number of games played, and average strength of competition - I am not Jeff Sonas or Arpad Elo.

Unlike the calculation for winning percentage, which gives .5 win for each draw, I gave draws equal weight as wins for calculating "losing percentage", which I guess I stand by if we were looking for the most "unbeatable" player - though doing it the other way likely results in a similar ranking anyway.

If we discounted junior games (after deciding when a player ceases to be a junior exactly,) I suspect even then that the ranking will not change much. Consistently excellent performance marks greatness from an early age.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Williebob: I want to get back to <The Rocket>'s initial comment about Petrosian's legendary invincibility. He compared Kasparov's loss percentage to make a point, but still: Petrosian stands tall in chess history among a handful of World Champions who lost fewer than 10% of his total career games, and additionally he played a lot more than Garry or Capa did. Definitely a legend that holds under scrutiny, is my point.
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <Williebob>
To clarify, what I meant was, I don't see how you get to 49 losses even by including serious games Capablanca played before adulthood.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Williebob: <beatgiant>, I used CG's statistic, that is all - did not do any counting myself through the DB. Did you count Capa's professional losses, and if so, what did you find?
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <Williebob>
Capablanca was born in 1888 and turned 21 in 1909.

Losses in serious events until 1909:
1 - E. Corzo match 1901
3 - J. Corzo match 1901
1 - Marshall match 1909
Total 5

Losses in serious events since 1910:
2 in 1911
4 in 1913
2 in 1914
1 in 1916
1 in 1924
2 in 1925
6 in 1927
2 in 1929
1 in 1930
1 in 1934
4 in 1935
1 in 1936
4 in 1938
Total 31

Grand total 5+31 = 36

Now, we could possibly increase it by a few by including certain exhibition type events against strong opponents, but even then I hardly see how it reaches as high as 49. The latter figure must be counting some casual games.

Premium Chessgames Member
  RookFile: I have no doubt that when the math is done correctly, Capa emerges as the hardest professional player to defeat.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Williebob: <beatgiant>, <RookFile>, thank you for your further attention to the Capablanca question.
<RookFile>, I posted too quickly after seeing the "as an adult" qualifier on Capa's Wiki page. I simply assumed, having browsed quickly at Capa's early game scores, that the difference in losses must be attributed to his junior activity. Clearly, 49 losses is a questionable number; further clarification of Capa's early career is needed. I still believe that Capa's games from even age 13 (the match with Juan Corzo) are worth including in the career-wide stats, though perhaps Edward Winter would disagree. Winter would almost certainly include the 1909 match with Marshall as part of Capa's adult career, in any case. Prodigies are rare, and complicate the matter of "professional" activity - we see a 13 year old defeating Cuba's top player in a serious match. Corzo was not an amateur, to say the least.

I will however maintain that the math was done correctly - the data is incorrect! If we are interested in a stat that identifies the most unbeatable player, then the simple losses / total formula, with draws as good as wins, seems sufficient.
<beatgiant>, I intend to delve further into the subject of Capa's pro record over on his page, when I have some time. I found a game on 365chess that isn't in this DB, for example, from the Havana / MCC cable match I think; I will submit it ASAP. There are also apparently some early game scores that are missing or forever gone, though we seem to have primary sources for the results (Cuban Championship 1902).

I'd like to end this post with the continued assurance that Petrosian remains one of history's hardest players to beat - almost certainly top 3 by current calculations.
Premium Chessgames Member
  kingscrusher: Petrosian Metaphors from Wiki are amusing:

"A number of illustrative metaphors have been used to describe Petrosian's style of play. Harold C. Schonberg said that "playing him was like trying to put handcuffs on an eel. There was nothing to grip."[39] He has been described as a centipede lurking in the dark,[39] a tiger looking for the opportunity to pounce, a python who slowly squeezes his victims to death,[6] and as a crocodile who waits for hours to make a decisive strike.[47] Boris Spassky, who succeeded Petrosian as World Chess Champion, described his style of play as such: "Petrosian reminds me of a hedgehog. Just when you think you have caught him, he puts out his quills."[6]"

Funny stuff. I think beauty is in the eye of the beholder in those metaphors. Spassky was out to attack him a lot of the time :)

Premium Chessgames Member
  kingscrusher: There may be a secret message encoded when Petrosian is black against 1.e4 which we can see in retrospect statistically:

Repertoire Explorer: Tigran V Petrosian (black)

I think it goes like this:


c6 (I want to draw with you!)
Petrosian has 65% draws 21% wins

c5 (I want to crush you!)
Petrosian has 56% draws 35% wins

e6 (I may want to crush you!)
Petrosian has 59% draws 28% wins

Karpov mentioned in a Gibraltar interview something on the lines of "When Petrosian plays the Caro-Kann he is aiming to draw, but when I play the Caro-Kann I am aiming to win"

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