Chess: It Wasn’t Petrosian’s Style, But It Certainly Did the Job

It Wasn’t Petrosian’s Style, But It Certainly Did the Job

By Robert Byrne

The New York Times
April 18, 2004, Sunday, Late Edition – Final

The Tigran Petrosian Memorial Tournament — Petrosian would have been
75 this year — would not have bothered the former world champion at
all. He was never dogmatic, and if he had any motto, it might have
been, “They play their way and I play mine.”

His way was to avoid the slightest risk-taking and win by remarkably
accurate technique. He did not care if some of his comrades thought
him cowardly. Could they ever have dethroned Mikhail Botvinnik? He

The participants in the competition to honor him wisely did not try to
copy his style. They did their thing, and in many games it was very

The winner of the $4,000 first prize in the tourney, held in
Stepanakert, Karabak, Azerbaijan, from March 8 to 18, was Karen
Asrian, an Armenian grandmaster, who outscored nine of his rivals with
crisp tactical play in the round-robin event.

His best performance came in his game against the Russian grandmaster
Mikhail Kobalia in the second round. Asrian started out with
positional maneuvering, but he soon shifted to a mating attack with
some very nice tactical features.

One point of 8 f3 against the Najdorf Variation of the Sicilian
Defense is that a quick 8 d5 yields White the slightly better endgame
after 9 ed Nd5 10 Nd5 Bd5 11 c4 Be6 12 Qd8 Kd8.

After 8 Nbd7 9 g4, one can see that White has replaced the older 8 f4
or 9 f4 with 9 g4. White’s strategy is to attack not in the center but
on the king’s wing.

After 17 Bc4 Qc4, Asrian does not mind yielding the bishop pair to
Black; there is no way the queen bishop can be superior to the c3
knight, which controls d5.

After 37 Qb3, it is not clear why Kobalia did not block with 37
Qf7. Then 38 Nd5 Rc4 39 Nf4 Qf4 40 Rd3 gives him an easier fight.

After 37 Kh8? 38 h5! Nh5 39 Bh4 Nf6 40 Nd5 Qf8 41 Rdh2 Nh5 42 Bd8 Qd8,
Kobalia had only a knight and pawn for his rook.

With 43 f4!, Asrian sharply opened roads to the black king. After 43
ef 44 Nf4! Be5 45 Qf7!, he was piling it on.

After 45 Bf4 46 Qf4!, it would have done Kobalia little good to take
the queen because 46 Nf4 47 Rh7 Kg8 48 Rh8 Kf7 49 Rd8 is a lost
endgame for Black.

After 49 Rc7, Asrian opened the black king position further with 50
e5! The pawn could not be taken because 50 de 51 Rh5! gh 52 Rg1 Kh6 53
Qe3 followedby mate or 52 Kh8 53 Qa8 followed by mate in two.

After 51 ed Qd6, 52 Qf7 Kh6 (52 Kh8 53 Rd4 Qe5 54 Rd7 Qg7 55 Qe6 Rf8
56 Rdf7 Rf7 57 Rf7 and it’s all over) 53 Rh5! Kh5 54 Qh7, Kobalia,
seeing that 54 Kg4 55 Rg1 Kf5 56 Qh3 loses a rook, gave up.

Asrian Kobalia
1 e4 c5
2 Nf3 d6
3 d4 cd
4 Nd4 Nf6
5 Nc3 a6
6 Be3 e5
7 Nb3 Be6
8 f3 Nbd7
9 g4 Nb6
10 g5 Nh5
11 Qd2 Rc8
12 0-0-0 Be7
13 Kb1 0-0
14 Rg1 g6
15 h4 Qc7
16 Qf2 Nc4
17 Bc4 Qc4
18 Na5 Qc7
19 Bb6 Qd7
20 Qd2 Rfe8
21 Nd5 Bf8
22 Rh1 Bd5
23 Qd5 Rb8
24 Qb3 Rbc8
25 Nc4 Rc6
26 Ne3 Nf4
27 Ng4 Bg7
28 Be3 Rec8
29 Rh2 Qe7
30 Rhd2 Ne6
31 c3 b5
32 Qa3 Rd8
33 Bf2 f6
34 gf Bf6
35 Rh1 Nf4
36 Ne3 Bg7
37 Qb3 Kh8
38 h5 Nh5
39 Bh4 Nf6
40 Nd5 Qf8
41 Rdh2 Nh5
42 Bd8 Qd8
43 f4 ef
44 Nf4 Be5
45 Qf7 Bf4
46 Qf4 Qe7
47 Qf3 Rc4
48 Rh4 Kg7
49 Rf1 Rc7
50 e5 Rc8
51 ed Qd6
52 Qf7 Kh6
53 Rh5 Kh5
54 Qh7 Resigns