The Petroff Defense by GM Arun and GM Magesh

The Petroff Defense by GM Arun and GM Magesh‎

GM thamizhan
20 | Opening Theory

The Petroff Defense.  The name itself rings a “boring” bell to many people. Also called the Russian defense, the Petroff has a reputation of being a drawish opening. Considering the high percentage of draws turning out of this opening it is definitely not an inaccurate notion, but people often forget to look at the scary potential that lies within this seemingly dull opening. Some of the most attacking and razor sharp games in the top level have been played in this opening. The Petroff has been extremely popular among the Super Grand Masters in the past decade because of the solidity and the possibility of an outbreak of activity that this opening can offer.


I (Magesh) played this opening for more than five years in my junior days and have learnt quite a bit about the opening. It has offered plenty of chances in the middle game for me, despite the popular belief that black only plays for a draw. Today we will take a look at some of the most recent games that have been played in this opening in the last few weeks. It has not only been used as a solid defense, but it has also proved to be a dynamic opening in critical times.


Our first game today will feature the current World Cup Champion and also an expert in Petroff defense, the Israeli GM Boris Gelfand against the top female Grand Master in the world, Judith Polgar. With the regular games tied at 1-1, after each player won with white pieces, the tie-breaks were going to decide who would pass through to the fourth round from these two.




It is interesting to observe that Gelfand also employed the same opening in their third tie break game to seal the issue. The next game was the 4th round game in the World Cup played between the young Italian-American Grand Master Fabiano Caruana and the Azeri Grand Master Vugar Gashimov. Again with the main game scores being tied, the conflict had to be resolved in the tie breaks when the Petroff put Gashimov over the top.



Was it a mere coincidence that Gashimov also repeated this opening in their 3rd tie-break game to secure a draw and take out the young Caruana? Now that we have seen how the Petroff played a decisive role in the World Cup we can switch our focus to the London Chess Classic. Our final game is saved for none other than the best of the best in this opening, Vladimir Kramnik.




David Howell showed tremendous strength in the London Chess Classic to remain undefeated. His defensive skills in this game definitively saved him a valuable half point. Though the game ended in a draw, it was not before some thrilling piece sacrifices and a wild attack.


If white decides to play for a draw, then Petroff may not be a good opening to try to win, but when White is playing for an advantage, the Petroff has always been a useful weapon as the defensive ideas are always combined with some active ideas when given a chance.

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