Petrosian's Best Tactical Knockouts
In last week's article, we examined Tigran Petrosian's peerless tactical insight through the lens of his finest attacking efforts.
Today, I would like to explore the second component of his tactical acumen: sharp combinational vision.
Finding and delivering knockout blows is no easy task. During a game, one can never be 100 percent sure that a combination is sound.
As a consequence, it is often difficult to resist the temptation to play it safe. However, strong players are known for their resilience and they will seldom give you a second chance. To be sure, Petrosian's positional technique was spectacular, but his ability to quash his opponents' resistance with a flawlessly executed combination was no less extraordinary.
As an appetizer, take a look at the following epic dismantling. Note that Petrosian's opponent was an experienced international master and a very strong correspondence player.
The opening has not gone well for Black, and Petrosian has attained a fearsome initiative.
The simple 18.Bxg6 hxg6 19.Rh7 is quite strong, but after the irksome 19...f6! much of the fight is still ahead. Not interested in grinding out a pedestrian victory from a better endgame, Petrosian finds a beautiful way to unfurl a surprising avenue to the black king: the h-file!
18.Rxh7 was not terribly difficult to find, but when facing a strong opponent, it is easy to become overly cautious and complacent. As usual, Petrosian had no scruples about sacrificing material; if both rooks had to be given up in order to reach Black's king, so be it!
A combination does not have to be particularly clever or eye-catching to be crushing.
Next, Petrosian decides the game with an elegant piece sacrifice -- perfectly straightforward and easy-to-see, but unstoppable and devastating nonetheless.
Black's position after 24...Qe7 appeared quite tenable. To be sure, White had a menacing kingside pawn mass and excellent attacking chances, but it was far from clear how to break through. Four moves later, Black's position was eminently resignable.
And now, I invite you to follow in Petrosian's footsteps. As usual, the exercises will not be easy -- you will have to ascertain quite a few moves in both cases.
Furthermore, Petrosian did not always play in the most precise way, so you should certainly not get frustrated if you do not find all of the moves on your first attempt. Be sure to review the annotations after solving.
Once again, there were many, many more games that I wanted to include, but even combinations should be analyzed in moderation.
Hopefully, you found my coverage of the tactical Petrosian enlightening and -- most important -- entertaining.
If you have any opinions on Petrosian or would like to share some of his other tactical brilliancies, please do not hesitate to comment. So long!
RELATED STUDY MATERIAL
- Read GM Naroditsky's last article, The Tactical Side of Petrosian You Didn't Know About!
- Watch GM Roman Dzindzichashvili's Greatest Chess Minds video on Petrosian.
- Play a match between Petrosian and Spassky in the Chess Mentor.
- Practice your Petrosian-like combinations in the Tactics Trainer.
- Looking for articles with deeper analysis? Try our magazine: The Master's Bulletin.