There are jokes in Tbilisi that during his illness, Tigran Petrosian took some beneficial drug, called "antidefeatine", and he crushes all his opponents with ease after that. He won 5 games out of 8 and drew such strong players as D. Bronstein, P. Keres and M. Tal. Petrosian took the lead, now he's the "last of the Mohicans" who's yet to lose a game.
Petrosian scores his points as other players fight each other ruthlessly.
After his defeat in the hands of novice Gufeld, Tal won against GM D. Bronstein.
But in the most important game of the tournament, against Petrosian, Tal couldn't sharpen the play, and the championship's leader with an "iron hand" made a draw which was quite satisfactory for him.
Now, to overtake Petrosian, Tal needs a very strong finish.
Of the Masters, L. Polugaevsky deserves a mention. He wasn't upset with his failure at the start and won five games in a row. If he goes on like that, he'll have good chances for a top-5 finish. It will give him his second GM norm and the Grandmaster title. There's a lot to fight for!
The championship is coming to a head, and Tbilisians more and more often say, "our Petrosian will win". Tbilisians consider him "theirs", Armenians, of course, consider him "theirs" too, but he lives in Moscow, so the Muscovites also can say "our Petrosian".
Even the most experienced Grandmasters and supporters can't remember such a chess fever, and they most probably won't forget the ending of Tbilisi tournament anytime soon. I have to say that the championship attracted great attention in Tbilisi, it was greater than in Moscow, where people are overfed with chess.
In the finishing days, a ticket for the chess championship in Tbilisi is worth more than a ticket for Othello with Vakhtang Chabukiani.
Snow is quite a rare occurrence in Tbilisi, but even snow couldn't cool down the audience. They gather in mobs since morning and ask for a "spare ticket", and in the evening, waiting for the results, they occupy all the entrances, corridors, stairs of the Rustaveli Theater and concert hall. The Militia men rush into the hall to "restore the order", mixing pleasure with work.
The three last rounds were dominated by one question: Petrosian or Tal? Tal received a cheerful telegram: "Overtake Petrosian. The whole Rustaveli avenue and Plekhanov avenue are with you".
Some players spent their last day off in the Tsinandali village. And when D. Bronstein in the game against N. Krogius next day introduced a theoretical novelty in Sicilian, he immediately offered to call it the "Tsinandali variant".
Tal's playing against A. Nikitin was so witty that no arbiter, no Militia officers could quiet the hot-tempered audience. Tal won in great style. The margin between him and the leader decreased to just half a point.
R. Kholmov completely routed P. Keres. They say that Kholmov has all the chances to win the brilliancy prize. Aside of that, he will get a prize for the best result against Grandmasters, for most wins with Black pieces and even... a GM norm.
On this day, M. Taimanov received a bunch of flowers for his birthday. The tactful E. Geller added a whole point as a gift.
In the last round, all the games were drawn, all players added half-points to their tally. Nobody managed to overtake the leader.
And so Tigran Petrosian won his first USSR Championship. His smooth, "ironed-out" playing made other Grandmasters step aside.
Petrosian often gets scolded for his drawish tactics. He doesn't like losing and isn't too good at it, which was shown at the Tbilisi tournament. What should he have done? Only win. And he did so: he won many games and then made some draws at the finish.
Petrosian's victory is, of course, convincing, deserved and appropriate. It's very meaningful for him: he believed that he's able to win. Now he's going to play more aggressively in other tournaments.
We can't say that Tal left Tbilisi defeated. He won audience's sympathies with his brave playing. I think that there's no sense to say that Keres, Taimanov or Bronstein suffered a failure. If they'd have won, then Petrosian wouldn't. There's only one first place, after all.
Tigran Petrosian, a talented World Championship candidate, had become the USSR Champion. We need to congratulate him with his deserved victory.
1. Tigran Petrosian - 13.5 points. 2-3. Boris Spassky, Mikhail Tal - 12.5. 4-5. Mark Taimanov, Ratmir Kholmov - 12. 6. Lev Polugaevsky - 11. 7-8. Yuri Averbakh, Paul Keres - 10.5. 9. Viktor Korchnoi - 10. 10-11. Efim Geller, Anatoly Lutikov - 9.5. 12-13. David Bronstein, Eduard Gufeld - 9. 14. Yakov Juchtman - 8.5. 15. Semyon Furman - 8. 16-17. Evgeny Vasyukov, Bukhuti Gurgenidze - 7. 18. Nikolai Krogius - 6.5. 19. Rashid Nezhmetdinov - 6. 20. Alexander Nikitin - 5.5.
Some historical notes.
7 players from that championship are still alive: Boris Spassky (74 years old), Mark Taimanov (85), Yuri Averbakh (89), Viktor Korchnoi (80, still playing actively), Evgeny Vasyukov (78), Nikolai Krogius (81), Alexander Nikitin (76).
The youngest participant of the tournament was Boris Spassky (30th January 1937, 22 years old at the time). The oldest player was Rashid Nezhmetdinov (15th December 1912, 46 years old).
Tigran Petrosian never lost a single game (and won 8). Alexander Nikitin never won a single game (and lost 8).
Tal, Petrosian and Spassky have eventually become World Champions, Korchnoi played in two (effectively three) World Championship matches.
A current USSR champion (Mikhail Tal), 5 former USSR champions (Taimanov, Averbakh, Keres, Geller, Bronstein) and three future USSR champions (Petrosian himself, Polugaevsky and Korchnoi) played in the tournament.
Eduard Gufeld, Semyon Furman, Bukhuti Gurgenidze and Alexander Nikitin have become renowned chess coaches. Gufeld coached Maya Chiburdanidze (and the USSR woman team), Furman worked with Karpov, Gurgenidze coached many Georgian woman players (including Gaprindashvili and Chiburdanidze), and Nikitin was Kasparov's coach until 1990.
It was the only USSR championship for the Spartak sport society player Yakov Juchtman. At the end of the year, he was stripped of his Master title and banned from chess for three years. He emigrated to Israel, then to USA and died at a relatively young age of 50.