Boa constrictor Petrosian – instructive and humorous

6/17/2009 – Were he still alive, Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian, the tenth World Chess Champion, would be 80 years old today. He was nicknamed "the boa constrictor" for the remarkable way in which he could suffocate even the greatest opponents over the chessboard. In this week's Playchess lecture Dennis Monokroussos uses a game against Botvinnik to illustrate Petrosian's technique. Be there at 9 p.m. ET.

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Dennis Monokroussos writes:

Were he still alive, Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian, the tenth World Chess Champion, would be 80 years old today. In a cruel irony, it was exactly 40 years ago – on Petrosian's 40th birthday, that he lost his title to Boris Spassky. A game from that match might be the topic of another week's lecture, but tonight we will of course look at a more successful performance by the enigmatic Armenian.

Petrosian was nicknamed "the boa constrictor" for the remarkable way in which he could suffocate even the greatest opponents over the chessboard. In an incredible number of games, Petrosian would gain a space advantage, eliminate the opponent's dynamic possibilities, and then squeeze the dried bones of the enemy position until they collapsed. Indeed, this style gave him a twofold gift. The first was his tremendous ability, and he'd have had that aside from any questions of style. But because his way of playing was so unusual, it posed a further problem for his opponents. They just couldn't figure out how to play against him! Both Botvinnik in 1963 and Spassky in 1966 complained about this after losing world championship matches to him, and it was only in 1969 that Spassky finally managed to get enough of a handle to overcome him and take the title.

Yet for six years, Petrosian was the champion, and was the first player since Alekhine in 1934 to win a title match as champion. Rather than looking at the 1966 match, however, we'll look at his first win in the 1963 match, against Botvinnik. He had lost the first game of the match, in part due to nervousness, but by game five he had himself under control. As the game left the opening and went almost immediately to an ending, Petrosian didn't seem to have very much. No one would have been surprised by a quick draw – but that's not how things worked out. As we'll see, Petrosian went on to win a masterpiece, one characteristic of his style. As you'll see, it was not only a beautiful and instructive game, but a humorous one as well – and I think that too is characteristic of his style. But see for yourself, and let me know if you agree.

But how to watch? I'm glad you asked, and am pleased to report that it's quite simple. Log on to the Playchess server tonight (Wednesday night at 9 p.m. ET, which is equivalent to 3 a.m. CET for those of you on the other side of the pond), go to the Broadcast room, and either look for Petrosian-Botvinnik under the Games tab or "Initiative" (that's me) under the Player tab. The show is free; hope to see you there!

Dennis Monokroussos' Radio ChessBase lectures begin on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. EST, which translates to 02:00h GMT, 03:00 Paris/Berlin, 13:00h Sydney (on Thursday). Other time zones can be found at the bottom of this page. You can use Fritz or any Fritz-compatible program (Shredder, Junior, Tiger, Hiarcs) to follow the lectures, or download a free trial client.

You can find the exact times for different locations in the world at World Time and Date. Exact times for most larger cities are here. And you can watch older lectures by Dennis Monokroussos offline in the Chess Media System room of Playchess:

Enter the above archive room and click on "Games" to see the lectures. The lectures, which can go for an hour or more, will cost you between one and two ducats. That is the equivalent of 10-20 Euro cents (14-28 US cents).



Monokroussos in Mexico: World Championship 2007
 

Dennis Monokroussos is 41, lives in South Bend, IN, where he teaches chess and occasionally works as an adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame and Indiana University-South Bend.

At one time he was one of the strongest juniors in the U.S. and has reached a peak rating of 2434 USCF, but several long breaks from tournament play have made him rusty. He is now resuming tournament chess in earnest, hoping to reach new heights.

Dennis has been working as a chess teacher for ten years now, giving lessons to adults and kids both in person and on the internet, worked for a number of years for New York’s Chess In The Schools program, where he was one of the coaches of the 1997-8 US K-8 championship team from the Bronx, and was very active in working with many of CITS’s most talented juniors.

When Dennis Monokroussos presents a game, there are usually two main areas of focus: the opening-to-middlegame transition and the key moments of the middlegame (or endgame, when applicable). With respect to the latter, he attempts to present some serious analysis culled from his best sources (both text and database), which he has checked with his own efforts and then double-checked with his chess software.


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