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Saturday, August 3, 2013

Alexander Petrov

      Alexander Dmitrievich Petrov (February 12, 1794 – April 22, 1867) was the first Russian player to gain worldwide fame. Born into a noble family her began his career in a modest post in a St. Petersburg office and eventually rose to assistant secretary to the State Administration in Warsaw.
      He became interested in chess in early childhood and played well by the age of seven. His teacher was his grandfather I. Sokolov, then considered the best player in St. Petersburg. Petrov wrote that they played daily from 4pm to 10pm. Petrov was soon better than his grandfather and when his grandfather began to tell others about the boy, Petrov was soon being invited to “chess evenings” and by age 16 he was recognized as the best Russian player, a reputation he was to hold for the next 50 years.
      Twice Petrov refused invitations to international tournaments, London 1851 and Paris 1862. According to another prominent player of the day, Sergey Urusov, it was because Petrov wanted to guard his reputation. In reply Petrov claimed he never sought to play against the European “celebrities” because chess was not his profession and his official functions did not leave him time for trips abroad nor did he have the money to travel. According to authors Kotov and Yudovich the real reason was because in the circles of society in which Petrov lived chess was thought of as a pleasant pastime, not a serious occupation and he was unable to bring himself to break away from the traditions of his environment. Does all this sound familiar to the reasons put forth by a couple of other fellows around the same time?
      Petrov deserves a great deal of credit for founding a national chess “school” in Russia and his theoretical works were considered classical and his games and problems were widely published. One important work he published was titled The Game of Chess Systematized with the Addition of Philidor’s Games and Accompanying Notes. They don’t publish books with titles like that anymore! The book was important because it contained valuable contributions to theory and practice and was a major factor in the emergence of Russian chess. In it Petrov criticized Philidor for paying more attention to attack than defense. Petrov also disagreed with Philidor that the advantage of the first move should lead to a win.
      Petrov was also the victor in the first postal game published in Russia; it was played against three amateurs and lasted from August 1837 and lasted 5 months. Because he rarely participated in tournaments few of his games survive. Petrov died in 1867, and was buried in Warsaw.

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