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Monday, May 1, 2017

Spassky – Petrosian World Championship Match of 1969

     In 1966 Tigran Petrosian's challenger was Boris Spassky, who was favored to win. On his way to meet Petrosian, Spassky had downed Keres, Geller and Tahl in candidates matches. Spassky's universal style meant he was equally at home in all types of positions. 
     But, as it turned out, even though he obtained promising positions, he could not break through Petrosian's ingenious defenses and found himself two points down after 10 games. By the 19th game though Spassky had managed to even the score, but that was as close as he could get to victory and Petrosian went on to clinch the title and remain World Champion. 
     In 1969 they met in Moscow between April 14 and June 17 for a second match.  At the start it appeared that a repeat of the 1966 match was imminent when Petrosian won the first game, but after a couple of draws Spassky evened the score and went ahead by a point when he also won the fifth game. 
     After two more draws, Spassky won again bringing the score to +3 -1 =5 and perhaps he was going to rout his rival. After the ninth game was drawn, Petrosian roared back with two straight wins to tie the match. Then came a skein of draws in games 12-16. 
     The turning point in the match occurred in the 17th game when Petrosian, in a position where he stood better, offered a draw, but Spassky refused! Spassky agonized over whether or not to accept the offer for several minutes, but finally decided to decline. His reasoning was that in a long match it was necessary to play both good and bad positions and Petrosian's draw offer indicated some insecurity on his part. And when he detected Petrosian's slight pyschological crack, he decided it was to his benefit to create the maximum amount of difficulty for his opponent. So, inspired, Spassky decided to play for the full point and managed to pull off a win. 
      The 18th game was also a difficult on for Petrosian, but he managed to hold the draw. Spassky scored again in game 19 making the score +5 -3 =11 in his favor, but Petrosian pulled within one point by winning game twenty. 
     Game 21 went to Spassky, giving him a score of 11.5-9.5, meaning he needed only one more point in the three remaining games which he obtained by drawing games 22 and 23. 
     In the following game, the 19th, Petrosian decided to make a fight of it, but was dispatched in short order.

1 comment:

  1. History has failed to appreciate Spassky's tremendous accomplishment in qualifying for the title match twice. The first time around, he needed to beat Keres, Geller, and Tal in successive matches just to get his title shot, which he lost my a tiny margin. Then he had to go through the same thing again, beating Geller, Larsen, and Kortchnoi this time! This time he was also able to overcome Petrosian and became world champion! Has any other GM beaten so many immortals in match play in such a short time?