Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Great Rivalries: Petrosian vs. Larsen (Part 3)

Let's look at some of the Petrosian-Larsen games.

Their first encounter was in the 16th round of the Portoroz Interzonal in 1958, an event whose outcome Larsen described as "the greatest failure of my chess career." He ended up finishing 16th, with 8.5/20. Petrosian lost only one game in the whole tournament and tied for third with Benko, with 12.5/20, thereby qualifying for the Candidates' Tournament. But his one defeat came in his game against Larsen.

Before this game, in the 16th round, Petrosian was leading the tournament. Larsen was near the bottom of the table.

Larsen opened with the Bird (1.f4), a bit of a provocation against Petrosian, who was already establishing a fearsome record against the Dutch Defense as white. According to my (surely incomplete) database, his record at the time was +5, =5, and would eventually grow to +15, =7, including wins over Korchnoi, Bondarevsky, Tolush, Bronstein, Nikolic, and Larsen himself. the Korchnoi game in particular, played when they both were juniors, is a classic demolition of black's old-fashioned Stonewall strategy (7...O-O? instead of 7...Qe7).

Petrosian's disdain for the Dutch is captured by remarks such as "If they want to play the Dutch, there is no reason to prevent it!" and "What a delight! I love playing against the Dutch." (The latter is from Petrosian's annotations to his game against Larsen (!) from the wonderfully-named Church's Fried Chicken First International Chess Tournament, in San Antonio, in 1972. I will come to this game later.

Anyway, to the game:

Bent Larsen - Tigran Petrosian
Portoroz Interzonal (16) 1958

1. f4 Nf6 2. Nf3 d5 3. e3 Bg4

Larsen later wrote that he had intended to play 3...g6 4.b4!? in this game.

He got his chance to play this novelty against Simagin at the Alekhine Memorial in 1959, a 76-move draw. He subsequently employed it four more times, most prominently in his win over Spassky at the 1964 Interzonal.

4. Be2 Nbd7 5. Ne5 Bxe2 6. Qxe2 e6 7. O-O Bd6 8. d4 O-O 9. Nd2 c5 10. c3 Rc8

It is hard to believe that White has any advantage here. It is a standard Stonewall Dutch position in reverse, in which Black has succeeded in exchanging off his bad bishop. Larsen, ever the optimist, nevertheless decides to start pushing his kingside pawns.

11. g4 A committal move. White would like to develop the dark-squared bishop, but 11.b3? cxd4 leaves White with problems on the c-file, while 11.Ndf3 Ne4 looks slightly better for Black.

11...Ne8 12. Ndf3 Ndf6
Perhaps inviting a repetition after 13.Nfd2 Nd7.

13. Bd2 Ne4?!
This move leaves Black's other knight without prospects. Better seems to be 13...Bxe5 14.Nxe5 Ne4 15.Be1 f6 16.Nd3 N8d6, with an advantage for Black.

14. Be1 f6 15. Nd3 Be7 16. f5!? Continuing Larsen's risky play Qd7 17. Nh4 Nc7 18. Bg3 Bd6 19. Bxd6 Qxd6 20. Rad1 Rce8 21. dxc5 Nxc5 22. Nf4 b5? Black is fine after 22...e5 23.Nxd5 Nxd5 24.c4 Nc3 25.bc Qc6, but now White gets a strong initiative.

23. Qg2 Rd8 24. b4!
Removing a defender of e6 Ne4 25. fxe6 g6 26. Nxd5 Nxd5 27. Qxe4 Nxc3 28. Rxd6 Nxe4 29. Ra6 Rd3 30. Rxa7 White has a clean extra pawn. Re8 31. Ng2 g5 32. Rc1 Rd6? This allows the other rook to invade the seventh rank, which will prove fatal for Black. 32...Nc3 was better. 33. h4! Rdxe6 34. Rcc7 Nd6? 34...h6 was necessary, not only to save the pawn, but to prevent what follows 35. Rxh7 Rc8 36. Rhg7+ Kh8 37. h5 Ne8 38. Rgf7 Nd6 39. Rh7+ Kg8 40. h6 Ne8 41. Rhf7 1-0

Black has to give up a piece to avoid mate. (41...Re4? 42.h7+ Kh8 32.Rf8#) Active play by Larsen, but uncharacteristically weak defense from Petrosian.

After this game, Petrosian closed the tournament by drawing four games in a row, thereby conceding first place to Tal.

No comments:

Post a Comment