Arturo Pomar-Salamanca v Tigran Petrosian
Spain v USSR, Siegen Olympiad 1970
I don't remember exactly where I first saw this game, but judging from the comments on Chessgames, I have a suspicion that it may have been in Andrew Soltis' The Art of Defense In Chess , a book I read, many more times than once, in Stevenage Central Library when I was young. I wish I had a copy.
I was reminded of this game only the other day, having just acquired O'Kelly de Galway's old Pergamon book on Petrosian. It doesn't have the Pomar game (as it was published five years before Siegen, that would have been a little too much by way of anticipation) but by one train of thought or another, musing on how much I like Petrosian's games, I remembered this one, where Petrosian seems to win not just by doing nothing, but by doing nothing sensible.
The game was played in the Second Preliminary Round in a match which the USSR won 3-1. I don't know what precisely induced Petrosian to play this game quite the way he did: he could be provocative, but not, generally, quite as much as this. But noticing that the 1 was the result of Korchnoi oversleeping, I'm tempted to view the first board game in the same light, with Black playing, as long as possible, as if he were asleep. Certainly he plays as if unaware of his opponent. The fifteenth move, in which he shifts his rook to a square whose only obvious relevance is that it's on the same diagonal as White's g2 bishop, is one of the most remarkable I've ever seen.
If the point was to baffle Pomar, Petrosian surely succeeded, but you have to be world class to play like that without baffling yourself. If I tried it, I'm sure I'd lose in twenty moves. Not Petrosian. He plays as if asleep, but Pomar sleepwalks all the way into a smothered mate.
[My favourite moves index]
nice ... given the way the game continues, you can imagine the annotation:
15. ... Rb7!
Overprotecting g7 while preparing to double on the f-file
Black wants to castle, but the Bd7 would hang, so 15...Rb7 is a natural way to further protect the bishop. Not a bad move, but I'm not sure I agree its spectacular (and it certainly has an obvious relevance other than "it's on the same diagonal as White's g2 bishop")
I would agree with Anonymous (6:40pm) - the move seems to be obvious. But the game was nice! Good choice for sharing with us! Thank you!
This reminded me of the recent game in Biel: Morozevich - Vachier-Lagrave where black played Rh7! when there was a white pawn on g6
Yes, PetrS and Anon 06.40 are both right - the move has strong sense behind it and is obvious.
Well, it's all fairly obvious NOW, this is the computer age. Back in 1970, it had the shock of the new... I'd say. Reading all about it, back then, in the Batsford books of Olympiads, was the young chess players' dream. Or, at any rate, this young player's ...
I disagree that it's obvious. 15...Be6 is a much more normal-looking move to facilitate castling. A quick look suggests Rybka's not sure if it prefers 15...Rb7 or 15...h5.
Morozevich - Vachier-Lagrave where black played Rh7! when there was a white pawn on g6
And left it there for hours. Fantastic.
But I prefer Petrosian's move. It's more Zen to move it to a square where it is only potentially en prise. And more Petrosian.
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