Review: Tigran Petrosian His Life And Games
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Tigran Petrosian, the Iron Tigran, is undoubtedly one of the greatest defensive chess grand masters of all time. His tenure as World Champion for six years gave credence to his unique style and temperament as a true fighting one. He was brilliant yet understated, daring yet underestimated, powerful yet humble. His play was an art, a science, and a way of life; and this book shows all of these qualities beautifully.
Mr. Vasiliev’s expertly navigates through Petrosian’s personal and professional life with the rare quality of a man comfortable in the world and over the table. He pairs his interesting and dynamic historical accounts with expert chess analysis of some of Petrosian’s greatest and most important chess games. A small warning is due here, as the games are in descriptive notation, which may represent a challenge for some readers. Still, the games are wonderfully analyzed with only occasional jaunts into alternate lines. He lets the positions speak for themselves most often.
The final chapter, written by Petrosian himself, is a fantastic way to wrap up the biography. In hearing his own analysis of the candidates series, the strange occurrences over the table with Fischer, his evaluation of Spassky, and his thoughts on the future of chess, we get a glimpse into the truth of Vasiliev’s depiction. The champion’s humor, depth of thought, and most of all, humility, are all clearly present and alive. What a gift to read and experience.
Beyond the simple historic content of the book, I was amazed by the strength of the author’s arguments for Petrosian’s style as more than valid, but “correct” for his temperament. Again and again in the words of Petrosian and his peers we hear the same message, that it is important to play chess as yourself. His greatest victories were along these lines. The psychological game, the positional game, the art of defense, brilliance of strategy, and the underlying power of a tactical mind all in their unique alignment are what made this champion. To play otherwise would go against his nature and lead only to disaster (as is shown in some games in his youth). What a fantastic find.