Friday, November 1, 2013

The story of Iron Tigran: Part 4

Hope your exams went well! And now while everyone's partying after their papers are over, let's get back to business here.

By now you must already be well versed with the concept of blockade given that I have already shown you so many examples in previous articles. But if you thought that blockade was needed only to defend against an enemy breakthrough, then you're quite mistaken-- now, sit back and let Petrosian demonstrate how to utilize a blockade to carry out a successful attack.

In the following game, a successful knight blockade on c5 allows Black to gain dominance over the dark squares, before achieving a breakthrough on the queenside.

Bisiguier, Arthur vs Petrosian, Tigran
New York 1954

1. d4 Nf6
2. c4 c5
3. Nf3 cxd4
4. Nxd4 Nc6
5. Nc3 e6
6. g3 Bc5
7. Nb3 Be7
8. Bg2 O-O
9. O-O d6
10. e4 Ne5
11. Qe2 Qc7
12. Nd2 a6
13. b3 b5 (D)

Black is able to expand on the queenside without fear due to the pin on the c-file.

14. f4 Nc6
15. Bb2

If White grabs the pawn with 15. cxb5 then 15... Nd4 16. Qc4 (16. Qd3? Qxc3! wins a piece due to the threat of a fork on e2) 16... Qa7 with the threat of discovered check gives Black the initiative. But now, Black must do something about the threat on b5-- the most common continuation will be 15... bxc4, in an attempt to undermine White's control of the centre (and the recapture 16. bxc4? drops a piece to 16... Qb6+). But after 16. Nxc4, White maintains his central advantage due to his firm control over the d5 square, coupled with his more centralized knights.

Hence, Petrosian decides on an alternate route:

15... b4!

This move serves several purposes-- it denies White the c4 square for one of his knights, drives off the other knight from its post, and provides a blockade square on c5 for the Black knight. Now, Petrosian begins to devise his plan-- shift his knight to the c5 outpost, before advancing his pawns down the queenside to open the files for his rooks.

16. Nd1 a5
17. Ne3

White could trade off the knight with 17. Bxf6?! before it gets to the c5 square. However, after 17... Bxf6, he would cede control of the central dark squares to Black.

17... a4
18. Rab1 axb3
19. axb3 Ra2 (D)

While there are no immediate threats to White's position, the thought of an enemy rook nestled on the second rank is certainly an unnerving thought. Bisiguier now launches an attack on the kingside, but all the time he has to keep a constant lookout in case the Black rook suddenly decides to break through (with let's say, ...Rxc2!?).

20. g4 Nd7
21. g5!

Preventing Black from exchanging bishops with 21... Bf6!, after which Black would have an even greater control over the d4 square.

21... Re8
22. Kh1 Nc5 (D)

Stage 1 of the plan is complete-- the knight has reached its base on c5. Notice that it can never be dislodged by a White pawn, and exerts great influence over the squares e4, d3 and b3. Certainly a perfect outpost for a blockade! Now Petrosian begins Stage 2-- increasing his control over the dark squares by moving his other knight to d4. To do this he has to play the e6-e5 pawn break, but first he has to make a couple of preparatory moves.

23. h4 Qd8

To allow for ...e6-e5 without White being able to play Nd5 and attack the queen

24. Rf3 Bf8

The bishop gets out of the way of a possible f5-f6 advance, and also helps to clear the e-file for the rook.

25. Rg3 e5!
26. f5 Nd4 (D)

If not for this counterblow, White would have been able to launch a successful kingside attack with moves like Nd5, followed by an avalanche of his kingside pawns (h4-h5, g5-h6, etc.). This highlights the reasoning behind the previous moves 23... Qd8 and 24... Bf8-- they prevent White from gaining tempo by hitting the Black Queen with Nd5 which would have helped in White's attack. This example of prophylaxis is one that highlights Petrosian's brilliant defending skills.

Also, notice how while in the process of defending against White's threats, Black has also been able to exert a greater influence over the dark squares in the centre.

27. Qf1

If 27. Bxd4 then 27... exd4 28. Nd5 Bxf5! wins the e4 pawn. Now, White has to abandon his kingside attack and make a number of odd queen moves in order to prevent himself from losing material. Meanwhile, Black carries on with his plans on opening up the queenside.

27... Ndxb3
28. Nxb3 Nxb3
29. Qe1 Nc5
30. Qxb4 Bb7!

With dominance established on the dark squares, Black proceeds on to the next stage of his plan-- to attack the weak e4 and c4 pawns. First he attacks the e4 pawn to force 31. Nd5, before proceeding on to the e4 pawn as his next target (which will become weak as a result of Nd5). This helps to clear the way for a pin along the b-file, which will ultimately culminate in a breakthrough on the queenside.

31. Nd5 Ra4
32. Qd2 Bxd5!

Removing the White Queen from the defence of the b4 square. All other moves lose more quickly: 33. cxd5 is met my 33... Nxe4, while 34. exd5 allows 34... Rxc4

33. Qxd5 Rb4
34. Bf3 Qa8

Exchanging queens will kill off any of White's last hopes for a kingside attack

35. Qd2 Qb7
36. Rg2 Rb8 (D)

A triple battery along the b-file-- a queenside breakthrough is inevitable. Now, Black's threat of 37... Na4 (winning the bishop) forces White to give up the e4 pawn, and his position quickly crumbles after that.

37. Bd1 Qxe4
38. Bc2 Qxc4
39. g6 Rxb2
40. gxh7+ Kh8
41. Rbg1 Qxh4+
42. Rh2 Qf4 (D)

Final position after 42... Qf4

Petrosian's plan was to use his central blockade to exert a greater influence over the central dark squares, upon which he could capitalize to attack the weak points within his opponent's position. At the same time, his prophylactic skills enabled him to beat off his opponent's chances of counterplay on the kingside. His plan culminates with the breakthrough of the heavy pieces on the queenside.

And with that, I end of my series on Tigran Petrosian, the master of strategy and defence. I hope his games can continue to be a source of inspiration to you in the future, alongside other players such as Fischer and Alekhine.

Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:

"The Giants of Strategy" by Neil Macdonald

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