19 November 2007

What to Do with Passive Rooks?

Continuing with Petrosian's Exchange Sacrifice, what opening led to the diagrammed position? I assumed it was some sort of 1.d4 opening and was surprised to see that the game started as the Chigorin Variation of a Closed Lopez. Petrosian introduced the game with

Every chess player has memorable games which are especially precious for him. My game with Mikhail Tal (the 25th USSR Championship, 1958) is memorable for me as a creative achievement rather than a sporting success. Some chess players are proud of almost every game they have played; some have enough self-criticism. I must say that as a rule, I am seldom satidified with my own play. The game with Tal is one of those which have brought me pleasure, due to a successfully performed idea.

As with the other Petrosian games looked at so far in this series, the motivation for the exchange sacrifice was a poor position. The players have just exchanged Bishops on a4. Petrosian commented:

White has a great positional advantage. He practically has an extra passed Pawn d5. Right now, it is not so important because it can be blockaded at d6, d7, or even d8, therefore it is not directly dangerous. But when the game will simplify to an endgame, the passed, well protected Pawn can be decisive. How should Black defend his position?

He then warned that passive play wouldn't work because of the inferior activity of the Black Rooks. After Tal played 25.Qf3, Petrosian answered 25...Rd6, and noted

This move seems strange. According to strategical principles, the stronger the blockading piece, the less it fits this role. It it is a Queen, it must move away if attacked by any other piece. A Rook is uncomfortable being attacked by a minor piece, but my idea was somewhat different.

Petrosian has already given two important positional ideas: 1) the danger in a cramped position is reduced activity for the Rooks, and 2) the Rook is a poor blockading piece.

Riga 1958
Petrosian, Tigran

Tal, Mikhail
(After 24...Rbd8)
[FEN "3r1rk1/2q1bppp/p4n2/P1pPp3/RpP1P3/4B2P/1P1N2P1/3QR1K1 w - - 0 25"]

The game continued 26.Nb3 Nd7 27.Raa1 Rg6.

This is the idea invented and beloved by me. Black foresees that his Rooks, being left 'at home' would be too inactive and 'drags out' one of them to supply it with active functions. I think the Rook stands well enough on g6.

28.Rf1 Bd6 29.h4 Qd8 (Petrosian: 'I could have played 29...Rf6, exchanging the Rook, but this was not my idea.') 30.h5 Rf6 31.Qg4 Rf4 (Petrosian: 'Today I would take on f1, and the result would be a draw or a loss. In 1958, my mind worked some other way.')

Having reached the sacrifice, I'll walk through the continuation on another post. To play through the complete game see...

Mikhail Tal vs Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian, Riga 1958

...on Chessgames.com.

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