07 December 2009

Playing the Opponent's Opening

Continuing with World Championship Opening Preparation, here's an insight from Petrosian into a common opening strategy.

During a tournament, many forms of subtle psychological warfare are practiced. For example, occasionally an opening is used against an opponent who is known to favor it himself. The idea is to force him against his own weapons, when he will have to face not only real dangers but, very often, imaginary ones as well. This trick is, of course, not quite safe for one who adopts it...

Spassky did it several times against me in our matches for the World Championship. He tried this method in the line 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.Bg5, in the seventh game of our match in 1966. ('Petrosian's Legacy', p.29),

Of White's third move, Petrosian noted, 'Someone has remarked that Spassky has invited Petrosian to play in the yard of the house in which he grew up.' Although the game is well known, Petrosian's positional angle is less well known.

1966 World Championship (game 7)
Petrosian, Tigran

Spassky, Boris
(After 14...h6-h5)
[FEN "r3k2r/pbqnbp2/1p2p3/2ppP1pp/1P6/2PBPNB1/P4PPP/R2Q1RK1 w kq - 0 15"]

The following punctuation and comments are from the same source and are all Petrosian's: 15.h4 ('After the natural 15.h3, Black would advance his g-Pawn sooner or later, and White would not maintain his e5-Pawn.') 15...gxh4! ('Now Black should not be tempted by 15...g4, because of 16.Ng5 Nxe5 17.Bb5+') 16.Bf4 ('So White, for a moment has secured the e5-Pawn.') 16...O-O-O!

A significant moment: the players have got the maximum from the pieces that are in play, but the Rooks still have to be brought into play. The first priority for both sides is to find the best positions for the Rooks. With this in mind, note that the capture on h4 has opened the g-file for Black's Rooks.

Spassky seemed not to understand this particular feature of the position, otherwise, he, for better or worse would have taken at c5 to open the b-file for his Rooks or, if Black were to recapture with a piece, to activate his Rook on a1.

The game continued 17.a4? c4!.

After the game I discovered that this move amazed the spectators. Its disadvantage is obvious as the square d4 is now at White's perfect disposal -- but I would add, only verbally. His Queen and Rook can make no use of this square, and even his Knight, which normally would work best on such a square, cannot get there because it is tied to the defense of the Pawn on e5. Thus Black has free hands for operations along the g-file.

While analyzing the future course of the game one should [not] forget that the idea of the maneuver Be7-f8-g7 was still in the air, gaining the e5-Pawn which has now become White's sorrow, not pride.

To play through the complete game see...

Boris Spassky vs Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian; World Championship Match 1966 (game 7)

...on Chessgames.com.

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