It has been a long time since a book was published that has addressed a specialized topic rather than a standard theme in depth. Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian and the King’s Indian Defense is the perfect combination! I am glad this book is being published, because whenever the King’s Indian Defense became a topic of conversation, my coach, Arshak Petrosian, always emphasized that Tigran Vartanovich himself taught him to play this opening. Arshak learned many ideas from his great namesake, and taught me based on the games played by the ninth world champion.
Of course, Tigran Petrosian is a hero for all Armenian chess players, and not just for chess players, but also for all of our people. He is remembered and loved. In Yerevan, there is a Petrosian Street and a monument in his honor, the Chess Palace is named after him, and his portrait hangs in the tournament hall where I often played.
I always loved the book The Strategy of Reliability, which contains a large number of Petrosian’s games with his own annotations. I have re-read it many times, at a young age and later, when I had already matured as a chess player. I cannot say that I have never tried to imitate his style, but it is impossible to replicate. It is possible, for example, to win a game in Kasparov or Fischer’s style, but when it comes to Petrosian, his play is full of mystery. In my opinion, the 12th world champion, Anatoly Karpov, played the closest to Petrosian’s style. I am not sure if other people, and, above all, Anatoly Yevgenyevich himself, would agree with me, but it seems to me that Karpov really learned a lot from Petrosian, and maybe even improved his style of play. Karpov “polished” Petrosian’s style and brought it to perfection.
Petrosian’s style is very unusual, even a little strange. I do not know any modern chess players who could play like him. Such an approach to the game is hard to explain, to put into words.
Imagine sitting and watching a game. It seems that the player is very slow, he is waiting, and whatever he is doing does not seem right. But then you see that his position keeps improving and suddenly all of his pieces are at the best places! This style always feels like some kind of mysticism! It is such a constructive-destructive game.
In our age of computers, is it a good idea to study an opening based on games of a single chess player? I think it is very useful, because many strong chess players understood certain specific structures especially well and their play in the positions of this type remains exemplary. The King’s Indian Defense is one of the openings that Petrosian interpreted very creatively. He kept changing his setup a little bit, trying to find original ideas. For example, as White, he often made the move Bg5, provoking the move ...h6, and then retreated the bishop. At first glance, this maneuver looks ridiculous, but there is a profound idea behind it. Of course, there is so much to learn from Petrosian, and not only in the King’s Indian Defense. For example, he played the Caro-Kann Defense very well, particularly the variations in which Black plays against the isolated pawn on d4. Take a look at the games of Armenian chess players: up to my generation, all of them played the French Defense “by Petrosian.” Even now, Vladimir Akopian plays this opening exactly so.
No matter how many years pass, the mark left by Petrosian will not disappear! The current rise of interest in chess in Armenia would have been impossible without Tigran Vartanovich. I think we should all be grateful to him for that.